In every which way, tonight’s ninth inning would have been the perfect time for home run No. 600. It was Alex Rodriguez’s birthday and the Yankees were down to this last out, needing a home run to tie it.
“Those are the best at-bats,” Rodriguez said. “You want a situation where you have to think small. Probably the worst at-bats are the wide-open ballgame, two outs, nobody on. Everybody stands up and is expecting one thing.”
That picture at the top, that’s the shot of Rodriguez’s final swing, a ground out to short that ended the game with the Yankees taking the loss and Rodriguez staying at 599. But this wasn’t a loss to hang on A-Rod’s shoulders.
CC Sabathia didn’t have his best outing, but literally every Indians run could be attributed to a Yankees mistake.
First run: Fourth inning, no outs, runners at second and third. On a grounder to third, Rodriguez’s throw home was in time, but Francisco Cervelli dropped the ball on the tag.“I could see it,” Sabathia said. “He slid right onto his mitt. There was really nothing Cervi could do about it.”
Second run: Fourth inning, one out, runners at first and second. Robinson Cano stepped off the bag trying to start a double play. Both runners were called safe — Joe Girardi seemed much more disappointed in the call at first — and the next batter hit a sacrifice fly. “I assumed he was out (at second),” Sabathia said. “I just worried about the runner at first. I thought he was out too. I had no idea until Alex told me he called him safe at second.”
Third run: Sixth inning, no outs, bases empty. Curtis Granderson nearly made a running catch in deep center field, but the ball hit the heel of his glove and bounced out. Any chance of a juggling catch ended when Granderson slammed into the wall. That runner scored two batters later. “He made a great attempt,” Sabathia said. “That’s what you expect out of your teammates, to go hard.”
Fourth run: Sixth inning, one out, bases loaded. Having intentionally walked Jason Donald to face No. 9 hitter Chris Gimenez — a career .149 hitter playing his fourth big league game of the year — Sabathia walked in a run on a 3-2 changeup. “He fought off a couple of fastballs,” Sabathia said. “I was just trying to make a pitch, get a strikeout right there. I tip his cap to him. He did a good job putting a good at-bat together and taking a changeup.”
More so than on at-bat in the ninth inning, those moments made the difference in the game. Here’s Rodriguez talking about his night and his on-going pursuit of 600.
• Can’t overstate how well Josh Tomlin pitched in his major league debut. He allowed no hits through three innings and faced the minimum through six. “He threw the ball extremely well,” Rodriguez said. “First time we saw him. He threw a lot of cutters. Kept working ahead of guys. Pitched backward a little bit. For the most part, I don’t think we had any good swings on him.”
• The Yankees have lost each of their past six games when facing a starting pitcher making his major league debut. The only other debut they saw this season was Jake Arrieta in Baltimore. That was a 4-3 loss.
• Sabathia hadn’t lost since May 23. “I felt like it was so-so,” Sabathia said. “I had good stuff, just didn’t make the pitches I needed to. I felt like I had a good fastball. The changeup was better than last time. It just didn’t work out today.”
• Girardi said he was surprised but had no problem with Cano being called off the bag. “If he’s right, he’s right,” Girardi said.
• Asked about the back end of the double play, though, Girardi only nodded his head to acknowledged that he’d seen the replay. Girardi wouldn’t comment, but it was pretty clear that he considered that a blown call.
• Mark Teixeira’s on-base streak came to an end.
• On a night of defensive mistakes, it’s easy to forget Brett Gardner’s great throw and Cervelli’s great block of home plate in the first inning. At the time, that seemed like a good sign for the Yankees.
• Girardi on what he was thinking during Rodriguez’s last at-bat: “This would be a real good time to hit one. But in that situation you’re just talking about keeping the line moving.”
• Derek Jeter was 2-for-4 and is a career .351 hitter against Cleveland, higher than against any other American League team.
Associated Press photos of Rodriguez, Cervelli, Girardi and Tomlin