One more strike, and this game would have gone down as one of the best wins that the Yankees have had all season. The greatest closer of all-time had recorded the first two outs of the inning quickly and got to two strikes on Mike Napoli, but it was the final strike that may give the Yankees nightmares all offseason.
“Our guys game us an opportunity to win the game,” Mariano Rivera said. “We just blew it.”
This had all of the makings of a signature win that we might later look back on as a critical part of the Yankees’ postseason push. Instead, the stench from a heartbreaking 9-8 loss to the Boston Red Sox on Thursday could linger for awhile.
A late rally from a five-run deficit gave the Yankees a lead in the seventh, but Rivera blew his sixth save of the season and then Shane Victorino gave the Red Sox the win with an RBI single off of Joba Chamberlain in the 10th inning.
“It’s a tough loss, there’s no doubt about it, but we have to bounce back,” Joe Girardi said. “You can’t feel sorry for yourself. I like the way our guys fought back, and if we continue to play like that, we’re going to win a lot of games.”
• In a situation like this, I think it makes the most sense to work backwards. We’ll start with the top of the 10th inning, when Girardi elected to go to Joba (which surely gave everyone in the stadium a bad feeling in the pit of their stomachs). Girardi’s answers in his postgame press conference were not very long-winded. “They had three out of four right-handers, so I went with Joba,” he said.
• Why not Shawn Kelley? Or Boone Logan? Or Phil Hughes? Or anybody else? “It’s pretty tough to put (Hughes) in a spot like that when he hasn’t pitched in that situation,” Girardi said. “Kelley is not available to us. He’s got a little tricep issue going, so he has not been available the last few days, (and) he won’t be available for awhile. I’m not sure exactly when we’ll get him back.”
• When pressed, Girardi said that Kelley has a little inflammation in his tricep and is expected back sometime next week.
• After recording the first out, Chamberlain gave up a single to Jacoby Ellsbury, who promptly stole second base. Joba got to two strikes on Victorino and appeared to get him to go around for strike three, but first base ump Joe West said that Victorino didn’t go around. When asked if he thought that Victorino swung, Girardi said, “Yes, I do. It’s frustrating, because I thought he went. But you have to be able to overcome things.”
• The new life allowed Victorino to come through with the winning RBI single. After the inning had concluded, Joba got tossed for yelling something at West from the dugout. What did he say? “Enough to get me ejected,” Chamberlain said.
• Even after Rivera had blown the save in the top of the ninth, the Yankees had a runner in scoring position in the bottom half of the inning with one out. Alfonso Soriano nearly got caught in a pickoff when he stole second, and then he made another bad base-running mistake by getting caught in a rundown while trying to steal third. Girardi, who usually will defend his player’s mistakes, simply said, “You can’t get thrown out.”
• Here’s Soriano on the play: “I thought he was going home, but they made a very good play and got me,” he said. “I was trying to be aggressive and get to third with less than two outs.”
• After the Yankees had taken the lead in the seventh, Rivera came into attempt his third save in as many days. He quickly recorded the first two outs, but then gave up a single to Mike Napoli. Quintin Berry came on as a pinch-runner and stole second, advancing to third on a throwing error by Austin Romine. He came around to score on a relatively soft RBI single from Stephen Drew to tie the game and force extra innings. “It’s part of the game,” Rivera said. “Sometimes they hit the ball hard; sometimes it’s a broken bat.”
• Rivera was asked if he’s feeling the effects of pitching three days in a row, but he said that he feels fine.
• Tough night for Romine, who came in off of the bench in the eighth and had some struggles behind the plate. “They were tough plays,” Girardi said. “Sometimes you rush a little bit.”
• Prior to the Yankees’ late miscues, they put together a thrilling seventh inning. The Yankees entered the seventh trailing 7-2, but Ichiro Suzuki got the rally started with a walk to lead off the inning. Vernon Wells followed with a pinch-hit single to chase Boston starter Jake Peavy from the game, and Brett Gardner greeted reliever Matt Thornton with an RBI single. After Derek Jeter walked to load the bases, another run scored on Robinson Cano’s fielder’s choice, with Cano hustling to first to avoid the double play. An RBI single from Soriano and an RBI double from Curtis Granderson cut the deficit to 7-6, setting the table for Lyle Overbay to be the hero. The Yankees’ first baseman came through with a two-out, two-run single to put the Yankees on top 8-7, setting them up for what seemed to be a crucial win. It felt just like Tuesday night against the White Sox — everything except for the final result.
• Lost in the shuffle was a tough night for Ivan Nova. The right-hander had his worst start since being recalled from the minors in late June, lasting only four innings in his shortest non-injury related outing since Sept. 22, 2012. He only allowed three earned runs, but a 51-pitch third inning prevented him from going deep. Prior to tonight, Nova had pitched into the seventh in 10 straight starts.
• The loss dropped the Yankees to three games behind the Tampa Bay Rays for the final American League wild card. The Rays could have extended their lead to three and a half games with a win in their late game against the Los Angeles Angels on Thursday. A loss would keep the Yankees two and a half games behind. As of right now, they were losing 6-2 in the seventh.
Associated Press photos