Slugfests are always fun, only because there’s maybe two or three teams that can really hang with the Yankees in games like this. The Royals have a sneaky good offense, but the difference in this game was that one rookie pitcher completely imploded while the other was just touch better than that.
Robbie Goes BOOM!!!
This game was a classic back-and-forth affair; the Yankees responded with runs pretty much every time the Royals pushed a few across, and the Royals threatened every time the Yankees scored some runs. Robinson Cano singled in his team’s first run on a breaking ball at his eyes in the third, then two batters later Russell Martin drove in two more to give the Yankees a short-lived 3-2 lead. Kansas City answered right back with three off Ivan Nova (more on him in a bit), but the Yankees were not fooled by rookie southpaw Danny Duffy the second and third time through the order.
The five-run fourth inning started innocently enough, with a Brett Gardner drag bunt single to the second baseman. Derek Jeter tied the game on a double down the line and into left (he look, he pulled the ball!), and for some reason Curtis Granderson and his 33 homeruns squared around to bunt. The Royals bailed him out though, because catcher Salvador Perez threw to third but Jeter slide in behind (or maybe under, I didn’t see the replay) the tag. That put men at the corners with none out. Mark Teixeira singled in the go-ahead run after taking what looked like strike three, bringing Cano to the plate. This is where it got interesting.
Before the at-bat started, Royals manager Ned Yost went out to the mound but not to take out his struggling starter out, but to give home plate ump Kerwin Danley a mouthful about the non-strike three to Teixeira. He got tossed, but Duffy remained in the game. The first pitch to Cano was a fastball in the dirt for a ball, then came a high curveball that Robbie fouled off. The 1-1 pitch was a curve in the dirt, the 2-1 pitch a fastball down and away from the zone. Three balls and one strike is a total hitter’s count, but Cano just fouled off the 92 fastball to run the count full. Five pitches into the encounter, these two weren’t even halfway done yet.
Fastball, foul. Fastball, foul. Fastball, foul. Slider, foul. Slider, foul. Fastball, foul. Seven straight foul balls followed the 3-1 count, and it was clear that the Royals’ battery had no idea what to do next. They threw fastballs in the zone, out of the zone, sliders in the dirt, basically everything in the arsenal.The 12th and final pitch of the at-bat was a slider that hung up and in the zone, and Cano put his best Home Run Derby Champion swing on it for a three-run homer. The Yankees had taken an 8-5 lead and there will still no outs in the inning, but Duffy was on his way out of the game before Robinson even touched home plate. It was a no-doubter off the bat and a fantastic plate appearance, backing a young and overmatched pitcher into a corner until he mistake pitched his way out of it.
Revenge Is A Dish Best Served … With A Better Start Than This?
Ivan Nova has faced the Royals twice in 2011, and they’re the two worst starts of his career. This game wasn’t quite as bad in the start in May, but yeah, nine runs and seven runs in 5.1 IP is pretty awful. Kansas City tagged him for two runs in the first, three runs in the third, and two more runs in the sixth, and frankly he’s lucky he held them to that. There were a lot of pitches left up in the zone and a lot of hitter’s counts, and through the magic of hindsight I can say that Nova was left in an inning too long. Trying to squeeze another inning out of him wasn’t the wisest decision given how rested the middle relievers are. Oh well, didn’t come back to hurt them, though it almost did.
Nova threw a total 87 pitches, only 20 of which weren’t fastballs. Four of his seven swings and misses came on the heat, two on curves, and one a change. The 8-5 GB/FB is still pretty good but not what we’re used to seeing from Nova. With a Game Score of just 23, it was in fact the second worst start of his career, better than just that start against KC in May (Game Score of 15). He was due for a stinker, so I’m glad he got it out of the way on a night when his offense nearly hung double digits on the scoreboard.
Jeter was technically the leadoff hitter tonight, but Eduardo Nunez and Gardner did a fine job of getting on base at the bottom of the order and ahead of the big bats. Both had two hits, all singles except for Gardner’s two-out triple in the seventh. Jeter singled him in for a rather big insurance run. The top four hitters in the lineup combined to go 6-for-18 with one walk and a hit-by-pitch, and seven of those eight baserunners came around to score.
Everyone in the lineup reached base exactly twice except for Andruw Jones, who got hit by a pitch before giving way to pinch-hitter Jorge Posada, who walked. So the DH spot got on base two times anyway. The Yankees had half a dozen hits in their dozen at-bats with men in scoring position. The top and the bottom of the order did the majority of the heavy lifted, but all nine (really ten) guys contributed in this one.
Remember WWWMW™? That’s always fun. Mariano Rivera threw a perfect ninth inning for the second straight day, this one with two strikeouts and a ground out. Pretty much vintage Rivera right there. There’s never a reason to worry about the guy, how many times do we have to tell you?
The entire bullpen was perfect, 11 up and 11 down. Boone Logan got three outs with some help from a great diving stop by Tex, then Rafael Soriano recorded two outs before David Robertson chipped in a perfect eighth. Soriano, Robertson, and Mo have each appeared in the last two games, and I’m willing to bet Rivera gets Wednesday’s game off. No reason to push him at this point of the season. Figure some Cory Wade action in the seventh with the other two sliding up an inning. Yay assigned innings!
Holy hell, how annoying were the crickets? Apparently enough people complained about them that the YES booth had to acknowledge that yeah, they were making the broadcast unbearable. Thankfully they’re only in Kansas City for one more night.
The Red Sox split a double header with the Rays on Tuesday (Tampa got complete games from Jamie Shields and Jeff Niemann, how about that?), which means the Yankees lead the AL East by half a game. They also lead by 39 runs in run differential (+180 vs. +141), but they don’t care give out division titles based on that. Anyway, the Yankees control their own destiny from here on out, as long as they lose the same number of games as Boston (or fewer, of course) the rest of the way, they’ll win the division. Pretty neat huh?
Oh by the way, the Yankees have now faced a pitcher they’d never seen before 18 times this season, and guess what their record is in those games. Hint: it’s 14-4. Didn’t see that coming, did ya?
Box Score, WPA Graph & Standings
Bartolo Colon will look to wrap up the sweep against Bruce Chen on Wednesday night, when he happily say goodbye to the crickets. Hooray for that.