CC Sabathia and David Price were so dominant last night — each throwing eight scoreless innings, giving up just two and three hits respectively — that most of the questions surrounding the 1-0 Rays win didn’t begin to pop up until the very last batter either of them faced. After all, there isn’t much a manager can do when the pitchers are so clearly in control.
The Yankees are allegedly playing to win the division and not just the wild card, which perhaps explains why Joe Girardi would use Nick Swisher to pinch hit for Greg Golson in the eighth, even though Kim Jones reported during the game that with an MRI scheduled today on Swisher’s left knee, Girardi said he had no plans to play Swisher last night. (Swisher would ground out to finish out Price’s night.)
Girardi, though, was less reckless when it came to his bullpen: He used neither Joba Chamberlain nor David Robertson, instead choosing to take his chances with Chad Gaudin (successfully) and Sergio Mitre (unsuccessfully). That last move — resting Robertson and especially Chamberlain when it wasn’t absolutely necessary — ultimately may have cost the Yankees the game, as Reid Brignac, only playing because Carl Crawford had been ejected, homered off Mitre to lead off the eleventh. Joba Chamberlain may not be lights out (as we learned over the weekend), but he’s at least more reliable than Mitre.
Or how about a question not for Girardi but for Brett Gardner: Why try to steal third with two outs in the top of the tenth, after already stealing second to get into scoring position? Perhaps it wouldn’t have mattered — the Yankees’ true best chance to score was the seventh, when Alex Rodriguez popped out and Marcus Thames flied out with runners on first and second — but with so precious few chances to plate a run, making the final out at third is particularly inexcusable.
So now the Yankees have lost four straight for the first time all year, and have dropped into second place, a half-game behind Tampa. Three of those four losses have come in the opponent’s last at-bat. And perhaps most deflating of all, they lost not only with their most reliable starter on the mound, but with their most reliable starter pitching as brilliantly as ever. Now it’s up to Ivan Nova to stop the bleeding, and up to the offense — which has plated one run in the last 21 innings — to give the kid some support.