Yanks go down fighting but definitely down
At least the Yankees went down fighting. Trailing by four runs in the top of the ninth inning, they loaded the bases with one out against Mets closer Jeurys Familia and had the sellout crowd of 43,602 at Citi Field pretty nervous. Familia recovered, however, and down the Yankees indeed did go.
The 5-1 loss smarted, and least of all because it came against the Mets. These Subway Series certainly draw the interest of the two New York teams’ fan bases, but as former Yankees manager Joe Torre used to point out at this juncture of the season they are not playing for the same prize, which is the downside of inter-league competition.
What hurt mostly is that the setback corresponded with the Blue Jays winning at home against the Red Sox so that the Yankees fell 4 1/2 games behind the Blue Jays in the American League East. Also, the Yanks were defeated with their ace on the mound, which could mean having Masahiro Tanaka make his next start Wednesday night at Toronto might be a waste of time. A lot can happen over the next four days that could convince manager Joe Girardi to give Tanaka extra rest so that he can be at his sharpest for the wild card game.
With 16 games remaining, it is far too early for the Yankees to concede the division title to Toronto and concentrate on making sure they are the home team in the wild card playoff. But the idea has to have crossed Girardi’s mind.
Tanaka started Friday night on regular rest so that he would be available to pitch in the Toronto series that follows the Subway Series. He pitched well, too, although he could not keep two balls in the yard that ruined his outing. Solo home runs by Lucas Duda off a high splitter in the second inning and Daniel Murphy on a wimpy slider in the sixth were the only real mistakes made all night by Tanaka, who has allowed 24 home runs in 149 innings.
The Yankees got a run in the first inning off Mets rookie Steven Matz on a sacrifice fly by Chris Young before the lefthander settled down and held the Yankees at bay through the sixth. That was Matz’s last inning and one that presented Girardi with a big decision.
With the score 1-1, the Yankees had runners on first and third and two out with 8-hole hitter Brendan Ryan due up and Tanaka in the on-deck circle. On the bench lurked Alex Rodriguez, rendered a bench warmer because the designated hitter is outlawed in the National League. That might have been the perfect time to let A-Rod try to break open the game as a pinch hitter, but Girardi did not think so.
The skipper’s thinking was that there was still an open base, even though it was second base, so Rodriguez could have been pitched around, perhaps even purposely walked and then Girardi would have to lift Tanaka for a pinch hitter. He liked the way his pitcher was throwing and did not want to chance that Rodriguez would be wasted in an at-bat in that circumstance. So he let Ryan hit or at least swing, which he did on the first pitch and grounded out to end the threat.
Murphy’s homer off Tanaka came in the bottom of that inning, and the Mets never looked back. Juan Uribe would have the big pinch-hit at-bat in the game for the Mets and drove an opposite-field, two-run home run to right off Chasen Shreve, who has been struggling of late (six earned runs in his past four innings).
Rodriguez did come up in the pinch, but it was when the Yanks were four runs behind in the ninth with a runner on second and one out. He, yep, walked, just as Girardi feared would happen earlier. A single by Jacoby Ellsbury off Familia’s shin filled the bases, but the Mets’ closer in a non-save situation retired Brett Gardner on a fly to left and struck out Chase Headley.
The NL East-leading Mets reduced their major number for clinching their first division title in nine years to eight, but this was a case of one New York team being hurt more by a loss than the other was fortified by a victory.