No, the Yankees did not lose because of A-Rod's failure to hit his 600th home run

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Let the record reflect that Blue Jays’ starter Rickey Romero was rough stuff last night. After going a mere two and two-thirds innings while giving up eight runs when he faced the Yankees a month ago, Romero came back last night and silenced the Bombers’ bats. He struggled through the first inning but rebounded nicely to throw a complete game two-hitter, retiring 26 of 27 hitters with but an infield single interrupting the proceedings.

Not that the New York Post’s Kevin Kernan is giving him a ton of credit for it this morning. No, he believes that last night’s loss was due to something else:

The Yankees have fallen into the A-Rod trap. And they can’t get out. There’s been so much attention given to the 600 home run chase, the Yankees have forgotten they’re in a pennant race . . . In this celebrity era, the Yankees have to get back to the team game and
putting their eye on the real prize, not 600 home runs, but doing
whatever it takes to winning the AL East, day by day . . .

. . . The day that Rodriguez hit No. 599, the Yankees were three games in
front in the AL East. The next day they bumped that lead up to four
games . . . In a way, the Yankees have been caught looking in the mirror, like
Rodriguez once did, looking at themselves, instead of channeling all
their efforts to take care of business in the most difficult division in
baseball.

If there was any doubt that Kernan is blaming A-Rod’s chase of 600 hits for the Yankees’ struggles, scope the last line of the column: “The milestone has become a millstone around the neck of A-Rod and the Yankees.”

Kernan hangs this whole premise on a single quote from Joe Girardi making reference to milestones “getting in the way a little bit,” but we have no way of knowing from the column what the question was that led to that comment. I’d allow for the idea that 600 may be a distraction to A-Rod himself, but I defy Kernan to find one Yankees player who will go on record as saying that A-Rod’s pursuit of 600 home runs is what led to any struggles they’re having, let alone last night’s loss.  I’d also be curious as to what Rickey Romero and Cito Gaston would say to a question like that.

I know what you’re going to say: “Craig, relax. It’s the Post. It’s Kernan. No need to get worked up over it.”

But I am worked up.  The Post reaches more than half a million in print alone and millions on the web. It, more than other, more reasonable sports sections in the New York area shapes and reflects the opinion of Yankees fans and drives the talk radio discussion which goes on to shape and reflect the opinions of many others.

If this was stuff to be ignored it would be ignored. But it’s not ignored, and idiotic notions like Kernan’s here seep into the public consciousness. It’s what leads to that New York exceptionalism that drives me so crazy. It’s what reinforces and justifies the feeling among a certain brand of Yankees fan that the other teams are mere mirrors with which to reflect Yankee glory. “Rickey Romero? What did he ever do? What do we care about him unless he becomes a free agent?”

Well, Rickey Romero kicked the Yankees’ asses last night. Too bad some people who are paid to understand that couldn’t be bothered to acknowledge it in their rush to create bulls— perpetuating narratives.

Mike Leake loses perfect game bid on leadoff single in the ninth

Mike Leake
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Just one week after Taylor Cole and Felix Peña tossed a combined no-hitter against Seattle, Mariners right-hander Mike Leake worked on his own perfect game through eight innings against the Angels.

It was an ambitious form of revenge, and one that Leake served up perfectly as he held the Angels scoreless in frame after frame. He sprinkled a handful of strikeouts throughout the first eight innings, catching Matt Thaiss on a called strike three in the third and getting two whiffs — called strikeouts against both Brian Goodwin and Shohei Ohtani — in the fourth.

The Mariners, meanwhile, put up a good fight against the Angels, backing Leake’s attempt with 10 runs — their first double-digit total since a 13-3 rout of the Orioles on June 23. Daniel Vogelbach led things off in the fourth with a three-run homer off of reliever Jaime Barria, then repeated the feat with another three-run shot off Barria in the fifth. Tom Murphy and J.P. Crawford helped pad the lead as well with a two-RBI single and two-RBI double, respectively.

In the ninth, with just three outs remaining, the Angels finally managed to break through. Luis Rengifo worked a 1-1 count against Leake, then returned an 85.3-m.p.h. changeup to right field for a base hit, dismantling the perfecto and the no-hitter in one fell swoop. Leake lost control of the ball following the hit, issuing four straight balls to Kevan Smith in the next at-bat and giving the Angels their first runner in scoring position. Still at a pitch count of just 90, however, he induced the next two outs in quick fashion and polished off the win with a triumphant eight-pitch strikeout against Mike Trout for the first one-hitter (and Maddux) of his career.

Had Leake successfully closed out the perfecto, it would’ve been the first of his decade-long career in the majors and the first the Mariners had seen since Félix Hernández’s perfect game against the Rays in August 2012. For their part, the Angels have yet to be on the losing end of a perfecto. The last time they were shut out in a no-hitter was 1999, at the hands of then-Twins pitcher Eric Milton.