The Yankees may be in first and the Red Sox may be in last, but you’d never know it from watching Wednesday’s game. The two clubs played a nail-biter that ended with New York securing a sorely-needed 5-4 win. It felt more like 5-4.9, honestly.
Three Homers And Nothing Else
The Yankees have been waiting for Curtis Granderson to snap out of his three-month long slump for, well, three months, and it seems like he may finally be turning the corner. After going 3-for-3 with a double and a homer off the bench in the series finale down in Baltimore, the Grandyman clubbed a pair of homers against the Sox on Wednesday. The first was a solo homer in the fourth to open the scoring, the second a two-run insurance shot in the seventh. Turns out the Yankees needed every bit of that insurance.
In between the two dingers, Robinson Cano launched a two-run shot over the Monstah to left. That came just two batters after Granderson’s first homer, when the Yankees started to get to Aaron Cook. That was all their scoring though, five runs on three dingers, because New York went 0-for-13 (!) with runners in scoring position. Jayson Nix, Chris Stewart, and Ichiro Suzuki all took 0-for-3s in those situations. The Yankees left a man on second in the third (leadoff double!), a man on third in the fourth, a man on second in the fifth, men on second and third in the sixth, a man on second in the seventh, a man on third in the eighth, and men on first and second in the ninth. That’s insane. Good thing they can hit the ball out of the park, eh?
David Phelps pitched like a rookie in a pennant race his last two times out, failing to complete five innings in both starts. He rebounded to toss 5.2 innings of one-run ball on Wednesday, striking out five against one walk and five hits. As an added bonus, he retired Pedro Ciriaco all three times he faced him, including a ground ball double play in the sixth. David’s most impressive work came in the fifth, when he pitched around a leadoff triple to escape the inning unscathed (strikeout, pop-up, strikeout). That was a big boy inning.
I thought Phelps did a great job of keeping the Boston hitters off-balance with his curveball, throwing the pitch 20 times out of 93 total pitches (21.5%). He threw it for first-pitch strikes and seemed to bust the hook out in every hitter’s count, and it worked well for him. Thirteen of those 20 curveballs went for strikes, including six swings and misses. With Ivan Nova set to rejoin the rotation this weekend and Andy Pettitte close to returning, you gotta figure Phelps heard those footsteps and wanted to do as much as possible in what was potentially his final start of the season. He stepped up after two dud outings, so good job by him.
Six relievers to get ten outs. I understand the rosters are expanded and all that, but this is getting very tiresome. Clay Rapada (more on him in a bit) escaped the sixth on a line drive to first, then it took three relievers — Cody Eppley, Boone Logan, and Joba Chamberlain — to navigate the two-run seventh. All three gave up exactly one hit and Logan didn’t retire a batter. David Robertson got the first two outs of the eighth despite his lengthy relief appearance on Tuesday, and his night ended when James Loney doubled to left with two outs. Seriously.
With this game firmly in “holy hell we really need to win” territory, Joe Girardi went to Rafael Soriano for the four-out save. He struck out Cody Ross on a borderline (but correct!) call with a runner on second to end the eighth, and didn’t escape the ninth until he surrendered a solo homer to Jarrod Saltalamacchia and another ball to the warning track. Four of the five hitters Soriano faced in the ninth hit the ball hard, but one stayed in the park and another wound up back in his glove. Mariano Rivera needs to talk to his replacement again, because Rafi threw way too many sliders — 13 compared to just nine fastballs. He got away with a lot of mistakes, but at this point I don’t care how pretty it is. A win is a win.
Cano’s homer was his 30th of the season, a new career-high. He joins Joe Gordon (1940) and Alfonso Soriano (2002 and 2003) as the only full-time second basemen to hit that many dingers for the Yankees. Granderson’s two homers give him 102 in 1,818 plate appearances as a Yankee, the exact same number of long balls he hit in 2,896 plate appearances as a Tiger. It must be the ballpark.
Jeter (two singles), Granderson (two homers), Nick Swisher (single and two doubles), and Eric Chavez (two doubles, including the 300th of his career) all had multiple hits while Alex Rodriguez (single) and Cano (homer) chipped in one apiece. Stewart and pinch-hitter Andruw Jones drew walks. I was thrilled that Girardi pinch-hit Nix for Raul Ibanez against the left-handed Rich Hill following Chavez’s leadoff double in the sixth … until I saw Nix square around to bunt. He didn’t get it down and the inning ultimately ended when Stewart flew out with men on the corners. No idea how Stewart was allowed to hit there, but whatever I guess.
Rapada retired Loney to end the sixth inning in relief of Phelps, his eighth consecutive appearance of exactly one batter faced. That’s the longest such streak in Yankees history, breaking a tie with 2006 Mike Myers. The last time Rapada faced more than one batter in an outing was August 18th against these same Red Sox.
Jeter left the game after running out his inning-ending double play in the eighth. He hit the bag hard and limped down the line as he slowed down. The Cap’n aggravated the bone bruise in his left ankle that he’s been nursing for a while, but he’s expected to play tomorrow. Losing Jeter for any length of time could be the straw that breaks the camel’s back.
Box Score, Standings & WPA Graph
MLB.com has the box score and video highlights while ESPN has the updated standings. Nate McLouth and the Orioles walked off against the Rays, so they remain tied with the Yankees atop the AL East. Tampa is three back, and they really need to take Thursday’s game against the O’s to balance this thing out. The magic number for the division dropped down to 21 while the magic number for a wildcard berth is 18.
It’ll be Phil Hughes against Felix Doubront in the rubber game on Thursday night. That one seems to have 20+ total runs potential, but I hope not. I really don’t want to sit through that.