It's fitting that the Yankees' Achilles heel has turned out to be something as odd as their inability to hit mediocre pitchers that they have never seen before. The term is named for a man who was a strong, capable warrior with one bizarre weakness that was totally out of line with the man in full.
So it goes for the Yankees. A patient offense with great power and a knack for getting on base turns into something out of the dead ball era whenever it comes up against a pitcher they aren't familiar with. Bryan Bullington was the man on Sunday, throwing eight shutout innings and baffling the Yankees at every turn. It was a surprise to everyone, presumably including Bullington who last dominated hitters like this as a collegian.
That made him the first pick in the 2002 draft and the fact that he's been such a bust is the only thing keeping him from total obscurity. But, thanks to the Yankees aversion to hitting his offerings, he'll always have a memorable first win in the big leagues to recount for his grandkids.
The most shocking thing about Bullington's performance is that the Yankees seemed to not even understand what he was doing on the mound. After the game, players complimented his ability to get ahead in the count. That's odd because Bullington actually only got ahead of five of the 20 hitters who didn't swing at his first offering on Sunday. Alex Rodriguez also said he threw fastballs 80 to 90 percent of the time, which was way off from the actual total of heaters he delivered.
It's enough to make a manager blow his top, especially when the Good A.J. Burnett shows up and throws eight splendid innings. That's not really Joe Girardi's style although he came about as close to a rip job as he'll ever get after the 1-0 loss.
"I get tired of talking about it, I know that," Girardi said. "You look for the ball, and you hit it. That’s the bottom line. I know when you haven’t seen a guy you aren’t exactly sure what he’s going to do to you, but we have a lot of good hitters in the lineup."
Frankly, it's about time Girardi expressed a little dismay about his team. The loss knocked the Yankees lead over the Rays down to one game, something that's a bit of a gift given the fact that the Yankees haven't won a series since late July. They've lost two and split three, a midsummer malaise that makes you wonder if the team hasn't put things in cruise control at a less than opportune time.
The good news is that they haven't done themselves too much damage. The bad news is that they face Max Scherzer of the Tigers on Monday. They haven't seen him before which doesn't bode well for the Bombers.