While Mike Mussina earned himself a nice curtain call last night, Carl Pavano wishes he could win the adulation of the fans that way. Pavano, another high-priced pitcher who failed to deliver for the Yanks, won what will probably be his last start for the Yankees in a home uniform as New York triumphed over Baltimore 3-2.
Pavano threw five innings against Baltimore tonight, allowing two earned runs on six hits and a walk. He also struck out two. Somehow, improbably, Pavano is now 4-1 with a 4.99 ERA. While he probably has just two starts left in the Bronx, he is somehow pitching his way to another guaranteed contract, albeit one with incentives.
But while Pavano stymied the Orioles through five, the real pitching stars came out of the bullpen. Phil Coke, Brian Bruney, Damaso Marte, Joba Chamblerain and Mariano Rivera combined for four shut-out innings. This group gave up just two hits — both off of Rivera in the ninth. Coke and Bruney faced two batters and struck them both out; Joba faced three and walked away with three K’s. With Bruney and Coke set to return and Mark Melancon and Humberto Sanchez waiting in the wings, the Yanks’ bullpen is primed for a huge 2009 season.
On the other side of the ball, Brett Gardner flashed his talents. He made a stunning catch in the fourth inning and then doubled in the game-tying run. As Joe texted me at that point, “Melky who?”
With their victory tonight, the Yanks moved back into sole possession of third place. They’re nine games behind Tampa and 7.5 behind Boston. They are on the verge of postseason elimination for the first time in fifteen years. Yet, the fans care about these final games at the Stadium, and the team is playing with an urgency we haven’t seen all year. While it might be a little late for the Yanks’ October dreams, at least they’re sending the stadium out on the right note.