It started and ended with Derek Jeter. His single on the first pitch in the top of the first set up the Yankees’ first run, and his strikeout with the tying run on second ended the game. There was some interesting stuff in between, too.
1. The Yankees got started right when Curtis Granderson tripled over Austin Jackson’s head and gave the Yanks a 1-0 lead. Two batters later Alex Rodriguez brought home Granderson, giving CC Sabathia a two-run lead before throwing a pitch.
2. Problem was, CC was all over the place. From the TV camera angles the umpiring appeared poor, but TV can be deceiving. Still, it appeared that the strike zone grew for left-handed batters, and the Yankees had plenty more of them than the Tigers. Hence, the feeling that the Yankees were getting shafted. But really, it was about CC’s lack of sharpness. It didn’t hurt them in the first two innings, but it would eventually lead to runs.
3. Verlander settled into his normally dominant mode, which bought the Tigers some time to break through against Sabathia. They did that in the third, benefiting from a bottom of the order rally. In fact, Sabathia didn’t record an out in that third inning until Miguel Cabrera grounded into a double play. The world is a strange place.
4. Sabathia eventually put down the Tigers in order, but he resumed his struggles in the fifth. Again the bottom of the order got things going, and Ramon Santiago, who should hit at the bottom of the order, put the Tigers ahead. Sabathia did manage to escape the inning without further trouble.
5. Meanwhile, Verlander continued to cruise.
6. With Don Kelly slated to lead off the sixth, Girardi stuck with Sabathia. There’s little problem with this. Kelly is a light-hitting lefty, lefties were facing a tougher strike zone, and Sabathia is hell on lefties. Kelly threw a wrench into the plans by laying down a bunt, which got by Sabathia. Base hit.
7. Yet Girardi did not remove Sabathia for the righty Jhonny Peralta. Yes, Peralta has something of a reverse split, but the circumstances were a bit different than a typical LHP/RHP situation. A hard-worked and shaky Sabathia stood on the mound, while the well-rested Rafael Soriano waited in the pen. Peralta doubled home a run. Sabathia stayed in for yet another batter, Alex Avila, whom he owned in the previous two at-bats. Even still, the sacrifice was a favorable outcome.
8. After going down 0-2 with two outs in the seventh, Jorge Posada hung in there to draw a walk from Verlander. That kinda changed the game there. Before that he was in complete game mode. Now he had to work a little harder. Things got harder still when he hit Russ Martin with a 100 mph fastball in the ribs. But that put the tying runner on, which came in handy when Brett Gardner split the outfielders. On Sunday Girardi pinch hit for Gardner in a similar situation. Last night he decided to stay with Gardner, and it paid off. Tie ballgame.
9. But not for long! On the first pitch of his at-bat Delmon Young took a fastball to the opposite field, just clearing the fence. Tigers back up. Valverde looming.
10. In the ninth Valverde came in, and he was wild from the start. Nick Swisher helped him out by popping up a 2-0 pitch, but after he homered yesterday it’s understandable why he went after the pitch. It was hittable, but he just missed it. Posada waited out Valverde, drawing another walk. Russ Martin then nearly put one out, flying one deep to the track. Like Curtis Granderson’s fly the previous inning, it would have been out at most parks, no less Yankee Stadium.
11. Gardner drew a walk, and Jeter did a good job to run the count full. But he couldn’t get the job done, or even pass the baton. He swung through one and ended the game.
12. See you back here tomorrow night, when the season rests in A.J. Burnett’s hands. That terrifies everyone. Maybe the pressure will bring out the best in him. It’s really the only hope the Yankees have of extending their season.