In the sixth inning Wednesday night, the Yankees bats broke out of a two-week slump. Last night they didn’t waste those first five innings. They scored in each of the first four, and then tacked on a few at the end when the score seemed just a little too close. In the middle were 3.2 shaky innings from Andy Pettitte, but the Yankees were ultimately able to overcome it and defeat the Braves 11-7.
Recapping the game chronologically just isn’t my style. Most readers already saw the game. For those who didn’t, it seems better to review the important aspects of the game, rather than relive it play by play. For that, you can always check the game log. This time, though, the important parts start at the beginning.
Things looked promising, as Derek Jeter and Johnny Damon hit back to back singles, putting runners on the corner with none out. Mark Teixeira then induced the always-uneasy feeling after seeing a player ground into a double play while (unofficially) driving in a run. Thankfully, Alex Rodriguez made it all better by parking one to dead center, giving the Yanks an early 2-0 lead.
The bigger story was Derek Lowe. It was clear from the start that he didn’t have his A-game, and the Yanks certainly took advantage. Alex Rodriguez hit an RBI single in the second, and then the Yanks struck what I — and probably many of you — thought was the death blow in the third when Johnny Damon tripled with the bases loaded. That put the Yanks up 6-1. As if that weren’t enough, Cody Ransom added two more with a double in the fourth.
On the other end, Andy Pettitte was having his own set of troubles. He held the Braves to one run through three innings, but he wouldn’t get so lucky in the fourth. Brett Gardner didn’t help by dropping a pop up off the bat off Garrett Anderson to start the frame, and Jeff Francoeur didn’t help by swinging at a pitch almost in the dirt and pulling it for a double, but Pettitte didn’t do much to help himself, either. When the inning ended the Braves had added five runs, and Pettitte was no longer in the game.
Al Aceves continued his winning ways, finishing the fourth for Pettitte and then allowing no runs over the next two. He did walk Javy Vazquez, a pitcher pinch-hitting for a pitcher, but still got out of the inning despite allowing a Nate McLouth double. It’s the kind of performance we’ve come to expect from Aceves. He’s given the Yanks far more than they could have expected when they signed him out of the Mexican League last year.
Despite the offensive onslaught and the solid relief effort by Aceves, the Yankees still led by only two in the seventh. After two weeks of loss after loss, the lead just didn’t feel safe, at least not from my couch. I’m not sure if the Yankees felt it was safe, but they weren’t about to find out. Derek Jeter got things moving with a one-out single, followed by a Johnny Damon walk. WIth Teixeira up and no chance of a run on a double play, Jeter and Damon executed a double steal. For some reason, the Braves thought it wise to throw two intentionally balls to Tex and award him first base.
A week ago, that might not have been a terrible strategy. Heck, even a couple of days ago it wouldn’t have been the worst move. Alex Rodriguez was struggling. He was mired in a long 0-fer before his RBI single last night. But he did have that single, and he had a homer and a single — plus a rocket at Yuniel Escobar — in last night’s game. A-Rod made them wait five pitches until showing them why walking Teixeira was a mistake, as he smacked a two-run single to extend the Yankees lead.
That would be enough to take the game, though it wouldn’t be without dramatics. With an 11-6 lead in the ninth, David Robertson allowed three hits, including a forgivable home run to Brian McCann. He recorded two outs, both by strikeout, but once the tying runner reached the on-deck circle, Girardi saw the bat signal. Save situation. Must go to Mo. Six pitches later and it’s save number 499. The move felt a bit unnecessary, but it was a short stint. It might keep Mo out of tomorrow’s game, it might not. Hopefully the Yanks hit Pelfrey hard enough tomorrow night that it’s moot.
Lost in all this is Phil Coke’s dominance. He retired six Braves with just 24 pitches, allowing just one hit along the way and striking out two. He threw two thirds of his pitches for strikes, which is exactly what you want to see from a reliever. Well, any pitcher really, but there’s nothing more frustrating than relievers walking guys. Both Robertson and Aceves threw plenty of strikes, too, and even Pettitte had 62 percent of his 95 pitches in the strike zone (or swung at, of course).
Despite the tension in the middle innings and the general ugliness of the game, it was a good win for the Yanks. Good, mostly because every win is good, especially on the heels of an ugly stretch of play. The Yanks will take the momentum back up to New York tonight and into Citi Field to cap off their National League tour. CC Sabathia against Mike Pelfrey tomorrow night. Three in a row would be a beautiful thing.