It’s not very nice out in New York City right now. While the sun came out briefly this afternoon only to set a few minutes later, it’s raining and chilly in the Big Apple. It isn’t, in other words, good weather for baseball.
But the Yankees and the A’s had their window. One night after the Yanks’ first rain-out of the 2009 season, baseball was back in the Bronx, and the Yankees played not a crisp game but well enough to win 5-3.
We could, if we wanted to, tell a few different stories about this game. We start with Dana Eveland. The A’s 25-year-old lefty is generally the type of pitcher against whom the Yankees struggle. He’s a soft-tossing lefty, and tonight, he didn’t disappoint. His only pitch to hit 90 miles per hour was his tenth of the night, a fastball. Otherwise, he was throwing mid-80s breaking pitches.
The Yankees though wouldn’t let that beat them. They put together a four spot in the bottom of the second and never looked back. The scoring was quicky and easy — and not until Johnny Damon blasted a ball into right field in the 6th did any team hit a home run at the park being dubbed Coors Field East by some.
The Yanks plated their four through some good old small ball. Nick Swisher walked to lead off the inning, and Hideki Matsui doubled. After a Cody Ransom fly out, Brett Gardner drove in two with a single. He then stole second, moved to third on a Derek Jeter hit and scored on a Johnny Damon single. Mark Teixeira would plate Jeter with a base hit. Seven batters, four runs. That’s tidy baseball.
On the other side of the ball, Andy Pettitte worked efficiently. With game time temperatures at 54 degrees and a fine mist falling for much of the game, Pettitte needed just 105 pitches to get through seven innings. A whopping 67 of them were strikes, and yet, oddly enough, Pettitte didn’t strike out a batter. He also didn’t walk anyone, and so the nine hits he scattered resulted in just two earned runs and a lot of runners left on for Oakland. (Fun Fact of the Night: Andy Pettitte is just the 12th Yankee since 1954 to walk no one, strike out no one and pitch at least seven innings. Nine of those outings ended with a W for the starting pitcher.)
For Pettitte, the win moved him to 2-0 on the season, and it’s clear why he is succeeding this year. Simply put, because his shoulder pain is gone, he can throw his breaking pitches again. According to pitch f/x, he threw 21 sliders and 11 curveballs tonight. By the end of last season, he couldn’t throw those breaking pitches. Andy never reached higher than 90 on the gun, but with his control and array of off-speed pitches, he doesn’t need to.
The game of course ended with a Mariano Rivera save. Rivera, who recorded the only Yankee strike out of the game by fanning Ryan Sweeney for out number two — saved an Andy Pettitte victory for the 57th time in his career. That mark ties the record held by Dennis Eckersley and Bob Welch, and in five days, I expect Pettitte and Rivera to be the sole holders of that one. It shouldn’t be any other way.