Saturday, June 18, 2011

Yankees Top Cubs In Spite Of Themselves

Ray Liotta, er, Russell Martin takes Carlos Pena's best shot

The Yankees did everything they could today to give the ball game away, but held on a 4-3 win over the Chicago Cubs. It evened the series at a game apiece, with the rubber game another nationally televised affair on ESPN Sunday night.

The Yankees squandered offensive opportunities, ran the bases poorly, committed errors, threw wild pitches, hit batters, and still came out on top even after Mariano Rivera surrendered a solo home run to Reed Johnson in the 9th and a follow up single to Alfonso Soriano.

The Yankees had Ryan Dempster on the ropes all day, but it took until the 6th inning and the game tied 2-2 to finally take the lead for good. Eduardo Nunez reached on a lead off single and moved to second base on an odd bunt from A.J. Burnett. The ball rolled foul, but first baseman Carlos Pena didn't pick the ball up and it rolled back into fair territory for a successful sacrifice. Brett Gardner's single put runners on the corners and drove Dempster from the game. Reliever James Russell got away with a pitch to Curtis Granderson, who narrowly missed his 22nd home run, but delivered a sac fly and a 3-2 Yankees lead. With a chance to possibly score more and Mark Teixeira at the plate, Gardner was picked off first base to end the inning. But Gardner would more than make up for his gaffe a short time later.

Yankees starter A.J. Burnett was effective for the most part, his one mistake a flat fastball that Pena turned in a game tying (2-2) home run. Burnett almost became a victim of bad luck in the bottom half of the 6th when the wheels came off the Yankees defense. Burnett's breaking ball broke into Pena for a hit batter with one out and Nunez booted Reed Johnson's ground ball to put the tying and go ahead runs on base. Joe Girardi went to Cory Wade to face Alfonso Soriano, who hit a sharp grounder to third. Alex Rodriguez made a nice play to snare the ball, but Robinson Cano dropped the throw to second for the second Yankees error of the inning.

The dangerous Geovany Soto stepped in and hit a bullet to left that Gardner caught on the run and then fired a perfect one hopper to Russell Martin at home plate. Pena came barrelling in high and slammed into the Yankees catcher, who had a firm grip on the baseball for an inning ending double play. Martin was sure not only to show the ball to the umpire, but Pena as well in a "I took your best shot" moment.

The Yankees got a much needed insurance run in the 9th when Nunez doubled home Cano, but Nick Swisher continued the Yankees tough day on the bases by getting throw out at home plate to end the inning. The run proved to be huge when Reed Johnson hit a hanging cutter from Rivera into the left field seats to make it a one run game. (FOX's anti-Yankee Joe Buck announced the game was tied with much glee, but then had to sadly retract his statement) But after Soriano followed with a single, Rivera got Soto to bounce into a double play and struck out Jeff Baker to nail down the win.


In addition to Gardner and Swisher, Granderson was thrown out attempting to steal and Rodriguez was nailed trying to stretch a single into a double.

The Yankees were 3-12 with runners in scoring position, plus two sacrifice flies.

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