The Yankees are undefeated when the pitcher bats eighth this year. Joe Girardi is a genius. They used a ninth inning rally to beat the Rockies by the score of 3-2 on Wednesday night.
Boesch Comes Through
It seems silly now, but batting the pitcher eighth actually played a pretty big role in this win. The Yankees and Rockies were knotted at two in the top of the ninth when New York loaded the bases with one out — the rally started with an infield single and a stolen base where the infielder dropped a perfect throw that would have had the runner by a mile — allowing Girardi to go for the kill with his two top pinch-hitters.
First, Travis Hafner came to the plate in place of third baseman Chris Nelson even though Eduardo Nunez is injured and the team doesn’t have a backup infielder at the moment. Hafner has the highest OBP on the team and a walk is as good as a hit in that situation, but he struck out on five pitches to set the stage for Brennan Boesch. Boesch, by the way, was pinch-hitting for the pitcher. Had the pitcher batted ninth, it would have been Austin Romine at the plate and maybe Girardi doesn’t pinch-hit. Who knows.
Anyway, Boesch managed to beat out an infield single to plate the go-ahead run, sliding (flopping?) feet-first into first base to beat third baseman Nolan Arenado’s throw. It was a bang-bang play and Todd Helton tried to sell it by starting towards the dugout, but the umpire ruled safe and the Yankees had the lead. Jayson Nix was thrown out at second base on the plate, so they didn’t get a chance to add to the lead, but they got a run and that was the most important thing.
Phelps’ One Mistake
Hiroki Kuroda made one mistake on Tuesday night, which is exactly what David Phelps did on Wednesday. Helton hit a 3-1 fastball like he knew it was coming in the second inning, driving the pitch out to right for a two-run homer. It was gone off the bat, total no-doubter. Those two runs were the only runs Phelps allowed on the night, as he held the Rockies to just three hits and one walk in his six innings of work. He struck out four despite throwing a first pitch to strike to only seven of 19 hitters faced.
The biggest at-bat of his outing was his last, when Carlos Gonzalez batted with a man on first and two outs in the sixth. It was pretty much the same situation Kuroda got burned on the day before — Josh Rutledge singled with outs to get CarGo to the plate in a tie game — but Phelps used two fastballs and two filthy changeups to retire the former batting champ. First pitch fastball for a whiff, second pitch changeup for a whiff, third pitch inside fastball to straighten him up, fourth pitch changeup for a whiff and the end of the inning. Textbook. Phelps held up his end of the bargain. Nice job.
The Vernon Wells Show
So apparently any time a Yankee slumps, all I have to do to wake them up is write a post. A few hours after saying Wells’ recently slump came at a terrible time for the team, he broke out by going 3-for-4 with a two-run homer in the first and the infield single that started the ninth inning rally. He also stole that base in the ninth, but it looked like a botched hit-and-run — Lyle Overbay never bothered to swing, so maybe someone missed a sign. If that wasn’t enough, Wells took over at third base (!) for Nelson in the bottom half of the inning and made a splendid play on the only ball hit his way. Well done, Vern.
I was hoping Girardi would pinch-hit Hafner for the pitcher when there was a man on third and two outs in the seventh inning, but he opted for the right-handed Ben Francisco against the lefty Josh Outman. Needless to say, it didn’t work. Can’t complain though, Girardi went for the kill two innings later by using Pronk with the bases loaded and one out in the tie game.
The Yankees had six hits total, three by Wells. Boesch (infield single to score the go-ahead run), Nelson (single that turned into a triple thanks to Dexter Fowler’s error), and Brett Gardner (regular old single) had the others. They drew three walks, including an intentional walk to Nix (!) to load the bases in the ninth. You won’t see that very often.
Preston Claiborne will get to tell all his buddies at the yacht club about the way he retired the first nine big league batters he faced. He pitched a perfect seventh, which included his first career strikeout — a four-pitch number against Helton to end the inning. David Robertson hit a batter in an otherwise uneventful eighth — it was his first appearance in a week due to the hamstring issue, and the rust was evident — and Mariano Rivera closed things out in the ninth. Solid work by the boys in the ‘pen.
The Yankees have been shutout three times this year, and each time they rebounded with a win in the next game. Love to see them bounceback like that, though not getting shutout would be preferred.
The Yankees and Rockies will wrap-up this three game series with a Thursday afternoon matinee. CC Sabathia will get the ball against fellow left-hander Jeff Francis.