That Wise guy is the center of attention again
If the Yankees start hitting with runners in scoring position and with the bases loaded more regularly, they might just run away and hide in the American League East. The Yanks entered play Tuesday night against the Indians with a three-game lead in the division despite hitting a combined .220 in 592 at-bats with runners in scoring position and .176 in 74 at-bats with the bags full.
Despite those horrendous figures, the Yankees rank fifth in the league in runs. They lead the majors in home runs, which is a chief factor in their winning ways, along with a pitching staff that ranks fifth in the AL with a 3.65 ERA and a bullpen that is second in the majors with a 2.63 ERA.
Yankees manager Joe Girardi is tired of talking about the team’s problems in the clutch and is confident that the numbers will even out. If that ever happens, watch out!
All that came to mind in the second inning when the Yankees got three consecutive hits with runners in scoring position, including one with the bases loaded. That is not a typographical error.
And on top of that, all the hits came after two were out. DeWayne Wise, who earned another start in left field after his fine game Monday night (triple, home run, three RBI), set up the situation with a single to right that moved Nick Swisher, who had reached base on a fielder’s choice, to third base.
Instead of getting stuck there as has often been the case in such situations for the Yankee this year, Swish came trotting home on a single to center by Chris Stewart. Birthday boy Derek Jeter, who turned 38, singled off the leg of Tribe pitcher Justin Masterson, which loaded the bases. No ducks left on the pond this time as Curtis Granderson singled home Wise and Stewart.
It was the sort of rally the Yankees could use on a more consistent basis instead of relying so often on the long ball. That was one reason Girardi put Wise in the lineup again, to make use of his speed, a facet in short supply with regular left fielder Brett Gardner on the disabled list the past two months.
Wise became the center of attention in the game with a tumbling catch or non-catch as it turned out into the left field stands in the seventh inning for the final out with a runner at third base. Wise disappeared into the seats as he reached for the ball. Third base umpire Mike DiMuro made the out call, even though it was unclear whether Wise ever had control of the ball. It appeared to have hit off the heel of his glove, but he and the ball were soon out of sight.
“Truthfully, the ball popped out,” Wise said afterward. “He never asked to see the ball. It was a tough angle for the umpire. I wasn’t going to argue with him. That’s why I got back up and ran on to the field and headed for the dugout.”
Fans in the area apparently tried to put the ball in Wise’s glove as he lay prone but failed to do so. Wise returned to the dugout with an empty glove.
“He disappeared into the stands, and I believed that the ball was in his glove when he came out of the stands,” DiMuro said. “In hindsight, I should have asked him to show me the ball since he fell into the stands and out of my line of vision.”
DiMuro added after the game that he had seen the replay and “It’s obvious that the ball fell out of his glove.”
Wise is having a good series with the umpires. On his triple Monday night, video replays showed that he was actually out at third base. The catch loomed large when the Indians, held scoreless for eight innings by a very strong Phil Hughes, scored four runs in the ninth off Cory Wade and needed Rafael Soriano to save the 6-4 victory.
How fitting such a play as the best catch Wise never made should come on Jeter’s birthday. Diving into the left field stands is one of the captain’s specialties. Jeter had 2-for-5 to improve his birthday batting average to .327 with two doubles and three RBI in 11 games and 49 at-bats. The only players to accumulate more hits prior to turning 38 were Ty Cobb (3,666) and Hank Aaron (3,272). He has 13 more hits than all-time leader Pete Rose (3,170) at the time of his 38th birthday.