Let’s run that eighth inning back, shall we?
The Yankees were up 6-3 going into the bottom of the eighth in the series opener against Boston. On the mound: Mark Melancon (with a soft C, as I learned last night), who was acquired by the Red Sox in the offseason and has been absolutely awful this season. Melancon posted an April ERA of 49.50, was sent to the minors, came back in June and pitched moderately well until giving up four runs in a third of an inning against Toronto on July 22. The man Boston gave away for Melancon, shortstop Jed Lowrie, has become one of the best-hitting shortstops in the National League for Houston. The hitting breakdown for this season goes like this:
Red Sox shortstops (in 100 games): .253/.280/.400, 10 HRs, 102 runs produced
Jed Lowrie (in 80 games): .253/.343/.456, 14 HRs, 74 runs produced
Basically, the Red Sox traded down at shortstop to acquire Melancon, who has one of Boston’s many duds this season. Which brings us back to the eighth inning last night, when Melancon allowed a leadoff double to Andruw Jones and plunked Eric Chavez in the foot. Melancon stiffened, getting Ichiro to ground into a fielder’s choice and inducing a slow ground ball from Russell Martin. Red Sox shortstop Mike Aviles saw Jones lumbering down the third-base line and whipped a throw home that beat Jones by five feet.
With two outs, Derek Jeter fell behind 1-2, and Yankee bobble head doll/announcer Michael Kay intoned, “Melancon is one pitch away from working out of this jam.” One more strike, and the Yankees would have yet another “came up short” inning in a season full of them.
But the gift that is Mark Melancon just kept on giving. His next four pitches — three to Jeter, one to Curtis Granderson — were off-speed pitches that never sniffed the strike zone. Suddenly, Melancon was behind in the count to Granderson with the bases loaded and desperately needed a strike. So he in essence gave up, throwing a flat fastball and hoping Granderson was taking all the way.
Nope. Granderson was all over the fastball. Kay had barely finished saying “… the Yankees could really blow this one open here in the bottom of the eighth” when Grandy deposited the fastball in the right-field bleachers. 10-3 Yankees, game effectively over, Melancon looking after the ball in disgust and muttering “motherfucker” while Granderson rounded the bases.
The blowout win moved the Yankees to 60-39, 11.5 games in front of Boston in the AL East. No more analysis needed — for a day, let’s just bask in the previous sentence.