By Neil Keefe
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I tried to “clear the mechanism” on the train ride home following Tuesday night’s game at the Stadium. I tried to turn the volume on my iPod higher than the maximum. I tried to use Pearl Jam and Guns N’ Roses to stifle the Yankees-Red Sox arguments breaking out on the train and then the Giants-Jets arguments that followed. And then I tried to forget about what happened at Yankee Stadium — a now common occurrence when the Red Sox come to visit.
After going 6-3 on the West Coast and 13-5 since that six-game losing streak, the Yankees had regained first place and put an end to the “Yankees look old” columns from the Monday Morning Quarterbacks of the New York City sports media world. And while one bad loss doesn’t erase what the Yankees have accomplished since the last time the Red Sox were in town, it sure feels like it. It feels like it because playing at home against the Red Sox is supposed to present an advantage and so far, it’s been anything but that.
After the Yankees’ win against the Angels on Sunday, Mark Teixeira said, “We wanted some momentum going into the off day and then the series against Boston. Playing a team that we haven’t played that well against over the years is always big.” I was a bit worried about how Teixeira felt. I told Nick Cafardo of The Boston Globe I was puzzled by Teixeira’s comments. The Yankees and Red Sox have been dead even since Teixeira has become a Yankee (with the exception of this year, but he obviously didn’t mean only this year since he said “over the years”). And in his time as a Yankee, the Yankees have won the World Series and lost in the ALCS, while the Red Sox have lost in the ALDS and missed the playoffs altogether. So maybe Teixeira’s comments were reactionary to what has happened this season, or maybe he was showing gamesmanship by complimenting his rival, like Cafardo suggested to me.
In 2009 when the Yankees were 0-8 against the Red Sox, the talk in New York became about 2004 and how the rivalry changed forever. It became a “Where were you the night the Red Sox turned the rivalry in their favor?” discussion. I started to believe in this hype wondering if one day I would have kids of my own with a completely different perspective on Yankees-Red Sox ,and when or if the Yankees would get the upper hand against and how long it would take to do so?
It didn’t take long. The Yankees won nine of the next 10 against the Red Sox, including that spectacular four-game sweep in August at the Stadium, and went on to win the World Series, while the Red Sox were swept in the ALDS and haven’t won a playoff game since Game 6 of the 2008 ALCS. So yeah, those wild and crazy thoughts were a bit premature.
This season has had a 2009 feel to it all around. No the Yankees haven’t been as bad as they were at this point in 2009, but it feels like it. It’s the weirdest 33-25 record and first place position I can remember, and even though they have the second best record in the AL, it doesn’t feel like it. Maybe it has something to do with the Yankees’ 1-6 record against the Red Sox and the fact that they are 4-8 in their last 12 home games, considering they are supposed to be the best home team in baseball since the start of 2009.
Back to Teixeira … Gamesmanship or not, those comments came across as Teixeira “tipping his cap” to the team that stands between the Yankees and a division title and possibly a playoff berth. It’s this kind of “tipping of the cap” that Brian Cashman used after the Red Sox traded for Adrian Gonzalez and signed Carl Crawford while the Yankees failed to sign their Plan A, forcing them to create a Plan B, which part of was on display for 1 2/3 innings at the Stadium on Tuesday night. It’s this kind of “tipping the cap” that has the Yankees at 1-6 against the Red Sox this season and 0-4 at home.
While Freddy Garcia was warming up on Tuesday night, the Stadium big screen said, “Freddy has not allowed a run in the first inning this season.” It might as well have said, “Jon Lester better not have his good stuff tonight.” A Home run, walk, triple and sac-fly later and it was 3-0 before Wall Street could fill the seats “between the bases,” and nearly before the Bleacher Creatures could finish roll call.
But Jon Lester didn’t have his good stuff. Just good enough stuff to survive a near meltdown in the first inning and then manage to gut out six innings in a near mirror image of what Jered Weaver did to the Yankees on Friday night in Anaheim.
The Yankees had their chances early on. They had their chance in the first with the bases loaded and Nick Swisher at the plate, and when the Stadium got loud in the first inning — a level of loud unheard of in the first inning — you had a feeling that if Swisher could get a base hit, the momentum from the Red Sox’ three-run first would swing to the Yankees. But 2011 Nick Swisher grounded out to third, left the score at 3-1 and let Lester shrugged off a sloppy first. And then Freddy Garcia came out again for his last inning of work — an inning he wouldn’t even complete — because no real offense, stacked with left-handed hitting is about to fall for his “quarter behind the ear” and “pick a card, any card” magic tricks.
The first seven games of the season series have been embarrassing. Every bit embarrassing as it was in 2009, even if the Yankees have won ONE game already. Anyone who tells you differently probably thinks that June 8 is “still early”
with 36 percent of the season having been played.
While I tried to drown my sorrows with “Estranged” on the way home, I started to think about some of the reasons for the embarrassment created form a single 6-4 loss at home to the Red Sox. I came up with three.
I’m embarrassed … that the Yankees didn’t throw at anyone.
Mark Teixeira is the Yankees’ hottest hitter. Mark Teixeira had nine home runs in his last 16 games entering the series. Mark Teixeira gets drilled in the kneecap in the first inning and rolls around on the ground in pain and is then helped off the field. The Yankees don’t retaliate.
Did Jon Lester try to hit Mark Teixeira? No. Did he try to hit Russell Martin three hitters later? No. But I would like to think that an annual preseason favorite for AL Cy Young can control where his pitches are going. And even if he does lead the league in HBP, that’s not an excuse.
I think I’m more upset about the fact that Adrian Gonzalez played the entire game last night without getting drilled than the actual loss. I’m upset that David Ortiz hit a two-run home run off a rookie and then posed afterward like Anthony Weiner taking a TwitPic, and he didn’t get drilled either. I know that Freddy Garcia isn’t exactly the guy who’s going to be hurting anyone with his mid-80s fastball, but Luis Ayala or Hector Noesi could have done the job.
At least one Red Sox better get drilled with A.J. Burnett on the mound in the second game of the series. Have some pride.
I’m embarrassed … for Andruw Jones.
Andruw Jones had a four-pitch strikeout in the second inning. He had a three-pitch strikeout in the third inning — earning himself a nominee for Worst At-Bat of 2011. He popped out to the catcher on the first pitch in the fifth inning and struck out again in the eighth inning. So if you’re scoring at home or lost track of all of that, that’s 0-for-4 with three strikeouts and a pop out to the catcher.
Since Jones hit two-home run game against the Blue Jays on May 25, he is 2-for-15 with six strikeouts. Before that two-home run game he was 3-for-28 over his previous 11 games. Can we really sit around and wait for Jones to hit a home run once a month and have to deal with his inconsistencies in between?
If Jones didn’t hit those two home runs against the Blue Jays, he would be on the Yankees payroll and not on the team right now. There isn’t a better option in Triple-A or anywhere for that matter than Andruw Jones?
I’m embarrassed … for the Yankees starting pitching against the Red Sox.
Instead of talking about Phil Hughes’ (remember him?) performance at Fenway in April or CC Sabathia being outpitched by Josh Beckett twice or Freddy Garcia laying two eggs against the Red Sox, I decided to make it simple.
Here is the pitching line for the Yankees starters against the Red Sox in seven games:
31.2 IP, 45 H, 29 R, 27 ER, 20 BB, 22 K, 6 HR, 7.69 ERA, 2.06 WHIP
Yeah, that’s not very good.
Right now if the Yankees and Red Sox hadn’t played each other, the Yankees would be 32-19 and the Red Sox would be 28-25. (Just like in 2009 when the 8-0 advantage for the Red Sox resulted in a 16-game swing in the division.) But they have played each other, and will play each other 11 more times.
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