The crowd was pretty thin here at Yankee Stadium tonight. It was cold and rainy, a pretty miserable night for a ballgame, really. But those who showed up seemed determined to send a message to Robinson Cano. Whatever cheers were scattered through the stadium were easily drowned out by the overwhelming boos each time Robinson Cano came to the plate, put the ball in play or simply fielded a routine ground ball.
I expected booing, but I also thought there might be at least a little bit of a mixed bag.
“Considering the place was half full, they brought out their best boos,” Mark Teixeira said. “But that’s exactly what’s expected. … The fans are supposed to boo him when he’s in here, but Robbie’s a great guy. He played his heart out when he was here, and that’s baseball. That’s sports. He’s going to get booed.”
No one seemed surprised, certainly not Cano who said he never heard or recognized the “You sold out!” chant that started immediately after he acknowledged a bottom-of-the-first roll call from the Bleacher Creatures.
“I know you’re going to get some boos and cheers, but you’re always going to hear more of the boos than the cheers,” Cano said. “That’s something I can’t control. It’s not a distraction, either. I really have fun with that. … I don’t want to say they were wrong or right. All I can say is it’s something I can’t control. Just go out there and it isn’t going to be a distraction for me.”
Cano wasn’t the biggest difference maker in the game. The Yankees offense went quiet after the first three innings, CC Sabathia made a bad pitch to Corey Hart in the fifth, and the Mariners were able to tack on in the seventh. But Cano wasn’t a non-factor either. His ground ball out drove in the first Mariners run, and he had an infield single and a stolen base to setup another run in that cushion-building seventh. The Yankees No. 3 hitter, Carlos Beltran — who signed on the very day Cano went to Seattle — went 0-for-4 with two strikeouts.
“Some people probably booed because they wish he was here,” Derek Jeter said. “Some people boo because they’re upset he left. And some people may have booed because the people next to them were booing. It is what it is: it’s not the first time someone’s come back and got booed.”
• For Sabathia, this was a start similar to his first three outings this season. He was pitching well through four innings, and he was one out away from getting through the fifth with a one-run lead, but he made a bad pitch with a fastball to Hart. It went for a two-out, two-run double that put the Mariners in front. “I just feel like I need to make a better pitch,” Sabathia said. “That ball cut back over the plate. I knew he was swinging. I wanted to get something away from him where he could roll over something. That ball just cut back to the middle of the plate. Sometimes it is just one pitch. I think tonight it was just a combination of a bunch of stuff. It ended up coming down to that one pitch, and me not making it.”
• That fifth inning started with three singles. One was an infield hit initially ruled an out, one was a ground ball into right field, and another was a bunt single when Brian Roberts was in double play position and couldn’t get to first base in time to cover. “I made good pitches to get to two outs,” Sabathia said. “Gave up a run (on the Cano ground out), but I need to make better pitches to finish that inning and put us in a position to be leading after that inning.”
• Roberts on the bunt single: “I took off, but it was just too far for me to be able to cover the double play and the bunt. Obviously it’s a situation where you have no idea what he’s going to do. Obviously there’s a chance that I guess he could bunt, but there’s also a pretty good chance that he could swing too. It’s unfortunate. We need to get an out there, one way or the other, somehow. It’s something that we’ve talked about. With all the movement in the infield nowadays and so much scouting, positioning, sometimes you just get caught in a position where it’s hard to cover two different things.”
• Teixeira on the bunt single: “As soon as the guy squares, I go get the ball. That’s the way I’ve been playing it for 12 years.”
• Good news from Teixeira: He homered for the third time since coming off the disabled list. He’s homered in back-to-back games. “The last couple of days I’ve put some good swings on balls and it’s good to see the ball getting out of the park and (to be) driving it,” Teixeira said. “It’s good sign.”
• He wound up being charged with two runs in the seventh inning, but Dellin Betances got Sabathia out of a jam in the sixth. He entered with no outs and runners at the corners, but Betances got back-to-back strikeouts before ending the inning with a ground ball to short.
• Chris Leroux made his Yankees debut with a scoreless ninth inning. He allowed two hits and struck out one. He opened last season on the Pirates roster but wound up DFA and pitching in Japan. He’s the latest player called up from Triple-A to give the Yankees a long reliever.
• With 12 strikeouts tonight, the Yankees have five consecutive games in which the pitching staff has struck out at least 10. According to Elias, that’s the first time in franchise history that the Yankees have had this many games in a row with double-digit strikeouts.
• By taking the loss tonight, Sabathia snapped an eight-game winning streak against the Mariners. He hadn’t lost to them since July 2, 2009. It was his longest active winning streak against any opponent. According to Elias, it was the Majors’ longest active winning streak against the Mariners and tied with Ron Guidry and Mike Mussina for the longest such streak in franchise history.
• Strange to face Cano? “Not for me,” Sabathia said. “Because I faced him before coming here. If I had played with him like Grady (Sizemore), where I played with him my whole career and not facing him before (it might have been weird). I’m kind of familiar with him, if that makes sense.”
• Strange to see Cano in a Mariners uniform: “Yeah, a little bit,” Jeter said. “You’ve gotten used to not seeing him, but then seeing him in another uniform . . . it’s kind of an odd picture. It’s not the first time guys have played here and gone elsewhere. It’s over and done with and now the stories of what’s going to happen when he comes back I think are over with. But it’s a little odd.”
• Final word to Cano: “I don’t want to say sweet. You go out there and play against them, you want to go out there and just beat them. Now I’m on the other side. I’m not on their side, so I don’t hope for them to win. I hope for us to win our games. I just have to play hard and keep playing the same game. I’m happy to see them and be back in New York.”
Associated Press photos