On Friday, July 7, 2006, the Yankees were in Tampa Bay facing the Devil Rays for a weekend series. Jaret Wright, then 4-5, was on the hill against Jae Seo. It was hardly a match-up for the ages.
That evening, Wright had his best performance as a Yankee. He threw six four-hit innings while striking out ten before giving way to Scott Proctor (two K’s) and Mariano Rivera (two K’s). A fourth-inning RBI single off the bat of Bernie Williams would account for the only run of the game, and the Yanks would improve to 49-35 on the year.
That date matters to us tonight because of the strike outs. That night, Yankee pitchers struck out 14 Rays, and it wouldn’t be for another one year, 11 months and 10 days, that the Bombers’ staff would reach such gaudy strike out numbers again.
Last night, facing the weakest offense in the Majors, the Yankees’ pitchers went to work. Andy Pettitte threw seven strong, striking out nine, before giving way to Jose Veras and his two strike outs. Mariano Rivera came in for the 9th and dispatched the Padres, nailing down three K’s on 15 pitches. And that, folks, is the Yanks’ first 14-strike out game since 2006.
For Pettitte and the Yankees still reeling from the Chien-Ming Wang injury, this game was huge. Andy Pettitte has now thrown 15 innings over his last two starts. After giving up 10 runs to the Royals a few weeks ago, Pettitte has allowed 10 hits in 15 innings while giving up one run on two walks and 15 strike outs. Pettitte passed Ron Guidry on the Yanks’ all-time win list last night, and at a time when the Yanks need Pettitte the most, he seems to be rounding into shape.
Meanwhile, on the other side of the ball, we have Jason Giambi, who is hitting everything with authority. Tonight, Giambi blasted two home runs. One sneaked over the short porch in right field, and the other was an opposite-field shot a hair to the left-field side of center. I was at the game tonight, and that second dinger was gone off the bat. All 52,000 fans in the stadium knew it.
In his own way, Jason Giambi is having something of an MVP caliber season. Through April 20, he had been hitting .109/.288/.283 and nearly every Yankee fan outside of our own Jamal G. thought he was through. But since then, he’s had a monster season. Following tonight’s 2-for-3 performance, Giambi is now hitting .319 over his last 45 games. His OBP during that span is .441, and he’s slugging .694. He’s homered 15 and has 34 RBI. That’s simply sick.
The Yanks are riding high on a five-game winning streak, and it’s hard to argue with that. They face Jake Peavy tonight, never an easy feat, but with the way this team is hitting, look out.