Roger Clemens threw 6 gritty innings, and Bobby Abreu hit a game winning 2-run home run as the Yankees out battled Detroit, 5-2. Clemens was pitching for the first time in 11 days, since his retaliatory strike against Toronto's Alex Rios. With a 5 game suspension, Joe Torre decided to completely skip Clemens' turn in the rotation to give the 45-yr old some extra rest.
A revitalized Rocket returned with a live fastball, and with the help of Mr. Splitee, struck out 8 Tigers. He also made a huge defensive play. With the Yankees leading 1-0 in the 3rd, on a Jorge Posada home run, the Tigers had runners on corners with just one out. With Marcus Thames at the plate, speedy rookie Cameron Maybin took for 2nd on a 2-2 pitch. Thames swung and missed for strike 3. Posada's hard throw was cut off by Clemens, who spun around to find Brandon Inge breaking from 3rd for home. Inge stopped dead in his tracks and was quickly run down and tagged out hard by Clemens. The play was reminiscent of little league 1st and 3rd plays and was the first "2-1" official scoring play on an attempted steal since 1986.
With the game tied 1-1 in the 5th, Clemens (5-5) gave up Maybin's 1st career home run. The 20-yr old rookie became the youngest home run hitter ever off of Clemens, eclipsing fellow 20-yr old Sammy Sosa, who performed the feat in 1987. Mayin's shot was no cheapie either, travelling well over 400-ft to straight away centerfield.
The Yankees couldn't mount much of anything against Tigers starter Chad Durbin. The 30-yr old has had a lengthly minor league career, but has had trouble sticking in the majors. Yesterday matched his career high of 29 games in a season and he took advantage of the Yankees lack of experience against him. That is until the 6th inning.
Derek Jeter lead off with a single and Abreu put together a great at-bat, fouling off pitch after another. Finally, the Yankees rightfielder hit a high drive into the left field corner that smacked off the foul pole for a go-ahead 2-run HR. It was Abreu's 14th home run of the season, and gave him 49 RBI in his last 43 games. When Alex Rodriguez followed Abreu's heroics with a single, Tigers manager Jim Leyland decided toreplace Durbin (7-6) with lefty Tim Byrdak.
Byrdak retired Hideki Matsui and Jason Giambi on pop-ups, but in between allowed a single to Posada. Robinson Cano singled threw the left side and an aggressive Larry Bowa waved home A-Rod, despite the fact that Maybin was reaching the ball the same time as A-Rod reached 3rd. Bowa's decision paid off though as Maybin got nothing on the throw and A-Rod scored easily for a 4-2 lead. Jason Grilli replaced Byrdak and gave up an RBI single to Andy Phillips before finally striking out Melky Cabrera to end the inning.
At that point the Yankees bullpen took over, and the trio of Kyle Farnsworth, Luis Vizcaino, and Mariano Rivera, dominated. Farnsworth shook off boos from the sell out crowd and retired the side in order, including hard strikeouts of Gary Sheffield, who outbooed Farnsworth, and Magglio Ordonez.
Rivera, pitching for the first time since his meltdown on Wednesday, retired the first 2 hitters, before issuing a walk to Sean Casey, but retired Sheffield on a game ending ground out for his 20th save.
Hideki Matsui's 12 game hitting streak came to an end.
Joe Torre indicated that Derek Jeter will get a game off soon. The Captain has played in 120 of 123 games and is currently played with a sore (jammed) shoulder and (rolled) ankle. He's also been in a mini-slump at the plate.
Roger Clemens became the 10th pitcher to record 1,000 strikeouts in a Yankees uniform. He also joined Mike Mussina and became the 9th pitcher with a 1,000 strikeouts with more than 1 team. The victory was career #353 and his 82nd as a Yankee.
Jorge Posada continued his fabulous season with 3 hits, including his 15th HR and 70th RBI, and raised his average to .336. Check out the Journal News today for a great piece by Peter Abraham on Posada's pending free agency.