Thanks to reader AB for sending in the photo
After taking the first two games of the series from the Red Sox, all the Yankees needed yesterday was to avoid a blowout. Even with a loss they would still have been a win or Red Sox loss away from clinching the division and home field advantage. Sure, they would have lost the season series, but after starting out 0-8, finishing 8-10 would have been acceptable. They gave that extra effort, though, downing the Sox to even the season series and take the AL East division title.
The Sox, surely wanting to avoid the sweep, made life tough on Pettitte for the first three innings. They created some high-pressure situations by putting nine men on base, including two separate bases loaded situations. The Sox managed just two runs in those frames. That came back to bite them later, as Pettitte settled down and allowed just one baserunner during innings four through six.
Through the first five innings, the Yankees could not solve Paul Byrd. The soft-tossing righty scattered five hits over those frames, walking none. He did make a few mistakes, including a first-pitch homer to Melky Cabrera and a double to Swisher. The latter was erased when Nick Swisher supposedly left early on a tag-up play. The ump sure enjoyed showboating his call when the Sox appealed, but replay showed that he was wrong, wrong, wrong. It surely was not Tim Welke’s finest moment. (But don’t think that it will cost him any playoff games.)
Pettitte held down the Red Sox just long enough for the offense to strike. In a way, it was redemption for the run in the first. Pettitte had retired the first two batters in the first before loading the bases and allowing a run. Paul Burd retired the first two batters in the sixth before Mark Teixeira singled and A-Rod capped a 10-pitch at-bat with one of his own. That ended Byrd’s day. He led, but the go-ahead runs were on base.
Three pitches later Takashi Saito uncorked a pitch that bounced in the dirt and all the way to the backstop. That put the go-ahead run in scoring position, and Hideki Matsui wouldn’t let that go to waste. J.D. Drew made a nice stop on Matsui’s liner to right, but he was just a half second behind and the ball bounced up into his mitt. Both runners scored and the Yankees had taken the lead.
With Hughes having pitched the last two games, the game was left to Brian Bruney. The beleaguered reliever came out for the seventh looking to shake his poor September. While he threw a first-pitch ball to each batter in the seventh, those were the only ones. He ended up throwing 9 of 12 pitches for strikes, setting down the Red Sox — including their 1-2 hitters — in order. He also came out and got the first two batters in the eighth, ending with 21 pitches, 14 strikes. That’s what the Yankees are looking for from Bruney. He’ll have another week to prove he’s ready to make the postseason roster.
Teixeira added an insurance run with a home run off Dan Bard in the eighth, and from there it was all Mariano. Like Saturday it got a bit rough, with two runners reaching base — though one was on a Robinson Cano error. Not that it mattered. Mo got two weak grounders to end the game, clinching the division, home field, and best record in baseball for the Yankees. They now have 100 wins for the first time since 2004.
It sounds like the Yankees had themselves quite a celebration after the game, spraying champagne and some light beer all over themselves, reporters, and anyone who happen to be in the clubhouse. They still do have a baseball game tomorrow, though. I’d expect to see a complete-scrub lineup — it’ll be nice to see Juan Miranda get a start or two this week.
On a more serious note, A.J. Burnett returned home to Arkansas after the celebration to be with his father, Bill, who will undergo triple bypass surgery today. A.J., iron man that he is, still expects to be back for his start on Tuesday.