At least the bullpen pitched well
That’s about all you can say about Wednesday’s loss to the Orioles. The Yankees put the ball in play against Koji Uehara, and not ground balls but flies. Most days that will pay off, perhaps on a warmer day when the ball will travel more, but it didn’t last night. Offense is going to be a problem for these A-Rod-less Yankees, and may be an issue even when A-Rod comes back, and even if he comes back strong.
Having said that, Wednesday night was not an example of that problem, but of a pitcher in Uehara having good luck on balls in play and being stingy with the walks. Chien-Ming Wang simultaneously buried the Yankees. It is fascinating how a sinker pitcher can fail to sink the ball on some nights, but even the great Tommy John, among the best in history with that pitch, would lose his feel for it sometimes, in the process changing from a borderline Hall of Famer to a batting practice pitcher. In an ideal world, every pitcher would have a sinker — in the home run era it’s the perfect weapon. The reason that so few pitchers do have it is that it’s not an easy pitch to throw.
Wang’s occasional struggles illustrate that. His biggest sin is bad timing in losing his command the game after CC Sabathia executed his own version of same.
THE AROUND (AND ABOUT)
? Odd finish to Randy Johnson’s Giant debut yesterday. With two out and a runner on second in the top of the fifth inning and the game tied at 1-1, Johnson intentionally walked Brewers catcher Jason Kendall, the No. 8 hitter, to face the pitcher. This is one of those conventional bits of baseball strategy that doesn’t make a ton of sense when you think about it. Yes, Kendall is a .317 career hitter against Johnson, but first, he’s not who he used to be and second, of his 13 career hits, nine are singles and four are doubles. The man hit two home runs last year, three in 2007, one in 2006, none in 2005. The most damage he’s likely to do is one run, and then you still have the pitcher coming up after him. Might as well take the shot at the out. If you succeed, the game is still tied 1-1 and the pitcher will lead off the next inning, which likely makes the top of the sixth a freebie. If you fail, it’s 2-1 and you can still go after the pitcher for the final out of the inning. Don’t know if it was Johnson or Bruce Bochy who over-managed, but Kendall got the automatic four, and then pitcher Yovani Gallardo parked a three-run homer. Say bye-bye to Big Unit win No. 296.
? I was already a bit down on the Angels heading into the season, and nothing confirmed my prejudices like the top of the ninth in Anaheim, Calf., yesterday as the A’s chipped away at closer Brian Fuentes, helped along by some almost-not quite-nearly defense on the part of the Halos. These things happen (even to Mariano Rivera once in awhile), but it was still an exhilarating finish just based on Oakland’s underdog status. There was a key pinch-hit single by Nomar Garciaparra in that rally. I’m glad he didn’t retire; another strong part-time season for a winning team (last year sort of qualified as that) might help his Arky Vaughan-style Hall of Fame case.
? On Day 2 of the season, Kyle Farnsworth rested. Trey Hillman got a shutout jumping from Zack Greinke to Juan Cruz to Joakim Soria. That’s a winning combo, and would have been on Day 1 as well. The Royals can’t afford to throw away too many of those. Next time, we might ask why Mike Aviles is batting ninth and Coco Crisp leadoff. Coco is many things, but he’s not a prime time hitter.
MORE AFTER THE GAME…
… Including the continuation of “25 men/25 goals” and commentary on the tragic death of 22-year-old Angels pitcher Nick Adenhart.