LADY AT THE BAT: Dean Anna Has Big At-Bat As Yankees Earn a Series Split

Monday, April 21, 2014

Dean Anna Has Big At-Bat As Yankees Earn a Series Split

When Derek Jeter led off the top of the 11th with a single against Tampa Bay Rays pitcher Heath Bell, the wheels started turning. The Yankees pitching had, in contrast to the past two days, done a fantastic job. Save for a Brian Roberts error, they would most likely have had a shut out. On the other side, the Rays pitching had also been terrific. It was time to play for one run.

With Carlos Beltran and Alfonso Soriano coming up next, what would Joe Girardi do? Set up a hit and run, hoping to move Jeter from 1st to 3rd? Let Beltran take a few pitches and see if Jeter could get a good read off Heath Bell for a steal? Let the veterans make the decisions themselves?

None of the above. Instead Girardi removed Jeter from the game for Ichiro Suzuki. It seemed like a strange move. There’s no doubt Ichiro is a better base stealer than Jeter but it’s not as if Jeter is a stone block. Certainly he has to pick his spots, but Bell isn’t exactly speedy to the plate. Plus, Girardi wasn’t going to double-switch, so Ichiro was going to be a one and done. So why do it?

It was clear that Ichiro was put in there to steal second base. So, when Ichiro was still at first base through a six pitch Beltran AB, it was surprising. Then, when he finally ran and was thrown out at second base it was frustrating. What, exactly, was the point of all of that maneuvering? The Yankees were no better off and Jeter was out of the game.

Things seemed to get even worse when Dean Anna, a last minute addition to the team out of Spring Training, and Derek Jeter’s replacement at SS, made an error in the bottom of the 11th allowing the Rays leadoff batter to reach. The grumbles started. Where were Jeter’s sure hands when you needed them? Stuck in the pocket of his Yankees hoodie as the captain languished on the bench. Thankfully the Yankees survived that inning.

On to the top of the 12th. As so often happens in baseball, Anna came up in a huge, game-changing spot. The Rays opted to walk Jacoby Ellsbury to load the bases in front of him, issuing a challenge to the 27 year old rookie.

What resulted was a wonderful, edge of your seat, 8 pitch at bat. Anna fouled off tough pitches, working the count to 3-2. Rays pitcher C.J. Riefenhauser threw a 79 mph slider and Anna, in a great show of poise laid off. He took the pitch, threw his bat and started jogging to first base as Jose Molina and the Rays bench implored the third base umpire to ring him up.

Umpire Marty Foster shook his head, signaled no swing and the Yankees, players and fans alike, erupted with joy.

Suddenly Girardi was a genius. He’d gone with his instincts, trusted his bench, put his faith in a rookie and the Yankees had their lead back. The Yankees offense put up three more runs but that was just icing on the cake. Sunday’s game was won in that Anna at bat.

After the tough losses on Friday and Saturday plus the news that Ivan Nova’s season was likely over due to a partially torn UCL, it was a much needed win. The Yankees earned a series split against a division rival and went into today's off day feeling a little better.

They obviously still have questions to answer about their pitching, both bullpen and rotation, but for one day Dean Anna gave them a chance to just revel in a win. Good job by the rookie.

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