Baseball players, coaches and managers don’t like talking about fatigue at this time of year. They seem to think it’s an unworthy excuse and not a legitimate factor. They pride themselves on the grind, on being able to get through a 162-game season that leaves everyone exhausted at the end. I once had a player tell me that he goes home at the end of a baseball season, shuts himself in his bedroom with bottles and bottles of water, and literally tries not to get out of bed for two days. Just a total crash at the end.
But in the season, the end-of-the-year fatigue is part of the experience.
Maybe that’s why Joe Girardi seemed to, I don’t know … Take offense? Get defensive? Completely dismiss the notion? … when he was asked whether fatigue has become a factor for the Yankees pitching staff.
“You can’t use fatigue at this time of the year,” Girardi said. “There is no player that’s not dealing with a little bit of fatigue in September.”
Maybe that’s the case, but here’s another reality of the situation: The Yankees had the American League’s second-best team ERA in the first half of the season, but they’ve ranked 12th since the All-Star break and they’ve ranked last in the month of September. This staff carried the weight for four months, and whether they complain about it or not, they seem worn out. And that seems to be a factor.
Tonight, the game basically hinged on Hiroki Kuroda and Preston Claiborne. Kuroda was terrific after that miserable start to the game, but even so, he had a 2.33 ERA a month ago and has a 6.67 ever since. Claiborne was one of the rookie surprises of the first half, but in the second half he has a 7.00 ERA opponents are basically hitting .300 against him. In his past three outings, he’s allowed eight runs in an inning and two-thirds.
“I’m not going to sit here and make excuses,” Claiborne said. “I know I’ve been in a rut lately. I’m not going to hang my head and mope around. That’s not who I am. I’d be disappointed in myself if I did, and I know my teammates would be disappointed in me if I did that as well. I’m going to show up to work tomorrow, same way I did every single day even when I was having success, and go after it the same way I have.
“… (This loss) hurts pretty bad. I know I let the guys down. I know this one’s on me.”
• Remember when Girardi said pregame that Alex Rodriguez was going to play third base tomorrow? Scratch that. “My mind has changed a little bit,” Girardi said postgame. “It looks like he’s lacking a couple (of extra gears). I’m not sure what I’ll have tomorrow. I’ll have to check with him. It’s a concern of mine, yes.”
• Rodriguez acknowledged that he’s not running well. He said the hamstring issue doesn’t bother him at the plate, but he can’t really move with it. “I’m just trying to go where it doesn’t blow out,” he said. Rodriguez said he’s hoping to play third base on Tuesday, using the Monday off day to rest.
• There seems to be at least one bullpen piece coming back tomorrow. David Phelps was here tonight, and Dan Barbarisi reports that he’ll be activated tomorrow to give the Yankees a fresh arm in the bullpen. He’s been dealing with a forearm issue for more than two months now.
• Phelps is on the 60-day disabled list, which means the Yankees will have to lose someone when he’s activated. I wonder if that’s why Matt Daley got the ball in the eighth. He’s pitched well, but he could be the one sacrificed to make room for Phelps. Strictly speculation, though. Daley might actually be one of the Yankees best relievers right now.
• Speaking of the bullpen: Girardi said his plan was to use Joba Chamberlain in the eighth inning and Shawn Kelley in the ninth.
• Girardi said he was probably a hit away from going to Mike Zagurski in the second inning. “I was pretty close,” Girardi said. “Because (Kuroda) was struggling so bad. I think I had Zagurski up three times, and it as kind of touch-and-go with Hiro, and then he seemed to find himself.”
• What changed for Kuroda? “Early in the innings, I was probably overcautious with my pitches,” he said. “But after that, I was able to go six-plus. … My pitches were not particularly good, but I think I was getting the timing off of the hitters later.”
• On the decision to bring Cesar Cabral to face David Ortiz in the seventh: “Ortiz has hurt Kuroda all year long,” Girardi said. “When you look at his numbers against him, it has not been a good match-up. To me, it was time to change. I was just hoping (Kuroda) could get the one out, Victorino.”
• Should Kuroda have gotten that one out? Should Eduardo Nunez have made that play at third base? “It’s a tough play,” Girardi said. “It’s a play he can make, but it’s a tough play.”
• After getting Daniel Nava to strikeout on a changeup, Claiborne called a first-pitch called strike on a changeup to Jarrod Saltalamacchia, then he went to a fastball that he meant to be down and inside for a possible double play ball to the right side. “You don’t want to fall into a pattern,” Claiborne said. “I know I got Nava on a couple changeups, and I started Salty with it, but I needed to change things up and set him up for something else. We had the right game plan, I just didn’t execute. All there is to it.”
• Claiborne said he thinks his stride might be a little off, not going directly toward the plate. He thinks that might be part of the cause of his recent struggles. “I know it’s not anything physical,” he said. “But maybe it could just be a mechanical issue that I need to watch some tape on and hone out.”
• The Red Sox lead the Majors with eight grand slams this season. Three of them have come against the Yankees. It’s the most Boston has hit against the Yankees in a single season since 1959. The Yankees have allowed six grand slams this season, half of them to the Red Sox.
• It’s easily forgotten on a night like this, but Robinson Cano was terrific again. He went 4-for-4 with three doubles, including the two-run double that tied the game in the seventh. He tied his career-high for extra-base hits in a game. Of the Yankees 10 four-hit games this season, four belong to Cano.
• Brendan Ryan had his second multi-hit game of the year. He also hit his fourth home run, matching this career-high for a single season. He hasn’t hit that many in a year since 2007.
• Final word goes to Rodriguez: “Look, (the young relievers) are doing the best they can. This is a (Red Sox) team that’s hard to measure yourself against right now because they’re finding all types of ways to win games, and they’re playing very well. Our guys are going to be fine. They’re competing and they’re taking the ball every night.”
Associated Press photos