Saturday afternoon’s game had all the makings of another lackluster loss, including poor pitching and a nonexistent offense. Instead, the bullpen picked up the struggling starter and the Yankees managed to mount a late-rally for an important win over the Orioles. Let’s recap…
- Late-Rally: The Yankees didn’t get their first baserunner against Wei-Yin Chen until Robinson Cano hit a solo homer with two outs in the fourth, and they didn’t get two runners on-base at the same time until there were two outs in the seventh. Jayson Nix‘s walk (after an 0-2 count) allowed September call-up Eduardo Nunez to single in Steve Pearce from second, then the trademark Yankees patience took over. Ichiro Suzuki drew a walk to load the bases, then Derek Jeter battled back from an 0-2 count to draw a bases loaded walk to tie the game. Nick Swisher worked the count full before lining the ball to short, where J.J. Hardy bobbled it and allowed the go-ahead run to score. The Yankees needed some breaks but five straight batters reached base with two outs to turn a 3-1 deficit into a 4-3 lead.
- Unsung Hero: David Phelps absolutely didn’t have it (more on him in a bit), but the bullpen picked up the starter with 4.1 innings of one-hit ball. Cody Eppley entered the game with men on first and second with two outs in the fifth, and he escaped the jam with a fly ball. Boone Logan chipped in two scoreless innings, pitching around a bunt double (bah) and an intentional walk in the seventh. Once the Yankees took the lead, David Robertson and Rafael Soriano fired off perfect innings in the eighth and ninth, respectively. I’ve been trashing the bullpen — in my defense, just the middle relief — quite a bit recently, but those guys deserve some serious props for their work on Saturday.
- Struggling Phelps: How he only allowed three runs in five innings, I’ll never know. Phelps was brutally ineffective in his 4.2 innings, walking six (!) against just three strikeouts. He allowed just three hits, one of which was a Matt Wieters solo homer. It was easily his worst start of the season and the first time Phelps walked more than four batters in his entire pro career (Majors or minors). That’s kinda crazy. He also plunked a batter for ten baserunners out of 21 batters faced. Yikes. Shake it off, David.
- Leftovers: The Yankees only had four hits — the homer by Cano and singles by Pearce, Nunez, and Swisher — but both Jeter and Swisher had hits taken away by diving outfielders in the first … three of their four walks came with two outs in that seventh inning, the other earlier in the game by Nix … Curtis Granderson left the game after two innings with “mild tendinitis” in his calf … Phelps picked a runner off first but also threw a ball away on another pickoff attempt … Nix was charged an error for a poor throw on a barehand play, but I thought it was a harsh error and should have gone to Pearce for failing to make the scoop.
MLB.com has the box score and video highlights, ESPN the updated standings. The lead over the Orioles jumps back up to three in the loss column while the Rays are five back. The magic number is down to 28, so maybe I should get the counter up soon. Let’s see how things go on Sunday afternoon first. Phil Hughes gets the ball against Chris Tillman in the matinee. Check out RAB Tickets for some last-minute details if you want to catch the game.