Evading Teixeira K-Rod's decision
Despite inducing popup, Mets' closer regrets not sealing win
NEW YORK -- The frustrating part, for the Mets, is that Francisco Rodriguez's decision in the ninth inning worked. Before Alex Rodriguez hit the popup that doomed the Mets, and before the Yankees leaped out of the dugout to grab their 9-8 win, K-Rod decided that he'd rather pitch to A-Rod than to Mark Teixeira -- his former teammate and one of the hottest hitters in the league.
Entering Friday's ninth inning, Teixeira was 2-for-19 with eight strikeouts in his career against Rodriguez; A-Rod was 1-for-14 with nine strikeouts. K-Rod called it a decision to "pick your poison," but in reality, all that poison seemed to belong to him.
Regardless, K-Rod chose to pitch around Teixeira as best he could, in an attempt to make him chase a ball out of the strike zone. He did not. And so with a 3-0 count, K-Rod threw an intentional ball four, bringing up the other Rodriguez.
"I just feel like I have better numbers against A-Rod than I do against Tex, so I was trying to see if I could get him to swing at the pitches I wanted out of the zone," Rodriguez said. "He's a really patient hitter. And after that, I just fell behind A-Rod and I felt like I made a pretty good pitch 3-1 -- but unfortunately it wasn't."
But it was. K-Rod induced the popup that could have, would have and should have won the game, had Luis Castillo simply caught the thing. Instead, Rodriguez blew his first save in 17 chances since joining the Mets.
"Definitely, that game hurts," Rodriguez said.
The decision to pitch around Teixeira was entirely of K-Rod's design -- Mets manager Jerry Manuel had nothing to do with it. And the decision can hardly be condemned. One Rodriguez caused the other to do exactly what he wanted. The execution was perfect. The result was, too. But the conclusion was not what either Rod envisioned.
The Mets' Rodriguez had been 16-for-16 in save opportunities with his new team, converting 20 straight dating back to last year. He had produced a 0.61 ERA -- a number that shrank, rather than grew, after he allowed two unearned runs.
Had the Mets and Yankees played this game at Citi Field, where the dimensions are forgiving, K-Rod might have even pitched to Teixeira. Danger is not as apparent there as it is at the new Yankee Stadium, where the right-field wall stands 314 feet away and a jet stream carries seemingly harmless fly balls right over it.
Teixeira, a switch-hitter and a fearsome slugger from the left side of the plate, can use that wall to his advantage in ways that the right-handed-hitting A-Rod cannot. And so the closer made his choice.
"With that right-field porch right there, I don't want to lose a game like that," K-Rod said.
It's a decision K-Rod has come to regret, though one that can hardly absorb any criticism. K-Rod made his choice, made his pitch and recorded the out that would have, could have, should have been.
Anthony DiComo is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.