Plenty of confusion tonight about the fifth-inning play at the plate that essentially cost the Yankees their best chance to tie the game. But the reality is — and everyone seemed to agree — that baseball’s evolving rule about blocking the plate never should have come into play because Stephen Drew never should have been waved home in the first place.
“To begin with, just a bad send,” third-base coach Rob Thomson said. “Just an error on my judgment. I take full responsibility for it. We’re all accountable around here. It just wasn’t a good decision. Nobody out, the middle of the lineup coming to the plate, I’ve got to stop him right there. I thought the outfielder was going a little bit further to the line. He came up and squared up (to throw) pretty quick. I should’ve stopped him. … From my perspective, the ruling doesn’t really come into play. It’s just a matter of whether I think that guy is going to be able to score or not, and (the rule) shouldn’t come into play, especially with nobody out.”
Or, to put it another way:
“You can’t make the first out at home,” Joe Giradi said. “It’s a quick decision he has to make. It’s a bang-bang decision — and it’s not an easy job — but you have the bases loaded and nobody out (if he doesn’t send the runner).”
The confusion came because Rays catcher Ryan Hanigan clearly blocked the plate without the ball, but the league actually sent a memo earlier today saying that catchers can stand in front of the plate if they have the ball in plenty of time (basically making sure runners aren’t safe on a technicality, which is the best Drew could have hoped for). With or without the memo, it seems Drew would have been allowed to run over the catcher, but runners are basically conditioned to slide at this point.
“They still want them to slide,” Girardi said. “It really hasn’t changed a whole lot. They talk about they want the guys to slide. And the guys know that if the guy’s blocking the plate, they can run them over. They are so used to sliding now, in a sense, it’s going back and forth.”
That’s what Drew said. He basically had no lane and wasn’t sure what he was allowed to do, so he slid. But it all comes back to the decision to send the runner.
“If I had to do it again I’d probably do it the other way (and run him over) because of the outcome,” Drew said. “… At the time I thought it was be a little closer than it was when Tomper sent me there. At that point, it was already too late.”
• I’ll probably write more about this in the morning, but my impression of Girardi and everyone else was that this was the most resigned the Yankees have seemed all season. This really felt like the blow that knocked out what little hope remains for a playoff push. “It leaves us in a pretty big hole,” Girardi said. “Basically we have to win every day. That’s the bottom line: we have to win every day.”
• Girardi pointed out that immediately after Drew was thrown out at the plate, Derek Jeter still had a chance to drive in the tying run and he instead lined into double play. Sending Drew was a bad decision. Jeter’s ball was pretty bad luck.
• Girardi also called it bad luck that Ichiro Suzuki was doubled up at second base in the seventh inning. Ichiro had singled and stolen second base and he had a great jump trying to steal third, but Drew flied to right and Ichiro couldn’t get back in time.
• Chris Young drove in two of the Yankees three runs tonight. He got his first Yankees hit in his first Yankees start. It was his first hit and first start since August 5 with the Mets. It was his first RBI July 30 and first multi-RBI game since July 13.
• The other Yankees run came on Jacoby Ellsbury’s 15th home run. This is the second time in his career that he’s hit at least 15 homers in a season. Ellsbury is hitting .361 with 12 runs, three triples, five homers and 15 RBI in his past 19 games.
• Brutal game for Hiroki Kuroda, who’d been pitching extremely well before tonight’s debacle. “I had a great start in the first inning,” Kuroda said. “But I feel like they changed their approach in the second inning on, and I wasn’t able to re-adjust instantly. … I guess I should have changed my approach on my first pitches, which I didn’t do.”
• Kuroda struck out the game’s first three batters, but beginning with a leadoff homer in the second, he allowed four runs on nine hits without pitching through the fourth inning. It was the first time this season that he lasted fewer than four innings. “I just didn’t think he located his fastball very well and his split didn’t have quite the bite it had all of his other starts that we’ve been seeing when he’s been on a roll,” Girardi said.
• This was Kuroda’s shortest outing since May 22 of last year, and it was the most hits he’d ever allowed in a start of 3.1 innings or less. He was one hit shy of a season-high in hits allowed.
• The Yankees bullpen was exceptional. Seven relievers combined for 5.2 scoreless innings with just two hits, two walks and six strikeouts. The bullpen has pitched 20.2 scoreless inning in their past six games.
• Derek Jeter went 0-for-4 while playing in his 2,730th career game. He is now tied with Mel Ott for the eight-most games ever played among players who played their whole career with one team. According to Elias, Jeter also tied Ott for the most games ever played for a New York MLB team.
• We’ll give the final word to Mark Teixeira: “I mean, we want to win, obviously. That’s a tough game. We made a little run there, but you have to get to these guys before their eighth- and ninth-inning relievers. They’re two of the best in baseball. We had some chances in the middle innings but just couldn’t get over the hump. … We have to win a lot of games. We’ve said it before; we have very little margin for error. We have to try to win every night.”
Associated Press photos
Robinson Cano’s world, plus notes and links • 01.14.11
Jack Curry went down to the Dominican Republic last month to spend time with Robinson Cano, bringing the YES Network into Cano’s world of offseason training. There’s a preview clip on the network’s website, and it’s well worth watching. Eduardo Nunez and Francisco Cervelli have been working with Cano, who basically serves as their hitting coach. It’s a great glimpse into the winter work of one of the Yankees top hitters.
• MLBTradeRumors has an long list of reactions to the Rafael Soriano signing. You’ll find a mix of pros and cons in there. I guess I’d label myself as being somewhere in the middle.
• Doesn’t necessarily mean Andy Pettitte is thinking about coming back, but Jon Heyman has heard that Pettitte has been working out. Heyman has also heard that the Yankees would be willing to trade Joba Chamberlain, but only for a “viable starter.”
• The Padres are reportedly close to a deal with Chad Qualls. That signing could impact George Kontos, the Padres Rule 5 pick out of the Yankees organization.
• Former Yankees reliever Jose Veras is reportedly choosing between minor league offers from the Giants, Rockies, Twins, Marlins, Rays and Pirates.
• CC Sabathia’s cousin, infielder Joe Thurston, has signed with the Marlins. He would have made no sense for the Yankees, but I’ve seen quite a bit of Thurston and always thought he was a nice player. Sabathia and Thurston are still doing considerable charity work where they grew up.
• Jordan Bastian predicts that newly married former Yankees fan favorite Shelley Duncan will make the Indians roster out of spring training.
• River Ave. Blues looked at the impact of third-base coach Rob Thomson, ultimately coming to the conclusion that, “the Yankees are doing just fine here.”
• The Yankeeist has posted an interview with former Yankees catcher and first baseman John Ellis, who played in New York in the early 70s and went on to play for Cleveland and Texas.
Associated Press photo of Cano
Ever since he addressed the issue last month, talk of Joe Girardi taking over as Cubs manager next season has more or less gone away. But he’s not the only member of the Yankees staff connected to managerial openings.
• The Palm Beach Post is reporting that Tony Pena is a “serious candidate” for the Marlins opening. That job has been open since June 23 when Fredi Gonzalez was fired. The Palm Beach paper also lists former Yankees coach Larry Bowa as one of “a dozen” candidates.
• Jon Heyman is also hearing that Pena will be considered for the Marlins job, and he reports that third-base coach Rob Thomson is “expected to receive consideration” for the Blue Jays job after Cito Gaston retires. Thomson managed the Yankees for three games in 2008, becoming the first Canadian to manage in the big leagues since 1934.
• Speaking of managers, Dylan Heranandez out at the L.A. Times says former Yankees manager Joe Torre has told his wife and GM Ned Colletti what he plans to do next season but will not yet announce it publicly. Torre is in the last year of his contract as Dodgers manager.