GAME 79: After an 8-inning, textbook pitching duel between two aces, one blinked and it decided the game. Longtime Yankee-nemisis Mike Napoli stuck again today, slashing a 9th inning, 2-out, 2-strike Masahiro Tanaka fastball over the wall in right breaking a 1-1 tie. Then showed his true character.
“What A Idiot!” — Mike Napoli on Tanaka
The FOX Network cameras caught Napoli saying that entering the dugout after the home run, referring to Tanaka’s decision to throw a fastball instead of his deadly splitter. Napoli tried to downplay the comment afterward, but it was classless. And what one comes to expect from certain elements of the Boston Red Sox roster over the years. Remember when Boston pitcher Pedro Martinez infamously said:
“I don’t believe in **** curses. Wake up the **** Bambino and have me face him. Maybe I’ll drill him in the ass.”
— Pedro Martinez on May 30, 2001
Martinez would soon go on the DL with rotator cuff issues, and the Yankees would not lose again to the Red Sox that season. Maybe some similar karma is coming Napoli’s way. If nothing else he should hear from his junior high school English teacher. The proper term would be “What an idiot”. Strong as an ox, and apparently as articulate as one.
Down to the one strike needed to turn it over to the offense for the bottom of the ninth, Tanaka shook off catcher Brian McCann twice before letting loose. Revealed afterward in the post-game press was the fact that McCann was calling for a splitter or breaking ball, and Tanaka wanted one more ‘set-up’ pitch — a fastball he planned to throw off the plate. Then come back with the split for the strikeout. The only problem was the location. Tanaka left enough of it in range for Napoli for jack it into the seats. Tanaka was later quoted saying:
“The sign was for a breaking ball. But I actually wanted to go hard outside with my fastball. That’s why I shook him off and threw another pitch. The fact was that I missed my spot, and it just kind of got into a spot where it was rather easy for the batter to hit. … Wanted to show the batter a fastball there, even if it was not in the strike zone.”
— Masahiro Tanaka
McCann wanted to go for the kill, but Tanaka had other thoughts. 99 times out of 100, that ploy works. But it didn’t tonight.
All of this aside, you can’t take anything away from Jon Lester‘s performance. He took a no-no into the 6th, and held New York to 5 hits over 8 innings, striking out 6 with 0 ERs. Tanaka’s line was 9 innings, 2 ER, 8 strikeouts, and 1 walk. Despite the 2 earned runs, Tanaka’s ERA dropped a digit to 2.10, but suffered consecutive losses for the first time, dropping his record to 11-3.
Here’s the box score and post-game notes from Chad Jennings (LoHud).
MEMORY LANE: On June 28th, 1975, the Yankees defeated the Boston Red Sox 8-5, with Dick Tidrow getting the win in relief of starter Doc Medich. Boston great Carl Yastrzemski homered twice off Medich in the losing effort, while New York left-fielder Alex Johnson clubbed a solo blast off Boston starter Bill ‘Spaceman’ Lee. The Yankees were managed by Bill Virdon, the Sox by Darrell Johnson.