After the top of the first, the Yanks were on the wrong end of a 3-0 score against Tampa Bay, and two innings later with one out in the top of the third, they lost starter Andy Pettitte to a groin strain. Yet, even with David Price on the mound, this one was far from over. The bullpen held the Rays to just two runs over the final 6.2 innings, and the Yanks knocked around Price to emerge as 9-5 winners. With two wins over Tampa this weekend, the Yanks now have a three-game lead in the AL East.
Early struggles and an early exit
For Pettitte and the Yanks, this one started out on an inauspicious note. BJ Upton started the game with a booming double over Curtis Granderson‘s head in center field, and although Pettitte retired Carl Crawford on a diving play off the mound, Evan Longoria got hit with a pitch. Carlos Peña then blasted yet another home run against the Yankees to make it 3-0. Peña has now hit five home runs against his former employers this season.
Even though Pettitte escaped trouble in the first, he had nothing. After two singles following the home run, A-Rod saved a pair of runs by making a diving play on a Gabe Kapler line drive. In the second, Andy walked two, and in the third, he gave up a pair of hits before leaving the game with a groin strain.
Not sharp, Petitte threw 64 pitches and gave up three earned runs on six hits and three walks. But the Yankees will obviously miss him. If he’s truly out for a month, the Yanks may look to acquire a starting pitcher for the right price. In the meantime, they’ll go with Sergio Mitre and hope for the best.
Coaxing 20 outs from the pen starts with the first one
With Pettitte out of the game, the Yankees had a problem. They had clawed to within one run of Tampa, but the Rays were on the verge of feasting on the pen. Two runners were on, and Kelly Shoppach stood at the plate with a three-ball count. With Chad Gaudin and Dustin Moseley, the two typical long men out of commission, Joe Girardi had to get 20 outs from the rest of the pen, but he knew that the first two could be huge. So instead of throwing in the towel and leading with a lesser reliever, Girardi went to one of his best.
David Robertson entered, and although he issued ball four to Shoppach — with the walk charged to Pettitte — the right-hander got out of it. Sean Rodriguez popped up to short, and Upton flew out to Nick Swisher. In the fourth, Robertson retired Evan Longoria, Carlos Peña and and Ben Zobrist to strand Carl Crawford at first, and the bullpen was off to the races.
The rest of the pen was spectacular. Chan Ho Park threw 1.1 hitless innings. He was followed by Boone Logan, whose only blemish was a Kapler home run. Joba struck out three but gave up a run in 1.2 innings of work, and Mariano Rivera got the final out on one pitch. Every button Girardi pressed worked, but his biggest move was the first. Robertson now has a 2.52 ERA over his last 25 innings, and he has racked up 26 strike outs over that span. Trusting him to work out of trouble gave the Yankees the spring board they needed to stage a comeback.
Knocking around Price for Girardi’s 250th win
Before the game started, I predicted a Pettitte-Price pitchers duel, and both southpaws failed to live up to their billing. The Yanks knocked around David Price for seven earned runs over five innings. He walked four and gave up seven hits while striking out just three en route to his fifth loss of the year. Just five days after drawing the All Star Game start, he looked anything but like an All Star.
The Yanks didn’t really have that one big hit today. Cano’s two-run triple got the Yanks off the mat in the bottom of the first. Posada’s booming two-run double helped put the game out of reach. Alex Rodriguez‘s 598th career home run served as icing on the cake. The biggest runs and hits though came from the Brett Gardner–Derek Jeter duo. In the fifth, Brett Gardner walked and stole second before Jeter singled him in. Earlier in the game, Jeter scored the tying run after an 0-2 hit. This was Derek’s first multi-hit game in seven tries and just his second since June 27.
For Price, this was his worst start of the year, and for Joe Girardi, it was his 250th win as Yankee manager. For the Yankees, it was their league-leading 58th win, and the team sent a message to Tampa. The Yanks remain the team to beat in the American League.
WPA goes down, WPA goes up
The Yankees have a day off on Monday before the Angels come to town on Tuesday for a quick two-game set.