For a few hours, tonight’s 11-4 route of the Indians had a tense feel to it. Tampa Bay had downed the Tigers earlier in the afternoon, and for the Yanks to head into their AL East showdown with a comfortable lead, the Bombers had to beat Mitch Talbot and the hapless Indians. Through five innings, the two clubs were locked in a 1-1 tie, but then the Yanks busted out for seven runs in the seventh. Even an adventurous ninth inning meant little for the Indians, and the Yanks walked away winners of three of four in Cleveland and six of eight against the AL Central bottom feeders.
Moseley mows ‘em down
Before we delve into tonight’s offensive orgy, we start on the mound with Dustin Moseley. The 28-year-old righthander drew the start in place of Sergio Mitre who pitched poorly five days ago in place of Andy Pettitte. Moseley didn’t start as a direct response to Mitre’s results over the weekend, but he started because the Yanks realized they hadn’t adequately prepared Mitre for a role as a starter. He rehabbed as a short reliever and didn’t have the stamina to start.
So tonight was Moseley’s night, and at first, it appeared as though he would break long before Mitre did. Although he recorded an out on a fielder’s choice, the first four Indians reached base against Moseley, and a sac fly made it 1-0. With runners on 2nd and 3rd, Moseley struck out Matt LaPorta to halt the damage, but he had thrown 30 pitches in that first inning. He was not, it seemed, long for the game.
But then it all clicked for Moseley. Over the next five innings, he allowed no runs on three hits and a walk and struck out three. He used just 53 pitches for the final five frames and would have returned to the mound for the seventh but for the Yanks’ endless top of the inning. It’s true that the Indians are not a strong offensive club, but Moseley shut them down while the Yanks’ bats went to work. If anything, he’ll draw a start against Toronto next week and should be able to hold down the fort until Andy Pettitte returns.
Jeter breaks the dam
As Moseley kept the Indians at bay, the Yankees couldn’t get much of anything going. Through the first five innings, the enjoyed ten baserunners and plated but one solitary run. Up on that scoreboard at Progressive Field, it was the loneliest number until Number 2 knocked in a row. With two outs in the 6th, Jeter ended the Yanks’ 0-for-10 span with runners in scoring position and as the Yanks had their 2-1 lead, the game quickly became a blowout.
In the seventh inning, everyone hit. After two quick outs, the next 10 batters went a combined 4 for 5 with four walks and a hit batter. Cano hit a booming home run to left — his 20th of the year; Francisco Cervelli knocked in a run; Derek Jeter walked to force in a run; Curtis Granderson singled in two; A-Rod, homerless again, singled in two. By the end of the game, the Yanks were 7 for 21 with runners in scoring position, a far cry from that 0-for-10 stretch.
In truth, the big blow always seemed just around the corner. Mitch Talbot had to leave the game in the third with a stiff back, and the Indians had to rely on their bullpen to get 21 outs. It couldn’t, and the Yankees, as good times are wont to do, took advantage of the parade of lesser pitchers who passed through the mound.
They told me to walk this way
Despite the 11 runs, the Yanks could have scored more quite easily. In addition to their early-game struggles with runners in scoring position, the Yanks eked out 12 free passes from Indians’ pitchers. In total, the Yanks had 25 baserunners, and all of the starters except for Francisco Cervelli reached base at least twice. This Cleveland club is a far cry from the near-AL Champion 2007 squad.
Amusingly enough, the only Indians pitcher who didn’t issue a free pass was a position player pressed into service. Andy Marte came on to pitch The Eighth Inning. He induced a grounder from Cano, struck out Nick Swisher and got Marcus Thames to line out to third. It was a job well done by the best hurler on the Cleveland staff.
Adventures in CHoP-land
Finally, we arrive at the Chan Ho Park Ninth Inning Debacle. With the game so firmly in the Yanks’ pocket that Joe Girardi thought it clever to put Marcus Thames at third base, Chan Ho Park came unglued. He recorded three quick outs in the 8th and two outs in the 9th before he just lost it. He walked Chris Gimenez and Austin Kearns, and then after running the count full, he allowed an RBI single to Matt LaPorta.
Then, the real fun began. Jayson Nix hit a hot shot to third that Marcus Thames gloved. But when he tried to make the long throw across the diamond, he airmailed it into the stands. It was a toss worthy of Keith Olbermann’s mom, and all of a sudden, Girardi’s cute idea seemed costly. Park gave up another walk before Luis Valbuena sent Nick Swisher back to the warning track as he hauled in the final out of the game.
I can’t fault Park for this performance to the extreme I usually do. He threw over 50 pitches and would have gotten out of the inning if not for Thames’ fielding. Still, at one point, he had thrown 11 straight balls in what was a 10-run game. That’s not pitching to inspire confidence. All’s well that ends well though.
Looking closer than it was
The Yanks take their two-game lead into the Tampa Bay area later tonight. Phil Hughes will face Wade Davis to start a key three-game match-up with the second-place Rays. After a week of the Indians and Royals, the intensity will ratchet up a notch during this weekend’s sold out set.