Monday, June 8, 2009

Mo Gets Back on the Horse

Rivera Redeems Himself in Baseball Cathedral

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 R H E
Tampa Bay
0 0 1 0 0 2 0 0 0
3 6 1
NY Yankees
0 0 1 0 0 0 0 3 X
4 6 1

WP - Aceves (4-1) SV - Rivera (13) LP - Balfour (2-1)

All the buzz before yesterday’s game between the Yankees and Tampa Bay Rays centered on Saturday’s controversial intentional walk to Rays’ slugger Evan Longoria. It was part of Mariano Rivera’s failure in a tie game that later had him angry, though he claimed otherwise, at his manager. So it wasn’t only fitting that with Rivera in to protect a one run lead in the 9th, the game came down to Longoria for the final out. Rivera retired him on a ground out to Robinson Cano to preserve the Yankees 4-3 victory and got Joe Girardi to admit, albeit jokingly, that “…maybe Mo was right”. YES sideline/clubhouse reporter Kim Jones also prodded Rivera with her first post-game question, asking if the Yankees closer felt some vindication for the Longoria situation. Rivera downplayed the situation and was much happier to redeem himself for losing Saturday’s game.

The Yankees pulled out another come from behind victory on Sunday, scoring three times in the 8th inning to overcome a 3-1 lead. They did it with some major help from the Rays themselves. Johnny Damon and Mark Teixeira reached on one out singles (Teixeira seems to be in the middle of every rally these days) and Grant Balfour walked Alex Rodriguez to load the bases. J.P. Howell walked Cano to force in a run and Willy Aybar butchered Jorge Posada’s potential double play grounder to tie the game.

The Yankees got another break when Hideki Matsui’s chopper up the middle was hit slowly enough to allow him to beat the relay throw to first as the Rays tried to turn two. Though Girardi praised Posada for breaking up the double play by running through second baseman Ben Zobrist, Posada actually would have been smarter to stop running and force Zobrist to either chase him or just throw to first to get Matsui.

Melky Cabrera had a chance to bust the game open after Nick Swisher walked to put two aboard, but struck out swinging. Soon, “Enter Sandman” blared over the PA system as Rivera jogged in from the bullpen. He made quick work of the Rays, getting Matt Joyce on a ground out to Teixeira and then struck out Gabe Gross with a nasty cutter before setting up the final showdown with Longoria.

Joba Chamberlain threw a fairly effective six innings before turning things over to Al Aceves, who improved to 4-1 with the win. He gave up an RBI double in the 3rd inning to Joyce, but took a 1-1 game into the 6th, where he ran into trouble. Though his fastball increased in MPH, Chamberlain lost his command of it. He struck out Carl Crawford to start the inning, but then gave up singles to Aybar and Carlos Pena and issued a 2-out walk to Joyce. With the bases loaded, Chamberlain hung one to Gross, who ripped it to center for a 2-run single and a 3-1 Rays lead.

The Yankees only managed one run, a solo home run by Swisher, against Rays’ starter Matt Garza despite having at least one man on base in every inning but the first. Aceves continued his excellent relief work. He tossed two scoreless innings and struck out the last four men he faced, including the side in the 8th.

Game Notes

The rubber game of the match is this evening at 7:05 p.m. ET. Andy Pettitte faces Andy Sonnanstine. One would think Phil Hughes would be at the ready in case Pettitte’s back acts up. If not, why is Hughes still up with the ball club?

How about this obscure stat from the Elias Sports Bureau - Mariano Rivera induced a ground out from pinch-hitter Evan Longoria to cap a one-two-three ninth inning and notch his 13th save of the season. It was only the second save of Rivera’s career in which he recorded the final out by retiring the major-leagues’ outright RBI leader. He did it previously on July 16, 2005 at Fenway Park when David Ortiz popped out to end the game.”

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