Wednesday, April 5, 2006

Proctor Fails Test, A's Win 4-3

Torre Strategy Backfires - Again

During Spring Training Joe Torre vowed not to overwork his bullpen like he had the past two seasons. Arm problems that beset Paul Quantrill, Tanyon Sturtze, and Tom Gordon over that time period prompted Torre's actions. But has often been the case the last few years, Torre went to the extreme last night and it cost the Yankees the game - Oakland winning it 4-3 in the bottom of the ninth. Instead of having Kyle Farnsworth pitch a second inning, he fed Scott Proctor to the wolves in the bottom of the ninth inning of a 3-3 game. Proctor, who had missed several days due to emergency heart surgery, was not sharp at all. He walked the lead off batter Jason Kendall, who then took second on a sacrifice bunt by Milton Bradley. After an intentional walk to Nick Swisher, Marcos Scutaro drilled a flat fastball over the head of Hideki Matsui in left scoring Kendall with the winning run.

Though it was only the second game of the season it was reminiscent of past pitching strategy mistakes made by Torre, ala the 2003 World Series when he put Jeff Weaver in an extra game and to know one's surprise lost it. While the ramifications of last night's game are not comparable, the growing trend is disturbing.

Torre never would have found himself in such an untenable situation had the Yankees hitters taken advantage of their opportunities. Johnny Damon led off the ball game with a walk and advanced to third on Derek Jeter's double. A's starter Rich Harden then proceeded to strike out Gary Sheffield, Alex Rodriguez, and Jason Giambi to get out of the jam.

The Yankees broke through in the third when Jeter was issued a two-out walk and scored on Sheffield's double. The Yankees ran themselves out of the inning one batter later when Rodriguez singled to left. Nick Swisher's throw went home as Sheffield took a big turn around third, but stopped. Rodriguez, who had slowed as he approached first, took off for second, but hesitated as Jason Kendall threw down to second baseman Mark Ellis. Rodriguez got in a run, while Sheffield inexplicably held his ground at third. By the time Sheffield finally broke for home Rodriguez had been tagged out.

The A's got right back at Yankees starter Mike Mussina (7 IP 3 ER) in the bottom of the third. Nick Swisher tied the game with his first home run of the season and Mark Kotsay delivered an RBI single to push Oakland ahead 2-1.

Jorge Posada tied the game in the fourth with an RBI ground out and then put the Yankees ahead in the sixth with an RBI single, but Mussina again surrendered the lead immediately. Eric Chavez's first home run of the season tied the game in the bottom of the sixth 3-3.

The Yankees threatened in their half of the ninth when Johnny Damon stroked a 1-out double. Jeter grounded out to short, and after Sheffield drew a 2-out walk, Rodriguez grounded into a force out to end the inning. Joe Torre then made sure no one on the east coast had to stay up any later.


Proctor's infant daughter was doing much better after emergency surgery to repair a heart defect. The baby was initially discovered to have a heart murmur at birth and it was not thought to be any trouble. However, it recurred and surgery was necessitated.

Still no word from back specialist Dr. Robert Watkins concerning Carl Pavano's MRI. Pavano will see no action until Watkins review is complete.

Chien-Ming Wang starts tonight's rubber game of the series against Danny Haren. The 10:05 start will be televised on YES.

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