Yankees mount late comeback against Blue Jays, remain tied atop AL East

Sunday Night Open Thread
Playoff Bound: Yankees clinch wildcard spot

What looked like bitter defeat and a one-way ticket to second place turned into the biggest and most important win of the season. The Yankees mounted a, dare I say, gutty comeback in the late innings to take the series finale from the Blue Jays by the score of 9-6. In many ways, it was the exact opposite of Saturday’s loss.

(Abelimages/Getty)

Don’t Call It A Comeback

We’ll get into the first few innings in a sec, but right now the important thing is that the Yankees were down 5-1 heading into the sixth. They had squandered an opportunity or two along the way, but for the most part the lack of scoring had to do with Henderson Alvarez overwhelming the lineup with fastballs. Seriously, the kid threw two (two!) sliders out of his 87 pitches. The other 85 were two- and four-seam fastballs. That’s insane and part of the reason why the first five innings were so frustrating.

Anyway, the Yankees got a run back in the sixth when Alvarez uncorked a wild pitch with men on the corners, though they were unable to bring Nick Swisher in from second with no outs. The seventh inning is when things really started to turn around. Eduardo Nunez pinch-hit for Eric Chavez against the left-handed Brett Cecil, opening the inning with a single. Steve Delabar replaced Cecil and allowed a ground-rule double to Derek Jeter, putting two men in scoring position and (more importantly) bringing the tying run to the plate. Ichiro Suzuki plated the first run with a sacrifice fly to center.

The middle of the order was up, but lately Alex Rodriguez hasn’t been much of an offensive force. He came into the game riding a 2-for-24 slump, and when a pitcher with a filthy put-away splitter like Delabar jumps ahead in the count 0-2, it seems like an out is inevitable. Instead A-Rod fouled off two pitches before working the count full and eventually drawing the walk. He doesn’t hit for as much impact as he used to, but Alex can still put together a mean at-bat. Robinson Cano followed a hard-fought at-bat of his own, fouling off two two-strike splitters before doubling down the right field line. Jeter scored to make it a one-run game, and a batter later Aaron Loup chucked a wild pitch to allow A-Rod to score the tying run. Nick Swisher actually did a great job of avoiding the pitch and allowing it to go to the backstop. The two at-bats by A-Rod and Cano really defined the big inning, they were fantastic.

AwPhil

(Abelimages/Getty)

The Yankees needed a strong outing from Phil Hughes, and he instead gave them five runs in 4.2 innings. The Blue Jays tagged him for eight hits, including what appeared to be a back-breaking two-run homer by Brett Lawrie in the fifth inning. That turned a 2-1 game into a 4-1 game that felt like a 400-1 game. Phil allowed another run before being lifted with two outs in the fifth. None of the four starters in the series completed six innings of work and two didn’t even complete five.

I thought Hughes was overthrowing early in the game, especially in the two-run first inning. He was consistently missing up in the zone, far enough up that hitters took the pitches for balls rather than put a good swing on them. Seventeen of his 93 pitches were the new slider, which is far more than I can remember him throwing in any other start. Toronto only had two left-handed hitters in the starting lineup, so maybe that’s why the battery emphasized the pitch. It was not a good way for Hughes to end his season by any means, and hopefully he’ll get a chance to wash the taste out of his mouth in a postseason game.

(AP Photo/The Canadian Press, Chris Young)

And The Yankees Take The Lead

Tying to score at five felt like a win, but in reality there was still a lot more work to be done. Left-hander Darren Oliver opened the eighth by walking Curtis Granderson on five pitches, which is a big no-no. Joe Girardi opted to leave Raul Ibanez in to face the veteran southpaw rather than send Casey McGehee or (worse) Andruw Jones to the plate, and he was rewarded with a single. Russell Martin, one of the team’s three hottest hitters in recent weeks, sacrificed the runners up to second and third with one out. The Yankees were in business.

The right hitter was up in this situation, the generally punchless Eduardo Nunez. He was the right hitter because he’s the best non-Ichiro contact hitter on the Yankees, and all they needed was a ball-in-play. Nunez drove the ball to deep center field — the camera angle make it look like it was ticketed for the gap, but alas — for the go-ahead sacrifice fly. After being down four runs with four innings the play, the Yankees had taken the lead. Jeter followed by punching a single to right, allowing pinch-runner Brett Gardner to trot home with a huge insurance run. That two-run lead felt enormous.

Girardi’s Machinations

Girardi catches an awful lot of grief for his managerial moves, but you have to hand it to him for this game. Every button he pushed worked and contributed to the win. He used Derek Lowe to escape Hughes’ fifth inning jam, and the veteran sinkerballer rewarded him by retiring all five men he faced and restoring order in the middle innings. Boone Logan took over with one out and the score tied in the seventh, and the overworked left-hander retired both Colby Rasmus (strikeout) and Adam Lind (fly ball) to end the inning. He walked the right-handed Yunel Escobar between the two lefties, which seemed like a strategic pitch-around in lieu of another pitching change to match up.

Offensively, Girardi left Ibanez in the game to face Oliver, which obviously worked out. I wouldn’t advise making a habit of allowing Raul to face tough lefties in the late innings of close games, but on Sunday it worked out for him. Pinch-hitting Nunez for Chavez despite the lack of another infielder on the bench paid dividends as Eduardo started the game-tying rally with a single and drove in the go-ahead run with a sac fly. Having Martin bunt resulted in a pair of runs as well. Pretty much anything that can be construed as a managerial decision worked in the Yankees’ favor.

Leftovers

Ichiro made a great running catch to save Hughes an extra-base hit. (AP Photo/The Canadian Press, Chris Young)

Rafael Soriano made things interesting in the ninth, very interesting in fact. Like he brought the tying run to the plate by loaded the bases with no outs interesting. Thankfully he escaped the jam with two ground balls, the first a 6-4-3 double play and the second a routine 4-3. Still though, didn’t need the heart attack Rafi. David Robertson walked a batter in an otherwise strong inning, striking out a pair on … wait for it … curveballs!

The Yankees scored their first run with a Chavez solo homer in the third, his third dinger in his last four games. They also plated two big insurance runs in the ninth, when Curtis Granderson doubled in a pair with the bases loaded and no outs. It gave him 100 RBI on the season, meaning the Yankees will not have their first 100 RBI man-less season since 1992 (not counting strike years). Jason Frasor, the first Jays’ pitcher of the inning, faced ten batters in the series and retired two.

After tying the game in the seventh, Swisher lined into an inning-ending double play with Cano on third. The infield was in, Escobar made a great diving stop to his left, then flipped over to third for the force out. Robinson may have been a little too far off the base but I don’t blame him for getting doubled up. It was just an incredibly unfortunately turn of events. Swisher did everything right and still ended the inning. Sometimes baseball just ain’t fair.

Cano stayed hot with a 3-for-5 day, and one of the three was a little push bunt single to third base to beat the shift. A lot of people have been waiting all season to see someone do that. Jeter also had three hits while A-Rod and Ibanez had two each. Every starter had at least one hit other than Martin, who took and 0-for-4 with the sac bunt. A-Rod, Swisher, and Granderson drew walks to pace an offense that put 18 men on-base in nine innings. They also went 4-for-12 (.333) with runners in scoring position, so hooray for that. Total team effort by offense, so great job by them.

Box Score, WPA Graph & Standings

MLB.com has the box score and video highlights while ESPN has the updated standings. The Orioles finished of their sweep of the lowly Red Sox, so there is still a tie atop the AL East. If the Angels lose to the Rangers tonight, the Yankees will clinch at least a wildcard spot. If Texas loses, there will be a three-way tie for the best record in the AL. The magic number for the division is down to four.


Source: FanGraphs

Up Next

It’s the final series of the season, a three-game set against the Red Sox in the Bronx. I think we knew that would be an important series when the season opened, but I don’t think we expected the clubs to be separated by 20-something games in the standings. CC Sabathia gets the ball against Clay Buchholz in the opener on Monday night. Check our RAB Tickets for some last minute deals.

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Sunday Night Open Thread
Playoff Bound: Yankees clinch wildcard spot
  • Eddard reboot v.1.0

    A sweep of the Sox will win us the division. 2/3 might do it. The Rays are still barely alive but can be eliminated with just one As win. I think 2/3 and we’re playing a one game playoff in Camden Yards.

    • Preston

      The Rays will play all 162 regardless. I’m not worrying about them laying down.

  • stuart a

    i bat tex tommorrow down in the order let him get reaquinted to things…

    angels down 6 to 4, they lose yanks clinch at least the wildcard.

    tampa is toast if Oakland wins 1 of 3 at home……..

    • Robinson Tilapia

      Agreed. Batting Tex sixth wouldn’t be worst of things to do. Glad he’s going to be back.

    • jjyank

      The question on everyone’s mind though, is this:

      If the Angels lose and the Yankees clinch a playoff berth….do they throw a parade…..?

      • Get Phelps Up

        They will throw a parade for Granderson getting to 100 RBIs, I know that.

      • http://Twitter.com/erica_lynnnn Erica

        Best meme.

        YES.

    • Eddard reboot v.1.0

      Jeter
      Ichiro
      Alex
      Robbie
      Swisher
      Teixera
      Granderson
      Martin
      Chavez/Ibanez- DH

      Not a bad lineup. Much deeper. Chavy or Raul hitting 9th is as good as this lineup gets.

  • jjyank

    It was quite the roller coaster. As much as I try to be the optimist, it was pretty damn deflating to see the Jays take that 5-1 lead. But I was very, very pleased to see how the Yanks fought back. Even though the Jays are not a playoff team, the Yankees showed they still have some fight left in that roster. May it carry on through November.

  • Mike N

    A-Rod’s walk after going 0-2 was what really felt to me like the key turning point of the game, and that we were gonna win. And I loved Cano’s push bunt into the shift. They should attempt that more often, so that teams can’t just mindlessly play the shift.

    • David K.

      We would have won a lot more games if some of our left hand hitters had just swung late to hit into those holes in the shifts. Is it too much to ask of professional ball players to hit it where they ain’t?

  • Mrs. Mattingly

    “If the Angels lose to the Rangers tonight, the Yankees will clinch at least a wildcard spot.”

    “If Texas wins, there will be a three-way tie for the best record in the AL.”

    This sounds like the same thing but I could be wrong…

    • Sarah

      Think it’s a typo and he means if Texas loses.

  • Robinson Tilapia

    Seems like I missed a hell of a game. Didn’t get to a second of it.

    This is now a three-game sprint. Can’t believe how this has turned out, but this is going to be a nervewracking three games. I think I’ll need my stuffed animals for them.

    • jjyank

      Stuffed animals? What’s wrong with stuart?

      • Robinson Tilapia

        Stuart will organize the stuffed animal parade.

        • jjyank

          How many RBIs do the alleged stuffed animals have???!!!

          • http://Twitter.com/erica_lynnnn Erica

            However many RBIs they have…ARod has more strikeouts!!!

            • Robinson Tilapia

              THROW THEM A PARADE!

          • WhittakerWalt

            Give the stuffed animals a pat on the back…

  • Rocky Road Redemption

    I seriously cannot believe we won this game. When we went down 5-1 I finally stopped procrastinating and mowed the lawn, and when I came back the game was tied. Holy fucking shit.

    • Anthony

      haha. At that point I really considered getting started on an essay, but I procrastinated and was rewarded :D

    • jjyank

      DON’T YOU EVER STOP MOWING YOUR LAWN AGAIN!!!

    • http://Twitter.com/erica_lynnnn Erica

      Mow my lawn for the next 3 days?

  • Get Phelps Up

    Even though people harp on the fact that they haven’t won a game when trailing after 8 innings, the Yankees have really had some pretty big notable comebacks this season.

    • http://Twitter.com/erica_lynnnn Erica

      Oh, that Red Sox game… Sigh.

    • jjyank

      Because the 8th inning thing is arbitrary. They’re pretty damn good at coming back in the 13th inning!!

  • Eddard reboot v.1.0

    So we’re rooting for Texas then as that will get us the clinch of at least a WC. I actually like our chances in a potential tie for the division or WC game. We have Andy lined up for Thursday if we tie the Os and we can throw CC on short rest if we lose that and have to play a WC. I wouldn’t trust any other pitchers than those two.

  • DERP

    I know that the MVP will be one of Trout or Cabrera, but can you make an argument that Cano has been more valuable than Cabrera?

  • Need Pitching & Hitting

    That Napoli-Wells trade is really working out for the Angels.

  • Betty Lizard

    I do not like Philip of Hughes.

    I do not like his FIP or shoes.
    I do not like to watch him lose.

    I do not like his ERA.
    I do not like him any way.

    I do not like him on the town.
    I do not like him on the mound.

    I do not like him in the pen.
    I do not like the games he’s in.

    I do not like Philip of Hughes.
    I do not like him, win or lose.

    • Robinson Tilapia

      Betty, I do not like your poem!

      Sounds like he didn’t exactly rise to the task today, though.

      • Betty Lizard

        I’d rather have my poem pitch than Phil Hughes.

        But, “things could change.”

        • umbrellaman

          Brilliant. Poetic license aside, Hughes has done well in the bullpen.

    • Joe F

      Awww I love Philthy Use.

  • https://twitter.com/KramerIndustry Kramerica Industries

    Howie Kendrick resuscitates the Angels season, at least for the time being.

    Great game in Texas.

  • Big Members Only (formerly RI$P FTW)

    I mounted a Philthy ‘come’back myself last night! Ya! Ya!

  • DT

    The Yanks are 17-10 in September ..That’s pretty damn god. Yet they can’t shake the Orioles. Both teams are playing absurdly well…

    • Tom Q

      And I just heard tonight the O’s are 19-9. So it was August, not September, where all the ground was lost.

      A sort of undiscussed part of this would have to be the failure of the Rays to be right there, as well. I mean, they’re technically still “there”, but barely. I think most people would have thought that a big Yankee stumble meant opening the door for the Rays, not the O’s.

      • Need Pitching & Hitting

        O’s 18-9 in August.
        Yankees 15-13.

  • Eddard reboot v.1.0

    One inning away from clinching a playoff berth! Amazing in the AL that no division is clinched, no playoff berths are clinched unless Texas holds on here.

  • https://twitter.com/KramerIndustry Kramerica Industries

    Angels are done.

  • Alfredo

    Yankees clinch play-off berth!!!!!!!!!!!

  • RetroRob

    Was out of state for the weekend so missed all the games. I’m sure today’s game thread must have been fun. Perhaps I’ll go make some popcorn and check it out. The ledge jumpers always make for an enjoyable read.

  • Rocky Road Redemption

    Seriously, what a terrible fourth quarter by Eli. Guess it had to happen eventually.

    • Pat D

      Don’t get me started. I’ve had a pretty tremendously awful weekend all around. I could easily take someone’s life right now.

    • forensic

      It’s not just him though. Barden was terrible. The defense let a team go right down the field against them again (though at least they held them to 3).

  • Bavarian Yankee

    3rd time in a row that Hughes can’t get it done against a AAA-lineup. LOL.

    • TomH

      The thought of him pitching a playoff game against the Baltimore or Texas HR hitters gives me terminal jitters. But a lesser case of terminal jitters than the thought of Nova on the mound tomorrow night.

    • Squints

      Maybe if his manager had a little faith in him the last time he was pitching fine, his confindence might not be shook.

    • not that mike

      he. is. not. good.

  • dalelama

    The pressure is a bitch:

    “Alex Rodriguez has failed to drive in a run in 11 straight games for the first time since May 27-July 7, 2005, according to STATS LLC. He is hitting .250 with two doubles, three homers and 12 RBIs in 100 at-bats since returning from the DL on Sept. 3″ AP

    • TomH

      You can be sure that if it had been Musial in line to tie X in September of XXXX, he would have done it lickety-split.

  • Dan

    This is my first time commenting but after reading the postings I like going through the comments to see what the fans have to say. I am a HUGE fan of this site. Most times after losses reading this site spells any overwhelming destructive feelings I might have.

    I have to ask this question though: how does Hughes not DRILL the very next batter after Lowrie pimped the hell out of that homerun. Im sorry but if this team had any heart that next batter would be on his back in pain because the batter before decided to eat lunch while watching his homerun. Does anyone feel the sameway?

    • rek4gehrig

      Nope

  • Mandy Stankiewicz

    D Lowe looking comfortable in the big spot.