Even with Joba going just three decent innings, it’s hard to complain about this one, or much for that matter in The Bronx. Powered by good timely hitting, including homers from JD and Teixeira, and Aceves and Hughes’s outstanding relief work, the Yanks won going away to sweep Chicago 8-3. The team continues to fire on all cylinders, surging upward to their high water mark of 34 games above .500 with about 1/5 of the regular season left to play.
It would be unfair to say that Joba was bad, but more accurate to assess his truncated start as fairly decent. He allowed a lead-off triple to Podsednik, who scored on Beckham’s RBI ground out to short, 1-0 White Sox. But Joba was efficient, throwing just nine pitches in the first. The Yanks responded right away, with Jeter skulling Garcia’s first pitch to center for a double. JD’s 1-3 moved Jeter to third, and Teixeira narrowly missed a homer down the line in right, flying out to the wall to score Jeter and tie the game. A-Rod singled up the middle but got picked off by Pierzynski.
Joba had a six-pitch 1-2-3 second, but the Yanks went 1-2-3 after Cano grounded into a 3-6-3 DP. Joba got into trouble in the third by allowing three straight singles to start the inning, 2-1 Chicago, but Cano made a terrific play on Podsednik’s RBI single, losing the ball on the throw in from Melky but recovering and throwing Nix out at third for the first out. It really wasn’t a bad 2-2 pitch from Joba to Podsednik at all, low though over the plate, but Podsednik went down and got it–good hitting rather than bad pitching. Still, things got tight as Podsednik stole second. But Beckham grounded out 3U sending Podsednik to third, then Joba got Pierzynski looking on a fastball painting the black outside to minimize the damage. Joba could have been sharper, but was all in all OK–two runs earned on four hits, no walks, and a K on 35 pitches/23 strikes.
Again, the Yanks responded in the bottom half with runs, this time with two outs. Jeter singled to left, and JD whacked the first pitch, a change belt-high and over the inner half, several rows into the second deck, 3-2 Yanks. That was as close as Chicago got, for Aceves entered, set down Chicago 1-2-3 in the fourth and fifth, then got a 5-4-3 DP to erase Podsednik’s lead-off single off Aceves, and worked around Pierzynski’s infield single into the hole at short, with Jeter’s jump throw not in time. Ace was great, allowing just 2 hits in 3 efficient innings–no walks, no runs, and a K on just 32 pitches/22 strikes for his ninth win against one loss, lowering his ERA to 3.88. He and Joba got through the first six in just 67 pitches.
Marte entered to start the seventh and got Thome on an easy 4-3. Robertson entered and allowed two hits with a K, leaving for Hughes to retire Nix on a lazy F9. The Yanks blew it open in the bottom of the seventh. Jorge singled, Cano forced him, Hinske walked, Melky bashed a double off the wall in the left field corner to score Cano, 4-2 Yanks. Jeter got an intentional pass to load the bases. Hairston entered for JD, whose sexy calves had cramped up, and Hairston hit a sac fly, 5-2 Yanks. Teixeira then crushed a 1-2 hanging curve, belt-high and right over the plate, to deep right for his 32nd homer and 101 RBI, 8-2 Yanks. Coke entered and allowed a solo shot to Dye, not a bad pitch really, over the plate but low, 8-3 Yanks.
Jeter had two hits, three runs, and a walk, including his 24th double, and he’s batting a red-hot .335. Let’s take a look at Jeter’s remarkable hitting: Since June 24, when his average was .299, Jeter is 91-242, .376. In August alone, he is 45-118, .381. Since June 24, Jeter has 27 multi-hit games–16 with 2 hits, 9 with 3 hits, and 2 with 4 hits. What he has done has been nothing short of outstanding, getting even better as the season winds on.
Teixeira was 1-3 with 4 RBI and his 32nd homer, batting .284 with 101 RBI. He and Jeter deserve some MVP consideration, although Mauer’s remarkable year may well take that honor. Yet the difference Teixeira has made both in the lineup and in the field is both unmistakable and impressive on an already good team. JD’s 24th homer, a two-run shot in the third, gives him 73 RBI now with a .289 average. JD should be re-signed for next year, at least. He just eats up that right field porch. Jorge’s return to the lineup was a successful on–2-3 with a walk and his 22nd double, batting .281. [Edit: I forgot to mention earlier that Posada's double tied him for 9th on the Yankees' all-time doubles list with "Long" Bob Meusel at 338.] Melky was 1-4 with his 22nd double and 49th RBI, batting .268. A-Rod was 1-2 with 2 walks, batting .270. Hairston’s RBI was his 10th in just 23 games with the Yanks. Cano was 1-4 with a run, batting .315. The Yanks were 3-6 with RISP, stranding a mere four with 5 two-out RBI–excellent clutch production in limited opportunities.
Not to be overlooked, the Yanks did not allow a walk today, and the bullpen allowed just five hits and a run in six innings of terrific relief work, with 2 K’s. Mariano got another day off, a big plus at this time of the year and with the Yanks playing so well. The Yankees have not only gone 20-7 in August, they also have 10 wins by at least four runs this month and Mariano got to rest in nine of them, only pitching in the 8-4 win capping the series win in Fenway last Sunday. Such good offensive production and pitching has allowed Mariano to rest, as well as avoid the “August blues” he sometimes experiences. This cannot be overestimated, since Mariano–as great as he still is–had off-season surgery on his shoulder, is 39, and is as important as anyone to their post-season chances.
It isn’t just that the Yankees are playing well, for they are indeed playing very well. It is also that their winning with a fine blend of good pitching and steady hitting has allowed key players to get some rest, Joba to have his work shortened to keep him pitching into October without overworking him, the bullpen not to be too taxed, all while the lead in the East and for home field remains firmly within the Yanks’ grasp The magic number to clinch the East is down to 27.
With one-fifth of the season remaining, the Yanks sit in the proverbial catbird seat. They just need to keep doing more of the same–pitching well, getting clutch hits, and staying focused. Watching this team play so consistently well has really been a privilege thus far, enough to make a grown man beam with pride. Enjoy it, Yankees fans.