Alright, so the losing streak has moved to 17 games. So Mark Buehrle, the man who could not be beaten when the season started, is 1-12 in 18 starts against the New York Yankees. So the Yankees now have “the fourth-longest home win streak by one team over another since divisional play began in 1969” (Associated Press). Should the Toronto Blue Jays be concerned?
Let’s really look at last night’s game.
It was a clear 80 degrees in the South Bronx as the players took the field. A mild 7 mph wind moved in from right field. An excited crowd of over 44, 000 people sat in Yankee Stadium to witness their team fall behind the visitors from the north by three runs. What a beautiful way for the Jays to start the game.
Jose Bautista launched his 19th home run of the season in left field, scoring both Jose Reyes and Melky Cabrera, each of whom singled off of Japanese pitcher, Hiroki Kuroda. This was hardly the start Kuroda or the Yankees were expecting, since he posted a 2.79 ERA in his last three games and had limited opposing lineups to a .188 batting average.
As the New York faithful fell silent, the Blue Jays erupted in joy. Bautista came back to the dugout to cheers and quick dance choreography, seemingly to be on their way to breaking their losing streak on the road. In the bottom half of the first inning, other than a Derek Jeter single on a ground ball to center field, nothing seemed out of place for Buehrle to get a quick and successful start to his evening.
Then the wheels began to fall off the blue gravy train.
Even though the Yankees only scored two runs in the bottom of the second inning, it was the way they did it that suggested some danger. The first two batters, Brian McCann and Chase Headley, singled into the outfield and Ichiro Suzuki walked to load the bases. We’ve seen Buehrle in trouble before and bleed runs to keep his team in the game. In this case, he was also being hit around the park. Other than one strikeout, Buehrle was constantly hit in the inning, Brian Roberts scoring McCann on another ground ball and Brett Gardner scoring Headley on a sacrifice fly to center field.
The inning seemed to set the table for the rest of Buehrle’s night. Even with Bautista responding with another home run lined over the left fielder just over the wall, the Blue Jays made it a quick at-bat with some groundouts to serve the Yankees a second helping of Buehrle pitches to feast on. Carlos Beltran belted his 11th homer to left field and Ichiro was able to get his first homer on a vintage Suzuki-liner that cashed in McCann and Headley, who once again singled off of Buehrle. Todd Redmond took over duties on the mound to start the fourth inning, but the damage had already been done. The Yankees scored all 6 of their runs and ended Buehrle’s night early.
That is the moment where the feeding frenzy ended for the Yankees. People could argue that the Bronx Bombers were ahead so they decided to take the foot off the pedal (odd with only a two-run lead); however, the way they stopped hitting was very suggestive.
The Yankees struck out six times and hit all of twice after the third inning. If a ball was struck, they were lazy fly balls in the New York night’s sky or easy grounders for the Jays to handle. The bullpen of Redmond, Brett Cecil, and Dustin McGowan blanked the Yankees to get the Jays off the field and up to the plate quickly.
The problem was that everyone who wore a jersey with the name other than ‘Bautista’ could not seem to mount any offense. In the seventh inning, Blue Jays manager, John Gibbons tried to mess with the Yankees’ flow by first declaring that Steve Tolleson would pinch-hit for Munenori Kawasaki. After a visit to the mound, the Yankees counter-attacked with Shawn Kelley, which led to Gibbons then switching again to Dan Johnson. As Johnson lined out to Jacoby Ellsbury in center field, it looked like there was nothing Gibbons could do that was going to change the outcome of the game.
The Blue Jays could only muster four runs and a walk, even with 10 hits and 11 runners left on base. The Yankees had 11 hits and 11 runners left on base, but edged the Blue Jays 6-4.
As dismal as Blue Jays fans felt watching their team lose the game early, it was a close game. Nobody should have expected Buehrle to completely shut down the Yankee bats. The Jays were able to chase Kuroda out of the game in the sixth with 8 hits and 4 runs, including 2 home runs. Both teams’ lineups started hot and cooled to ice as the game wore on. Considering the beating they took from the Boston Red Sox recently to start the series they eventually won, the Blue Jays are in a good position to get back on the winning track and finally beat the losing streak in the Bronx.
Up for the Blue Jays on the mound today: Drew Hutchison. He just came off possible his worst start ever by allowing six runs against the Red Sox. He is also right-handed. The Yankees only hit .248 off of right-handed pitchers. The Yankees are sending newly-acquired Chris Capuano on the mound, who has been pitching in the Red Sox bullpen. Capuano is left-handed. The Blue Jays are hitting .237 against left-handed pitchers. Could be a very interesting, close game this afternoon.