With a bullpen that’s not nearly as deep as it could be, the Yankees went into tonight’s sixth inning with a one-run lead, knowing they were going to face a left-handed hitter who doesn’t hit left-handed pitchers, followed by the bottom third of a weak Seattle lineup.
“We just thought we’d go to Boone for one out, and then go to Ayala and try to set it up for Robertson, Chamberlain and Mo,” Joe Girardi said. “But we didn’t get there.”
Logan missed with a slider to Adam Kennedy, Ayala allowed a single and a walk, and the rest was history. A two-run sixth-inning was the difference between a win and a loss.
Maybe Girardi should have kept A.J. Burnett in the game, but 97 pitches through five innings is all the proof you need that he labored. He’d allowed two runs in the fifth and Girardi thought his starter was on the edge after walking a tightrope all night. Girardi didn’t need to save Logan for a different lefty, because his top three relievers were going to handle the last three innings. Girardi has to pick and choose the times when he asks Robertson and Chamberlain to give more than one inning, and the bottom of a bad lineup didn’t seem like a time he absolutely had to lean heavily on those two.
“(The bullpen)’s been what it’s been for the past two weeks, two and a half weeks,” Girardi said. “You understand what it is, so it’s not tricky. Some guys are going to be expected to do a little bit more. That’s the bottom line.”
Girardi’s bullpen usage is going to be second guessed again, and rightfully so. He could have gone any number of ways, but there was certainly logic to the way he did it. A bullpen has to be more than three pitchers deep, so the Yankees need Logan and Ayala to handle a spot like tonight. Logan has looked better recently, and Ayala has been pretty much what you’d expect a sixth-inning guy to be. Tonight they didn’t get it done, and that hurt.
• Of course, plenty of blame is also going to fall on Eduardo Nunez, who did a terrific job pinch running and immediately stealing a base with two outs. But then he was picked off. Both Nunez and Girardi said he would have been safe had his hand not been oddly stuck in the dirt as he slid into the bag. Nunez said he wasn’t taking a larger than normal lead, he just got picked off. “Just can’t get picked there,” Girardi said.
• Girardi said he would wait until Saturday to talk to Nunez about the play. “If he slides normal, if his arm doesn’t stick there, he’s safe,” Girardi said. “I think every player knows you can’t get picked off in that situation. But maybe it is inexperience. Maybe it is just trying to be a little too aggressive.”
• Girardi said Nunez had a green light in the ninth inning. He seemed to indicate that Nunez was running on his own, not running because of a call from the bench. That’s a good and gutsy steal by the kid, followed by a deflating pickoff.
• Nick Swisher drew a walk and had a hit tonight, but his deep drive to center field was robbed by a terrific Franklin Gutierrez catch over the wall. “I thought that ball was five rows deep, no doubt,” Swisher said.
• Burnett said he had a good curveball and a good changeup, but he was kicking himself a little bit because of his fastball command. He made some big outs when he had to, but the command wasn’t there and he was in deep counts most of the night. That crushed his pitch count and contributed to his early exit. “He had to work really hard, especially the first two innings,” Girardi said.
• A left-handed reliever’s job is really odd. One hitter — and often one pitch — determines everything. Tonight Logan didn’t get a slider low enough, and a soft single made his night a disaster. He had been pitching better lately, but it’s impossible to say whether this is a slide back to his earlier struggles. Lefties are 11-for-32 against him. “Only time will tell,” Girardi said. “You can’t make too much out of one outing, whether it’s good or bad.”
• The Yankees actually looked pretty good against early Rookie of the Year candidate Michael Pineda, who had his shortest outing of the year and had a season-high five walks. Girardi was proud of his hitters for staying patient and working the count. Pineda threw 96 pitches. “Heard a lot about him coming in, and I thought we did a great job,” Swisher said.
• Alex Rodriguez has a seven-game hitting streak and is batting .429 with five multi-hit games in his past 10 games.
• The Yankees came into the game with the best bullpen ERA in the American League.
• Mark Teixeira’s home run was his fifth in his past eight games. He has 13 career homers at Safeco Field, tied for the second most among active opposing players. No. 1 on the list, by the way, is Eric Chavez.
• This was the third game of the season in which the Yankees had three stolen bases (Nunez, Granderson, Martin).
Associated Press photos