Man, it had been a while since the Yankees swept a three-game series. In fact, the last time they did it was the Royals series in Kansas City about a month ago. Wednesday afternoon’s 6-4 win over the Indians gave New York an acceptable (barely) 4-4 homestand.
The Yankees jumped all over Cleveland starter Corey Kluber early on, scoring all six of their runs in the first two innings. In fact, they had a 4+ run inning for the third straight game after coming into the series with just five such innings on the season. Five of those eight 4+ run innings have come against the Indians.
Travis Hafner got the scoring started with a monster two-run homer into the second deck in right field in the first inning, taking advantage of an error by the usually sure-handed Michael Bourn, who dropped a fly ball. It was a bomb, and the way Pronk sheepishly looked away and dropped his bat while breaking into his trot made it look like he was embarrassed he hit a ball that hard. He felt bad for it.
An inning later, the power-hittin’ Brett Gardner jumped all over a hanging slider in a 1-2 count for a three-run homer to right. Most of his homers this year have been on first pitch fastballs — the kind that make you think he went up there hunting for one and just let it rip — but this was a mistake pitch he muscled out with a two-strike swing. It was impressive and, frankly, unexpected.
Kluber settled down and the Yankees didn’t score again, but six runs in the first two innings is a pretty great start. It gave CC Sabathia some breathing room and put all the pressure on the Indians because they had to play catch-up. The Bombers scored 17 runs in the three-game series, or two more than they scored in their previous eight games combined. Yeah.
A Win And A Save
The box score absolutely does not do Sabathia’s performance justice. It wasn’t until there were two outs in the fourth that the Indians hit a ball out of the infield, and it wasn’t until there were two outs in the fifth that the Indians had a man reach base. Only once did Sabathia throw more than 14 pitches in an inning and never once did he throw more than 16 pitches in an inning. Twenty-three of his 27 outs were recorded on the infield.
Sabathia’s only mistake was catching too much of the plate with a first pitch slider to Yan Gomes — the Cleveland backup catcher hit the ball out to left for a two-run homer in the seventh. The Tribe’s two sixth inning runs was a death by a thousand cuts rally. It went infield single, ground ball single through the hole on a hit-and-run, ground ball single passed a diving Mark Teixeira, fielder’s choice. Nothing hit in the air. Two runs is two runs, but the Indians hardly smacked CC around that inning.
A whopping 84 of his 116 pitches were strikes (72%), and that includes 14 swings and misses. Sabathia averaged 91.9 mph with his fastball and topped out at 93.9 according to PitchFX, which is a touch below where he was last start but better than his season averages. In fact, his fastball velocity has been trending upward over the last month or so. I doubt he’ll ever regularly sit 93-95 mph again, but that is encouraging.
Most importantly, Sabathia gave the Yankees innings. All of them. The bullpen had been used heavily the last few days, particularly David Robertson and Mariano Rivera, so giving them a nice day off before the cross-country flight was huge. CC’s efficiency and willingness to pound the zone relentlessly made that happen. Well done, big man.
Everyone in the starting lineup reached base at least once except … Vernon Wells. Who woulda guessed it? He’s now sitting on an 87 wRC+ after putting up an 88 wRC+ last year. So yeah, he officially stinks. Gardner (single, homer), Hafner (homer, walk), and Chris Stewart (single, walk) were the only players to reach base twice.
Wanna hear a scary stat? The Yankees scored 49 runs in seven games against Cleveland this year (7.0 per game) and just 191 in 52 games against everyone else (3.7 per game). The offense needs to pick it up because the Bombers don’t play the Tribe again in 2013.
Box Score, WPA Graph & Standings
MLB.com has the box score and video highlights, FanGraphs the WPA graph, and ESPN the updated standings. The Rays won while the Red Sox lost, so they are one back and one up on the Yankees in the loss column.
The Yankees are off to Seattle to kick off a four-game weekend series with the Mariners and ten-game West Coast trip. Phil Hughes and Aaron Harang kick off that series Thursday night.