Saturday, April 7, 2012

Wild First Loss for Yankees

Brian Blanco/EPA
In what was one of the oddest Opening Day games that I believe I've ever seen, the Yankees had their first loss of the season, falling to the Tampa Bay Rays 7-6. Questionable managing, bad pitching , and a shocking ending all conspired to give fans of both teams an opener they probably won't forget for some time.

What went wrong:

The Micro-Manager Is Girardi - If what we saw yesterday was any indication of what we can expect to see this season from Joe Girardi, well, we won't be witnessing anything new. In classic overthinking Girardi-style, the manager had CC Sabathia walk infielder Sean Rodriguez, loading the bases for Carlos Pena in the first inning. The first inning. Girardi, acting on Pena's 4-for-35 numbers against CC, gambled that he would not be able to turn on CC's fastball, but he did, hitting a grand slam and putting the Rays up 4-0. We know that Girardi is a smart baseball guy, and his numbers as a manager with the Yankees are the best of any manager in the past four years. But moments like that are what make fans cringe, and cry for the burning of "Girardi's Binder." The move made no sense, particularly since CC had not been in the game long enough at that point to correct the poor movement on his fastball, which was obvious from early on.

Associated Press
Sabathia Not Ace-Like - Again, Sabathia struggled with the command of his fastball yesterday, and the Rays took full advanatage early on. He walked his first batter--Desmond Jennings--on a full count. Two batters later, he gave up a single to Evan Longoria. Next came the walk to S. Rodriguez, followed by the grand slam from Pena. In the third inning, he would give up another home run to Longoria. CC settled down somewhat after that, not allowing any more runs for the next four innings, but he gave up four more hits and another walk to Jose Molina. CC's best pitch seemed to be his breaking ball, which he used to get outs yesterday. He was able to use his slider in some spots, most notably in the fifth inning when he struck out Pena with men on second and third. But CC's ace pitch is his fastball. He struggled with it during Spring Training, and needs to get it going now.

Mad Maddon - Joe Maddon can thank a shaky Mariano for saving his hide yesterday. The Rays manager made two horrible moves late in the game with his team down 6-5, first sending newbie Jack Vogt up to pinch-hit against David Robertson in his first major league at-bat. Strikeout. Maddon followed this by having catcher Jose Molina "squeeze" with two strikes. Molina bunted foul, and the Yankees headed into the ninth inning still up by a run.

Associated Press
Really, Mo? - In a career first, Mariano Rivera not only blew the save in his first opportunity on Opening Day, but he blew the game. He gave up a single to Jennings, followed by a triple to Ben Zobrist, which tied the game at 6-6. Girardi then had Mo walk Longoria and Luke Scott to load the bases with no outs. Mo managed to strikeout S. Rodriguez, but would give up the winning single to Pena. He had no command of his cutter, pitching high in the zone and missing the corners. We know that this won't be a regular problem for our closer, but it was still a bit scary to see Mo fold the way he did.

What went right

A-Rod Being A-Rod - Alex Rodriguez went 2-for-3 yesterday, hitting a double to center in his first at-bat, and singling to center in the third inning against James Shields. A-Rod scored two runs and played excellent defense at third, saving a run in the fifth by catching a hard line drive from Elliott Johnson which stranded Longoria at third.

Brian Blanco/EPA
Ibanez Making History - Raul Ibanez got his first RBI of the season by grounding out to second base and scoring A-Rod in the second inning. He followed that with a monster 3-run home run in the third, again scoring A-Rod and Ribinson Cano. The four RBIs made Ibanez only the second Yankee to achieve that in his first game wth the team. Roger Maris was the first to do it.

The Great Houdini - In typical fashion, David Robinson managed to get himself into trouble, only to strike his way out of it. In the eighth inning, he walked S. Rodriguez and gave up a single to Pena which put both players on the corners. Robertson then dug in, striking out all of the next three batters. Classic.

Next Up - The Yankees and Rays have a 7:05pm start for tonight's game. It will be a matchup of   Hiroki Kuroda vs. David Price.

Follow Rasheeda Cooper on twitter: @ra_cooper

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