(Neil Miller/Sportsday Wire)
There were pitches that appeared to be out of the strike zone that went against the New York Yankees Thursday night in the Bronx and home plate umpire Dan Lassogna definitely was not consistent. By the ninth inning Yankees manager Joe Girardi had enough and put on a show for the fans.
Girardi was ejected after Brian McCann questioned a call third strike. At that point the Yankees, who had a late inning rally were on the doorsteps of possibly pulling out a win against the Cleveland Indians. But it was more than the strike zone of Lassogna that saw the Yankees lose 3-2 in the first of a four game series to the Indians.
Josh Tomlin got the start for Cleveland and earned his first win in almost a year by limiting New York to one run in seven innings, and the Yankees could only get two hits off the righthander. There was a double by Chase Headley in the third inning and Alex Rodriguez accounted for the Yankees first run with a solo home run in the fourth.
But it was Tomlin, and the usual unreliable Indians’ bullpen that shut down the Yankees and not the umpire. It also proves once again that good pitching can shut down the Yankees, who hope a game like this will not get them into another tailspin at the plate.
In the eighth inning, and with Steven Drew on first, Jacoby Ellsbury struck out looking on a Bryan Shaw slider that could have been another pitch out of the strike zone. Brett Gardner followed and struck out swinging and the Yankees trailed 3-1. They would get another run in the ninth but that Ellsbury strikeout, and then the McCann strikeout was enough for Girardi.
“I thought the strikeout of Jacoby Ellsbury was four inches outside.” said Girardi who got his third ejection of the season. “I want the strike zone to be the strike zone. I know they are not going to be perfect. It is a real important time.”
Yes it is an important time of the year. And the umpires can’t always be perfect with the Yankees and Toronto Blue Jays fighting for a divisional title, with every game possibly making a difference to determine who gets to play a wild card postseason game, or who gets to play in a best three-of-five divisional series.
However this night it was not the umpire at the plate who made the difference, and that is no matter how inconsistent the strike zone was. Tomlin, shut down the Yankees and good pitching can keep the Yankees off the base paths.
The Yankees pulled within a run in the ninth on a Carlos Beltran single. But Chase Headley and Didi Gregorius could not get to Indians’ closer Cody Allen who recorded his 24th save. The Yankees are 45-40 against the right hander starter and the next two games they get that with Carlos Carrasco ( 11-9) and Danny Salazar (11-6), both who handle the Yankees well and try to follow what Tomlin accomplished.
Against left hander starters, the Yankees are 22-13. In the postseason those are statistics that an opposing manager will evaluate when setting up the pitching rotation but that will be determined in due time, and the Yankees have to be more concerned at this point about how to attack good pitching.
In the past month, they showed how vulnerable they can be against some of the elite pitchers in baseball, facing one of the ERA leaders in the American League, Chris Archer and the fastball of David Price.
Girardi complained about the strike zone and he did have a cause for argument. However, and not to reiterate again, the Yankees could not handle the mediocre fastball of Tomlin in his second start since undergoing right shoulder surgery in March.
Said Tomlin, who has been charged with three runs and seven hits in 13 ⅓ innings since his return, “Obviously you don’t want to have the injuries. Sometimes it gets in your head but for the most part you’re out there and you’re throwing the ball pretty well. It really doesn’t creep into your head.”
Nor was he intimidated about the Yankees and their success of leading baseball with 99 runs scored in the first inning. He threw the fastball and the home run to Rodriguez was the third he allowed since his return. His win was an otherwise positive point of a disappointing season for the Indians who occupy last place in the Al Central.
“it’s fun to talk about him,” said Indians manager Terry Francona about his starter. “We’ve talked about just in a short period he’s been here how much we’re pulling for him.”
The Yankees though had no fun and it wasn’t just the strike zone calls they were getting at the plate. Having to deal with another righthander was the issue and they don’t want to get many more games like the one Tomlin pitched against them.