Yankees 2 Red Sox 1: Huge Win; Mussina Great; Ninth-Inning Drama

I hope Mike stood up to the ninth-inning tension well, for things got tight. Entering the ninth with a 2-0 lead, Mariano got into serious trouble, allowing a single to Drew, hitting Ramirez (his third HBP of the game), allowing an RBI single to Yankee-killer Lowell, and hitting Youkilis to load the bases with no outs in a 2-1 game. Yet Mariano, as is his wont, yielded nothing more, fanning Crisp, getting Varitek to pop out, and fanning Lugo to end the game, 2-1 Yankees. What more can you say about Mariano? The best relief pitcher ever, Mariano simply didn’t get flustered. That’s nearly the same situation Mariano was in last September 16  (though tighter this time) when, after Jeter’s three-run bomb gave the Yankees the lead in the eighth, Mariano entered in the ninth, allowed a lead-off walk, got two ground outs, allowed a double to Lugo, hit Ellsbury, and walked Pedroia before getting Ortiz on a pop-up. The guy is money, struggles or no. I’d trust Mariano in any situation, and wasn’t all that worried today even though it looked grim. 23rd save this year, his 466th of his illustrious career. The Greatest.

This win was huge to stop the losing stretch (five of the last six), to win a close game against their biggest rival, but especially because Mussina was incredibly good, going 6 scoreless innings, allowing four hits, walking one, and fanning five on 89 pitches/54 strikes. Mussina struggled a bit in the first, but that was it. After fanning Ellsbury, he allowed a single to left that Pedroia tried to stretch into a double, only to get pegged out by Gardner. Drew doubled (with the 7-4 saving the Yanks a run) and Mussina hit Ramirez, but fanned Lowell to end the first. He worked a 1-2-3 second and got run support in the second when Giambi walked, Cano singled, and Melky’s single to right scored Giambi on a dexterous slide around Varitek, who moved up to either get the short throw or avoid the hard collision, 1-0 Yanks.

It stayed that way until the sixth, though the Yankees wasted a bases-loaded, one-out opportunity in the third when Giambi fanned and Betemit’s hot one-hopper to Pedroia was expertly handled to end the inning. Melky’s defense helped Mussina in the fourth as he came forward to nab a diving looping liner from Lowell for the first out. He got more help in the fifth when Molina’s great throw caught Ellsbury trying to steal second. But in actuality, Mussina needed little help, controlling the game, pitching efficiently, and preventing Ramirez, Lowell, and Drew–really any of the Sox–from hurting him.

The Yanks added on in the sixth when Betemit and Melky singled, Molina was hit by a pitch, and Gardner drove in Betemit with a sac fly to deep left, 2-0 Yanks. Veras and Nuke were great, shutting down the Sox with a perfect seventh and eighth, respectively. Veras fanned two, and each only threw 15 pitches. Mariano made things way too interesting, but I immediately thought of two games–last September 16, and July 17, 2005, when Mariano entered in the ninth, faced adversity and pressure, and preserved the 5-3 win and Leiter’s great start in Fenway. The guy is the greatest ever, a tremendous battler and talented reliever who never wilts under pressure. Huge win, and way to bring it back, Mike.

Jeter was 1-4 and is hitting .282. Melky was 2-4 with his 33rd RBI. Gardner’s sac fly was his second RBI and the game winner. A-Rod was 1-2 and is batting .320, stealing his 12th and 13th bases and having been caught only once. Cano was 1-3 and Betemit 1-4 with the game-winning run. The Yanks left ten on base, six in scoring position, but such things are easier to take after a big win, which this was.

The Yanks are now four games over .500, and really need to split the series and push back upwards. All the Yankees can do is take care of their own business and win their own games. They’ll need help along the way, but can help themselves by beating division rivals (especially Tampa and Boston), getting hot with the bats and hitting with RISP, and hopefully getting starts from the staff similar to Mussina’s great one today. Mussina was great today, deserves an All-Star spot, and is increasingly Hall-of-Fame worthy. He earned his 11th win of the year, his 261st win against 150 losses, and is now up to 2,726 K’s. With an ERA of 3.64 and an 11-6 record this season, there is no good case against having Mussina on the team. None.  One can almost make a case for the Yankees’ MVP, at least Mussina being one of the three most valuable Yankees this season.  He’s been huge.

Thanks for the comments, Leo.  I was at The Sommer Frieze for a while until I was on the horn with Frank The Sage for the last few innings.

Get the split, Yanks.

Published in: on July 5, 2008 at 7:11 pm  Comments (5)  

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5 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Did you have a nice fourth last night? Can someone tell me why everyone is so hooked on this guy? The Wizard is going to kill my numbers..

    Bryan Fuentes ERA 3.82, Kyle Farnsworths 3.79 ERA. With Kyle locking five more innings pitched. They both average a hit and a strikeout per inning pitched. Fuentes does pitch in a hiiters park but the numbers are mirror matched.

  2. I was going flip out if this game turned out to be a loss, but luckily, mo being mo, got out of it. Mariano is unbelievable. He never slows down. Though he came close today, he has not blown a save all season.
    This win was extremely needed, though the Yankee bats are still having trouble, only managing to score 2 today. It seems that day off for Melk has done him good, with two more hits today.
    I’ve always liked Moose and indeed, he well deserves an All-Star Game spot, as well as one in Cooperstown.
    I hope the Yanks can get the split tomorrow. They neeeed to salvage some pride. I’m running thin on patience, as well as Joe G., who has made it clear again and again that he does not like to lose. I hope this team can get it together already.

  3. I forgot to mention Farns & Veras, who did great. I can’t believe how well the pen has been doing of late.

  4. Jason, on a YFCR show last year or two years ago, I argued the merits and demerits of Moose and Sheff for the HOF. Moose’s 261st and his great year this year help his cause. I don’t know if Sheff will ever get that 500th HR he probably needs. Plus, the BALCO stuff hurts Sheff, warranted or unwarranted.

    Wonder if I was ahead of my time in looking at the two of them then?

    I did respond to you…even though he didn’t get a hit today, Gardner’s contributions were huge to the win. Some may not see it, but you and I did, and I’m sure Girardi and the rest of the Yanks did too.

  5. Fuentes would be a good find to have a lefty out of the pen, Leo, although I’m equally high on Marte.

    Today was frustrating no question, Vanessa. Mariano is the one person in all of sports in whom I have absolute, unwavering faith. I really just wasn’t too nervous in that situation. It raised an eyebrow for me, that’s literally about it, because the guy gets outs and makes it look easy. He bears down better than anybody for my money.

    The bullpen has been great, I agree. I posted some of Veras’s recent numbers in an above post. He’s earned a spot to stay in the Yanks’ pen, and he just dusted Boston today in the seventh.

    Mike, I also posted some thoughts about Gardner and, just as much, on some people’s impatience with him. My goodness, the kid just got called up! I hope he impresses in the next couple weeks, since it’s likely that JD won’t play anytime soon. I hope he steals a base and scores a run every game. Some fans will eat crow then.

    I like the Yanks’ chances with Joba going tomorrow.

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