Yankees 12 Royals 11: Incredible, Bizarre Win

In one of the most exciting and strangest games I’ve watched in some time, the Yanks pulled out an amazing comeback win over the Royals, 12-11. On a day when Pettite was atrocious, the Royals–who are dead last in the AL in runs–scored in double-digits for the first time all year, and Mariano allowed his first homer all year on the first pitch of the ninth inning, the Yankees quite simply refused to lose. Fighting back from three deficits, two of which were four runs, New York scratched its way back to .500 in grand and dramatic fashion. Thank the offense for awakening and supporting its pitchers with 19 hits. Yet no one deserves more praise than the red-hot JD, who set a career high with six hits, and drove in the winning run in the bottom of the ninth off excellent closer Joakim Soria–who blew his first save in his last 17 chances. Before Thursday, the Yankees had not won a game in which they were trailing entering or in the ninth. They’ve now won two in the last 48 hours.

KC scored 2 in the top of the first, setting a bad tone for the game and Pettite. With two outs, Teahan doubled on a ball that tangled JD in left-center, and Jose Guillen ripped a homer deep to left for the 2-0 lead. The Yanks responded right away. JD doubled, Jeter bunted him to third on a play I disagreed with, Abreu’s shallow F7 made me worried that they’d strand JD, but A-Rod walked and the Yanks got a break when Giambi hit into the shift, but the ball hit the outer lip of the grass and caromed over the second baseman’s head in shallow right, 2-1. Each team worked 1-2-3 second innings, with Pettite finally getting a DP ball. But he came unhinged in the third. DeJesus singled to left, Aviles tripled to right-center, 3-1. Pettite hit Teahan on a 2-2 pitch, Guillen singled in Aviles, 4-1 Royals. Olivo fanned, but Buck singled to center, 5-1. JD’s lead-off single in the bottom of the third was quickly erased on Jeter’s DP, making me fear that the Yanks would wilt in the 95-degree day.

Not so, for Pettite worked a 1-2-3 fourth (and fifth and sixth) and the team tied it in the bottom of the fourth. A-Rod singled, Giambi walked, Posada doubled to right-center to score A-Rod, Cano singled to right with Guillen playing very deep, 5-3. Betemit drilled a deep sac fly to center, 5-4. Melky singled Cano to third, and JD’s single to center scored Cano to tie it. Jeter then blooped a fly ball to right field near the stands, somewhat deep, and Meacham sent Melky on Guillen’s strong arm–big mistake, for Guillen’s one-hop on a line pegged him out at home. Not a good decision, but still the Yanks tied it. They took the lead in the bottom of the fifth on Giambi’s gigantic blast into the right-field upper deck, his second in three games to that spot, 6-5.

Pettite settled in and was excellent in the middle innings, finishing the sixth at 91 pitches and having retired nine straight. I figured his pitching the seventh was a good thing; again, not so, for he quickly collapsed. Callaspo led off with a double, German bunted himself on, Gathright tied it at six with a single, DeJesus bunted them to second and third, they intentionally passed Aviles to load the bases and face the lefty Teahan, a good decision for Pettite entered the game allowing lefties a meager .173 average. He fanned Teahan but Girardi left him in against Guillen, who had eaten him up all game–a sure sign of not trusting an unsteady pen of late. It cost them, for Pettite left up a 2-2 cutter and Guillen pasted it into the left-field seats, 10-6 Royals. Ugh. Would the pen have been better? Impossible to say, but I wouldn’t have been on its preserving the tie in that spot.

But again the Yanks stormed back. After Jeter’s 11-pitch at-bat, Abreu singled and A-Rod, whom Mike Sommer said was due, called in the slip and ripped an incredibly deep homer to left-center, nearly reaching the bleachers way back, 10-8. That’s one of the longest homers for a righty I’ve ever seen at Yankee Stadium, almost as long as his own blast on August 13, 2005 against Texas, when he creamed a ball that caromed off the screen behind the bullpen, bounced, then hit the garage doors behind everything. Good timely call, Mike S.

Kudos to Jose Veras for holding things in the eighth, for the Yanks weren’t done. Cano singled, Betemit fanned again, Melky the Clutch singled, a wild pitch gave them second and third, and JD came through yet again, earning his fifth his and tying the game with an RBI single to center, 10-10, letting the woeful Pettite off the hook. Everyone had to have felt good with Mariano the Great looming in the pen. I sure did, and with good reason. He hadn’t allowed a homer all year, his ERA was 0.35, and he’s the greatest reliever in the history of the game. Yet even the great Mariano makes mistakes, and he left his first pitch to DeJesus over the plate and DeJesus promptly deposited it into the right-center bleachers, 11-10. You could hear a pin drop, and the homer weighed heavily on Mariano, for he looked upward and hung his head up after fanning Aviles for the first out. He retired the next two, keeping the deficit at one.

Over at The Sommer Frieze, I said,”Giambi, Posada, Cano versus Soria. If DeJesus can hit Mariano, the Yanks can–and must–hit theirs.” I genuinely felt optimistic about their chances, not because Soria is some pushover, but rather because it was a day when anything and seemingly everything could happen. Nothing was out of reach, least of all when the game was tight. Jorge provided vindication for my optimism and, more importantly, picked up Mariano when he cranked a one-out liner deep to right to tie it at 11. After Cano’s ground out, Betemit began the second phase of the rally with his first walk of the year, a huge contribution, for Melky squibbed an infield single to third, bringing JD up with a chance to win it with his sixth hit. Soria was careful with JD, pitching outside for much of the at-bat as JD got ahead 3-1. Soria then came inside and JD cranked a belt-high fastball to deep right, bouncing it off the wall for the game-winning single on his career-high sixth hit. Nothing short of incredible, a frustratingly great game, 12-11.

JD’s amazing 6-6 game upped his average to .326. His 4 RBIs give him 31 on the season, with 19 doubles. He’s a ridiculous 35-71 (.493) from the May 20 game onward, raising his average 76 points in less than three weeks. A-Rod, Giambi, and Posada were each 2-4 with 2 runs, 2 RBIs, and a homer apiece. Giambi leads the team with 13 and now has 33 RBIs and a .259 average. A-Rod has 9 homers, 27 RBIs, and a .304 average. Posada is hitting .310, and his second homer of the year in the ninth couldn’t have come at a better time. Cano picked it up by going 2-5 with 2 runs and an RBI, batting .230. Melky the Clutch was 3-5 to raise his average to .279, and Jeter and Abreu added a hit apiece. Betemit was 0-3 with 2 K’s, but his first walk of the year with two outs in the ninth, off a very good closer, should not be overlooked in contributing to the win.

Pettite faltered badly in the seventh after righting the ship in the middle innings, allowing a staggering 10 earned runs on 10 hits in 6 2/3, walking 2 and fanning 3 on 111 pitches/70 strikes. He was again bailed out by the offense, but couldn’t hold the lead. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t worried about Lefty, with an ERA a hair below 5 and his command abandoning him at key stretches. Mariano’s first homer allowed this year was a shocker, but the guy has been so great this year and forever that I can hardly blame or get mad at the guy. How many bad pitches has he made thus far this year? Enough to count on one hand, no doubt.

The offense was great, stranding only 8 considering all the runners they had and battering the Royals’ hurlers–using up the pen as well, by the way. For the first time in the last couple days, the Yankees have shown fight, the ability to come back, the outright refusal to lose, and the grit it takes to respond to a mediocre and fairly lackluster first three-eighths of the year in which the offense has drastically underperformed. Time will tell if this stretch and especially this game proves to be a moment when the 2008 Yankees have turned the corner. That the offense proved so strong and so resilient, that the entire team hit a ton and in the clutch all day, is what leaves me most optimistic for the final 100 games.

Back to .500, and the Yanks try tomorrow afternoon to win the series and get back above .500. Joba (1-2, 2.42 ERA) takes the hill against Zach Greinke (5-3, 3.56 ERA), looking to be more efficient in his first big-league start last time out. After today’s dramatic comeback win, I believe more than at any other time this year that the real Yankees have shown up. We’ll see, but it’s a lot easier to believe in now than it was after last night.

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Published in: on June 7, 2008 at 5:14 pm  Comments (3)  

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3 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. great recap jason- what an incredibly bizarre game, capped off by two great closers both blowing saves.
    i love mariano so much and i admired the way he calmly went back to his job and retired the side without incident. johnny damon was as good as andy was bad. you really have to wonder about what we’re going to get from him this year- he’s been bad much more oft than good.
    i’m just happy i stuck with the game as this one was unforgettable. greinke is their ace, so i’m hoping for a great showing from joba…

  2. It was a great game, and great recap. Hopefully the optimism expressed toward the end is correct, as I share in it. Yet I also can’t help but notice the fact that the Yankees looked like themselves was when they were playing the Seattle Mariners- another terrible team like KC. So do you think that perhaps this is the Yankees team- scrape together good wins against terrible teams, fair so-so among the rest? I certainly hope not, and don’t necessarily believe that to be the case, yet would love to hear your opinion.

  3. Thanks, Mike. It’s a good point about Mariano, and to me proved all the more what an aberration that first pitch–and Mariano knew it, too. JD had a game for the history books, becoming only the 37th player since 1900 to accomplish that feat. The Yanks need Joba to be much more efficient that he was on Tuesday. Good pitching match-up tomorrow in the heat.

    Hi John, thanks for the kind words, and thanks for coming by. I haven’t seen you in a while. That’s a good point about the Yanks versus Seattle (6-0), and that worries me a bit, too. I’ll be honest, John–I’m still trying to get a handle on this team and its character. Last year, the club was an offensive juggernaut that needed to solidify its pitching, especially the pen. This year, the offense has been more of a mystery–though the staff has been poor as well. The next several weeks–until the end of July–should tell much of the tale for this team, if it’s legitimate or a pretender. Right now, they’ve just been consistently so-so–15-15 within the division, 3 games over .500 at home, 3 games under .500 away, winning their first two games just recently when trailing in the ninth, inconsistent to downright awful with RISP, Joba’s absence making the pen shaky, and on.

    But a couple things make me feel somewhat optimistic. This team is actually decent in close games. In one-run games, they’re 11-8–not bad. They have a .500 record DESPITE not hitting well with RISP, not getting hot as a team yet, and missing A-Rod and Posada for lengthy stretches. They’re hitting a fairly favorable part of the schedule in June, then play lots of division foes at home before hitting the road for much of August. They’ve yet to play the Angels, did well against the White Sox, and have struggled against some others like Detroit who have struggled themselves. They have time and a fairly favorable schedule coming to sort out their inconsistencies to build some momentum. Whether or not they will, I don’t know. Something’s got to give with the hovering around .500. Time to shed that and move up.


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