The Yankees had a strange night against Roy Halladay. They worked him in the first, forcing him to throw 23 pitches in a two-run inning, which included an error by the man himself (though Millar got the credit, Doc kinda just dropped the ball). It was a rare early lead against Halladay, but he wasn’t about to give up much more. He rolled through the middle innings before wearing down at the end, surrendering three solo homers, which would be the difference in a 5-3 Yankees win.
After the first inning, Doc settled in, and that might be an understatement. After throwing 23 pitches in the first, Halladay finished all nine with just 103. This included seven pitches in the second, 16 in the third, 10 in the fourth, nine in the fifth, nine in the sixth, and five in the seventh. That left him with 89 pitches headed into the eighth, and for a guy who’s topped topped out at 133 this year that’s seemingly nothing.
Halladay looked strong again to start the eighth, retiring the first two hitters on five pitches. Then came Johnny Damon, who on the fifth pitch of the at bat hit one over the right field wall. Unlike his July Fourth jack, this was no cheapie, as it landed in the Yankees bullpen, extending the lead to 3-1. Mark Teixeira followed with a shot to right on the second pitch he saw, giving the Yankees a nice cushion. They’d need it.
Phil Hughes, who had come on for Pettitte with two on and two outs in the seventh, didn’t look his sharpest last night. Each of the five Jays he faced had two strikes, but three of them managed to foul a few off — ones that a few weeks ago Hughes would have blown by them. In total the Jays had seven two-strike fouls off Hughes, including four frustrating ones by Kevin Millar, who, like Adam Lind and Jose Bautista before him, struck out looking.
Yet Hughes did allow two hits in the eighth, which was enough for Girardi to call on Mo for another four-out save. That backfired, as he allowed a two-run double to Vernon Wells after going down 3-0 on him. That made it a one-run game, something you just don’t expect when staking Hughes and Mo to a three-run lead. Hideki Matsui made it a bit more comfortable with a first-pitch homer off Halladay in the ninth, but Mo made it interesting again in the ninth, putting men on first and third before closing the door.
Andy Pettitte did his job, though he seemed shaky at times. He didn’t throw a healthy number of strikes — 103 pitches, 57 strikes. It almost caught up to him in the fourth, when a single and two walks loaded the bases. That ended after a sac fly and a grounder to short, but it certainly cast some doubt on Pettitte’s ability to hold the lead. Yet he held on strong, pitching well until putting two runners on in the seventh, including a walk of Rod Barajas.
Another notable achievement for Pettitte was his six strikeouts in 6.2 IP. It marks the ninth time this season he’s struck out six or more. While his K rate isn’t quite where it was last year, it’s still at a good level for a 37-year-old who induces a lot of contact. Pettite has certainly gotten the job done lately, though, helping alleviate concerns about the back end of the rotation. Those concerns aren’t completely erased, of course, but a fairly effective Pettitte helps tremendously.
While this didn’t feel like an automatic loss before it started, the chances weren’t that great with Halladay on the mound. But the Yankees struck when they needed it most and prevailed despite a tough ending to the game. The Yanks guarantee their lead in the AL East at least one more day. That’s good news, as Sergio Mitre takes the mound tonight.