Mark Teixeira blasted a three-run homer, his third three-run homer of the season, and fourth overall homerun, in the first inning of game two of a four game series against the Minnesota Twins at the Stadium that gave the Yanks an early 3-0 lead in this game.
Then, in the second inning, Andruw Jones, making his first start of the season, hit a solo shot that increased the Bombers lead to 4-0.
On the mound, CC Sabathia was strolling along at a very steady and solid pace, allowing no runs, and just two hits and one walk over seven strong innings of work, retiring the final 17 batters he faced.
So after seven innings it looked very good for the Yankees as a victory was clearly in sight, which would move their record to (4-1) after the first five games of the 2011 season. But as is the case in just about 95% of all baseball games throughout the Major Leagues these days, the dreaded “100 pitch-count” would come into play once again when Sabathia threw his 104th pitch that recorded the final out of the top of the seventh.
I made a pledge to myself at the start of this year that I would “try” to “not” talk about, or write about, the pitch-count this baseball season. But as the eight inning started to unravel for the Yanks with Rafael Soriano on the mound, I quickly called my friend on the phone and started to vent with rage about what was happening before our eyes.
Manager Joe Girardi decided his “ace” CC Sabathia was finished for the night because he had thrown 104 pitches. It did not matter that CC had retired 17 Twins in a row, allowed no runs on only two hits and a walk, or that the bullpen could have used a night off, especially since Freddy Garcia is scheduled to pitch the next game and surely will last only about five innings when the bullpen “will” be needed. CC is the Yankees “ace”. And if any starter in the rotation is going to stay on the mound into the eight and even the ninth inning, it is Sabathia who could very easily pitch 120-125 pitches every start. The “pitch-count” should not apply to CC, period !
Now, my opinion is not based on any second-guessing after the fact. When Girardi made the move, as I and most Yankee fans knew he would ’cause this is Girardi’s basic philosophy in regards to the starting pitchers, it annoyed me very much, as it always does when he takes out a starter who is pitching a great game, especially a shutout, and especially when CC Sabathia is on the mound.
As it turned out, Soriano was very ineffective during his time on the mound in the eight, allowing two walks and a hit to load the bases with two outs, before issuing his third walk of the inning that forced home a run to make the score 4-1.
Girardi then brought David Robertson into the game, who allowed a bloop double to right field by Delmon Young that cleared the bases to tie the score 4-4.
Still on the phone with my friend, I also second-guessed the Robertson move by Girardi. At this point I would have brought Mariano Rivera into the game to get a four-out save. But the damage was already done. Robertson did get the final out in the top of the eight inning. And Mariano pitched a scoreless ninth to take the game into extra innings tied at 4-4.
As the game entered the top of the tenth, with Joba Chamberlain not available to pitch on this night, Girardi called Boone Logan in from the bullpen. Logan started the inning by walking Span; then gave up a single to Nishioka and RBI single to Mauer that moved the Twins into a 5-4 lead.
Joe Nathan closed out the victory for the Twins by pitching a scoreless bottom of the tenth, recording his second save of the season. And that was the ballgame.
Reflecting on Rafael Soriano’s poor performance after he left the game, I was willing to give him a pass at the time, and still do give him a pass, because in my view Girardi should have let CC Sabathia pitch the eight inning.
But I do not give Soriano a pass for leaving the clubhouse after the game was over without talking to the media. That kind of action by Soriano will not be received very well by the media or the fans. And if Mr. Soriano continues to think he can just not answer questions after tough performances or losses, it will be a very uncomfortable time in the Bronx for the former Tampa Bay Rays closer.
Also, I do not give Joe Girardi a pass for this loss. A manager cannot always manage strictly by the book. And especially with CC on the mound, it’s time to throw away the “pitch-count”, and just let our “ace” pitch as long as he can in every start.
– Jimmy Curran, “BY&L” – Baseball, The Yankees, and Life …