Wednesday, April 24, 2013

The Price Was Right For Small Ball

The master of small ball
There are plenty of people out there, their own fans included, waiting for the Yankees to completely collapse. An 11-8 start and 10 wins in the past 14 games seems to be an aberration. How could a team with so many past their prime players being doing so well and how are they staying healthy?

Outside of Kevin Youkilis, who has had a bad back flare up, it's really too early in the season to be concerned with wear and tear. The Yankees are finding ways to win, and that's what good ball clubs do.  Tuesday night they went up against the reigning AL Cy Young Award winner in David Price.

First and foremost that meant the Yankees starter, Phil Hughes, had to pitch well enough to keep his team in the ball game. He did just that with two runs allowed in seven solid innings of work and as a bonus he did not allow a home run, which has been one of his biggest problems. Next, the Yankees needed to score some runs; that did not come so easily.

Though Price entered the game with a 6.26 ERA, he had thrown a pair of good games and was knocked around in another two, so his ERA was misleading. He also dominated the Yankees last year when they still had a lineup of big bangers.

Down 1-0 in the 4th inning, Eduardo Nunez reached when he struck out on a wild pitch and raced safely to first base. Robinson Cano and Vernon Wells followed with singles to tie the game. One of the most watched reclamation projects, Wells has posted a nifty .975 OPS against left-handers.

The Rays took the lead back on an RBI single by former Yankee Jose Molina, but right fielder Ichiro Suzuki stopped the inning from being bigger when he threw out James Loney trying to reach third base. The Yankees got the run right back on back to back one out singles by Ichiro and Jayson Nix and a ground out to the right side by Brett Gardner.

David Robertson kept the Rays in check to set up the heart of the Yankees order against Price to start the 9th. Cano entered the game just 11-47 (.234) against the 6'6" left-hander, but led off the final frame with his second base hit of the game.

Rays manager Joe Maddon brought in his closer Fernando Rodney to face Vernon Wells. Rodney dominated AL hitters last year en route to 48 saves and struck out Wells, but Cano swiped second base in the process.  Pinch-hitter Travis Hafner was intentionally walked and Lyle Overbay got an unintentional free pass when a 3-2 pitch just missed the strike zone. The Yankees then got extremely lucky.

Joe Girardi let Chris Stewart hit for himself with the bases loaded instead of going to a pinch-hitter such as Brennan Boesch. Stewart fouled out, with the ball only going what seemed like about 10 feet in the air and 10 feet from home plate. It was better than a double play though and gave Ichiro, the master of small ball, a chance to do some damage. With just two multi-hit games thus far, Ichiro added a third when he popped a 99-mph fastball in front of center fielder Desmond Jennings to plate a pair of runs.

Evan Longoria crushed his fifth home run of the season to start the bottom of the 9th inning against Mariano Rivera, but the Yankees' closer picked up his sixth save when he retired the next three hitters.


Remarkably, the Rays are 0-5 in Price's 5 starts.

The Yankees expect a visit from Derek Jeter tonight, with his left foot back in a boot.

Mark Teixeira has eliminated May 1 as a target date for his return after his wrist stiffened up from taking dry swings.

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