The Yankees offense had just rallied. Carlos Beltran had gotten his first hit since coming off the disabled list, Yangervis Solarte had tied the game with a two-run single, and it seemed the Yankees just might take control of this game after all. Then David Phelps took the mound in the next half inning and immediately walked the first two hitters, his first two walks of the game.
“Those are the two biggest at-bats of the game,” Phelps said. “We just scored three runs. The worst kind of teammate right there. Go out and we have all the momentum right there, and in nine pitches just give it right back.”
Of course, you know what happened next. A fastball down and in — “Down at his shoe tops,” Phelps said — and Salvador Perez lifted it for a go-ahead three-run home run into the Royals bullpen. Another run would score that inning, and in a matter of minutes the Yankees had gone from trailing by three, to tied, to trailing by four.
“We tie the game up like that,” John Ryan Murphy said. “The most important thing is to get that first guy out.”
For the most part, Phelps has been a winable starting pitcher this season. He’s been a kind of bend-don’t-break guy, rarely overwhelming but generally keeping his team in the game. He had a 3.38 ERA at the end of May, and that was even with one particularly brutal relief appearance early in the season.
In his past two starts, though, Phelps has carried a tie into the late innings only to have the outing ruined with a four-run frame. He allowed four runs in the seventh last time out, then four runs in the sixth tonight.
“Frustrating is a PG-rated word for it,” Phelps said. “Pitching decent going into the later parts of the games, but it’s tough to win ballgames when you give up four runs in the sixth and seventh inning. It’s just frustrating. … I’ve just got to trust my stuff and throw something over the plate. I’m trying to make the game a lot harder than it needs to be.”
• Beltran’s first hit since coming off the disabled list was a two-out RBI double in the sixth inning. “I feel a little better,” Beltran said. “Every day I come to the ballpark and go to the cage and work on my swing, get the rhythm and the timing. The only way I’m going to get it is by playing.”
• Probably goes without saying that Beltran is not taking as many daily swings as he took before discovering the bone spur in his elbow (Beltran was notorious for taking an incredible number of swings each day). He said he can still feel the bone spur, but he doesn’t feel like it’s keeping him from being productive. “I feel it,” Beltran said. “But it’s not like what I felt when I hurt it.”
• Beltran had been 0-for-9 since coming off the DL.
• Speaking of guys coming back injury, Shawn Kelley had two strikeouts and a walk in two-thirds of an inning tonight with Trenton. Still uncertain whether he’ll be activated on Monday or go for one more rehab appearance. “We’ll talk about it tonight and see if we determine if he needs another outing,” Girardi said. “We’ll have an answer in the morning.”
• Jacoby Ellsbury now has a 12-game hitting streak, the longest for any Yankees player this season. He had two hits tonight and is hitting .396 during the streak. Yangervis Solarte also had two hits today. Those two combined for half of the Yankees hits and both of their extra-base hits.
• This was actually the first time since May 11 that Solarte had two RBI in a game. He did it five times up to May 11.
• Back to Phelps for a bit: 10 hits allowed were a career-high for him. So were the seven runs. Before tonight, Yankees starters had a 2.91 ERA since May 14, the second-best mark in the Majors during that span.
• Phelps hadn’t walked anyone before those two walks to start the sixth. What caused the sudden control problems? “I think I was trying to be a little too fine,” Phelps said. “To Butler, I figured he was swinging out of the box so I tried to be a little too fine with a couple of two-seamers running into him. Just started off with balls, then started to overthink things. Threw a 3-1 curveball that wasn’t even close. I’m trying to get a groundball from Gordon and threw two changeups that, the first one was short of the plate and the second one was right on top of it. Just got to do a better job of throwing strikes.”
• The pitch Perez hit was “actually a pretty good pitcher’s pitch,” according to Murphy. It was down and in basically where Phelps wanted it. “I’m trying to go in to get a groundball there and maybe get a double play,” Phelps said. “It was down and in. I was shocked that he hit it like he did, but tip your cap to him. He put a good swing on it.”
• Before today’s Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Railriders game, longtime manager Dave Miley was inducted into the International League Hall of Fame. Brian Cashman was on hand for the ceremony, Miley’s number was retired by the Triple-A team, and the Yankees announced a new four-year agreement to extend their player development contract with Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. Really great stuff for Miley, a man who generates a ton of respect within this organization and from his players. I learned a lot about baseball by sitting in his office there in Scranton, where he’d let me ask all the dumb questions in the world and would only sometimes make fun of me for it. Miley’s a good man, and there’s a good reason the Yankees keep asking him and his staff to come back year after year. Congratulations to him.
• Also notable from today’s Triple-A game: Jose Pirela played first base. He’s been raking in Triple-A, and I suppose he could become a right-handed first base option if Mark Teixeira were to get hurt again. Pirela’s not considered a very good defensive player, but he already has experience at second base, third base and left field (used to play shortstop, but that’s more or less come to an end). If he continues to hit, Pirela could go from essentially a forgotten prospect to a legitimate big league utility option.
• Weird moment from tonight’s game: Matt Daley picked off a guy in the sixth but he was called safe. The Yankees were going to challenge — and almost certainly win — but the umpires ruled that the next at-bat had started because Daley had gotten back on the rubber ready to pitch.
• Final word to Girardi: “It’s not what you want, but you’ve got to keep fighting back, that’s the bottom line. We’re still fighting in the ninth inning. We put some good at-bats in the ninth inning, hit some balls hard, but they got caught.”
Associated Press photos