Commentary

Impatient Yankees go down swinging

Suddenly free-swinging Bombers let laboring Weaver, Angels off hook in Anaheim

Updated: June 4, 2011, 2:02 PM ET
By Wallace Matthews | ESPNNewYork.com

ANAHEIM, Calif. -- Jered Weaver needed 15 pitches to retire Derek Jeter for the first out of the game.

And he needed just six to retire the side in the sixth inning.

That, of course, is not the only reason the New York Yankees lost 3-2 to the Los Angeles Angels on Friday night, but it certainly didn't help their cause.

On a night in which Weaver, the ace of the Angels staff, needed 27 pitches to navigate the first inning and 62 to get through three, the Yankees, normally among baseball's most patient teams at the plate, suddenly were jumping out of their shoes to swing at anything in the second half of the game.

"The guys took an approach, they tried to jump him, and they couldn't get it done," said manager Joe Girardi after watching his team flail its way through the last four innings of the game. "I thought possibly that sixth inning was going to be his last inning but the guys made some quick outs."

That, really, was the story of a crisply played, mostly well-pitched game in which Ivan Nova, rumored to be on the bubble in the Yankees rotation after two poor outings in his four most recent starts, gutted his way into the seventh inning, having allowed eight hits but just three runs, and certainly left his team with a chance to win its fifth game in a row.

They lost one opportunity to bad luck, when Jorge Posada's RBI double skipped into the stands, forcing Nick Swisher, who undoubtedly would have scored from first to give the Yankees a 3-2 lead in the fourth, to stop on third. And there he stayed when Brett Gardner struck out to end the inning.

And they lost whatever other opportunities they might have had to impatience. After Posada's double down the right-field line, his first extra-base hit since May 24 and first RBI since May 19, the Yankees did not manage another hit all night.

"He made some tough pitches," said Jeter, who was hitless in three at-bats, plus a walk. "I don't think he threw any pitches over the plate all game. Inside corner, outside corner, all night long."

[+] EnlargeDerek Jeter
Jeff Gross/Getty ImagesDerek Jeter gave Jered Weaver his toughest battle of the night, fouling off 10 straight pitches before flying out to center.

Jeter gave Weaver his toughest battle of the night, fouling off 10 straight pitches before flying out to centerfield for the first out of the game. At that point, it certainly seemed as if it would be a short night for Weaver.

"When a guy throws that many pitches early, you certainly don't think that's going to happen," Girardi said of Weaver ultimately throwing seven innings of three-hit ball, striking out eight. "This is a guy you see throwing 120, 125 pitches, but I thought if we put 10 or 12 pitches on him in the sixth, we might have gotten him out of there. But who knows? Maybe the next guy comes in and shuts us down."

It's a moot point now, but with Weaver having thrown 101 pitches through five innings, the sixth inning played out like this: Alex Rodriguez struck out swinging at a 1-2 curveball. Robinson Cano, no one's idea of a selective hitter, swung at a first-pitch fastball and popped out to second. Russell Martin swung at another first pitch and fouled out to the first baseman. The only way Weaver could have had an easier inning is if he had been sitting in the dugout.

To make things worse, the Yankees went down on just nine pitches in the seventh. After that, the Angels bullpen -- lefty Scott Downs in the eighth and closer Jordan Walden, a righty, in the ninth -- sat them down easily, only Mark Teixeira reached base on a two-out walk in the eighth. Overall, the Yankees struck out 11 times, including Cano and Swisher in the ninth.

"If guys get hits, nobody questions it," Girardi said. "He's got outstanding breaking stuff so he's not a guy you want to get behind in the count against. Guys go up there looking for a pitch, and if you get it, maybe you can get a home run in that situation. But they just missed it."

It was a poor offensive performance in execution and approach. Once again, there were only two clutch hits all night, Posada's double and an RBI single by Martin in the second. And aside from the two innings in which they scored, the Yankees didn't get a runner beyond first base.

"Good pitching is going to beat good hitting most nights, and that's what happened tonight," Jeter said.

For sure, Weaver pitched well but got plenty of help from the Yankees' hitters. Nova pitched not so well. His final line -- six innings, eight hits, just two earned runs -- looks a lot better than it was. He was wild early, throwing a wild pitch and a sailing fastball that screamed past Martin for a passed ball, both of which led to first-inning runs.

His lack of swing-and-miss stuff was obvious through most of the game, although his first strikeout -- he had just two all night -- could not have come at a better time, against Willy Aybar with a runner at second and no one out in the seventh. Two batters later, he picked up his second, striking out Torii Hunter to start an inning-ending double play in which Martin threw out Maicer Izturis trying to steal third.

Still, the damage had been done.

"I thought he mixed his pitches better tonight, I thought he was more aggressive, I thought his command was better, too," Girardi said. "It's just unfortunate he gave up the two runs early because he seemed to settle down after that."

•••

Nova became the third Yankees pitcher on this trip to be nearly decapitated by a comebacker when Hunter smoked one back through the box with one out in the fifth. The other two scorchers were turned into double plays by Freddy Garcia and Joba Chamberlain, but this one glanced off the heel of Nova's glove and he was only able to get the runner at first. "I just saw it coming right at my face and reacted," Nova said. "It was scary." ... Posada seemed to swing the bat better. He also lined out to the wall in dead-center in the seventh. ... Curtis Granderson has gone from red-hot to glacially cold; 0-for-4 with three K's Friday night, he is zero for his last 10 with five K's since his three-hit, four-RBI night in Oakland on Tuesday. ... The Angels scratched Dan Haren from his scheduled start Saturday because of lower back stiffness. Now Ervin Santana (3-4, 4.34), originally slated to go Sunday, will go Saturday night against CC Sabathia (6-3, 2.98). Note: first pitch is at 9:05 p.m.

Wallace Matthews has covered New York sports since 1983 as a reporter, columnist, radio host and TV commentator. He covers the Yankees for ESPNNewYork.com after working for Newsday, the New York Post, the New York Sun and ESPN New York 98.7 FM.
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