The picture above is the one I had ready to go at the click of a button. Dave Robertson was the story. He wasn’t going to get the win, and he wasn’t going to get the save, but Robertson’s two strikeouts in the sixth inning were most surely going to be the biggest outs of the game. All that stood in the way was Mariano Rivera.
“Mo is as close to perfect in this situations as you can be,” Joe Girardi said. “But as we know, no one’s perfect.”
The Yankees have seen Rivera stumble, but it’s stunning each and every time it happens. A.J. Burnett had pitched well enough for his fourth straight win, Mark Teixeira had hit his go-ahead home run and Curtis Granderson had given the Yankees a little breathing room with his homer. Robertson, Joba Chamberlain and Rafael Soriano had completed their late-inning bridge.
“I have everything in mind that everything is going to be fine,” Rivera said. “It wasn’t good today.”
What went wrong was the same thing that goes wrong with every other pitcher from time to time. “He just missed a little bit with his spots,” Girardi said. The command wasn’t good. Rivera walked his first batter, threw his first wild pitch and allowed his first run all on the same pitch. He held the ball too long.
“Wanted to go away, and it was way too away,” he said.
The game-tying safety squeeze was something the Yankees had talked about, but Teixeira was holding the winning run at first and John McDonald could not have executed any better. Like Teixiera said after the game, when that play is executed in that situation, it’s almost impossible to defend. An inning later, Ivan Nova gave up the game winner. A stunning loss.
“Even with the walk I have to make good pitches, and I didn’t,” Rivera said. “I think the guys did tremendous today, and it was my fault.”
Here’s Rivera speaking after the game.
• Heading into the game, the plan was for Nova to start on Sunday, but because of the off day on Thursday, Girardi also knew he had some wiggle room. Nova could still make that start, or he could be bumped to Sunday. Girardi went with Nova in the 10th because he wanted the most experienced right-hander left in the bullpen.
• As for sticking with Nova to face Travis Snider, Girardi knew that Juan Rivera would pinch hit if he brought in Boone Logan. Snider has been awful this season and the Yankees got him out five times tonight. They couldn’t get him out a sixth time.
• Teixeira said he never had a legitimate shot to make a play on the safety squeeze, and Girardi said there wasn’t any other strategy he could use at that point. “We talked about it,” Girardi said. “But you can pitch out on a safety and all you get is ball one.”
• Brett Gardner. Struggling. “It just seems like nothing’s going his way right now, but that’ll change,” Girardi said.
• Girardi said he could not have used Alex Rodriguez tonight, but he still expects to have him in the lineup on Wednesday.
• A.J. Burnett said all of the trips to the mound from Russell Martin had to do with constantly changing signs and making sure they were on the same page. This was another game with a lot of bouncing curveballs, and Martin did a good job of containing most of them. “Him and (Robertson) saved my day today,” Burnett said.
• The bad throw to Jeter: “I threw it like a dart, like I’d never made the play before,” Burnett said.
• Burnett pitched pretty well for the most part, but he was upset about that sixth inning. He seemed to lose some of his control that inning, and he said it was because he tried to be too perfect. “I’ve got to go deeper in that game,” Burnett said.
• The Yankees said during the game that Francisco Cervelli will DH in extended spring training tomorrow, and if that goes well, he’ll catch a game again on Thursday.
• As for Robertson, he was ultimately in and out of the clubhouse without much fuss after the game. Hard for anyone to write much about Robertson when the game ended like this, but that was some kind of performance. “Unbelievable,” Girardi said.
Associated Press photos