The Kansas City Royals are no one’s definition of a good baseball team. They’re 55-68 and in last place, 14.5 games behind the AL Central-leading duo of Minnesota and Chicago. When the Royals come to the Bronx, then, the Yanks should be able to put them away.
On Saturday, the Yanks put them away, but they do so excruciatingly. It took 13 innings and a whole lotta futility before the Yanks won a game they needed to win to keep their slim October hopes alive. With Roy Halladay spoiling Paul Byrd’s Boston debut, the Yanks creeped to within six of the Wild Card-leading Red Sox.
For the Yanks, this had all the trappings of One of Those Days. Sidney Ponson gutted it out, again, through 6.1 innings. He held the Royals to two runs and allowed a respectable nine baserunners. But when he left, the Yanks were facing a seemingly insurmountable 2-0 deficit.
In the bottom of the seventh, things started going their way. A-Rod, much maligned recently for his struggles with runners on base, reached on an error. While Jason Giambi walked, Xavier Nady hit into a double play. Cano then blasted an RBI triple and scored on a wild pitch. One hit, two runs, none of them earned. At this point in the season, I’ll take anything.
As the game dragged on past the eighth, ninth, tenth, the Yanks’ offensive woes mounted, but the pitching held up. In relief of Ponson, the Yanks’ bullpen threw 6.2 innings, allowing just one hit and three walks. Meanwhile, the Yanks hit into four double plays and left 13 runners on base against a last place team.
Finally, in the bottom of the 13th, Robinson Cano, a hero six innings earlier, started off the game-ending rally. With one out, Cano singled and advanced to second on an Ivan Rodriguez out. Brett Gardner, in for an exiled Melky Cabrera, singled to left — his third hit of the day and second walk-off of the season — and Cano scored.
It wasn’t pretty; it took too long; but it got the job done. With help on the way — Joba says he’s feeling good, Hideki’s rehabbing, Phil Hughes tosses for AAA and a potential MLB start later today — the Yanks may just have enough in them yet. That is, after all, why they play the games.