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(2006) Yankees Ninth-Inning Rally Fizzles as Hideki Matsui Strikes Out with Bases Loaded

Elvis Elvis

Two points before the review of a very tough and disheartening 6-5 defeat at the hands of Baltimore last night. One, I have noticed over the past two or three seasons that the Yankees often play poorly in the next game following an off-day, and last night’s game was yet another example of this trend. It seems the Yankees need to play every day to remain sharp and maintain focus.

Second, some members of the press in New York are often very critical of the Yankees TV/radio announcers and the perception that they interpret the action with a decidedly “homer” (as in rooting for the “home team”) flavor.

Last night I watched the Yankees-Orioles game broadcast by the Orioles cable network, and announcers Jim Hunter, and, to a lesser extent, Buck Martinez, were positively scandalous in their “homer” interpretations.

Hunter, in particular, made comment after comment – to call it whining would not be an exaggeration – about how borderline pitches and close calls always go in favor of the Yankees at Yankee Stadium. He made it very clear he believed the Yankees had an unfair advantage in this area. However, nary a word was said by Hunter (although Martinez did mildly question the call) when a close call was missed at first base in the third inning when Andy Phillips leaped to catch a throw from Derek Jeter and came down on the bag just before the runner (Melvin Mora) reached first base. This blown two–out call by umpire Jerry Crawford cost the Yankees two runs on the play, and a third run scored before the inning ended.

The other case in which the Yankees did not catch a break from the umpires was in the bottom of the ninth inning, with the bases loaded, Chris Ray pitching, Hideki Matsui batting, two outs, and the Yankees trailing, 6-5. The count went to 3-2, although I thought one of the called strikes was below Matsui’s knees. The 3-2 pitch was a hard breaking ball that appeared to be outside (or, at best, perhaps the pitch went around the plate). Either way catcher Ramon Hernandez must have pulled his mitt toward the plate three or four inches to try and get the call. Umpires are usually not fooled by such deception, but this time home-plate Phil Cuzzi gave the Orioles the call.

Matsui is much too much of a gentleman to argue the call, and, frankly, the Yankees generally took the high road after the game and marveled at Ray’s impressive fastball and his guts to throw a 3-2 breaking pitch in that situation. These critiques, however, did not assuage my anger over the falsehoods perpetuated by idiots like Hunter and the claims that the Yankees get all the calls, even in the face of contradictory evidence.

(2006) Yankees Ninth Inning Rally Fizzles as Hideki Matsui Strikes Out with Bases Loaded

In fact, thus far in this young season, the Yankees have taken it on the chin much more often than not on key close calls or missed calls. That’s OK though, it will even out in the end, but to say that the umpires aid the Yankees is more than ridiculous. It is cheap pandering to Yankees haters.

As for the game, the Yankees got seven outstanding innings from their pitchers last night and two extremely poorly pitched innings, the third and the sixth. The biggest culprit was Chien-Ming Wang (-.35) who, in 5 1/3 innings allowed 8 hits, 2 walks, and 6 earned runs. He surrendered leads of 1-0 and 4-3, too, and looked particularly vulnerable pitching from the stretch with base runner(s) aboard. Scott Proctor (-.10) entered a difficult situation in the sixth inning and struck out Corey Patterson. But then he issued two walks –inexcusable – to force in a run, allowing Baltimore to take a 6-4 lead.

Hate to do this, especially because of the bad call involved and because the play was scored a hit, but Jeter gets -.05 for not throwing out Mora with the bases loaded and two outs in the third, a play on which two runs scored (with another run scoring on a hit by the next hitter). It was a difficult play – a slowly hit bouncer in the hole – but Jeter needlessly rushed and threw off balance before his feet were planted. He had more time to set himself, as he had Mora out easily with a truer throw to first.

The other 50 points go to offensive culprits. Jason Giambi, who did draw a two-out walk in the ninth inning, was nevertheless the biggest culprit offensively and gets -.15. Giambi went 0 for 4, and there were multiple-hit hitters all around him in the bating order. He made the first out in the fourth, prior to a two-run homer by Robinson Cano, and he also made the first out in the eighth inning just before back-to-back doubles when the Yankees only netted one run in the rally, closing to within 6-5.

Johnny Damon (-.10) and Alex Rodriguez (-.10) also were offensive culprits. Damon, who went 1 for 5, did score a run helped by some nice base running on his part, but he made the first out in the first inning before Jeter tripled and Sheffield singled, he made the third out with the bases loaded in the sixth, and he led off the ninth with a pop up. Jeter in the ninth followed with a walk, igniting a rally that ultimately fell short, partly because Damon got the inning off to a poor start. A-Rod gave the Yankees a 4-3 lead with a two-out RBI-single in the fifth inning, but he also left 5 runners on base, grounded into a double play, was caught attempting to steal a base, and struck out twice, the second strikeout coming in a huge spot with two on and one out in the ninth inning.

Minor culprits included Matsui (.-05), Andy Phillips (-.05), and Miguel Cairo (-.05). Matsui, who actually had a great game with two hits and two walks, and who was unfairly called out on strikes with the bases loaded in the ninth, nevertheless did strike out with the game on the line.

While it may be true that Phillips has not had enough at-bats yet to be fairly evaluated as a hitter, so far he has demonstrated absolutely nothing with the bat. He was 0 for 2 last night before being lifted for a pinch-hitter and has been an easy out almost every time he has batted this season.

Cairo grounded out with the tying run in scoring position in the eighth inning.

Game points were distributed as follows:
Chien-Ming Wang -.35
Jason Giambi -.15
Scott Proctor -.10
Johnny Damon -.10
Alex Rodriguez -.10
Derek Jeter -.05
Hideki Matsui -.05
Andy Phillips -.05
Miguel Cairo -.05

The Yankees are now 7-8 for the season. Points earned for the season so far are as follows:
Mike Mussina +.50
Jorge Posada +.35
Mike Myers +.20
Jason Giambi +.15
Derek Jeter +.15
Alex Rodriguez +.10
Miguel Cairo +.05
Johnny Damon 0.00
Hideki Matsui 0.00
Kelly Stinnett 0.00
Mariano Rivera -.05
Andy Phillips -.10
Bernie Williams -.15
Scott Proctor -.20
Robinson Cano -.20
Randy Johnson -.25
Gary Sheffield -.25
Kyle Farnsworth -.25
Chien-Ming Wang -.25
Shawn Chacon -.40
Jaret Wright -.40

Points for the season add up to -1.00, reflecting the Yankees current record of 7-8, one game under the .500 mark.