Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Yankees Walk Tightrope To Win

Whether you are a fan of the Yankees or Red Sox, last night’s game between the two was not an easy one to watch. The teams played their usual three-and-a-half hour plus game, home plate Ed Rapuano squeezed the strike zone tighter than the Boston Strangler, the benches emptied, batters were hit and not hit, and the two team’s pitching staffs escaped jam after jam. In the end though it was the Yankees doing the celebrating in a 5-2 win.

Managers Joe Girardi and Terry Francona try to publicly downplay the games between the two, but make no mistake this was an important win for the Bronx Bombers. For one thing CC Sabathia finally beat the Red Sox after losing his first four starts against them this season. The 18 game winner was far from perfect and threw a whopping 128 pitches in six innings, but left the game with a 4-2 lead.

The Yankees offense had several chances to bust the game open against Red Sox starter John Lackey, but couldn’t deliver the knockout punch. They did manage to put five runs across home plate, four of them earned, in Lackey’s seven innings of work.

Eric Chavez gave the Yankees a 1-0 lead in the 2nd inning, but Jorge Posada bounced into an inning ending double play with two aboard. The 3rd inning had similar results when Robinson Cano and Chavez delivered RBI hits for a 3-0 lead, but Posada once again bounced into an inning ending twin killing.

Sabathia worked his way out of early trouble, he got Jacoby Ellsbury to ground out with the bases loaded and two down in the 2nd, but couldn’t escape the 4th inning unscathed. Carl Crawford got Boston on the board with a solo home run and Jarrod Saltalamacchia and Darnell McDonald followed with singles. Sabathia struck out Ellsbury, but Marco Scutaro doubled in a run to cut the Yankees lead to 3-2. Sabathia had first baseman Adrian Gonzalez's number all night and struck him out to preserve the lead. (Sabathia would strike Gonzalez out three times.)

Francisco Cervelli led off the 5th with a solo home run and ignited some fire in Lackey and the Red Sox. As Cervelli stepped on home plate he clapped his hands together hard right in front of Saltalamacchia. Cameras caught Lackey glaring at Cervelli as he walked back to the visitor’s dugout. The next time Cervelli stepped into the box, Lackey drilled him up high and the benches empty. Cervelli had choice words for both Lackey and Saltalamacchia and Sabathia also yelled at his counterpart. (When asked after the game what he said, Cervelli said I don’t remember; I forgot English at that point and a lot of Spanish came out.)

Things settled down on the field, but Sabathia continued to walk the fine line between holding the lead and getting knocked out of the box. David Ortiz reached on a one out single in the bottom of the 5th and Jed Lowrie followed with a double to put the tying runs in scoring position. Crawford hit a bullet, but right at Cano for the second out and Sabathia struck out Saltalamacchia to end another threat.

Sabathia’s pitch count was already up to 100, but with a shortened bullpen (David Robertson was unavailable), Girardi and pitching coach Larry Rothschild needed Sabathia to work another inning and the big lefty put up another goose egg on the scoreboard.

The bullpen had no easy time of either though. With Robertson out and Rafael Soriano pushed back to the 8th inning role, the Yankees relied on Corey Wade and Boone Logan to get them through the 7th inning. Wade retired Dustin Pedroia, but walked Ortiz and gave up a single to Lowrie. Logan came on to face Crawford, whose hot hitting continued with a lined single to left-center. The Yankees caught a break when Ortiz couldn’t get a good read on the ball and had to hold up at third base. Logan bounced back and K’ed Saltalamacchia and McDonald to get out of the jam.

Soriano was hit hard in the 8th, but turned the 5-2 lead over to Mariano Rivera in the 9th. Just like the rest of the game, the final inning wasn’t smooth sailing. Ortiz led off with a single to right that Nick Swisher played into a double. Rivera retired the next two hitters before hitting Saltalamacchia to bring the tying run to the plate. Earlier in the game Curtis Granderson appeared to be hit on the hand, but Rapuano ruled the ball hit the handle of the bat. Replays showed that it may very well have done both, but after inspecting Granderson’s hand, Rapuano stood by his call. When Saltalamacchia got hit he appeared to not be able to check his swing, which would result in a strike and negate the hit by pitch. But third base umpire Mark Wegner ruled that Saltalamacchia held up. It didn’t take a rocket scientist to know Girardi was about to get tossed. He was before he even reached Wegner and unloaded the night’s frustrations on the ump.

Play resumed and Rivera retired pinch-hitter Josh Reddick on a line drive to left to earn his 35th save of the season. The Yankees cutter-man is now six saves away from 600 total and seven away from tying Trevor Hoffman for the all-time record.


Nick Swisher had a perfect night at the plate with three hits and a walk. The right fielder has a .978 OPS since the All-Star break compared to .783 beforehand.

Alex Rodriguez received a cortisone shot in his left thumb and was hopeful he could return for Thursday’s finale in Boston, though the opener of the Toronto series at home on Friday is a more likely scenario.

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