In a one-night context, this game hangs on David Phelps. He had two outs in the fifth, multiple chances to end the inning with a two-run lead intact, and he instead gave up a four spot that proved the difference in the game. The Yankees were winning. They lost because of that two-out rally.
“It’s on my tonight,” Phelps said. “I’ve got to go out and set the tone the first game of a series. Darvish on the mound, they gave me a 2-0 lead. I’ve got to go out and hold it. That’s all it really boils down to.”
Fine. Tonight, that’s what it boiled down to. The Yankees can’t expect to score a ton of runs off Yu Darvish, and if not for that one bad series of at-bats for Phelps, the Yankees would have scored enough to get this win. But in the bigger picture, this was just another example of an underwhelming offense putting a ton of pressure on a depleted pitching staff.
Scoring runs against Darvish is tough, but the Yankees had 11 hits tonight and their only runs came on solo homers by their leadoff hitter. This three-game losing streak is made entirely of one-run and two-run losses. Go all the way back to June 30 and all but one of the Yankees past 12 losses has come by three runs or less — all but two by two runs or less — and in none of those losses have the Yankees scored more than four runs. In most of them they’ve scored three runs or less.
Phelps had one bad inning, and right now the Yankees pitchers can’t really get away with that.
“We haven’t scored a ton of runs,” Joe Girardi said. “We’ve pitched pretty decent. We didn’t score much tonight, which was one of the reasons, and we’ve lost some close games. It seems like every game we’re in is either two runs or one run. Hopefully we come out and score a bunch of runs tomorrow.”
The Yankees won seven of eight immediately after the All-Star break. They’ve since lost three in a row.
“I don’t see any frustration,” Derek Jeter said. “We were what, at home, 7-3? We started 7-1, but if we win 7 of every 10 we play, I think we’ll be in pretty good shape. I don’t think there’s any frustration. Sometimes teams are going to beat you. You score two runs, it’s hard to win, especially when you’re going against Darvish. I don’t think anyone’s frustrated.”
• Brett Gardner offered no real explanation for his remarkable success against Darvish. Gardner has four career home runs against the Rangers ace (Brandon Morrow is the only other pitcher who’s given up as many as two Gardner home runs). In his past five at-bats against Darvish, Gardner is 4-for-5 with three homers. “It’s hard to have confidence in the batter’s box when he’s on the mound,” Gardner said. “He’s pretty good and he’s got good stuff. I’m fortunate I’m taking some good swings and had some good results. I would gladly trade them for a win, that’s for sure.”
• The only other players with four career homers against Darvish are Mike Trout and Brandon Moss — no one has more than four — and those two have considerably more at-bats against him. “It’s pretty amazing,” Girardi said. “You’re talking about a really good pitcher. Gardy sees the ball really well. He hit four balls on the screws tonight; he had the two home runs and he lined out the first inning. He sees the ball good.”
• Darvish’s remarkable and great response to a question about Gardner: “I blame Brett Gardner’s parents for creating a great hitter.” That’s just outstanding.
• This was Jeter’s reaction upon being told of Gardner’s career numbers against Darvish: “Really? I didn’t know that. Yeah. I know he hit the two today, but I didn’t know what he had done before. But yeah it’s impressive. I mean, he probably doesn’t give up too many home runs — he doesn’t give up too many hits to begin with. I was unaware of that, but yeah, it’s really impressive.”
• Speaking of Jeter, he passed Carl Yastrzemski for seventh place on baseball’s all-time hits list tonight. Jeter has 3,420 career hits. Obviously incredible. “It’s tough to enjoy it when we lost the game,” Jeter said.
• This was Jeter’s fifth game with at least three hits this season. He has his average up to .278. The only current Yankees with a higher batting average are Francisco Cervelli (.310), Jacoby Ellsbury (.282) and Chase Headley (.333 in his brief American League stint).
• Gardner and Jeter were a combined 6-for-7 with a walk and two home runs against Darvish. The rest of the Yankees lineup was 3-for-22 against him.
• In his two starts against the Yankees this season, Darvish has allowed four runs total. One game on a balk, the other three came on Gardner solo home runs.
• I’m sure he knew throughout that fifth-inning rally that he had two outs, but Phelps said the magnitude of that didn’t hit him until he was in the clubhouse about to talk to the media. He started going through the inning in his head while getting ready to answer questions. “It honestly just hit me that it all happened with two outs,” he said. “That’s incredibly frustrating. Thinking back, they weren’t bad pitches; they weren’t the right pitches. It’s frustrating. As a team we put up seven zeroes and then a four spot. You’re facing a guy like Darvish, it’s tough.”
• The big hit came on an 0-2 fastball to J.P. Arencibia who came into this game 1-for-11 in his career against Phelps. “The one that’s really frustrating was Arencibia,” Phelps said. “We get a swing-and-miss on a fastball up, and I’m trying to do that same thing, and I just overthrew it and pulled it down and he got the barrel on it. It’s just frustrating. … I’ve faced him a lot in these three years that I’ve been here, and I’ve had some success against him. I tip my cap to him. He put a good swing on a decent pitch. Just got to be better than that.”
• Phelps said that too many pitches in the zone and not enough change of speed were his biggest problems tonight. “We just weren’t doing a good job of speeding their bats up and then slowing them back down,” he said. “We were kind of going hard, hard, hard. And that’s on me. I was throwing strikes all night. You come to a point in those situations you’re almost throwing too many strikes.”
• Girardi said he checked with Mark Teixeira mid-game to make sure he was available to pinch hit. Teixeira said he was good to go, and he delivered a single off the bench in the eighth inning. Teixeira said he fully expects to be in the lineup tomorrow. “I really wanted to know, once he sat down after taking BP, how he felt,” Girardi said. “He said he felt good and I said OK, when that spot comes up — I think it was like two innings away — I’m probably going to hit (with) you there.”
• Final word to Jeter: “Well we can’t think about the other two (losses in New York). Tonight’s game, we’d like to win, but we had the lead there against Darvish, and he’s tough. He’s a handful. Gardy hit those two home runs, and we just couldn’t get the big hit after that. They had that big inning, and their bullpen did a good job. We would have liked to win this game, but they were better than us.”
Associated Press photos