There are plenty of ways to break out of a slump. There’s your classic slumpbuster, the preferred method of Diamondbacks commentator Mark Grace. But when your entire team’s slumping? That takes something more powerful. That takes something like the Diamondbacks bullpen. That cured what has ailed the Yanks’ offense, as they scored six in the eighth to put away the Diamondbacks and take the second game of the series 9-3.
Biggest Hit: A-Rod cares not for your slump
We spent some time today ruminating on the slumps that have prevented the offense from scoring runs. A-Rod, 3 for 22 since his weekend off, was among the offenders. He did have two quality results on Monday, a line drive RBI double earlier in the game, and then a long fly that, on a different day, might have left the park. He showed last that it was no fluke.
Derek Jeter led off the game on a single to center, but both Swisher and Teixeira flied out on two pitches each. Dan Haren started A-Rod with two curveballs, one a ball and the next a called strike. He then went to the fastball, but left it right over the plate. A-Rod laid into it and launched it over the wall in left-center, giving the Yankees an early 2-0 lead.
The lead wouldn’t last long, a little more than a full inning, but it certainly came as a relief. After seeing the Yankees fail break through against Rodrigo Lopez it was nice to see them score early against a pitcher like Haren. A-Rod was 2 for 3 with a walk for the game.
Biggest Pitch: But it’s the pitcher
The theme of Tuesday night’s game was allowing runs after having a bases empty, two out situation. That’s exactly what happened to Pettitte in the second. He did allow a lead-off single to Justin Upton, but erased him later with a pickoff. In between he struck out Chris Young, so Adam LaRoche did bat with none on and two outs. And he walked. Mark Reynolds then got a hold of one and ripped it to left, but Brett Gardner fielded it quickly and held each runner to two bases.
It might not have produced the worst result, but perhaps the toughest at-bat of the game came next. Pettitte and Chris Snyder went at it for 12 pitches, the first two of which were strikes. Snyder fouled off six pitches and worked the count full before taking a cutter inside for ball four. It was a shame to not get the eighth hitter and force the pitcher to lead off the ninth. Instead he’d bat with the bases loaded and two outs.
Dan Haren is having quite the season at the plate. He’s 17 for 41 with six doubles, though that’s clearly above his demonstrated talent level. Career he’s a .227 hitter with a .099 ISO, so he’s going to see that 1.000 OPS decline a bit. But for today it will only go up. Haren was 2 for 2 against Pettitte, including a game-tying single with the bases loaded in the second. Pettitte stuck with the fastball, getting a called strike and a foul ball before Haren stuck out his bat and smacked an outside pitch down the first base line.
The tie wouldn’t last as long as the previous Yankees lead. The very next inning the Yankees got the Diamondbacks, scoring a bases empty, two out run of their own on the power of singles from Swisher and Teixeira, and an RBI single by A-Rod.
Batting around in the eighth
While it felt good to put up runs early in the game, the Yankees slowed down in the middle innings. From the third through the seventh they managed just one hit, and that was by Andy Pettitte. The lead was nice, but the Yanks still hadn’t shown many signs of recovery, beyond the constant deep fly balls that just didn’t have enough.
The Diamondbacks bullpen this year has been terrible, among the worst units in recent memory. Already down big, the Yankees didn’t muster anything off them yesterday, but today, with the lead and the game still close, they feasted. The top of the order faced Esmerling Vazquez, he of the walk-off balk. Also he of the maddeningly high walk rate. In AAA during the 2008 season he walked 60 batters in 83 innings. Before last night he had walked 13 in 24 innings, and he’d add another one to that without adding anything to the inning count.
Single, double, single, walk, single was enough. The Diamondbacks, now down 5-2 and still with the bases loaded and none outs in the eighth, turned to former closer Chad Qualls. Cano continued the hit barrage, singling home Swisher. Posada brought home another with a sac fly, and then after Gardner advanced the runners Colin Curtis lined a ball over Chris Young’s head for his first major league hit and first two major league RBI.
Curtis was pinch-hitting for Pettitte, which meant that the Yankees had batted around. Jeter showed mercy on the Diamondbacks by grounding out , but the Yankees had already opened up the game.
Graphs, boxes, videos
It’s another 9:40 start, with Javier Vazquez taking the mound against Dontrelle Willis.