Don’t look now, but the Yankees have suddenly won four of their last five games and seven of their last eleven overall. The second-half skid isn’t over by any means, but it’s good to see things starting to break right for a change. Sunday’s 6-4 win over the Rays gave New York an important series win over a division rival.
Steals, Bunts, Homers
The Yankees haven’t put up many crooked numbers this season, especially of late, but they struck for five runs in a third inning that featured a little of everything. Eduardo Nunez started it all with a walk — cardinal sin, walking the number nine hitter to leadoff an inning — and quickly stole second. Derek Jeter singled him in and took second on the throw to the plate, then moved to third on Nick Swisher’s sacrifice bunt. Alex Rodriguez plated the Cap’n with a single to center, then wound up on third after a wild pitch and a stolen base. That was the small ball portion of the inning.
With two runs on the board and a man on third with one out, the offense went back into power and patience mode. Robinson Cano worked a walk off the struggling Matt Moore, then Russell Martin followed up with (easily) the best at-bat of the game. Moore jumped ahead in the count 0-2, but three balls and a foul-off later, the count had run full. Martin reached out and drove the eighth pitch of the at-bat — a 94 mph fastball on the outer half — out to right for a three-run homer. They took the lead with the small ball approach and extended it with the long ball, so that inning had something for everyone. The dinger gave the Yankees a nice five-run lead and by the time Moore escaped the inning, he’d thrown 45 pitches and allowed the Bombers to bat around.
Better Than The Box Score
Hiroki Kuroda’s pitching line — 6 IP, 4 H, 4 R, 4 ER, 2 BB, 10 K — looks a lot worse than how he actually pitched. He allowed just a solo homer through the first five innings, striking out seven of the first nine men he faced and nine batters through the first five innings overall. The three-run sixth inning rally by the Rays was a classic Murphy’s Law inning, highlighted by a bad bounce and a poor play by a fan.
Kuroda started the inning by walking Jose Lobaton — there goes that leadoff walk to the nine hitter again — which is obviously 100% on him. Jennings followed up with an infield single, then instead of popping out to foul territory, Ben Zobrist loaded the bases on a walk (again, on Kuroda). He’d popped a pitch up to the first base side earlier in the at-bat, and a fan in the front row reached for the ball and basically screened Steve Pearce from making the play for the first out. Instead of first and second with one out, it was bases loaded with no outs.
Evan Longoria plated two when a potential double play ground ball to third took a funny hop and bounced over A-Rod, continuing the Murphy’s Law theme. The first two outs of the inning came on a Matt Joyce double play, which scored Zobrist from third. Just like that, the 6-1 lead was 6-4. Kuroda definitely deserves the blame for the two walks, but otherwise the hardest hit ball of the inning was a foul ball down the line by Joyce. The Rays scored three runs on an infield single and two routine ground balls. Hiroki deserved better.
A two-run lead with nine outs to go used to be pretty automatic, but the primary late-inning relievers have been overworked of late and their performances haven’t been completely dominant. Boone Logan got the first out of the seventh by retiring pinch-hitter Ryan Roberts (he was originally brought in to face Luke Scott), then new middle man David Phelps took over to complete the inning. Ben Francisco hit a two-run ground rule double with two outs and pinch-hitter Carlos Pena was given the unintentional intentional walk, but Phelps escaped the jam by striking Jennings out looking with a fastball on the down-and-outside corner. T’was a gorgeous pitch.
David Robertson did his three-up, three-down thing in the eighth before giving way to Rafael Soriano, who recorded his 40th save of the season. The tying run did come to the plate following an A-Rod error at third, but Soriano got the game-ending double play from Keppinger a pitch or two later. He’s the first non-Mariano Rivera reliever with 40+ saves in pinstripes since (duh) John Wetteland in 1996 and the fourth player in franchise history to save that many games in a single season. Mo’s done it seven times, Wetteland did it once, and Dave Righetti did it once. That’s it.
Nunez was all over the place in this game. He walked and stole second to start the third inning rally, then singled (it was ruled an error but that was a bad call, in my opinion) and stole both second and third to create another run in the fourth. Nunez became the first Yankee to steal three bases in one game since Brett Gardner in the second to last game of the 2010 season. Overall, he went 4-for-13 (.308) with a double, a homer, and three steals in the four games at short while filling in for the hobbled Jeter.
Speaking of the Cap’n, his ankle injury cost the Yankees a run in the fourth inning, as he wasn’t able to run full speed from first when Desmond Jennings lost Cano’s fly ball in the sun with two outs. He would have scored easily at full strength, but what can you do. Just an unfortunate break. On the bright side, Derek’s third inning single was his 199th hit of the season. He’s one away from his eighth career 200-hit season and ten away from passing 1979 Pete Rose for the most hits by the 38-year-old in baseball history. Crazy.
The Yankees only had five hits as a team, but three of them came with runners in scoring position (out of eight at-bats in those situations) plus they drew six walks and Andruw Jones got hit by a pitch. Hooray for timely hits. No one had more than one knock, though Jeter (single, walk), Cano (double, walk), Curtis Granderson (single, walk), and Nunez (walk, error) all reached base twice. They also stole the four total bases to create some more offense. Nice to see a well-rounded attack.
Granderson nearly took a fastball to the head from Moore in that third inning, which I didn’t think was intentional at all. Home plate ump Paul Emmel disagreed and immediately warned both benches, which I thought was rather ridiculous. Joe Maddon kept yelled “you’re wrong” from the bench and got tossed. Emmel later ejected Joyce after jawing with him following a called strike three in the eighth, so that was two really quick hooks in the span of five innings. Really hate to see umps do that stuff, just let the players play and stop becoming part of the show.
Box Score, WPA Graph & Standings
MLB.com has the box score and video highlights while ESPN has the updated standings. The Orioles beat the Athletics, so they remain one back in the loss column in the AL East race. The Rays are a five back and a distant third. The magic number to clinch the division is down to 16.
The Yankees are off on Monday, the final scheduled off-day of the regular season. They’ll welcome the Blue Jays to the Bronx for a three-game set starting Tuesday night, when Andy Pettitte makes his (hopefully) triumphant return to the rotation against Ricky Romero. If you want to catch the game, check out RAB Tickets.