Obviously when you have a rotation that consists of one ace and four jokers – and that’s what Phil Hughes, A.J. Burnett, Ivan Nova and whoever the Yankees put in the fifth spot are – you’ve got to win the game in which your ace pitches. Especially when the ace pitches seven shutout innings, as C.C. Sabathia did yesterday.
The Yankees bullpen is supposed to be the strong point of the 2011 season, which is why yesterday’s 5-4 loss to the Twins in ten innings hurts so much. But the pen is being blamed unfairly for a loss that would more justly be pinned to the bad judgment of Nick Swisher.
Yes, the Yankees caught their “eighth inning guy,” Rafael Soriano, on a bad day when he walked three batters in an inning for the first time in his career, but it was far from just the walks which contributed to the Yanks blowing a four-run lead to lose the game.
The big play, which is getting lost in the “Bullpen Flop” story, is Swisher’s eighth inning gaff. With bases loaded, one out, and the score 4-1, the Twins’ Delmon Young faced David Robertson on a 3-2 count and blooped a pop into right which kept slicing away from Swisher. Nick was playing deep to prevent an extra-base hit that might have tied the game – OK, we can understand that. But in trying to make a play off Young’s blooper, he made a bigger blooper of his own. By playing the percentages and simply keeping the ball in front of him, he’d have allowed the run to score but no more. The Twins base runners, after all, had to hold in order to see if he came up with the ball. In misplaying the pop-up, Swisher let the Twins do exactly the same thing they would have done had Young hit the ball over his head – namely, clean the bases and tie the game.
But let’s not come down too hard on the Yankee relievers, who might have had a decent chance to get out of the jam if Swisher had used better judgment. “Obviously, in hindsight,” Swisher told reporters afterwards, “I wish I would have kept that ball in front of me. You live and you learn.” Yeah, especially since this is your eighth year in the big leagues.