Saturday, July 3, 2010

AJ Finds Himself, But The Offense Is Still Missing

(AP Photos)

Well, at least A.J. Burnett pitched well. Over 6.2 scoreless innings he allowed just four singles and three walks, while striking out six. Good AJ certainly showed up as he had both his fastball and curveball working. He had good command of both pitches, hit the corners with his heater, and had a nasty break on the curve. Basically the exact opposite of his entire month of June. Hopefully he can build on this, because the team is going to need this AJ during the second half. Unfortunately for Burnett, both the Yankees offense and bullpen took the day off.

Jays starter Brett Cecil held the Yankees bats to just one run on four hits, but he did walk six and the Yankees had their chances.

Their run came in the first when Alex Rodriguez hit a sac fly. Cecil had walked the first two batters of the game, and this could have been a big inning, but A-Rod's sac fly was all they'd get and it was a sign of things to come.

In the bottom of the third, the Yankees loaded the bases with nobody out, but Cecil struck out both A-Rod and Robinson Cano, and then got Jorge Posada to ground out to get out of it.

They had runners on first and second with nobody out in the sixth, but Francisco Cervelli grounded into a double play to put that rally in its grave. It looked like a good time for a bunt, but Joe Girardi had his reasons, and to be honest, they make sense.

“You have a slow runner (Posada) at second,” Girardi said. “You have a lefty on the mound that’s falling off toward third base. It’s got to be a perfect bunt. Cervi’s got two hits off this guy. Lefties are hitting .180 (against him) and there’s a left-hander (on deck). The wind’s blowing in. A sac fly is going to be difficult.”

The wasted chances added up to 0-for-8 with RISP and 8 men left of base. But thanks to Burnett's great start the Yankees were in line for the win with a 1-0 lead heading into the eighth.

But Joba Chamberlain couldn't get the job done a coughed up the lead in the top half of the inning. With one out he walked Jose Bautista. Then, after Vernon Wells flew to right for the second out, Joba gave up back-to-back singles to Adam Lind and Aaron Hill, and the Jays had tied the game. It would have been worse for Joba, had Brett Gardner not made a spectacular leaping grab at the wall to rob Alex Gonzalez of a leadoff double.

It remained tied as both teams traded zeros in the ninth and tenth. Mariano Rivera took care of the ninth, and David Robertson pitched the tenth. But in the eleventh, things fell apart for Robertson and the Yankees.

Lyle Overbay and John Buck began the inning with singles, and Jarrett Hoffpauir then moved the runners over with a sac bunt--the only out Robertson would record in the inning. Then, after Robertson intentionally walked Fred Lewis, Alex Gonzalez lined an RBI single to give the Jays a 2-1 lead and knock Robertson out of the game.

Chan Ho Park was next out of the Yankees pen. He started his outing the right way, striking out Jose Bautista for out number two. But that was the end of his successes on the day. A walk to Vernon Wells forced in a run, and then DeWayne Wise put the game away with a three-run triple.

Chamberlain, Robertson and Park combined to pitch three innings, and allowed six runs on seven hits and three walks. Just brutal. I'm optimistic that the Yankees will get this bullpen straightened out, but if they don't it will probably cost them the division. Even though the offense has been MIA lately, this team can hit, and the starting rotation is strong. But if they're going to outlast the Red Sox and Rays, they're going to need a solid bullpen.

As it stands right now, the Yankees are just a half-game ahead of the Red Sox, and just two ahead of Tampa, who also won yesterday.

Andy Pettitte will take the mound in game two for the Yankees, with Ricky Romero starting for the Jays. First pitch is 1:05 p.m. and the game will be on YES.

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