David Lennon is an award-winning columnist and author who has been a staff writer at Newsday since 1991.
Joe Girardi spoke in clipped sentences, his voice low. He was a manager who wanted to leave the stadium as fast as humanly possible Thursday night and get Friday started immediately afterward.
The Yankees have displayed uncommon resiliency during this trying season, and Girardi has been the mirror, reflecting the public face that needs to be shown when everyone else feels like smashing things.
But not after Thursday night, when the Yankees kicked away what would have been one of the best wins -- if not No. 1 -- of the year. They charged back from a 7-2 deficit against the AL East-leading Red Sox, went ahead 8-7 and then handed the baseball to Mariano Rivera.
Fresh off a four-out save the previous night, Rivera got two quick outs before coming within a strike of delivering an all-so-important victory. But Mike Napoli didn't let him finish the job, punching a 3-and-2 cutter into centerfield for a hit. That began a series of frustrating events that Girardi didn't much feel like discussing after the Yankees lost, 9-8, in 10 innings.
"It's a tough loss," Girardi said. "There's no doubt about it. But we've got to bounce back. You can't feel sorry for yourself. I like the way our guys fought back, and if we continue to play like that, we're going to win a lot of games."
That's not entirely true. The Yankees did a bunch of things right to be one strike away from humbling the Red Sox for a night, but it all just added up to another loss in the end.
Austin Romine's errant throw into centerfield, Joba Chamberlain getting burned by a questionable check-swing call, Alfonso Soriano's mind-numbing performance on the basepaths.
Of the handful of choices, Soriano was the top goat for spoiling a primo chance to clinch a walk-off win in the ninth.
After drawing a one-out walk, he fortunately wound up in scoring position because he survived a pickoff attempt at first. He was not so lucky in trying to clip third as well. This time Craig Breslow spun off the mound and caught Soriano in the middle of the basepath, and he was thrown out.
Girardi was so furious he hid his face, burying it on the padded railing for about five seconds as Soriano made sure to enter the stairway at other end of the dugout. "It was aggressive," Soriano said, "and they made a good play."
Girardi disagreed. His only reaction? "You can't get thrown out," the manager said.
Eleven days earlier, inside Tropicana Field, Soriano was the hero for the exact same decision -- because he made it to third safely and later scored the winning run to beat the Rays. On Thursday night just wasn't one of those nights.
With all the damage done by those blunders, the Yankees could barely remember their spirited six-run rally in the seventh inning. What was the point? There's no time for silver linings in September. You either win or lose. End of discussion. "We can do nothing about it," Rivera said. "Just come back for the game tomorrow and do it again."
The beauty of a 162-game season is that it allows for ups and downs, ebbs and flows, streaks and slumps. The mistakes can be corrected during the summer months, the glitches smoothed over in time for September. But those last 22 are a different story, and for everything the Yankees have done lately to climb back into the wild-card race, it takes surprisingly little to derail that effort in a shockingly brief span.
Girardi sent out what he believed to be the surest of sure things in Ivan Nova. But nothing turned out quite the way the Yankees expected it to. One loss is not going to decide anything at the moment, so we'll skip the hyperventilating. But with six more against Boston, another four with the Orioles and three against the Rays, most of this remaining schedule won't be getting any easier.
And as the season continues to shrink, the odds of making the playoffs grow longer in a hurry.