Monday, June 1, 2009

Yankees Can't Steal One From Indians

Mistakes Foil Comeback

Jhonny Peralta’s 9th inning single, past a diving Alex Rodriguez, scored Trevor Crowe from second base and gave the Cleveland Indians a 5-4 victory Sunday afternoon. The Yankees had rallied back from a 4-0 deficit on the back of Mark Teixeira, who drove in all four Yankees runs, but wasted a golden opportunity to take the lead in the top of the 9th inning. Phil Coke was saddled with his third loss of the year after he and David Robertson combined to give up the winning run.

The Yankees were shut down by Carl Pavano, yes, that Carl Pavano, through the first five innings, before Teixeira continued his May home run tear. The outcome of the game may have been different had Derek Jeter not been called out on a play at a first base that replays showed he was clearly safe on. ( First base coach Mick Kelleher and manager Joe Girardi argued to no avail with umpire Mark Carlson.) The play became important, because the next batter, Johnny Damon, reached on a broken bat single and Teixeira sent his 16th home run of the season into the right-center field bleachers. It was Teixeira’s 13th home run in May after hitting just three in April. Instead of a one run game, Teixeira’s home run only cut the lead in half.

Indians fans had to be second guessing manager Eric Wedge when he pulled Pavano in the 8th after his starter allowed a one out single to Jeter. Pavano had thrown just 89 pitches and handled the Yankees potent offense all day. The move quickly backfired when lefty Rafael Perez gave up a double to Damon to put the tying runs in scoring position.

Wedge went to right-hander Rafael Betancourt to face Teixeira, but he was forced to make another move when Betancourt strained his groin and had to leave the game. Teixeira tattooed Matt Herges‘ pitch off the wall in left-center for a 2-run double and suddenly the game was tied 4-4. Herges bounced back though, retiring Alex Rodriguez and Robinson Cano on ground outs to preserve the tie.

Chien-Ming Wang provided three stellar innings in relief of Phil Hughes and the Yankees were set up to take control of the game in the 9th. Indians closer Kerry Wood walked Hideki Matsui to start the inning and Nick Swisher sacrificed pinch-runner Ramiro Pena to second base. Brett Gardner reached on a high chopper to short for an infield single that put runners on the corners with just one out. And that’s where things started to fall apart.

Gardner got the steal sign from Girardi…and didn’t go. Gardner said after the game that he was afraid of being picked off. Odd talk from a base runner as aggressive as Gardner is. Even if he had not stolen second base, had Gardner gone on the pitch, the inevitable might have been avoided- Jorge Posada bounced into an inning ending 4-6-3 double play.

Wedge wasn’t the only manager whose pitching decisions were second guessed on Sunday. The Yankees didn’t want to “stretch out” Wang too far in case he had to start for Andy Pettitte on Wednesday. But Girardi could have opted to start Al Aceves, if necessary, for Pettitte. That would have allowed Wang to continue into the 9th inning yesterday in what was easily his best appearance of the season.

Instead, Phil Coke came on and walked Crowe to start the 9th, and Cabrera did a great job of getting down a 2-strike sacrifice bunt to move the runner into scoring position. Girardi sent for the right-hander throwing Robertson to face the right-handed hitting Ben Francisco, but Robertson walked him. Peralta then provided the heroics with a ball down the left field line that was just out of the reach of an outstretched A-Rod.

Hughes started out like a house afire. He threw two over powering innings, and retired seven of the first eight batters he faced, four of them by strikeout. But two hits and a walk loaded the bases in the 3rd inning and Peralta showed a precursor of what was yet to come- a 2-run single to put the Indians on the board first. Two batters later, Mark DeRosa brought home the Indians third run of the inning with a sacrifice fly.

Hughes had an easy 4th inning, but Gardner misplayed Cabrera’s fly ball into a double to start the 5th inning. The play proved costly when Francisco’s infield single moved Cabrera to third base and Shin-Soo Choo brought him home with a sacrifice fly.

Pavano has looked tremendous in two starts against the Yankees this season, having allowed four earned runs in 13.1 innings. He left both games with the lead only to see the bullpen blow it each time. After starting off the season 0-3, 9.50 in four starts,Pavano has gone 5-1, 3.60 in the seven starts since then.

Game Notes

The Yankees tied the 2006 Boston Red Sox by playing in their 17th straight errorless game.

Mark Teixeira set a personal high with his 13 home runs in May. That figure along with 34 RBI were tops in baseball for the month. He also extended his hitting streak to 13 games on Sunday.

Derek Jeter extended his hitting streak to 14 games.

The Yankees go for the series win tonight when Joba Chamberlain (2-1, 3.97) faces Jeremy Sowers (1-2, 7.71)

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