WP - Chamberlain (1-0) LP - Porcella (1-3)
It should have been a laugher. On the heels of Tuesday night’s 11-0 win, this should have been an even easier game to win. But the Yankees had to hold on tight Wednesday night in Detroit to beat the Tigers 8-6. The victory gave the Yankees a series win as they took two of three.
The Yankees built an 8-1 lead behind timely hitting and stellar pitching from starter Joba Chamberlain. But Jonathan Albaladejo and Mariano Rivera made things exciting in the ninth as the Tigers scored five times before Rivera retired Placido Polanco for the game’s final out in a non-save situation.
Just like his “brother in arms” Phil Hughes had done on Tuesday night, Chamberlain gave the Yankees a much needed boost with his performance. He threw just 88 pitches as he limited the Tigers to three hits over seven innings. The only trouble he got into was when the Tigers scored their lone run in the third.
Brandon Inge led off the inning with a walk and Josh Anderson followed with a single to center field. After a Ramon Santiago sacrifice bunt, Chamberlain issued his second walk of the inning to Curtis Granderson to load the bases. Polanco’s sacrifice fly brought in the game’s first run and Chamberlain got himself into more trouble when he walked Magglio Ordonez to reload the bases. That set up a matchup with Detroit’s best hitter, Miguel Cabrera. The Tigers’ first baseman entered the game with the best average in baseball (.444), with the bases loaded. He worked the count to 3-2 and looked for a fastball, but Chamberlain snapped off a nasty curve ball to strike out Cabrera swinging to end the threat.
Buoyed by Chamberlain’s effort, the Yankees exploded for seven runs in the top of the fourth inning. Hideki Matsui drew a lead off walk from New Jersey native Rick Porcello and advanced to third on a one-out hit and run single by Jorge Posada. The Yankees’ slow footed catcher has been running even slower due to a bad hamstring, but took advantage of not being held on first base and stole second base uncontested. Hitting from the left side of the plate, Nick Swisher crushed a Porcello fastball over the fence in left field for a 3-run home run to put the Yankees ahead for good.
Singles by Melky Cabrera and Ramiro Pena set the table once again. Derek Jeter bounced into a force play, but Johnny Damon delivered an RBI double that ended Porcello’s night. Left-hander Clay Rapada intentionally walked switch-hitter Mark Teixeira, but the move blew up in manager Jim Leyland’s face when the hot-hitting Hideki Matsui doubled over Anderson’s head in left to clear the bases for a 7-1 Yankees lead. One inning later, Swisher hit his second home run of the game, this time from the right side, and the Yankees seemed to be all set with an 8-1 advantage.
Chamberlain retired the side in order in the fifth and sixth innings, and escaped a two on, no out jam in the seventh before he turned things over to the bullpen. Phil Coke tossed a scoreless eighth inning, but Albaladejo gave some hope to those Tigers fans who remained in their seats. He committed a cardinal sin right off the bat by walking Cabrera on four pitches to start the inning. A double by Carlos Guillen, a sac fly by Gerald Laird, and an RBI double by Brandon Inge suddenly cut the Yankees’ lead to 8-3. Albaladejo struck out Anderson, but when he allowed a single to Santiago, Joe Girardi quickly went to Mariano Rivera. Maybe too quickly- as it appeared that the Yankees’ closer hadn’t had sufficient time to warm up.
That theory gained more credence when Curtis Granderson turned on a Rivera pitch and belted a 3-run home run to right field, to slice the Yankees lead to 8-6. The Yankees held their collective breath until Robinson Cano put away Polanco’s pop up for the game’s final out.
It was the eighth time in Nick Swisher’s career that he had homered from both sides of the plate. Among active MLB players, only Tony Clark (10) and Jorge Posada (8) have done it at least that many times.
Melky Cabrera appears to have taken over the center field job for now… although Joe Girardi will not commit to either Brett Gardner or Cabrera full time. But Melky is 10-31 (.323) in his last 10 games, with 3 home runs and 6 RBI. Meanwhile, Gardner is in a 4-25 (.160) slide.
According to the Elias Sports Bureau, the Yankees have now scored at least seven runs in an inning in back to back road games for the first time in 80 years.