Monday, October 8, 2012

1 Inning Martin-izing Lifts Yankees

Photo courtesy of USA Today
There was the usual moaning, groaning, and grousing last night by Yankees' fans on Facebook, Twitter, and the more traditional bars and living rooms.

Why can't the Yankees get a hit with men on? Why are they bunting? Why are they..whatever?

When it came right down to it, the difference in the Yankees 7-2 ALDS Game 1 win over the Baltimore Orioles was the 2012 standby, the home run. It came off the bat of catcher Russell Martin, who hit a career high 21 home runs in the regular season, and ignited a five-run 9th inning that game the Yankees a 1-0 advantage in the best of five series.

It also made a winner of CC Sabathia, who pitched a stellar 8.2 innings to pick up his first post-season victory since Game 5 of the 2010 ALCS against Texas. Ironically, that game finished with a 7-2 score as well.

Sabathia had given up a pair of runs in the 3rd inning, but scattered eight hits and pitched out of any additional trouble he had on the night. He came within one out of a complete game, but his 120th pitch was a two-out double by Lew Ford in the 9th. That prompted Joe Girardi to call on David Robertson to close things out and the right-hander did just that when he blew a fastball past Ryan Flaherty for a third strike.

Both teams had shots to take the lead throughout the game, but the Yankees added to their woes with a couple of base running gaffes. Ichiro Suzuki followed Derek Jeter's game starting single with a gapper to left-center that scoring the Yankees captain for a quick 1-0 lead. With Alex Rodriguez at the plate, Ichiro felt he could steal off O's starter Jason Hammel, but didn't get a good jump and was easily gunned out by catcher Matt Wieters.

With two aboard in the 4th, Mark Teixeira ripped a line drive off the scoreboard in right to tie the game (2-2), but he then tried to stretch a single into a double. Presumably said attempt took place because Chris Davis, normally a corner infielder, was playing right field for the injured Nick Markakis. Teixeira would likely not have run on Markakis' arm, but was still easily thrown out at second base by Davis.

Buck Showalter elected to intentionally walk Curtis Granderson and it paid off when Hammel got Martin to fly out to end the inning.  The Orioles had a great chance to take the lead when they put runners on the corners against Sabathia in the 5th, but the lefty struck out Nate McLouth and got J.J. Hardy to bounce out. Sabathia also picked up his shortstop an inning later, after Jeter's error put two on with two outs, when he got Davis to fly out to center for the third out.

The Yankees finally took control in the 9th against Orioles closer Jim Johnson. After Martin's home run, Raul Ibanez singled through the right side and went to third on Jeter's hit-and-run single. Ichiro Suzuki then cued a ball that died in the grass near the first base line to score pinch-runner Eduardo Nunez for 4-2 advantage.

Alex Rodriguez continued to struggle and struck out for the third time on the night, but red-hot Robinson Cano delivered both base runners with a double to left. The Yankees added one more run on a Nick Swisher sacrifice fly against Tommy Hunter.


Game 2 will see Andy Pettitte on the mound in October for the first time since he allowed two runs over seven innings in a Game 3 loss to Texas in the ALCS two years ago. Cliff Lee and Neftali Feliz combined on  a shutout and the Yankees pen put the game out of reach when they allowed six  runs in the top of the 9th for an 8-0 final.  Overall, Pettitte is 19-10, 3.83 in 42 career post-season appearances, all starts. He'll be opposed by Wei-Yin Chen this evening.

Nick Swisher and Mark Teixeira both know that for the Yankees to succeed they need to break out of the dual slump that has plagued them in post-season baseball in Pinstripes. Last night was a good start as both reached base three times (Swisher, 2 walks, 1 hit, Teixeira, 2 hits, 1 walk) and drove in a run each.

Many Yankees fans were not pleased that Orioles legend Cal Ripken Jr. was part of the TBS broadcast booth (along with Ernie Johnson and John Smoltz) last night and for the series. But the man who broke Lou Gehrig's iron man streak showed no bias, and it's absolutely ridiculous if anyone thinks his being part of the broadcast has an affect on the game.

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