The Yankees’ have sorely needed more innings from their starters, but having Ivan Nova come out of the bullpen to pitch the 10th inning probably wasn’t the best way to go about it.
The late inning cameo by Nova was necessitated by Mariano Rivera’s rare inability to polish off a save. From the very pitch to Yunel Escobar, the Yankees’ closer, who was pitching in his league leading 10th game, seemed to be without his usual command. As a result, Rivera left several cutters over the plate, allowing the Blue Jays to string together four hits during a game tying tally. The most uncharacteristic part of the inning, however, was a rare four pitch walk to Jose Bautista, who came to the plate with one out and a runner on third. Despite only representing the tying run, Rivera seemed to pitch around the Blue Jays’ slugger, an approach that wouldn’t be advisable for a mediocre reliever, let alone the best to every play the game. Sure enough, Bautista eventually came around to score the tying run on Jason McDonald’s safety squeeze.
Before the climatic late innings, A.J. Burnett and Kyle Drabek pitched into and out of trouble, stranding several base runners along the way. Both pitchers wound up retiring after only 5 1/3 innings, meaning the outcome would be decided by the bullpens. Before Rivera’s misstep, which snapped a string of seven consecutive converted saves to start the season, it looked as if the Yankees were going to get the best of that battle, but the immortal closer proved to be the weak link in what has been, for the most part, Joe Girardi’s winning late game formula.
Most Consecutive Saves by a Yankee to Start a Season
The Yankees were able to hand the game over to Rivera on the strength of two more homeruns, which pushed the team’s league leading total to 31. However, there were several other opportunities to pad the lead, but each time the Yankees failed to deliver a decisive blow. The poster boy for this futility was Brett Gardner, who remains mired in a deep early season slump.
The Yankees’ left fielder had a nightmarish game that epitomized his struggles this season. Most notably, in the fifth inning, the speedster failed to get down a sacrifice, and then, in an attempt to make amends, was gunned trying to steal second after reaching on the resultant fielder’s choice. In the seventh inning, the slumping left fielder had another chance to redeem himself, but he feebly popped out with the bases loaded. Following an 0-4 night, Gardneris now 1 for his last 26.
If any player has struggled more than Gardner, it’s Travis Snider. The Blue Jays’ left fielder entered the game batting .151, but managed to underwhelm even that advanced billing by going hitless in his first five at bats, including three strikeouts on breaking balls in the dirt. All that changed in the 10th inning, however, when Snider victimized Nova with a game winning double.
The use of Nova likely means that the young right hander will be skipped this time through the rotation, an option made possible by two off days. However, with Kevin Millwood looming in the minor leagues, it could also mean that his spot in the rotation is in jeopardy. Either way, the Yankees need their starters to throw more innings because the bullpen cannot sustain its current workload.