It’s amazing what 502 days of rest will do for a pitcher, eh?
A whopping 502 days after his last start, Carl Pavano made his 20th appearance as a member of the New York Yankees. It wasn’t pretty, and Pavano wasn’t particularly adept at keeping the Orioles off the base paths. But the oft-injured right-hander made the pitched he needed to make when it counted, and the Yanks emerged as 5-3 winners over Baltimore.
For the surging Yankees, last night’s win was their fifth in their last seven. With Boston’s losing 11-0 in Toronto, the Yanks moved to within five of the Wild Card lead, and it looks like this week’s series in New York with the Red Sox will be a key turning point in the race for a playoff spot.
In Baltimore, the Yanks spotted Carl Pavano to an early lead. Johnny Damon singled to lead off the game, and while Derek Jeter and Bobby Abreu both lined out, A-Rod hit a booming double to center field that plated Damon. Jason Giambi drove in his first of three runs with a single, and before Pavano had a chance to step to the mound for the first time since April 9, 2007, he had a 2-0 lead.
He needed every run of that lead and then some. Pavano allowed three hits in the first, and only a lucky double play prevented the Orioles from scoring any runs. An inning later, another three hits and a walk would lead to three Oriole runs, and after two innings, Baltimore had a 3-2 lead. Pavano, meanwhile, had thrown way too many pitches and wasn’t looking sharp. Everything turned after that.
Pavano retired the Orioles in order in the third but got into trouble in the fourth. In an effort to curry favor with the Bronx faithful, Pavano drilled Yankee nemesis Kevin Millar with a fastball. A Jay Payton single put runners on first and second with no outs, and while a Jason Giambi two-run home run had given the Yanks a 4-3 edge, that lead was in danger of evaporating. But Pavano bore down and struck out Juan Castro, Brian Roberts and Nick Markakis to end the Oriole threa.
On the night, Pavano threw five innings and allowed three earned runs on seven hits and a walk. He also struck out five and threw 54 of 91 pitches for strikes. At times, it wasn’t pretty, but it was more than we could have expected from a pitcher everyone doubted. Whether he can do it again in five days is up for debate. That will, of course, be the true test of Carl Pavano.
Right now, we just tip our caps to Pavano — and the Yankee bullpen — and appreciate how the Yankees are still in this thing. While Carl Pavano now has more wins than Kei Igawa, Phil Hughes and Ian Kennedy combined, the Yanks have to make up five games over their last 33. As Carl Pavano — the YES Network’s Chevy Player of the Game — proved last night, anything is possible.