Four hours after the first pitch, and instantly following Eduardo Nunez’s second error, a small contingent of the crowd began chanting “We Want Derek Jeter.”
There was little chance Jeter was coming in due to his predetermined day off after Tuesday’s game ended at 2 a.m. The chants were an exercise of First Amendment rights to display their displeasure with a sloppy 5-4 loss to the Orioles.
Nunez committed his 17th and 18th errors of the season, which accounted for half of the four Yankee errors. His costliest play was a flubbed Matt Angle’s grounder. That mistake turned into the end of a six-game winning streak when Mark Reynolds singled to left on a high slider from Hector Noesi (2-1).
“It’s very tough when you play in weather like that, but I don’t want to make excuses,” Nunez said. “It was a bad game for my defense and I just have to keep working hard.”
“He just didn’t make the play,” manager Joe Girardi said. “We gave them a lot of their runs today, that’s why we lost the game.”
While Nunez was not in the excuse-making business, Alex Rodriguez was more willing to absolve his young teammate, who had just two errors in his previous 30 games.
“Literally you take today and put an X and throw it out,” Rodriguez said. “I don’t care if it’s Ozzie Smith in his prime. If I was Nuney, I wouldn’t worry about it too much.”
There wasn’t much worrying over giving away a game with sloppy play. Rather there was just a sense of relief about being able to get the last two games in even if one took a four-hour rain delay and another was played through periods of heavy rain.
Long before Nunez’s costly misplay, the Yankees had three other plays that did not go down as errors. The first two occurred in the third inning of a 2-2 game.
Nunez and Rodriguez, who struggled battling the wind, let a Robert Andino pop fly fall in between them for an infield hit.
“It’s definitely a play that I needed to make,” Rodriguez said. “It was disgusting. It was as sloppy as it gets.”
The second occurred when Burnett missed stepping on first base while trying to finish a double play. Two batters later, Nolan Reimold slugged a 3-1 pitch into the right field seats. Those two runs loomed even larger after Jesus Montero roped a two-run double in the fourth.
“A.J. just ran by the bag,” Girardi said. “That’s the difference in the game.”
The mental mistake by Burnett was part of an average afternoon that was leaps and bounds better than Aug. 26 in Baltimore. Burnett allowed seven hits and four runs in six-plus innings.
He also threw three more wild pitches, putting him at 23 — three shy of Juan Guzman’s 1993 single-season AL record. Burnett also matched Tim Leary’s 1990 team record and has one win in 12 starts since July 4.
Even with a triple-A starting lineup that saw the Yankees tie a season high for errors, allow five stolen bases and throw four wild pitches, the Bombers were more than ready to escape soggy New York for a four-city road trip that should feature better weather.
“It’s frustrating that we lost today, but we’re still in control of our destiny and that’s a good thing,” Girardi said. “We don’t have to worry about making up these games and that’s a good thing.”