Through six innings today the Yanks offense again looked despicable. Things started off fine, with Mark Teixeira staking Joba Chamberlain to an early lead with a solo blast. Until the seventh inning they managed five hits, but none of them came with men on base. They wasted leadoff hits in two frames, and a one-out double in another. With the Orioles out to a 3-1 lead and given how games have been going lately, things didn’t look too bright for the Yanks.
Then came the seventh. Orioles manager Dave Trembley removed his starter after 94 pitches, despite his five strikeouts and zero walks. Robinson Cano made him pay. After a long at bat in which reliever Jamie Walker struck out Nick Swisher, Cano put the Yanks within one on a solo jack to right. After a quick out by Melky Cabrera, Trembley again went to his bullpen for someone to face…Francisco Cervelli. Why he felt the need to play match-up right there is beyond my comprehension, but it’s his team and he knows it best. It might have been the best move to make at the time, but it didn’t turn out that way.
On a 2-1 pitch, Cervelli dinked one toward second, which looked like the third out. If it had been Jorge Posada at bat, it surely would have been. But Cervelli put on the jets, getting to first base perhaps faster than any catcher I’ve seen, at least recently. Then, three pitches later, Derek Jeter bounced a similarly weak-hit ball to third, and he too beat it out for a single. That set the table for J-Dizzle, who instead of slapping a single to tie the game thought it best to give his team the lead for the first time in almost six innings. To the alley in right center it went, clearing the fence and giving the Yanks all the runs they’d need.
Damon has truly been a bright spot during an otherwise dismal week in Yankeeland. He hit in every game during the 2-5 stretch, hitting to a .419 average (13 for 31) with four doubles and five homers. True, this was the only win he brought the team, but the past week would have felt a lot worse without his heroics which turned lost causes into actual contests. Let’s try to remember this stretch when Johnny hits a slump later in the year. The guy comes to play, and this week he did more than anyone could have expected of him.
Things started off a bit rocky on the pitching end, almost exactly as they did in Joba’s previous start against the Red Sox. He allowed three runs in the first, all coming on an Aubrey Huff homer. Not only did he blow the lead, but he used 25 pitches in doing so. For a guy who cuts his appearances short due to inefficiency, this was not a good sign. Basically a quarter of his pitch allotment was gone after the first, meaning he’d have to ramp up the efficiency in the ensuing frames just to get through the fifth.
He looked to recover, throwing just 12 pitches in the second, but he got a bit wild in the third, walking two and throwing 20 pitches. Even then, he was aided by the pitcher’s best friend. It took 16 pitches to get through the fourth, but Joba did it in commendable fashion, putting away two Orioles while men stood on second and third. I do wonder, though, if Melky hadn’t made the throw to third and Andino’s at bat yielded the same result (beware the fallacy of the predetermined outcome), would Jeter have had the wherewithal to drop the ball and try for the double play? The ball got there a bit quicker than a grounder, so I think he could have turned it if he just knocked it down.
In the end Joba did get through six on just 104 pitches, amazing considering his 25- and 20-pitch frames early on. He entered the sixth inning with 92 pitches, so it was in doubt that he’d finish things out. Maybe Girardi would have let him go the 108 mark he achieved on Tuesday, or maybe 110 would have been the hard cap. It didn’t matter, though. Despite a Felix Pie single, Joba still got the job one on 12 pitches to complete the nominal quality start. He left matters to the bullpen, which hasn’t been the most optimistic prospect lately.
Well, that is, except when it involves Phil Coke. The man throws strikes, something his bullpen brethren should take note of. His efficient ways allowed him to toss two innings with just 25 pitches, surrendering just one hit and striking out one. That set the stage for Mo, who walked his first batter of the year but still came away with his sixth save. It was a relief to see the O’s go down rather futilely, given Mo’s last appearance. All in all it was a good win, though again the lows from last night made the first six innings tough to watch.
The Yanks get a day off tomorrow before heading up to Toronto, so it was an especially nice win. Apparently Tuesday night’s game is a big ticket up north, with the master taking on the apprentice, Roy Halladay vs. A.J. Burnett. Given how Doc has pitched against the Yanks in his career, Burnett had better also pitch the way he’s pitched against the Yanks. This series could go a long way in knocking Toronto down a peg or two and leveling the playing field of the AL East.