As i wrote before in my pre-series article, this was more than just a June series. Last night’s 4-3 Red Sox victory over the pathetic Yankees gave the Sox the series sweep and makes them 8-0 against the Yankees this year.
I will be the first one to admit when i am wrong, and I was wrong in my analysis of the Yankees. Their big offseason additions have not made this team that much better. When the pressure is on, they are still the same gutless team who will lay down like dogs when they face any form of real adversity. The Yankees lost a game they HAD to win. They had their prize ace on the mound pitching against the Red Sox 5th starter in Brad Penny, a pitcher whose best days are behind him. The loss last night makes the Yankees 0-8 against the Sox this year and revealed that the Red Sox are simply the better team in every aspect of the game. The loss further revealed the Yankees glaring weaknesses.
These are the reasons the Yankees lost, and who the blame must be attributed to:
1) The Manager. Joe Girardi was outmanaged, and is particularly to blame for the pitching matchups in the series. Before the series began he shuffled the rotation so that Burnett would get to pitch, but this move also put Wang (who is clearly not ready to face even a double A team) in the series, who has a terrible history against the Red Sox. What frustrated me most is that Girardi tried to make excuses for Burnett by saying he was pitching on an extra day of rest, but it was Girardi in the first place who chose to give him the extra day of rest. Because of Girardi’s move, the Yankees had 2 starters pitch 2 2/3 innings, which is completely unacceptable. This was a bad series on Girardi’s part.
2) Brian Cashman. The Yankees GM signed 2 big free agent starters but completely ignored the bullpen in the offseason. With Brian Bruney on the DL, the Yankees have NO ONE they can trust to pitch in the 7th or 8th innings, and no one they can trust period except for Rivera. The Red Sox bullpen is the best in baseball, evidenced by its League Best ERA, and the Yankees could not touch either Okajima or Papelbon late in the game.
3) The Pitching. The Yankees had their top 2 starters pitching in this series and came away with 0 wins. Wang has been terrible thus far, and Burnett was too scared to throw the ball over the plate. Burnett has pitched in 4 pressure games this season: 2 against the Red Sox, one against the Phillies and one against the Blue Jays and former teammate Roy Halladay. Burnett has lost all 4 games, without even showing up. What on earth did the Yankees pay him all this money for? It has gotten to the point where he has become more talented at making and throwing pies than throwing the ball over the plate and getting people out. Sabathia pitched a good game, but the Yankees had no one they could rely on to get some outs to set up Rivera.
4) The Red Sox have gamers who play well under pressure, and the Yankees don’t. This was never more evident than in the series of dope plays Yanks outfielder Nick Swisher was involved in. On Wednesday night, Swisher ran towards the line in right to catch a fly and the ball inexplicably flew by his glove and into the stands for a ground rule double. This was a big play that led to more damage against Wang, whereas if he had made the play Wang could have escaped with minimal damage. Not only did Swisher screw up the flyball, but he was doubled off second base 2 nights in a row on balls hit to the outfield. What on earth was he thinking when he made these stupid plays that killed two Yankees rallies? This is probably one of the reasons he’s been traded several times and cant stick with a team. Johnny Damon also dropped a fly ball that he didnt have to move for. You will never see the Red Sox give you extra outs.
On the other side, the Red Sox make clutch play after clutch play. In the 9th inning on Wednesday, with the Yankees down one run, pinch runner Ramiro Peña stole second base. The throw was wild and was headed for centerfield. Dustin Pedroia, who was backing up the throw dived back across his body to field the ball and stop it from going into centerfield. If he hadn’t stopped it, the ball would have gone to centerfield and the runner would have advanced to third with only one out. This would mean he could score on a sacrifice fly. Instead, Pedroia’s play forced the Yankees to get a hit to try to score the run.
The optimistic Yankees fans will say “Oh its only June, and they were three games on the road that don’t mean that much. The Yankees are only two games back and will be fine.”
As a diehard Yankee fan, I don’t buy any of this. You can say all you want that these games don’t matter, but these games mean much more than a 3 game swing in the standings. They prove that the Red Sox still own the Yankees, and that the Yankees are not built to win these type of big games in a playoff atmosphere. The Yankees have played 11 games against the elite teams this year: 8 against the Red Sox and 3 against the Phillies. In these games, they are 1-10. Until they fix the problems staring them straight in the face, like both starting and relief pitching, the suspect defense during pressure situations, and the inability to get clutch hits or hit great starting pitching, they will be nothing but a Wild Card team that can only beat up on bad pitching.
This team is far from the level of play that won all the championships in the late 90s.