The Yankees keep talking about controlling their own destiny, but that only matters if they take advantage. It only helps them if they win games like this one.
The Blue Jays had two of their more dangerous hitters on the bench. Their 5.77-ERA starter coudln’t pitch beyond the third inning, and his replacement hadn’t pitched in the big leagues since 2010. The Yankees loaded the bases with no outs in two of the first three innings, the Blue Jays made another laughable baserunning mistake, and Toronto’s game-tying hit seemed to be headed foul before Alex Rodriguez grabbed it and failed to make a play.
It wasn’t the first winnable game that the Yankees let slip away this season, but with four games left on the schedule and the Orioles still in pursuit, it just might have been their most glaring letdown of the season.
“It just wasn’t a good game for us,” Andy Pettitte said. “It wasn’t a good game for me pitching. They hit some balls hard. When you’re seeing your center fielder’s number the whole game, and you’re the starting pitcher, you don’t feel real good about that. We definitely didn’t do a good job with runners in scoring position. We could have added on, for sure.
“We need to play good. When we get opportunities right now, we need to take advantage of them and get runs in. And we’ve got to, as a pitching staff, got to make pitches and grind out there right now. It’s a battle and we’ve just got to continue to fight through. Four games left. Heck, hopefully we can win all four.”
There’s no silver lining to this game, and absolutely no one in the Yankees clubhouse tried to spin it as anything other than what it was.
“Obviously when you got a guy on the ropes early on, you want to capitalize on it,” Alex Rodriguez said. “It’s never a good sign when you let the other team hang around a little bit. But we had plenty of chances.”
The Yankees left 10 men on base and went 2-for-11 with runners in scoring position. Neither of those hits actually drove in a run. Pettitte’s final regular-season tuneup was his least impressive since the ankle injury. He had trouble commanding his fastball and allowed his first runs since coming off the disabled list. Joe Girardi went to Joba Chamberlain with runners at the corners in the sixth, and Chamberlain allowed the game-winning double to the first batter he faced.
It was bad. A bad loss at a bad time.
“We put ourselves in this situation, and destiny is in our own hands,” Nick Swisher said. “We’ve got to go out and take it. No one is going to give us nothing. These guys are fighting just like we are. There’s a lot of guys over there fighting for spots next year, things like that, and we’re fighting to go into the postseason. There’s a lot of battling going on and when it boils down to it, we’ve just gotta pick up those W’s. That’s really all that matters.”
• When the Blue Jays tied the game in the fifth, they did so on Rajai Davis’ two-out infield single down the third-base line. The ball seemed to be hooking foul when Rodriguez grabbed it and tried to get the out at first. “I haven’t seen (a replay),” Rodriguez said. “But 9 out of 10, I think it would have gone foul. But again, with Rajai running, you have a split-second decision and I took my chances. I couldn’t tell, to be honest with you. I was up for the bunt and it was hugging the line, and it was one of those things where you’ve got to make a decision. I just took the more aggressive approach.”
• Aside from two walks, it was another lost day at the plate for Rodriguez. “I don’t feel too bad,” he said. “I’m feel like I’m getting a little bit better. The walks are good, and you build on that. But it really doesn’t matter how we feel right now. We just gotta get it done.”
• Speaking of lost at the plate, Andruw Jones struck out in his only at-bats before being replaced by Raul Ibanez. “It’s a situation where we don’t have Tex today,” Girardi said. “I put Andruw out there. He hit a homer off a lefty the other day and looked pretty good swinging the other day, so I put him out there.”
• Eduardo Nunez hit the ball hard today, but he was lifted for defense after the fifth inning, replaced by Derek Jeter, who had been the DH. “I knew that that spot’s not going to come up again before Andy’s out,” Girardi said. “… I have to do what I feel is best.”
• Looked like a blown call on Brett Gardner’s stolen base attempt in the eighth. “(The umpire) said he waited to make sure he didn’t drop the ball, but he had him,” Girardi said. “I said, ‘No he didn’t. I can see from where I’m at.’”
• Maybe it’s too much of a simplification, but the Yankees really seemed to strikeout in huge spots today. “You just hope they put it in play, that’s the bottom line,” Girardi said. “You just hope they put it in play. Whatever it takes.”
• Girardi on the decision to pull Pettitte in the sixth after 94 pitches: “We had just said 90-95 pitches. We knew we were pushing it at that point. After the last pitch he threw, we just said we’re going to make a change.”
• Pettitte on being pulled: “I never want to come out of a game. Too, you realize he watches you and he sees how balls are being hit, and I definitely was leaving balls in the middle of the plate. Of course, I would have loved to have been able to stay out there and try to get that out.”
• Pettitte on his outing: “I didn’t feel like I was in a real good rhythm. I felt like I was getting there. Maybe the third or fourth inning I felt like maybe I was finding a little something, but just didn’t have real good command. Didn’t have real good command of my fastball, was able to locate it away pretty good, but everything else just wasn’t quite where I wanted it. … When you can’t push guys off the plate and keep them off your offspeed stuff, it makes it really difficult. I was having a real hard time getting the ball in when I wanted to go in. That was a problem today that I was having for sure.”
• Barring a surprise decision to pitch him on short rest, this will be Pettitte’s final start before the playoffs. “I’m ready,” Pettitte said. “Whatever comes my way, I’m ready to do it. I think I’m about where I thought I would be which is a good spot. I got my pitch count up and hopefully we can get our stuff together in the next start.”
• Swisher said he has no desire to check the Baltimore score tonight. “I don’t worry about that,” he said. “I know that if we play the way we’re capable of playing, everything takes care of itself. Tonight was kind of a little lull, but we’ll be back here tomorrow bright and early ready to go.”
• Worth mentioning that Swisher made another nice, heads up play at first base to get Gomes out at third base and end the sixth.
• Girardi said Mark Teixeira remains probable for the upcoming Boston series. “I guess he had a real good day,” Girardi said. “He ran well, said he felt really good. I’ll probably try to get a chance to talk to him today. We could see him maybe against Boston.”
• Final word goes to Girardi: “You feel that you’re going to get more (runs), but you never know. You look at the opportunities that you have and you say, ‘We could have a pretty big lead here.’ We didn’t do it. … We’ll shake it off. We’ll bounce back. We always have.”
Associated Press photos