You could not be a baseball fan and not like the duel waged in Florida between the two best teams in the American League. The Yankees and the Bay Rays are battling for the AL East pennant and in a sense, it doesn't really matter because whatever team doesn't win the division will still be the wild card. But it's a pride thing and both teams want first place. And both teams had their aces on the mound in a match up of two pitchers among the top five in the American League. And both David Price and C. C. Sabathia were fantastic.
Watching the entire game, it was evident that neither Price nor Sabathia were willing to give in and both were determined to keep the other team from scoring. Both pitched eight full innings. Both gave up five hits combined. Both never looked to be in the slightest bit of trouble. Both threw nearly 120 pitches of dominating baseball. Price relied almost completely on his fastball and the Yankees knew it was coming but couldn't square it up. Sabathia had a good fastball too but mixed in plenty of change ups and breaking pitches to keep the Bay Rays off balance. Carl Crawford came into the game as one of the hottest hitters in baseball and he looked silly against Sabathia.
Price doesn't throw many breaking pitches. He relies on constantly changing the eye level of the hitter with his fastball, which averaged from 95 to 96 all night. He alternated up and down, in and out and the Yankees had no answer. Sabathia was masterful and was again denied his 20th win and remains stuck on 19.
The defense was excellent. Golson made a great play for the Yankees, Teixeira made another amazing play at first base (what are those zone rating people looking at!?) and the Bay Rays outfielders don't let anything hit the ground. Jeter also made a great play on a bad hope against Crawford.
But the score remained scoreless and the starting pitchers were pulled. The Fan predicted earlier in the Game Picks that this would turn into a battle of the bullpens and it really wasn't a fair fight. Kerry Wood was great (again) and pitched a scoreless ninth and the Bay Rays, having the luxury of being the home team, used their closer in the bottom of the ninth. No problems there. Benoit had no problem in the tenth. Then it got curious.
Boone Logan started the tenth. No problem there. He's been great. Logan struck out his only batter (Pena). But then Joe Girardi brought in Chad Gaudin. Yankee fans collectively gasped in horror. Gaudin loaded the bases, but somehow struck out two guys to get out of the tenth.
The Yankees got a lead off hit in the eleventh and Girardi asked Granderson to bunt against Grant Balfour. You know how the Fan feels about bunts. They are a total waste of an out. Granderson got to face a right-hander for the first time all night and he is a threat to hit it out of the park. Why take the bat out of his hands? Why waste an out against Grant Balfour, who has been struggling like crazy lately. That was like giving a drunk training wheels during a sobriety test.. Balfour then got Curtis to fly out and Jeter hit the ball on the nose, but his deep liner to right was caught. The inning was over.
Then the Yankees brought in Sergio Mitre. Another groan from the Yankee fans. Why Mitre? Why indeed. Read Brignac, a kid the Fan really likes, immediately hit the game winning homer.
It was a fantastic game and it was a game that makes baseball the best sport on earth. But those who follow the Yankees will be left scratching their heads at the choices made by the Yankee manager. The Fan understand not using your closer in a tie game when the team is on the road. Got that. But what about Chamberlain? What about Jonathan Albaladejo who was the Triple A closer of the year? He's pitched six times for the Yankees and has only given up one run. Why does Girardi trust Mitre and Gaudin more than him? Who knows. It certainly doesn't make sense on this end of the keyboard and combined with the waste of an out with Granderson, it was hardly Girardi's finest hour.