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Game 72: Yankees 6, Indians 4

Yes, it was that obvious.
Yes, it was that obvious.

Justin Masterson allowed four runs on seven hits in six innings. That on its face doesn't seem a particularly effective outing, but Justin's outing much better than the basic line would indicate. All of those seven hits were singles, with several of the bloop variety. Three of the four runs he gave up came in the second inning after DeWayne Wise (!) extended the inning with a bloop single. Just a couple hits were actually hit hard. But by the time Masterson got out of the second, the damage was already done, both on the scoreboard and with the pitch count; he finished that inning with already over 50 pitches thrown, and had to pitch very well to get through six innings.

The depressing thing about this team recently is the sinking feeling that even a three-run deficit can cause. Even in Yankee Stadium, and even against noted flyball pitcher Phil Hughes, that early 3-0 deficit seemed insurmountable. Hughes had given up home runs in 13 of his 14 starts this season, and four in his last start against Atlanta. Now giving up home runs doesn't automatically make you a bad pitcher (see some of Bert Blyleven's better seasons), and Hughes has very good stuff, but the Indians made him look much better than he pitched because of the way they approached at-bats. At the beginning of the season, the Indians were scoring runs not because of any huge power surge but because they worked counts and tired pitchers out. The Indians aren't doing that any more, and because of it Hughes was not only able to blank the Indians on 6 hits, but finish eight innings. The Yankees had relievers up those last couple of innings in case Hughes got into trouble, but Joe Girardi didn't even have to think about pulling him because the Indians made life easy on the Yankee starter.

In the top of the seventh, Michael Brantley led off with a double, went to third on a Johnny Damon ground out, and had to stay put when Casey Kotchman got jammed and only was able to hit the ball into shallow right field. So there were two outs when Jack Hannahan lifted a ball near the stands down the left field line. Left fielder DeWayne Wise ran towards the stands, leaping into the first row after the ball. After a 10-15 seconds, Wise emerged from the stands unhurt, and to his surprise, third base umpire Mike DiMuro said that he had made an amazing catch. Wise didn't try to sell the catch because it was rather obvious that he had never controlled it; replays showed that the he just got a piece of his glove on the ball before tumbling into the stands. A couple feet away from the play, a guy in a red shirt immediately held the ball into the air for the world to see, but apparently DiMuro isn't living in this earthly plane, for in his reality Wise caught the ball. Since the game ended, I've racked my brain to come up with a call as completely inept as that one, but nothing came close. All he had to do was to go up to Wise and ask to see the ball, but he didn't, and I have absolutely no idea why. Or heck, he just had to look at the fan a couple feet away from him showing his buddies the ball that he just caught. Umpires make mistakes, but this was not a mistake; this was just plain unadulterated incompetence.

Of course DiMuro not only made a fool of himself in the seventh, he compounded things by running Jack Hannahan an inning later after the Tribe third baseman had seen a replay between innings. If there was any justice, DiMuro would be umpiring in the International League while a deserving AAA umpire took his place.

We'll never know if the phantom catch made any difference in the outcome of the game, but the Tribe bullpen sure did. Tony Sipp gave up a moonshot home run to Alex Rodriguez, and Nick Hagadone gave up another run to put the Indians behind 6-0. So of course the Indians would mount a comeback in the ninth inning, getting the score to within two runs after Jose Lopez (who was only batting because Hannahan had been tossed) hit a three-run homer. But because of the two runs allowed, the Indians still trailed, and Rafael Soriano was summoned to record a one-out save, giving the Indians their first four-game losing streak of the season.