Yesterday we faced terrible odds and lost by three. Today we faced better odds and lost by two. In neither game did the Mariners lead. In both games were the Mariners able to force a few ties. It's weird, then, that while last night's loss felt like getting stabbed in that fleshy part of the jaw under the chin, today's kind of rolled off my back. Both of them were equally bad. It's just, I dunno, I guess once you prepare yourself for devastation, it doesn't really bother you as much when things go as you feared. Nothing compares to the initial blow. If the Mariners want to keep tearing me down, first they'll have to build me back up.
- A good start for Washburn against a difficult lineup. Though he only threw 60% of his pitches for strikes, you get the feeling with Washburn that his misses off the plate are a little more deliberate than Morrow's or the bullpen's. He pitched a strong game, and while he gave up the four runs, it's hard to be disappointed with his performance in Yankee Stadium. For the second consecutive start he walked but one batter while striking out six - five of them righties - and the home run that Damon hit in the third was a ballpark home run that doesn't leave a lot of other places. Combine all that with his ten swinging strikes and you have to feel pretty good that Washburn has put his issues behind him and gotten back on track. Whether the team goes on to contend or try to sell, these were seven encouraging innings. It's hard to be mad at someone for getting burned by Alex Rodriguez.
- Today we got to witness the famed Yankee Stadium Effect. As I already mentioned, Damon's was a lucky shot, and Griffey's tying homer in the sixth was even more improbable. Not because it was off a good lefty, but because it's hard to imagine that thing leaving in pretty much any other ballpark. I don't mean to take away from Griffey - he got out in front of a fastball and pulled a sizzling line drive - but that was a double that got him four bases. It's like playing in a cooler Texas.
Johnny Damon, by the way, seems to enjoy the new stadium so much that he cheats on his wife with it. Today's shot was his eleventh at home against four on the road in an equal number of plate appearances. Damon isn't a power hitter. Over the past season and a half, he's only hit one ball further than 400 feet. And yet here he is on the home run leaderboard, one behind Miguel Cabrera and Evan Longoria. I wonder what it would be like to follow baseball and not know about park factors.
- Ronny :(edeno is actually swinging the bat a little better of late. He hit a couple balls sharply in LA, he hit that 413! foot homer last night, and twice today he hit reasonably deep fly balls to right and center fields. Whether or not that actually means anything, I'm not sure - :(edeno's OPS in June was lower than Ichiro's batting average - but it does provide a little bit of promise for a guy who up until quite recently was looking lost. Now is the time for Ronny to try and salvage his season. We already know Wak likes his energy on defense, so if he can start chipping in with a few hits here and there, that could go a long way towards erasing the memory of his humiliating first half.
- The front page article on Yahoo! MLB earlier this afternoon was about Alex Rodriguez's diminished production. A-Rod's contact rate is its best in more than a decade, he's chasing fewer balls out of the strike zone than ever before, his line drive rate is healthy, and a quarter of his fly balls have left the yard. You know what A-Rod's problem is? A .215 BABIP. He's fine. He's absolutely fine. He's just been unlucky. Given how much the media loves to talk about everything that's going on with the Yankees, you'd think they'd bother to learn a little something about player evaluation.
- Every year, the Yankees seem to have one nobody position player they keep around just so they can tell other front offices "see, we're all playing the same game." It tends to be a utility guy or a backup catcher. This year's designated Yankee Who Doesn't Belong is Cody Ransom. It's like a gorilla living with people and trying to blend in by wearing a hat.
- The essence of being a sports fan is hope. In order for anything to be worth a sports fan's time, it has to give him some element of hope. Some little chance that things could work out. One of the things that's so daunting about playing the Yankees, then, is that Mariano Rivera doesn't offer any hope. When you're playing New York, you really do feel like you need to have a lead or a tie through eight innings, because Rivera carries with him this certain air of invincibility. He is flawed. Obviously. Rivera will have some games where he gives up hits and blows a save. But every hit and every run you score against him feels like a minor miracle. When you're losing to, say, the Orioles or the Angels, you can clasp your hands together and pray that you get some good swings against Sherrill or Fuentes. Games against most closers don't feel over until they're over. Games against Rivera, though, feel over the instant he's called. At no point in either of these last two nights did I so much as entertain the possibility of putting a rally together in the ninth. It simply seemed to me that it couldn't be done.
Kudos to Rivera for being so very dominant for so very long. Here's to one Yankee of whom I'd never have a bad thing to say.
Jason Vargas and CC Sabathia tomorrow at 4:05. Win and no one remembers the first two losses, but lose and the Dodgers series becomes a distant memory. I am afraid.