Other than a rough first, Mike Mussina had a very good six-inning stint. The offense was excellent in coming back from a 4-1 deficit despite squandering some chances. Mariano capped some bullpen instability last night with a typically outstanding inning, nailing down a big 6-5 win over the Twins in the first of four games in Minnesota. Lots of fun last night in the HDLR. Many thanks to everyone who dropped by, and safe travels to Tim the Wizard, who leaves today for India, Vietnam, and other ports of call. As that immortal 20th century philosopher, Bugs Bunny, would say, “Hasty Bananas!”
The Yanks started last night’s game well, scoring right away in the first. Abreu walked and stole second as part of a huge night for him, and Matsui flung out his bat and blooped a single into shallow left with Abreu running hard all the way, 1-0 Yanks. It didn’t last long as the Twins scored four, aided by some shoddy defense. Casilla singled, Mauer walked. Morneau hit an easy grounder to Duncan at first and, as he tried to throw to second for at least a force, threw it away and pulled Jeter off the bag, E3, everyone safe. Oh, to have a first baseman who can turn a 3-6-3. Conecutive RBI singles from Cuddyer, Kubel, and Young made it 3-1 with the bases still loaded. Jeter then made an outstanding lunging snare of Lamb’s hard-hit grounder, reaching to his right then flipping the ball backwards to Cano for the force at second, 4-1 but probably saved a run, which was huge in this game. Mussina then escaped with a come-backer, but not before surrendering four runs two earned on 36 pitches.
The Yanks got consecutive two-out singles from Molina and Melky, but Jeter’s impatience again resurfaced, swinging at the first pitch and grounding out to third. The Yankees sliced the lead to two in the third when Abreu led off with a triple and A-Rod singled him in. But Matsui’s 4-6-3 erased them, and Giambi banged a deep single that he poorly decided to stretch into a double and was out by 15 feet. STUPID. Mussina helped his own cause with an eight-pitch third. Excellent run manufacturing from the Yanks tied it at 4 in the fourth. Duncan worked a lead-off walk, Cano singled, Molina bunted them over, and Melky hit a single to left-center to tie the game. Excellent. Yet Melky then got picked off trying for second, and Jeter’s out ended the rally. Still, the Yankees erased the deficit fairly quickly, and Mussina’s 1-2-3 fourth made it eight straight he retired. The momentum had surely turned.
The Yanks took the lead in the top of the fifth when Abreu singled and A-Rod laced a double to center in a great, nine-pitch at-bat, 5-4 Yankees. Matsui’s single to right made it first and third and no outs, but Giambi scalded a ball up the middle that relief pitcher Brian Bass snagged between his legs, catching A-Rod understandably off third since such a hit would almost always score that run. Betemit “pinch-hit” for Duncan and fanned looking, then Cano himself was impatient and grounded out on the first pitch to end what could have been a big inning. Still, 5-4 Yanks wasn’t bad. Morneau’s two-out single in the fifth ended a string of 10 consecutive batters that Mussina retired, and he then worked a 1-2-3 sixth, impressively retiring 14 of the last 15 batters he faced. After a rough first, Moose was excellent, going six and scattering six hits and a walk, allowing four runs two earned, and fanning four on 109 pitches/73 strikes while lowering his ERA to 4.26.
The Yanks added a big insurance run in the seventh when Abreu ripped his second triple of the game, A-Rod was HBP, and Matsui’s hard-hit ground ball was too hot for the shortstop to handle, 6-4 Yanks with no outs and first and second. But rotund lefty Reyes escaped by fanning Giambi, and Betemit’s deep F9 occurred as A-Rod was running to third and he was easily doubled off second. Veras entered and promptly walked nine-hole hitter Harris, who then reached second when he wisely backed off on a DP ball to Cano, who threw to just nab the speedy Gomez at first but it allowed Harris to reach second. The smarter play for Cano would have been to get at least one by running quickly right at Harris and trying for Gomez afterwards. It mattered little after Edwar entered and retired Casilla and Mauer on fly outs. Edwar still has an ERA of 0.00 after last night’s appearance, amazing work from the kid.
Nuke then entered and surrendered his eighth homer of the year on an 0-2 letter-high fastball carelessly delivered, 6-5. Yet Nuke them settled down to retire the next three. After Giambi and Betemit stranded A-Rod after his one-out double and Matsui’s IBB, Mariano came on and shut it down. He got Lamb on a one-pitch come-backer, walked nine-hole hitter Harris, but fanned Gomez swinging and pinch-hitter Monroe looking on a picture-perfect cutter at the knees and on the outside corner. Harris really should have been the second out, since Mariano threw a perfect cutter at the knees on e3-2, but home plate up Meals must have been getting paid by the pitch counts, for he called it a ball. No matter, the Yanks peeled out of there with the first win of the series to yet again even their mark at .500, closing the first 1/3 of the year with a 27-27 record.
The bats really came alive last night. Abreu was the hitting star, going 3-4 with four runs, two triples, and a walk to up his average to .296. A-Rod and Matsui were each 3-4 with 2 RBIs apiece. A-Rod now has 19 RBIs and a .291 average, and Matsui 26 RBIs, and a league-leading .339 average. Matsui is now 17 for his last 31, raising his average 42 points in his last eight games alone. The 2-3-4 hitters were 9-12 last night with 4 runs and 4 RBIs, carrying the offense. The bottom of the order was productive as well, with Molina going 2-3 with a sac to up his average to .219, and Melky 3-4 with 2 RBIs, his 23rd of the year to raise his average to .266. Giambi and Cano added a single apiece. Of the team’s 16 hits, 12 were singles. While I love the extra-base hits, I also love the quantity of hits and the fact that they were fairly spread out. Jeter’s hand must be bothering him, for his 0-5 night makes him 3 for his last 37, lowering his average to .272. Duncan and Betemit were a combined 0-4.
Tonight, the Yankees close out May by trying to make it three straight wins, and to push themselves above the .500 mark for the first time since May 4, when the Yanks completed a sweep of Seattle to go to 17-16 on the year. New York sends staff ace CMW (6-2, 3.82 ERA) to the hill against Boof Bonser (2-6, 6.16 ERA).