They provide a modicum of offense and, if completed in the traditional nine innings, 27 outs and little more. They give you 16 or 17 circles, one vertical integer and nary one crooked number. They are spellbinding and are not recommended for folks with blood-pressure issues. If the home team knew one was pending, it would sell only the edges of seats.
They are 1-0 baseball games. Delicious. One-run baseball is terrific baseball. The least is the most -- almost. I prefer 3-2 to any other score. But 1-0 does have its moments, many of them.
Not enough of them for the Yankees on Wednesday night, however. They played 1-0 baseball for most of eight innings against the Rays; and it was exquisite. But after nine innings, the circumstances only sounded the same, the Yankees had won nothing. The homonym wasn't the least bit rewarding in the bottom-line world in which the team operates. The Yankees had lost the ninth inning, 4-0, and the second game of the series, 4-1. And David Robertson, the heir, had lost the air of invincibility that had developed around him for about 2 1/2 baseball months.
It happens, so the bumper stickers tell us. From Koufax to Koosman, even to the fabulous Mr. Koo (2005 Mets), sooner than later, runs happen. Pitchers ought to wear the words on their T-shirts as a reminder of reality.
Well, Robertson had announced he wasn't Mariano Rivera, and now the cynics can say in unison, "He's proved it." The last time he surrendered a run, Mo was walking without a limp, Posada was wearing a mask and Pujols wore a Cardinals' uni. That he was clobbered early in his tenure as Mo's understudy looked bad, worse than it actually was.
But at least it happened quickly. "If you're gonna stink," Johnny Carson said, "at least make it quick."
One night after he saved a game in Mo's stead, Robertson needed a mere six pitches to load the bases. As Yankee Stadium gulped, he struck out Carlos Pena and surrendered a sacrifice fly to B.J. Upton. The fourth-pitch fastball he offered Matt Joyce eliminated the joyous tension that had lasted even through Upton's swing. A game that had been as tight as Lee Mazzilli's pants became looser than Derek Bell's.
In the one-word-headline world of tabloids favored these days, "Dis-closed" would have worked.
Robertson had thrown three straight curves to Joyce -- is there such a thing as a straight curve? -- before the fastball. "I thought I could get away with it," Robertson said. Then he was acknowledging the "worst feeling in the world" that the last of his 19 pitches had begotten. "I'll probably think about it tonight," Robertson said, planning on insomnia.
Home runs cause such havoc, don't they?
"One-nothing games are tighter than other one-run games," Bobby Cox once said. "You know because you're more worn out after them. They just feel tighter."
This is one that was 1-0 long enough -- the Yankees had scored in the first -- that the score had squatters' rights. It should have been permanent.
The Yankees appeared to tolerate the blow. Joe Girardi cautioned against "over-evaluating," which was to say not to put too much weight on one six-batter sequence. That moderate posture is what a manager should assume. Girardi favored a quick turn of the page by all involved.
But he did concede that opponents, more than his players, may have an altered view of the Yankees' remodeled -- and reduced -- bullpen. They may see the rally as an indication of weakness that hasn't existed since Mo broke a bat for the first time. Intriguing thought.
And one more thought, this one from outside the box. Imagine if a similar row of dominoes had fallen in the days when Mt. Steinbrenner existed. Closer injured, his replacement gives it up. Boom. See the lava flow. See Robertson on the Columbus shuttle. See the Yankees' personnel people scurrying to find a trading partner.
That's not happening now. Things aren't so tight these days.
Marty Noble is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.Less