For the 20th consecutive season, the Yankees will finish the year with a winning record. They won their 82nd game of the season on Saturday afternoon, an important win over the Rays in a tight division race. Let’s recap…
- Back-to-Back: Jamie Shields is as tough a right-hander as you’ll find in the league, but he can be a little homer prone. The Yankees took advantage of that weakness in the second inning, as Curtis Granderson (two-run) and Eduardo Nunez (solo) went back-to-back to open the scoring. Granderson’s homer was his fifth in the last six games and 39th of the season while Nunez’s was his first of the year. Raul Ibanez, who came into the game on a 3-for-48 skid, deserves some credit for working a walk ahead of Grandy’s dinger.
- Nova’s Back: After roughly three weeks on the DL with a sore shoulder, Ivan Nova returned to the rotation and looked an awful lot like the guy he was in the second half of last season. He was limited to 80-90 pitches but still managed to strike out eight in six innings, allowing just one run on a solo homer by Evan Longoria with two outs in the sixth. No biggie. Nova was throwing hard (averaged 94.07 with the fastball) and got 15 swings and misses, including seven apiece on the fastball and curveball. The most important thing was his location — he kept the ball down and out of the middle of the plate, and his breaking pitches broke out of the zone instead of right into it. Ivan was very good and I really hope this is the guy we’re going to see the rest of the way. That would be an enormous help.
- Bullpen Near-Meltdown: Things got a little interesting late, as Boone Logan (double, one out) and Joba Chamberlain (single, two outs) allowing the runner they inherited from Nova to score as well as one more for good measure. Luke Scott’s two-strike, two-out, two-run ground ball single through the right side off Joba was the back-breaker; it looked like they would escape the inning unscathed. David Robertson tossed a perfect eighth before Rafael Soriano put the tying run on-base in the ninth, though he got out of the inning without a run scoring. After Nova allowed six baserunners in six innings, but the bullpen put four men on base in three innings.
- Leftovers: The Yankees went 2-for-3 with runners in scoring position as Derek Jeter plated Ichiro Suzuki (who singled and stole second) with a two-out, full count single in the fifth before Alex Rodriguez singled in Robinson Cano (who doubled on a ball that turned B.J. Upton around in center) in the eighth. Both singles line drives right back up the middle, textbook hitting in those situations … the only starter who failed to reach base was Eric Chavez, though Cano and A-Rod were the only players to reach twice.
MLB.com has the box score and video highlights while ESPN has the updated standings. The Orioles are out on the West Coast,
and if they beat the Athletics they’ll remain tied with the Yankees for first place in the AL East and they lost to the Athletics so they are one game out in the divison. The Rays are four games back either way. Hiroki Kuroda and Matt Moore square off in the rubber game of this series on Sunday afternoon. Check out RAB Tickets for some last-minute ticket deals.