The first series of this cushy ten-game homestand is complete, and the Yankees did what they had to do by taking two of three. It got a little hairy in the late innings, but all that matters is that they … put it on the left side!
Biggest Hit: Eduardo’s Double
The Athletics jumped out to a two-zip lead in the second inning with a little help from Russell Martin (more on that in a bit), but the Yankees answered back with one run in the bottom half before taking the lead for good in the fourth. It was a two out rally too; Robinson Cano and Nick Swisher started the fourth out with a ground out and a fly out. Gio Gonzalez created his own mess by putting Martin (grazed by a pitch in the pant leg) and Andruw Jones (four-pitch walk) on base without making them take the bat of their shoulders. That brought Eduardo Nunez to the plate.
Playing shortstop while Derek Jeter got a half day off as the DH, Nunez saw two fastballs and a changeup in his first at-bat, a fly out to Josh Willingham left. Gio went to the hook the second time around, dropping the first curve in for a called strike. The second curve wasn’t a bad pitch, but Nunez loves pitches down in the zone and he golfed it out to left. Willingham didn’t catch this one, and it landed on the warning track. Martin scored easily from second and Jones chugged all the way from first to score. Just like that, the Yankees turned a one-run deficit into a one-run lead with just one swing of the bat. The WPA on this sucker was +.227, the second biggest play of the game. We’ll cover the first in a bit.
Honorable Mention: Grandy Goes Boom
One inning after Nunez gave the Yankees the lead, their offensive MVP tacking on what proved to be a pair of big insurance runs. Gio again hurt himself by walking Jeter after a full count to lead off the fifth, then he again ran the count full to Curtis Granderson. Curtis saw nothing but fastballs that at-bat, and I assume it was because Oakland was worried about a stolen base. The seventh heater of the encounter was a little inside but it was up, and Granderson did what he’s been doing to that pitch all season. He pulled his hands in and yanked it down the line, into the second deck for a two-run homer to turn a 3-2 game into a much more comfortable 5-2 game. At +.138 WPA, this was the third biggest play of the game.
Seven From Bart
It wasn’t the complete game shutout he threw against the A’s in May, but Bartolo Colon gave the Yankees seven innings of one-run ball, his second straight strong effort after a pair of stinkers. He did allow eight hits, several of which were very hard hit (as were some of the outs), but he only walked one and recorded 15 of his 21 outs on the infield. Colon did get some help in the fifth, when Eric Sogard got thrown out at the plate on Hideki Matsui‘s double. Granderson made a nice throw to the cutoff man, but Cano kinda airmailed the relay throw to the plate. Martin jumped to catch it and came down in time to apply the tag. That made up for the ball he failed to receive properly in the second, which led to a pair of Oakland runs.
Colon threw 99 total pitches and just 28 balls, though 23 of those pitches were offspeed (22 sliders and one changeup). That’s about double his season average, which is something that’s been going on since he came off the DL. I think it’s a conscious decision to change up the scouting report and keep the hitters guessing a little bit simply because he doesn’t seem to favoring the hamstring anymore. The four-seam fastball averaged 92.35 mph and topped out at 95.5, so the velo’s there. Things got a little scary with the injury, but these last two starts have shown that the clock hasn’t struck midnight just yet.
Joe Girardi pulled off his best Joe Torre impression in the eighth inning, using David Robertson with a four-run lead one day after he threw 25 pitches in oppressive heat and humidity. Robertson ended up getting smacked around a bit, giving up three hits for just the second time this season and two runs for the third time. He ended up throwing 30 pitches while recording only two outs, so forget about having him on Monday and probably Tuesday as well. It just seemed pretty unnecessary, if you can’t use Luis Ayala or Cory Wade with a four-run lead in the eighth inning against the Athletics, when can you use them?
Relax, Mo’s Got This
Robertson’s struggles resulted in Mariano Rivera coming in for the four-out save, just the second time all season he’s been asked to do that. The other time was April 24th in Baltimore, when he blew the save but escaped the inning because Felix Pie got thrown out the plate. The Yankees went on to win that game in extra innings after a rain delay. Anyway, Mo cleaned up Robertson’s mess with a ground ball out to end the eighth, but some BABIP shenanigans created an interesting situation in the ninth. Jemile Weeks singled through the right side on what sounded like a broken bat, Coco Crisp reached on an infield single off Cano’s glove at second, then Matsui blooped in a broken bat single.
All of a sudden, the bases were loaded with one out (Sogard grounded out to open the inning). Willingham became the fourth straight batter to single, a legit line drive to left that could only score one run. Paul O’Neill made an interesting point, saying that the outfielders should not have been playing deep because it’s not often that Mo gives up a ball to the wall. Had Brett Gardner (who replaced Jones for defense late) been playing normal depth, that ball is hit right at him for the second out. Anyway, the next batter hit a line drive to Mark Teixeira at first, who stepped on the bag for the game-ending double play. I thought the ball would have curved foul when I say the play live, but upon further review it clearly would have gone down the line and into the corner for extra bases. Three dinky hits started the rally but a line drive double play ended it. The BABIP gods work in mysterious ways. That double play was worth +.291 WPA for the Yankees and was the biggest play of the game.
Nunez’s double was obviously very important, but he also created an insurance run in the bottom of the eighth. Joey Devine came on for Oakland and much like Friday night, his first pitch was behind the batter. Eduardo ducked out of the way and then singled two pitches later. Brandon Laird bunted him over to second then Nunez stole third*, and with the infield in, he managed to score on Jeter’s ground ball. Nunez broke on contact and was so far down the line that the A’s didn’t try for the play at home. That whole inning was like a big FU for the first pitch of the inning, like Nunez got mad and got some revenge.
* Am the only one that finds that kinda funny? Bunt a guy to second and then he steals third? Why not just have him steal second and save the out?
The Yankees botched a chance to score some runs in the third inning, when Laird (reached on an error) and Jeter (walk) started the inning by reaching in base. Grandy clobbered a pitch to deep center, but Crisp ran it down on the warning track. Laird should have tagged up there as soon as he saw Crisp settle under it, but he wandered too far off the bag and had to stay at second. Jeter did was he was supposed to do, he’s got to go to second so he can score in case it gets over the outfielder’s head. Rookie mistake by Laird. Teixeira grounded into a double play as the next batter to end the inning.
Granderson’s homer was his 11th off a left-handed pitcher this year, by far the most in the majors by a left-handed batter. Matsui is second with seven. Speaking of Godzilla, damn did he have himself a game or what? Five hits in five at-bats including two doubles, his first five-hit game since 2007. He was a thorn in the side all weekend, but I can’t bring myself to dislike the guy. First class all the way and a great Yankee.
As for the rest of the offense … Jeter had two walks, Tex a bloop single just off Crisp’s glove, Cano a single, Martin two singles, and Jones had two singles and a walk. Andruw has five hits (including two homers) in 14 at-bats (.357) since the break to go along with two walks and just one strikeout. He’s coming around a little bit, which is nice to see. Martin has nine hits in 32 at-bats (.281) since the break with four walks and one hit-by-pitch (.378 OBP). Maybe the three days off (he did fly to Arizona but didn’t play in the All-Star Game) did him some good.
The Yankees managed to give up 38 hits in the series, the most they’ve given up in any three-game stretch all season. This game was also the first one all year they won while allowing 15 hits or more. Oh, and it’s the first time Mo allowed four hits in an outing and still got the save in eight years. Go figure. Rivera’s 25th save of the season extended his own record of consecutive seasons with 25+ saves to 15.
Box Score, WPA Graph & Standings
Trap series! The Mariners are coming to town on a 15-game losing streak. Yes, 15 games. That streak will inevitable end in the Bronx and cause MASS PANIC! Freddy Garcia will be charged with keeping his former team in check in the opener on Monday. Jason Vargas gets the ball for Seattle. If you want to catch the game, RAB Tickets can get you there on the cheap.