I don’t quite know what to say after witnessing the better part of more than the eight hours necessary to play just two baseball games in London.
I think I can start with this statement - That was not baseball. I don’t quite know what it was, but it certainly wasn’t baseball.
As a Yankees fan (and blogger), I would be beside myself with frustration if the Yankees hadn’t swept this series. The fact that they won both of these games makes the pain of watching them less aggravating.
Let me quickly get to the recap of Game 2 before continuing with my perspectives on all of this:
Game 2: Yankees 12 Red Sox 8
The Opener - For all intents and purposes, the Yankees used an opener for both games. In Game 1, Masahiro Tanaka pitched the first inning (well, most of it), today it was Stephen Tarpley. Tarpley fared slightly better than Tanaka pitching a little deeper into the game (he recorded three outs) and also giving up fewer runs. In his one inning of work, Tarpley allowed four runs on four hits. To make matters worse, three of the four hits were homeruns.
The Yankees Need A Starter - In the two games of this series, the Yankees were forced to use 15 different pitchers (well, many of the fifteen were the same pitchers used on consecutive days, but, the general point is clear). On Saturday, the Yankees needed eight pitchers to get through nine innings. In this game they did slightly better - they used only seven pitchers. Ouch. While these were atypical baseball games, a team cannot survive long when they have to make this many pitching changes. It’s June 30, and this Yankee bullpen is tired. The Yankees need to find and bring in a starting pitcher who can consistently give them six or more quality innings every fifth day.
Today’s Hero - Luis Cessa pitched the bulk of today’s game, getting the Yankees through the fifth inning in relief of Tarpley. Cessa threw four innings allowing four hits and recording two strikeouts. The amazing thing is that the Yankees needed five pitchers to pitch the final four innings. If not for Cessa pitching the bulk of the game, though, the Yankees would not have won.
The Win Statistic - If a starting pitcher fails to pitch five innings, the “Win” can be given by the Official Scorer to any worthy relief pitcher in the game. The pitcher who usually gets the win is the one who was pitching when his team took the lead that they never relinquished. Today that was Adam Ottavino. Ottavino was sharp, pitching a scoreless sixth inning with two strikeouts. The Yankees then exploded for nine runs in the Top of the Seventh Inning. Since Ottavino was the pitcher at the time, the pitcher of record, he was given the win, but, to be fair, the win should have been given to Cessa. Without Cessa’s performance today, the Yankees would most likely not have won.
Here is the Win explained on the MLB website:
A pitcher receives a win when he is the pitcher of record when his team takes the lead for good -- with a couple rare exceptions. First, a starting pitcher must pitch at least five innings (in a traditional game of nine innings or longer) to qualify for the win. If he does not, the official scorer awards the win to the most effective relief pitcher.
That Seventh Inning - Rather than trying do this as a narrative, I’ll just list what transpired (in short):
The Red Sox were up 4-2 at the time. (The Sox’s four runs all came in the first inning. The Yankees scored their two in the Top of the Second Inning on a couple of walks, a fielder’s choice, and two infield singles).
Marcus Walden was pitching for the Red Sox…
D.J. LeMahieu - Doubled
Aaron Judge Walked
Aaron Hicks Doubled (LeMahieu scored)
Gary Sanchez singled (Judge and Hicks scored putting the Yankees up 5-4)
Matt Barnes came in to pitch for the Sox
Edwin Encarnacion walked
Didi Gregorius struck out
Gleyber Torres singled (to load the bases)
Gio Urshela singled home two runs
Josh Taylor came in to pitch for Boston
Brett Gardner walked (to load the bases)
D.J. LeMahieu doubled home two more runs
Aaron Judge was intentionally walked
Aaron Hicks hit a sacrifice fly
Gary Sanchez reached on an error (another run scored)
Edwin Encarnacion grounded into a fielder’s choice to end the inning. (Yankees 11, Red Sox 4)
Taking A Chance - With the Yankees up 12-4 (courtesy of a Gregorius homer to continue their home run streak), Aaron Boone summoned Chance Adams to pitch the eighth inning (and possibly the ninth inning as well). Alas!
Adams did record two outs, but around those outs, he also allowed five hits, threw a wild pitch, and in the mess, four runs scored bringing the Red Sox from 12-4 to 12-7. When Zack Britton gave up an RBI single and then a walk, the Sox were actually able to bring the game’s tying run to the plate…
3-0, to WHEW! - With the score now 12-8, Zack Britton fell behind Rafael Devers 3-0 by throwing three consecutive pitches out of the strike zone. Britton battled back to 3-2 before getting Devers to ground out to LeMahieu at first to end the inning.
Good Work Ol’ Chappy - Aroldis Chapman allowed a lead-off single in the bottom of the ninth before striking out the next three Red Sox batters in a row to secure the victory.
“I Come To Bury Caesar, Not To Praise Him” - The two game sweep of the Red Sox leaves the Bostonians eleven games back of the Yankees in the standings. The Yankees are now 54-28, while the Sox are in third place at 44-40. Barring a complete collapse by the Yankees , the prospects of the Red Sox winning the division are now very remote. The Yankees did their job in this wild series by winning both games. It wasn’t pretty. Much of it wasn’t even fun. But the Yankees did their job. They played and they won.
.659 - With a .659 winning percentage, the Yankees are the best team in the American League.
13-1 - The Yankees are now 13-1 over their last 14 games. Mighty good sport, I must say.
Not Baseball - I began this piece by stating that what we all just witnessed (or read about) was not baseball. In the strictest sense, it was baseball. Of course. The Yankees and the Red Sox play baseball. But what the fans of London saw was not typical American baseball. Most games don’t see teams using seven or eight pitchers a game. The fact that both teams did this in both games is amazing. In 18 innings of baseball, there were five different times when teams scored six or more runs. In two games, players recorded 65 hits. 65 hits. Sixty-five hits. I can’t get beyond that number. 65 total hits over two games.
In short, what the people of England just saw was not a representative sample of typical American baseball. Instead, they saw a pinball version of baseball played in a bandbox that seemed like a different sport altogether at times… except, for the Yankees, at least… when Luis Cessa was pitching.
I Get It, But I Didn’t Love It- I understand the need for baseball to play to an international audience. I understand exporting the game to other counties. I understand the need for baseball to wish to be a global sport. To me, though, this seems forced. I think the timing was bad with the days off and the All-Star break next week. I think the quality of play that was demonstrated was poor. I don’t have a solution to all of this. Next year the Cardinals and the Cubs will venture to the same venue to do the same thing (although the games will be played a few weeks earlier in June). Because these were home games for the Red Sox, their record “at home” now falls to 20-22. (Does that make sense?) Again, it just wasn’t the same game. The Yankees wore their pinstripes as the visiting team. There were advertisements on the helmets and sleeves of the uniforms. The field dimensions were different than any other stadium with the shorter outfield dimensions and the vast amount of foul territory. Tons and tons of dirt had to shipped from the USA to England to create the field. I know it was “historic,” but it seemed a bit contrived. The games were long, they were more exercises in frustration that compelling baseball. I’m glad the Yankees won both games. I’m relieved the Yankees won both games. I also hope that the Yankees don’t have to do anything like this any time soon again. (I suspect the Red Sox and their fans are wishing, even more, for the same thing.)
Next Game - The Yankees play again on Tuesday against the Mets… back in good ol’ New York. (Tomorrow evening on SSTN, we will have another Off-Night Classics posted at 8:00 p.m.)