If Jerry Hairston doesn’t let an Adam Jones ground ball go between his legs in the seventh, this recap would be a lot different. Then again, if Hairston didn’t make a good play on a Matt Wieters slow grounder an inning prior, he wouldn’t have had a chance to break Andy Pettitte’s string of 20 batters retired. It’s a shame that Andy didn’t get a chance to face Nick Markakis with the bases empty in the eighth, but baseball rarely works out how you plan it.
It was an intense six and two-thirds innings. Pettitte looked as good as he has all season, mixing all of his pitches to keep the Orioles hitters off balance. Most devastatingly, he used the curveball to break over the outside of the plate (to righties), and home plate umpire Marvin Hudson was calling it every time. The Orioles hitters didn’t like it, but that’s to be expected. No one likes getting punched out on a pretty breaking ball that skims the corner.
Even without the perfect game, no-hitter, or shutout, Pettitte had spectacular numbers to end the game. In his eight innings of work he allowed just two hits, the grounder to Markakis and a solo homer to Melvin Mora leading off the eighth. He struck out eight, keeping up with the torrential pace he’s set in the second half. Since the break he’s pitched 59.2 innings and has struck out 62, to just 15 walks. Andy added none to the latter total last night — it’s tough to walk guys when you’re throwing 70 percent of your pitches for strikes).
The Yankees have been on an incredible run in the second half, and much of that can be attributed to Pettitte. The Yanks are set atop the rotation with Sabathia and Burnett, but after that things were looking a bit shaky. Both Pettitte and Joba limped into the break, and there were plenty of questions about the pitching staff leading up to the trade deadline. Pettitte has stepped up over the past month and has been an absolute rock in the rotation. The way they’re pitching now, CC, A.J., and Andy are as good a 1-2-3 punch as you’re going to find in the league.
On the offensive side, the Yankees continued to pick up runs late. They’ve seemingly been able to do this all season, whether it be to come back from a deficit or to put some distance between themselves and their opponents. Nick Swisher provided the early runs, homering to lead off the third and doubling in Robinson Cano, who led off the fifth with a double of his own. With the way Pettitte was pitching, that seemed like all they’d need.
After the no-hitter bid ended in the seventh, the Yanks responded by extending that lead a bit, just in case. They had failed to score off Mark Hendrickson in the seventh after having runners on second and third with one out, but they would not be so merciful in the eighth. Derek Jeter led off the affair with a double, the team’s fourth of the night. Damon singled him home, and eventually Robinson Cano hit the team’s fifth double, his own second, plating both Damon and Mark Teixeira. With the Orioles holding just six outs, it was all but over.
There was a little stir in the ninth after Brian Bruney walked the leadoff batter and allowed a subsequent single, but Mariano came in and slammed the door. It was technically a save situation, but it didn’t take much labor at all. A pop out to second and a strikeout ended the game, and the Yankees celebrated a 5-1 victory.
The win was the Yankees’ 32nd since the All-Star Break, which is flat out insane. Since the break they’re 32-11, a .744 winning percentage which would translate to 120.5 regular season wins. We’re witnessing quite a ride right now, unlike anything we’ve really seen from the Yanks in a number of years. Not many teams’ fans get to experience winning at this pace for such a long period.
The best part about baseball: we get to do it all again tomorrow. A.J. Burnett steps up against David Hernandez. Unfortunately, Angel Hernandez will be calling balls and strikes. Am I a nerd for begrudging certain umpires?