Order has been restored to the universe. The Red Sox won their first game of the season on Friday, but the Yankees reminded them who was boss on Saturday by taking batting practice off their prized young pitcher and revamped bullpen. The end result was a 9-4 win and Boston’s seventh loss in eight games.
The Bottom Third
A lot of jokes were made at the Yankees’ expense as they signed guys like Bartolo Colon, Eric Chavez, and Andruw Jones this winter, but right now they’re the ones doing the one laughing. Jones has a pair of extra base hits in his two starts against southpaws, Colon shoved it down Boston’s throat for four-plus innings on Friday, and Chavez led an offensive assault by the bottom third of the Yankees’ lineup on Saturday.
The party started right in the second inning. Seventh place hitter Curtis Granderson worked a walk off Clay Buchholz to put men at first and second with one out and the game still scoreless. Eighth place hitter Chavez jumped all over the first pitch fastball, driving it off the wall the other way for double and and the game’s first RBI. Ninth place hitter Russell Martin followed up a five pitch at-bat and a run scoring ground out.
Two innings later, Granderson worked a ten-pitch walk off Buchholz to lead off the frame before Chavez banged another opposite field double off the monstah. With men at second and third with none out, Martin said to hell with the RBI ground outs and clubbed a hanging curveball to left for a three-run homer, his second of the season. That made it 5-1 New York, with the bottom of the order doing all the damage. Granderson cut to the chase in the fifth inning, wrapping a two-run homer around the Pesky Pole for a 7-4 lead. Chavez would follow with a bloop single but didn’t come around to score. Martin tacked on another run with a solo homer in the seventh, his second of the game. It was the second two-homer game of his career.
All told, the bottom three hitters in the Yankees’ lineup combined to go 6-for-12 with two doubles, three homers, seven runs driven in, and two walks. At one point they were 5-for-7 with two walks. All three guys had at least one extra base hit, and Grandy was the only one without two. We know that the big names hitting towards the top and middle of the lineup will be the guys the team relies on all season, but yesterday was a good reminder of how deep and powerful this offense is.
Nova Walks A Thin Line
Having watched Phil Hughes struggle mightily on Friday, the Yankees were looking for Ivan Nova to given them some length on Saturday. He lasted longer than Hughes but didn’t pitch deep into the game, walking the tight rope all afternoon long. Nova pitched around a pair of walks in the first and a pair of singles in the second, but the Sox scored a run after a Dustin Pedroia leadoff double in the third. A botched double play in the fourth extended the inning and ended up costing the team three more runs. After two of the first three runners reached in the fifth inning, Nova’s day was done.
Boston put the leadoff runner on in the second, third, fourth, and fifth innings, so Nova threw the vast majority of his 87 pitches from the stretch. The Red Sox bailed him out a bit by going 1-for-17 with runners in scoring in position, but more often than not, the pitcher is going to head for the showers early when he puts so many runners on base. Give Nova some credit for bending but not breaking, but I think today had more to do with Boston’s offensive struggles than his crafty pitching.
A good as the bottom third of the order was, that how as bad as the top of the lineup had been (/McCarver’d). Brett Gardner, Derek Jeter, and Mark Teixeira went a combined 1-for-14 with three strikeouts and a walk (Jeter had the hit and walk). Alex Rodriguez had a pair of singles while Robinson “don’t call me Robbie” Cano singled, doubled, and homered. That man loves him some Fenway Park. Nick Swisher drove in another run, something he’s done in six of the team’s eight games. The Yankees were again brutally patient, forcing Buchholz out of the game after just 3.2 innings because he’d thrown 92 pitches.
Big ups to birthday boy David Robertson (turned 26 on Saturday) for cleaning up Nova’s mess in the fifth by striking out Jed Lowrie and retiring Jacoby Ellsbury on a ground out. He then chipped in a 1-2-3 sixth inning. Joba Chamberlain grunted and farted his way to two strikeouts in a dominant seventh inning (topped out at 96.2 mph and averaged 94.98), and Luis Ayala wrapped it up with two sketchy but ultimately scoreless innings. Rafael Soriano and Mariano Rivera were tossing lightly in the bullpen in case things got out of control.
Based on WPA, the biggest play of the game for New York was Grandy’s homer at +.157. Martin’s first homer was second at +.114 WPA. The two biggest outs of the day came on Jarrod Saltalamacchia strikeouts, a second inning whiff with men on first and second and a fourth inning whiff with men on the corner. There were not outs in both situations, and both outs came in at +.059 for the good guys.
WPA Graph & Box Score
ESPN is carrying the rubber game of the series on Sunday night at 8:05pm ET. CC Sabathia matches up against Josh Beckett, and Joe Girardi should be able to go nuts with Soriano and Mo if needed thanks to Monday’s scheduled off day.