When the All Star Break ended, the Yanks found themselves three games behind Red Sox. After a humiliating three-game sweep at the hands of the Angels in Anaheim before the break, the Bombers were looking for a hot start to the second half.
Ten days later, they have delivered. The beat the A’s 7-5 this afternoon on five two-out RBIs, and in doing so, they wrapped up a 9-1 homestand. They have also gained 5.5 games on the Red Sox since the break and head south to Tampa with a 2.5-game lead in the AL East. If not for a bad 0-2 pitch from Alfredo Aceves yesterday, they could have gone 10-0 to start the second half. Still, I’ll take 9-1.
Today’s game started off inauspiciously. Before the Yanks had an at-bat, Sergio Mitre had given up four hits and two runs. That would be a short-lived deficit. Single, walk, strike out, pop out, single, walk, double. 4-2 Yanks.
The big blow in the bottom of the first came off the bat of Robinson Cano. Struggling mightily with runners in scoring position this year, Cano lined a bases-clearing double into deep center field to give the Yanks their lead. It was a key hit in the game.
As the innings wore on, Mitre pitched a decent enough game. His final line was fairly mediocre — 5 IP, 9 H, 4 ER, 1 K — but he benefited from three double plays and didn’t walk anyone. He’ll continue to make starts out of the fifth spot in the rotation until and unless the Yanks make a move. I’d rather see Phil Hughes transition back into the rotation, but Mitre is giving the Yanks a chance to win. The team is 2-0 in his first two starts.
Briefly, in the sixth, the Yanks ran into a spot of trouble. In the fourth, Derek Jeter had failed to get a runner in from third with less than two outs, and it nearly came back to haunt them. After Mitre surrendered a lead-off single to Kurt Suzuki, Phil Coke came in to face the A’s lefties. Ryan Sweeney flew out to left, and Daric Barton just beat out a relay throw to avoid a double play. With two outs, Mark Ellis lined a ball off of his shoe tops into the left field seats to give the A’s a 5-4 lead.
Again, this lead would prove short-lived. In the bottom of the 6th, Jeter again came to the plate with runners on second and third and one out. This time, an RBI single plated two runs to give the Yanks a lead they would not surrender. Mark Teixeira would, two batters later, give the Yanks a two-run lead.
Things got a bit hairy in the 8th though. After a 1-2-3 seventh and a K to start the 8th, Phil Hughes ran into a spot of trouble. He allowed a walk to Ryan Sweeney and a double to Daric Barton after a long AB. In came Brian Bruney, and we all held our breaths. Bruney, shakey of late, got a huge K, and then the Sandman came in for a four-out save. Nomar Garciaparra tapped back weakly to Mariano, and Rivera ran through the A’s in the ninth. Game, set, match.
The Red Sox and John Smoltz had just lost to the Orioles. The Rays had just lost to the Blue Jays. As Michael Kay said to end the broadcast, “All is right in the pinstriped world for Joe Girardi and his clan.”