Yankees Postgame Notebook: 'We let it slip away'
Just ask New York Yankees manager Joe Girardi or Houston Astros first baseman Chris Carter, the former having watched his team claw back into a game only to see the latter -- who had struck out four times in the first eight innings -- crush a three-run home run off David Robertson in the ninth, providing the decisive blow in a 7-4 Astros win at Yankee Stadium.
"I didn't make good pitches. I walked two guys, and you can't do that in the ninth inning of a tied game," Robertson said, adding of the game-winning homer that "I tried to make a good pitch down and away, but I threw it in his bat path and he hit it 30 rows deep…and that stinks, because if I make a quality pitch, maybe I get a ground-ball double play."
Robertson, and perhaps the entire stadium, thought that he had struck out Jose Altuve on a 2-2 pitch earlier in the inning, but he ended up walking Altuve and going 3-0 to Carter before allowing the mammoth blast.
"That's the game; sometimes you get those calls and sometimes you don't, but it changes day to day with different umpires," Robertson said of the Altuve pitch.
Added Girardi of the inning: "I thought he made a good 2-2 pitch on Altuve, but he didn't get the call. He got behind Carter, who has been swinging extremely well, and he hit a three-run homer. You know that he's swinging, so you can't just groove one, and I'm sure he'd like to have it back."
And so, after the Yankees went down in order in the ninth, it was a rough end to a game that they led early, scratched back into and had a chance to win while tied in the eighth inning.
"It's never fun to lose. This one is unfortunate because we were able to come back and tie it up, but we let it slip away," Girardi said.
Martin Prado was the star of a few of those moments tonight, and almost had a chance for the third. His single ahead of Brian McCann's fourth-inning homer helped give the Yankees a 2-0 lead, and he ripped a two-run double in the sixth that brought the Yankees back from a 4-2 deficit to tie the game.
"We've been pretty inconsistent this year, but we had a lot of guys hitting early tonight," Girardi said of the situation.
The Yankees later had a golden opportunity to take the lead with the game tied in the eighth, but Jacoby Ellsbury followed some great base running by running the Yankees out of the inning. Moments after he singled, stole second and advanced to third on an errant throw, Ellsbury was thrown out trying to score on a ground ball to shortstop with the infield in.
"That's a contact play… you're looking at the speed at third and the lead he can get, and it has to be hit hard at one of the infielders," Girardi said. "A step wither way he scores, and that's the chance we're going to take with one out."
Prado followed with a two-out single that theoretically could have scored Ellsbury had he not strayed off third, but no one would play the 'coulda, woulda, shoulda' card in that situation -- because, on a night in which the Astros left 10 on base and struck out 15 times, the Carlos Beltran fielder's choice that Ellsbury was thrown out on left the Yankees with a 1-for-9 mark with runners in scoring position.
"I felt we hit some balls pretty decent but we didn't get any hits. Prado got the one with runners in scoring position, and to win, you need to do a better job in those situations," Girardi said. "Our guys come to work every day, and work really hard and grind it out. They try to get better every day, and that's all you can really ask; sometimes it works really well, and sometimes it doesn't."
"It's the law of averages catching up with us," added Mark Teixeira. "I don't think there's a magic formula, we just have to get more hits at the right times."
As Girardi noted, however, "this is just one game and we need to bounce back tomorrow," and starter Chris Capuano reminded that the Yankees still have the chance to do what their skipper wants to see them do: win Wednesday and Thursday to capture the series.
"This one's behind us, and we're hoping to find some traction here and still come out and win the series…that's all we can do."
A few more notes and quotes from Game 1 of the homestand:
-Capuano looked strong through four innings, but a pair of two-out hits in the fifth got the Astros on the board and a leadoff triple by Dexter Fowler in the fifth eventually tied the game. His thoughts on the final inning: "At that point you can't do anything about (the triple), so you just have to bear down and get outs. You're not conceding the run at third, but you're trying to get outs, so you trade the ground ball that got him in for no one on with one out and it's your job to get through the inning."
-The lefty on his 5 1/3 inning performance overall: "My command wasn't as sharp as I would have liked the last two innings, and I started leaving some balls over the middle. Still, in the sixth with one out and no one on in a 2-2 game I had a good chance to get through the inning, but Dominguez did a good job getting his hands in on a pitch and I couldn't get the lefty (Jon Singleton) behind him, and that was that."
-Robertson's meltdown was uncharacteristic of the closer, who has converted 21 consecutive save situations, but tonight notwithstanding, Girardi was still quick to praise the overall season of his closer: "I think he's been really good, as good as anyone could've expected. With the pressure that was on him with who he was replacing, he's handled that well and done a marvelous job."
-Dellin Betances recorded two strikeouts in his one inning, bringing his total to 111 in 74 frames this year. He is now fourth in franchise history for strikeouts by a reliever, trailing Joe Page (114 in 1947), Goose Gossage (122 in 1978) and record-holder Mariano Rivera (130 in 107 2/3 IP in 1996).
-Adam Warren pitched for the first time in a week and did not allow a run, but the one hit he did allow with two outs in the sixth tacked the final two runs onto Capuano's line. Said Warren of his recent struggles: "I feel good physically, it's just one of those funks you have to work through."
-Last word goes to Girardi on the bullpen, this his response when asked if the team's post-break trend of playing close games is wearing on the bullpen: "The bullpen has been operating on a pretty thin line, and tonight we didn't get it done. They've been used a lot, but I ask them every day if they're okay. We have three guys who have now worked three out of four days and we might have to protect them a little tomorrow, but we'll see what happens."