This game was basically the same old story, but with a surprise twist ending.
Francisco Cervelli’s 11th-inning throwing error was stunning and final. His throw sailed into the outfield and the game was suddenly over, ended just as the Yankees seemed to have the opportunity they desperately needed to get out of a bases-loaded jam. Cervelli was shaking his head in the clubhouse afterward, mad at himself for trying to make a throw when he knew he should have simply held onto the ball. That’s what ended the game.
What lost the game, though, was the same thing that’s lost many, many Yankees games this season.
“It came down to, we didn’t score runs today,” manager Joe Girardi said.
The Yankees had seven hits and all were singles. They scored six runs in the first two innings on Friday, but since then they have scored just one run in 18 innings. Saturday’s Twins starter was a 30-year-old rookie named Yohan Pino who was making just his fourth major-league appearance, and he retired 12 of the last 13 batters he faced. The Yankees only productive hit was a two-out RBI single in the fifth inning. That hit came from Cervelli, the guy who wound up being the goat.
“It was a game that seemed like it was going to go on forever,” Derek Jeter said. “Opportunities were few and far between, but they capitalized on a mistake and beat us.”
Can’t really pin a one-run game on a single player, but it’s impossible to overlook the fact that Alfonso Soriano looks completely lost right now. Two questionable plays in the field ultimately didn’t hurt the Yankees, but Soriano’s 0-for-4 with two strikeouts certainly didn’t help. Girardi said he’s tempted by Soriano’s bat because Soriano is one of the only Yankees outfielders who has the potential to be a true power hitter on any given night. Problem is, he’s not making enough hard contact for that power to mean much. Because he’s not hitting, Soriano’s not playing nearly as much, and not playing is no way to rediscover timing and get on a roll.
“It’s tough,” Soriano said. “To not play for two days, then play today, there’s no rhythm. It’s hard for me to make adjustments. If I don’t see another pitch for two days, it’s very hard for me to make adjustments and get my rhythm.”
It’s interesting that when Soriano was still an everyday player early in the season, he was having very little success against right-handers, but he was hitting lefties pretty well. Although he’s still getting regular at-bats against left-handers, it seems that missing those at-bats against right-handers might be taking away his rhythm and timing, and as a possible consequence he’s no longer hitting lefties either.
“I put him out there today hoping he would provide some offense and it was tough,” Girardi said. “No one really did today.”
• X-rays on Brian McCann’s sore foot came back negative, but Girardi acknowledged that McCann might sit out tomorrow’s game as well. “From a long-term aspect, I don’t think it’s a big deal,” Girardi said. “But short term, he may be out a few days.”
• McCann was supposed to play today. He was scratched only after feeling that same sore left food during batting practice. “He just said he was feeling it,” Girardi said. “He didn’t really do much yesterday so he hadn’t really tested it. It was bothering him so I said, let’s sit down and make sure there’s not something seriously wrong. So we had him X-rayed, and that came back negative as I said, but we’ve got to get it cleared up.”
• Worth keeping an eye on: According to Donnie Collins, tonight’s Triple-A starter was supposed to be Bruce Billings, but he was scratched just minutes before game time. After burning through the bullpen these past two games, it’s worth wondering if Billings might be on his way for a Sunday call-up to give the Yankees a true long man who could deliver much-needed innings. I suppose he could replace Jim Miller (basically swapping a one-inning guy for a multi-inning guy). Just a possibility. Haven’t heard that a move is actually happening.
• On that ball that fell between Jeter and Soriano in the eighth inning, neither player called for it. “I had a chance at the ball,” Soriano said. “It was too late to call it. We didn’t have communication on that one. It was a little bit in the sun and when I got out, it was too late to call it. I didn’t want to run into Jeet, so I was a little scared at the last moment”
• On the Cervelli throw that ended the game, Cervelli said that his view of first base was blocked by the runner. He tried at the last second to stop himself from finishing the throw, and when he did that, he wound up launching the ball high and into the outfield. “When I try to turn the double play, I just have to eat the ball because if I don’t have vision, I have to stop,” Cervelli said.
• Another awfully good start by David Phelps, who allowed one run on three hits through seven innings. He’s been much better lately. “I’ve been aggressive in the zone, kept the ball down more than anything,” Phelps said. “I sat down with (mental conditioning coach Chad Bohling) and talked to him about what makes me successful and he got a couple things; first-pitch strikes, leadoff hitters and bearing down with two outs. Those are things I’ve stressed these last couple outings and it’s really seemed to pay off.”
• Of course, Phelps only said that he sat down with “Chad” to talk about what makes him successful. I don’t necessarily remember being a part of that conversation, but there’s at least some chance he’s giving me most of the credit for his recent improvement. Slim chance, but some chance.
• The Josh Willingham home run came on a fastball. Phelps said he wanted the pitch down and away, but it went middle.
• Jacoby Ellsbury has a hit in 13 of his past 16 games … Brian Roberts is hitting .500 in his past three games … Cervelli came to Minnesota with five hits this season. He’s doubled that total during this series.
• The Twins gave Jeter the second base bag used for the final game at the Metrodome — a game the Yankees won to clinch the 2009 division series — and Hall of Famer Paul Molitor presented Jeter with a $10,000 check for his Turn 2 Foundation. Twins manager Ron Gardenhire addressed the crowd and said it had been an honor to face Jeter over the years. “I’ve always had the utmost respect for Ron Gardenhire,” Jeter said. “So for him to say those things about me before the game, it’s something that I will remember. It’s pretty special. It made me feel good.”
• If you missed it in the game post, Dean Anna has been claimed off waivers by the Pirates.
• Phelps gets the final word: “The last two days, we scored seven and six runs. We know what we’re capable of. We saw a guy today that we had never seen. Especially with veteran teams, that can kind of be a buzz saw. Tip your cap to him because he pitched a great game. They made a lot of good plays in the field. We have games like this. It happens.”
Associated Press photos