So much for bombing Carl Pavano in his return to the Bronx. The oft-injured righty tossed six solid innings today, allowing just one run on four hits and a walk. Unfortunately for him, Eric Wedge replaced him in the seventh after 89 pitches, and the bullpen imploded immediately. Three outs after Pavano’s last pitch and the Yanks had taken the lead for good.
On a day when the Yankees needed A.J. Burnett to go deep into the game, he didn’t have much juice. His control just wasn’t there: only 60 of his 111 pitches were strikes and he walked seven batters. He only allowed three hits, including a dinky single to Travis Hafner in the first. Unfortunately, the other two were home runs, leaving him a 3-1 deficit upon exiting in the seventh. With the bases loaded, Jon Albaladejo induced a weak grounder to Ransom, who got Trevor Crowe at the plate. A routine grounder by Victor Martinez ended the threat.
Surprisingly, the Yanks had a bit of trouble hitting Pavano, who wasn’t exactly stellar in his first two starts this season. He didn’t have pinpoint control — 54 of his 89 pitches were strikes, or a hair over 60 percent. Yet he was still perfect the first time through the order. The Yanks managed a run the second time through on a Derek Jeter double, followed by Mark Teixeira reaching for and pulling an outside pitch through a hole on the right side. Pavano also pitched out of trouble in the sixth. Jeter helped him out with a double play, but the Yanks managed to load the bases before Nick Swisher struck out for the third time in the game.
The hero of the game, of course, was Jorge Posada. After Cody Ransom muffed a sac bunt attempt by laying it right back to reliever Jensen Lewis, who got Matsui at second, Joe Girardi sent up Posada to pinch hit for Jose Molina. Three pitches later the stadium was booming. Jorge had just barely cleared the wall in right field, though some arguing from Eric Wedge led to the first instant replay review I can remember of the young season. From YES’s multiple vantage points, it looked as if the ball was going to clear the wall and that the fan didn’t interfere. That the fan even leaned into the field of play is ridiculous; fans are spectators, not participants. No Yanks fans are complaining about the result, of course, but one of those plays could come back to bite the team in the ass one day.
(Also, the guy next to the fan in question had a mitt. I’m sorry, but no one over the age of 14 should bring a mitt to the game unless you have hooks for hands.)
Brian Bruney, while not striking out a batter, dominated the Indians’ four, five, and six hitters, effectively laying a bridge to Mariano Rivera. The Yanks added some insurance in the eighth off once-bullpen-ace Rafael Betancourt, and Mo slammed the door with a quick ninth inning. The Yanks salvaged a split in the series despite two of the most lopsided losses they’ve seen in years. That has to feel good. It also keeps the Yankees above .500 at 7-6 on the season.
Think about those six losses for a second. Four of them were absolute blowouts, started by the Nos. 1 and 2 pitchers in the rotation. The other one was the game in KC which got everyone up in arms over the bullpen. One has to figure that the blowouts won’t happen as frequently from this point on. Two came with CC Sabathia on the mound, and it’s unlikely we see much more of that. Two came from Wang, who will either improve or be replaced. In other words, this team looks to be in better shape than their record indicates.
Oakland comes to town next for a three-game set before the Yanks head up to Boston. They might not get in the game tomorrow night; the weather looks pretty grim. Both teams have an off-day on Thursday, though Oakland has to fly back West for a weekend series against Tampa Bay. Oakland does come back to town July 24 through 26 and the two teams share an off-day on the 23rd, but Oakland would be coming from out West. With the possibility of skipping Wang’s start in Boston, the Yanks might not want to play a double header this week.