Blown call, Sabathia's poor start drop YanksTeixeira: "It was a terrible call"
Saturday night's Yankees loss was really a tale of two stories: CC Sabathia's inability to give the Yankees the start they needed from their ace, and a blown call in the middle of a September pennant race that could change the fate of two teams.
The Yankees needed their big horse to go to work and give the team a little breathing room in the American League East. All of these games from here on in are important, and if you can't count on CC Sabathia, who can you? Sabathia had the perfect opportunity on Saturday evening. It was all set up for him. The Yankees, off a huge win that gave them back the lead in the division, could have extended that lead even more. Instead, Sabathia disappointed, and now the Orioles have a golden opportunity to claim first place all by their lonesome on Sunday.
“Not being able to command the inside part of the plate. Not getting the ball in to righties and they put some long at-bats on me. I had a tough night,” Sabathia said of his performance.
The Yankees offense was nothing special early, but Sabathia was given a 2-0 lead that the team needed him to hold. They needed their ace to be an ace. Have two stints on the disabled list this season messed with his rhythm? Is he still hurt? The Yankees, from Joe Girardi to Larry Rothschild to Sabathia himself, swear that injury isn't the case.
“I do,” Sabathia said when answering if he feels healthy. “There's no excuse for the way I pitched to today and in Tampa. I just haven't been good enough.”
Sabathia gave up five earned runs, eight hits and three — yes three — home runs in just 6 1/3 innings of unimpressive work. Even though his record now stands at 13-5, he has had a rough season. The Yankees need him to be the stopper, and they need him to win big games in big spots down the stretch. They gave him an extension in the offseason knowing that they would be able to count on him in big spots. So when the Yankees offense spots him a lead at this point, he needs to hold it. That is something he has not been able to do of late.
“I feel like I'm letting everybody down,” Sabathia added after the game. “I'm not going out and making the pitches I need to make and getting outs and pitching with a lead. We had a 2-0 lead and I come right back and give it up. That's not me. Hopefully I can correct this thing and go out and pitch well next time.”
Sabathia's five runs put the Yankees in a spot to try and claw their way back into a game they were trailing 5-2. One positive for this team is that they have been able to do that offensively in this series. Thursday night may have been a loss, but the offense did come all the way back and give the team a chance to win. The situation was the same again on Saturday night. The offense and the bullpen kept the Yankees in this game and they showed a lot of poise to almost tie the game by night's end.
Mark Teixeira was really the victim of two missed calls at the end of the game, either of which could have changed the outcome. In the eighth inning, with one out and the Yankees still down by three runs, Teixeira stepped to the plate against Pedro Strop. He worked the count full, but a pitch that looked to be about six inches off the plate was called strike three by home plate umpire Cory Blaser. Immediately following this at-bat, Alex Rodriguez took Strop deep to inch the Yankees back in the game. However, if Teixeira was on first base, the game would have been 5-4 instead of 5-3 going into the ninth. This strike three call was and is not reprehensible, but what happened next that shines a brighter light back on this call.
The Yankees in the ninth immediately went to work on the Orioles’ stud closer Jim Johnson. Ichiro led off the inning with a single, followed by an Eric Chavez single and a Derek Jeter single to load the bases with none out. Nick Swisher grounded to short for a force out at second, scoring a run to bring the Yankees within one. Swisher barely beat out the throw at first to avoid the double play and to keep runners on the corners with just one out. Teixeira, who admitted to the media after the game that his leg is still not right, hit a ground ball that looked like it would be the game-ending double play. Teixeira busted out of the box on essentially one good leg and dove into first base, but was called out. Teixeira reacted with disgust, and it looked like he was clearly safe on replays on YES. First base umpire Jerry Meals clearly missed the call on a play that would have tied the game at 5-5.
“Everyone saw what it was. It was a terrible call,” Teixeira said after the game.
No one knows what would have happened if the game would have continued. But it is unacceptable that an umpire should miss a call like this in any situation, especially in a pennant race. If the Yankees wind up losing this division by one game, or having to play in a play-in game to decide the division, it could be because of a badly botched call by Meals in one of the biggest spots in the season. One story is still that Sabathia put the Yankees in this position, but in the grand scheme of things the Yankees did come back and Meals missed a huge call in one of the biggest game of the season for both franchises. And it wasn't even close.
“It started in the eighth inning,” Teixeira said of the missed calls. “We could have had a big inning there. Questionable call on me in the eighth as well and that one in the ninth. Sometimes you wonder if the umpires are just trying to get out of there. They don't want you to make a comeback. They just want to go home because those were terrible calls. It is what it is, but they're out there fighting. I'm out there playing on one leg and I wish it would have gone my way.”
So not only did the Yankees lose the game, but they may lose Teixeira for another period of time. His leg is still not right, but he did everything he could do to get the Yankees that all-important win. He and the Yankees just literally got their legs taken out from underneath them in an unfortunate end to a game that means too much to both franchises.