For a night, at least, the Yankees will be in third place in the AL East. After their 6-3 victory over the Royals on a stifling hot Sunday afternoon in the Bronx, the Bombers are 32-31, tied with the Blue Jays for the third slot in their division.
The story of the day — outside of Joey Gathright’s single-handedly keeping this game closer than it should have been — once again belonged to the starter, Joba Chamberlain. No one else gets a standing ovation in the Bronx before delivering the first pitch. It truly is a sight to see.
After a shaky first inning last time out, Joba came out strong and finished strong. In between, he ran into some trouble. In 78 pitches spanning 4.1 innings, Joba gave up five hits and three runs — two earned — on five strike outs and one walk. He had baserunners in every inning but the fourth.
As progress goes, today’s outing was definitely a step forward. Joba is maintaining a strike out rate of better than one per inning, and he should reach the 90-100 pitch mark later this week. From a pitch-by-pitch perspective, he seems to be having problems burying the curveball. His one mistake of the afternoon was on a 3-2 hanging
curveball slider to Jose Guillen. The walk to DeJesus in the fifth that chased Joba from the game also came on a 3-2 breaking ball that Joba couldn’t spot. As he throws more, I expect these pitches to improve, and overall, this outing was a good second start from Joba as the Yanks stretch him out.
Meanwhile, the Yankee offense did its thing. They scored six runs on two home runs and a booming double by A-Rod. Johnny Damon continued his hot hitting; Jason Giambi, now batting .317 with 12 home runs and 19 walks over his last 148 plate appearances since April 22, crushed another home run; Bobby Abreu belted an upper deck shot in the first.
On the mound, Dan Giese continued to throw strikes, and Jose Veras worked a solid eighth, allowing a hit but striking out two. It was rather notable that Veras pitched instead of Farnsworth late in a three-run game, and I have to believe that Veras is slowly inching ahead of Kyle.
Personally, today was one of those days where I was glad to be sitting along the first base line in the upper deck. The Yanks were giving out water for free, and everyone in the stadium was doused in sweat. It was hot; it was humid; but when Rivera threw his seventh pitched and retired Mike Aviles to end the game, it was well worth it.
We’ll do it again tomorrow at 1:05 p.m. when Mike Mussina goes for win number 10. The Yanks will look to stay in third place and above .500 for longer than 21 hours.