People Get Ready

Bronx, N.Y., July 5, 2017; Toronto 7, Yankees 6 — The Yankees dropped another heartbreaker Wednesday afternoon, and in so doing lost yet another series, this one two games to one, to the visiting last-place Toronto Blue Jays. Setup man Dellin Betances had another disastrous outing, walking four in the eighth inning to turn a 6-6 tie into a 7-6 loss. Betances’ control problems have been much in evidence the last few weeks, and this was doubly troubling today, as they yet again let what could have been an inspiring come-from-behind win fall into a distressing and disappointing loss. Down early 5-0 in this contest, the Bombers came storming back, and took a 6-5 lead into the sixth inning.

There was so much good about this game, and their performance. All-world rookie Aaron Judge had two hits and a walk, and started the comeback with his 29th homer of the year, a two-run shot in the fourth; it was the home team’s first hit. And seeking to resolve what has been season-long disastrous underperformance at first base, brand-new, just promoted Yankee Ji-Man Choi followed Judge with a two-run tracer to right of his own in the fifth. Also, shortstop Didi Gregorius, hoping to be the one (of five candidates) to be voted on as the last man to the American League All Star team, polished up his credentials with a bases-loaded, two-run double that capped the comeback.

The bullpen work around Betances was solid, with Chasen Shreve — who took over from Michael Pineda with a man on and no outs, already down 5-0, in the fourth — and Chad Green getting the game to the eighth, though Green did allow a game-tying home run to ex-Yank Russell Martin on the first pitch of the seventh inning. And Adam Warren, thankfully back from the disabled list, was superb, retiring five straight with two strike outs after relieving Betances with the bases loaded and one down in the eighth.

Dellin Betances is a very tall pitcher, and when he’s under control he is virtually unhittable, with two plus-plus-plus pitches. He has made his fourth straight All Star team, a true rarity for a reliever. He and Larry Rothschild and Joe Girardi will have to work this out. Neither sitting him, nor pulling him early, will fix it. The Yanks will go nowhere if they don’t get him back where he needs to be.

I’m a fan, an observer, and an obsessed game attender. I have no cure for what ails Dellin. But I can tell you how the Yankees could have won this game. They have to show up ready to play each and every day, and they did not do that today. Following a Jose Bautista opposite-field single to lead off the first, Justin Smoak lined a one-out single to the left of center, and Jacoby Ellsbury didn’t bobble the ball once, he did it twice. This put Pineda down 1-0 with a man on second just eight pitches into the game.

I can’t tell you that with a correct break Ellsbury could have caught Steve Pearce’s sinking liner to lead off the second. But I can tell you Jacoby’s first step was both slow, and in the wrong direction. A double play ball helped Pineda escape that one, but another single had him throwing a 20-pitch inning. The feast-or-famine big righty appeared frustrated early, but whether it was from the Jays’ — who collected nine hits off him with no outs in the fourth — being so on his pitches, or the mediocre play behind him I can’t say. But it frustrated me. And it wasn’t over.

Pineda survived the second with a strike out of Ryan Goins, Big Mike’s only K of the day. But Bautista battled him to an eight pitch walk — also his only free pass — to start the third. Martin, in a rare appearance playing third base, hit the next pitch toward third, where Chase Headley chose to step back rather than short-hop it. Whatever was the better choice, the fact is that the double play was there for the taking. But he double-clutched, and lost the extra out, an out that became a run when Justin Smoak homered on a following 3-2 pitch.

The Yankees were all in, after that, with the six-run, two-home-run reply. The pitching became solid, until the eighth, and they might have won it anyway. Gary Sanchez would strike out in the fourth and seventh, with three, then two, on, both times after blasting a foul home run. And thanks to the wily Gardner poking a single past first with two down in the ninth, they got Judge to the plate with a chance to win it.

Baseball history can be a lot of fun, but sometimes it gets you thinking dangerous things. On this day in 1919, still playing for the Red Sox, Babe Ruth hit two home runs in the same game for the first of 72 times. And on July 5, 1962, Mickey Mantle homered for the first two of what would become four times at the plate in a row. Had Judge come through in the ninth with his second long ball — a feat he achieved back on June 12 — the connection would have been amazing. And had Sanchez hit a grand slam in the fourth, he would have been echoing Joe DiMaggio, who hit his first salami on this day in 1937.

But alas, it was not to be. So for today’s theme we go out to the song writing of the fabulous late Curtis Mayfield, whose great hit was performed 52 summers ago by the Impressions. My apologies, because Curtis was writing about much bigger issues back in the day. But I like to refer to People Get Ready, because it deserves to be recognized for how great it was — and is — all these decades later.

Had a few Yankees been more ready at today’s 1:11 pm first pitch, they could have overcome despite the eight-inning trouble.

Yankees Get Ready