Correlation does not imply causation, so it wouldn’t be accurate to say that Joe Girardi’s ejection is what fired up the Yankees. However, the correlation grows a bit stronger. During the very at bat in which first base umpire Bill Welke tossed Girardi in the sixth, Francisco Cervelli knocked his first big league home run, tying the game at one. More importantly, though, it was the Yanks’ first run in 14 innings. They would go on to score in every subsequent inning, tallying a “big” win over the Braves.
While Cervelli’s homer came as a huge relief, it wasn’t the only highlight of the sixth. With none on and two outs, the Yanks mounted a rally. Jeter singled. Damon singled. Teixeira walked. So up strolled Alex Rodriguez, mired in a horrible slump, with the bases loaded and the game tied. Under normal circumstances, this probably wouldn’t be considered a big spot. But the Yankees have been hurting. There’s no need to detail the frustration of the past two weeks, but suffice it to say that the Yankees needed that hit right there.
Allow me to be bratty for a moment, won’t you? See, I’m told all the time — by friends, by family, in the comments — that Alex Rodriguez is worthless. People have told me as recently as today that he puts up fantasy baseball numbers, and that everything he does is for the sake of his baseball card. When a situation like this comes up, one in which he can make a difference in the game, he invariably fails. So when the ball he hit touched down in right center, I had to pinch myself, throw some water on my face. I’ll give the following sentence its own paragraph, because it’s that important:
Alex Rodriguez came through when his team really needed him.
Of course, it’s not the first time this year. There was the two-run, game-tying jack off Brad Lidge. There was the walk-off homer against the Twins. And then there was the two-run double against the Red Sox which the team subsequently squandered. Unfortunately, the myth that he never comes through in the clutch will never go away. Some of us, though, can see where he’s come through, and we appreciate it.
The rally might not have been possible had it not been for a fine pitching performance by Joba Chamberlain. Through six innings his only blunder was a hanging breaking ball to Jeff Francoeur. Understandably, it felt like the game was over at that point. The Yanks hadn’t a hit in the game, and hadn’t a run in 14 innings at that point. But then the Yanks put up their sixth-inning rally, and Joba set down the Braves in the sixth — which included a strikeout of Brian McCann, who had been causing the Yanks fits in the series.
Things got a bit dicey for Joba in the seventh. After allowing a leadoff single, he got an out, and then looked to have another freebie after Kelly Johnson bunted. But Joba threw it away, drawing Mark Teixeira off the bag. Pinch hitter Martin Prado singled in the next at bat, plating the second Braves run and chasing Chamberlain from the game. A second run scored when Nate McLouth hit a deep fly to right, on which Nick Swisher made a nice play. That saddled Joba with three runs, two earned, but his performance looked a bit better than that.
Not only did Joba pitch well — he walked none, a good sign — but he faced another challenge in his development. Starters need to learn to pitch when tired. Joba was wearing down in the seventh; his final pitch to Prado was up, and that’s usually a sign of fatigue. So while the scenario didn’t go so well, you can’t learn to do something without actually doing it. As many have noted, Joba’s learning the hard way. Hopefully he picked up a pointer or two last night. Hopefully we get a chance soon to see him try it again.
Some random concluding notes:
- Even though the Yanks scored eight runs, they were still 2 for 9 with RISP. One of those was Mo’s valiant effort in the ninth, one was Cano’s fielder’s choice in the eighth, and one was Swisher’s fielder’s choice. Though Cano’s was incredibly lucky.
- Tough inning for Bruney. He hadn’t pitched since Friday, so there might have been some rust. And he’s not going to set ’em down 1-2-3 every time. It’s just…bad timing, I suppose. I’m sure most of us were pretty on edge in the eighth.
- Francisco Cervelli is one goofy dude, in a good way. It’s easy to see why people like him so much.
Yanks have a chance to take the series tomorrow, with Andy Pettitte taking on Derek Lowe. No getaway day for the Yanks, as this one will start at seven.