Thursday night's 2-1, 13-inning loss to the Baltimore Orioles in Game 4 of the American League Division Series was all about missed opportunities for the New York Yankees.
The Yankees missed a number of opportunities to win Thursday night's game, thus winning the series. New York went 0-for-9 with runners in scoring position and left 10 runners on base.
All of those missed opportunities led to the loss, and another even bigger missed opportunity. A victory Thursday would have allowed the Yankees to use ace CC Sabathia in Game 1 of the American League Championship Series against the Detroit Tigers. The Tigers were forced to use their ace Thursday night in a decisive Game 5 against the Oakland Athletics.
Now, rather than being able to enter the ALCS with the advantage of setting up their starting rotation the way they wanted to for the ALCS the Yankees will have to use Sabathia Friday evening and hope he can get them there.
Yankees manager Joe Girardi called it "pretty fitting" that the Yankees and Orioles, who battled to the final day of the season for the American League East championship the Yankees won, would end up in a decisive Game 5. He is furtante, of course, that he has Sabathia on the mound. Jason Hammel pitches for Baltimore.
"If you have a deciding game, you want your ace," Girardi said.
Still, it did not have to be this way for the Yankees.
Cleanup hitter Robinson Cano went 0-for-6 with an RBI groundout and left five runners on base. He is hitting .111 for the series.
Alex Rodriguez went 1-for-4 and left three runners on. He was pinch-hit for in the ninth inning for a second straight game. His ALDS batting average is .125.
Nick Swisher went 0-for-5 with four runners stranded. He is hitting .133 over the first four games.
Curtis Granderson, who hit, 43 home runs during the season, went 0-for-5 with three strikeouts and three men left on base. He is hitting .063 in the series.
After Game 4 Girardi tried to credit the Orioles rather than criticize his slumping sluggers.
"I think there's really good pitching. There's guys on the other side that are struggling, too.," Girardi said. "You're seeing some really good pitching in these four games. With the exception of one inning, I mean, it's been really hard to come by hits. I think that has something to do with it."
SB Nation's Yankees web site, Pinstriped Bible, summed up the offensive ineptitude this way:
Offense. The Yankees are supposed to be good at it. However, the hitters have accumulated a grand total of one multi-run inning out of 43 in the series so far, the five-run outburst in the ninth inning of Game 1, which feels like eons ago. Thanks to the struggles of all hitters beyond Jeter, Raul Ibanez, and arguably Mark Teixeira. they should probably be eliminated by now. They were two outs away from falling behind in the series 2-1 on Wednesday until Ibanez's game-tying solo homer, and they needed a second solo homer from him to win it since no one else was doing much of anything.
Will Girardi shuffle his lineup Friday night? Will it do any good if he does? Other than Ibanez, Derek Jeter (.421) and possibly Mark Teixeira (.333) no Yankees have done anything on offense outside of one inning in Baltimore.
The Yankees still have an opportunity Friday night to get this right, to put the miserable offensive series and the missed opportunities behind them. Yet, Friday's winner-take-all Game 5 could have been avoided. Unless Sabathia is able to pitch a shutout or somebody, anybody, wearing Yankee pinstripes is able to finally deliver a game-changing hit all of these missed opportunities could end in another offseason of discontent in the Bronx.