Yankees 4 A’s 3 (12): Yanks Bail Themselves Out

In easily one of the most enervating games of the year, the Yankees won a war of attrition 4-3 over the A’s despite numerous gaffes and mistakes. Jose Molina won the game with a walk-off HBP in the bottom of the 12th. Mariano again allowed a run to break a tie in the bottom of the ninth but was let off the hook by Wilson Betemit (yes, that Wilson Betemit), who tied the game in the bottom of the ninth with a two-out RBI single to left-center, scoring Cano. Although the Yankees left a disgraceful 21 runners on base (that is not a typo), they scored on of all plays an HBP to win it, despite literally a score and one runners stranded, eleven walks earned, and 18 K’s of A’s batters. This was one the Yankees had to win, all the more so since Boston lost 4-2 to the LA Angels of Superfluous Acronyms. Big, if highly frustrating, win.

The Yanks got on the board first in the bottom of the second on a hot and muggy day at The Stadium. Cano, who had a big day and appears to be warming up, singled to left after getting jammed. In a terrific piece of hitting that seemed impossible just a week ago, Cano kept his hands in and steered the ball through the hole into left; excellent. Betemit then cranked a one-hop double off the fence in right-center that really should have scored Cano but Meacham inexplicably held up Cano. While it’s possible that he didn’t want to risk having Cano thrown out at home with no outs, there’s almost no way that would have happened. He was almost at third when the ball was just thrown from the warning track in right-center. Horrible hold and a poor read of the play by Meacham. Yet Melky rendered it moot with a single to score Cano and give the Yanks a 1-0 lead. Continuing the clutch play of the bottom of the order that they showed all day, Gardner then doubled on a hard-hit comebacker to Gallagher, who really should have had it but it bounced off his glove, past short and into center, 2-0 Yanks. Amazingly, Gardner was nearly stopped by the time he reached first base, then re-ignited the jets and made it sliding into second easily, tremendous speed. But the Yanks lost a chance at the big inning when Jeter, Abreu, and A-Rod struck out swinging in succession. Good clutch hitting from the bottom of the lineup in the second–and all day–but poor from the top there and all day, nearly costing the Yanks the game.

Cano’s two-out double went unrequited in the third, Gardner was stranded at third to end the fourth, the Yanks left two on in the fifth and sixth, while the A’s chipped away and stayed close. While Joba was very good, a sac fly from Sweeney scored Matt Murton in the fifth to close it to 2-1. Veras struggled in the seventh for one of few times recently, allowing a lead-off single to Bankston, getting Hannahan on a pop-bunt and getting Sweeney looking, but surrendering a two-out double to Suzuki, walking Cust on four pitches and, to Gonzales, threw one away to allow Bankston to score and tie the game and cost Joba a victory.

In the ninth, Mariano’s ninth-inning tie-game struggles resurfaced when Hannahan blooped a single, pinch-runner Davis stole second, and Sweeney singled to score Davis, 3-2 A’s. Sweeney then stole second, but Mariano shut the door by fanning Suzuki, Cust, and Gonzales. In the bottom of the ninth, Giambi worked a nine-pitch walk but, with Jorge up and Christian in to pinch-run, the rookie appeared on his way to stealing second when he tripped and fell forward about 30 feet from second, then was thrown out in a run-down. After Jorge’s ground out for the second out, things looked bleak off Huston Street, who usually baffles the Yankees. Not today. Cano banged a hustle double to deep left-center, and Betemit lined an 0-2 change low to left-center to tie the game at 3; terrific hitting from Betemit. Melky’s single moved Betemit to third, but Gardner popped out in foul territory to force extras.

In the tenth, Edwar hit Ellis and walked Murphy with one out, but he promptly fanned Bankston and Davis. In the bottom half, Jeter singled off Street but was forced at second; Abreu then stole second to move the winning run into scoring position. A-Rod got an intentional pass, but Sexson K’d and Molina grounded into a force to end the threat. Edwar pitched a 1-2-3 eleventh with two K’s. Cano led off the bottom half with a single, Betemit’s sac bunt moved him to second, but Gonzales robbed Melky of the possible game-winning RBI with a great diving catch toward the line, fully extended horizontal to the ground for the second out. Gardner’s F9, left Cano stranded.

In the twelfth with Robertson in, Gardner made a very good catch retreating toward the wall in left, returning the favor on Gonzales by robbing him of a potential extra-base hit and banging hard off the wall in the process. Crosby singled, Ellis walked, but Robertson struck out Murphy looking and got Brown on a 3-1 to escape the jam. Jeter led off with another single, Abreu’s swinging bunt moved Jeter to second, A-Rod got another IBB and Sexson walked to load the bases for Molina, who didn’t exactly strive to escape the 1-2 fastball that hit him, good enough for the win, 4-3 at long last.

Poor Joba couldn’t get another win but pitched very well, going six strong and allowing just one run earned on six hits, a walk, and fanning eight on 96 pitches/62 strikes. Joba was excellent and again deserved better, but the Yanks’ utter inability to score runs cost Joba the win. Veras wasn’t sharp, allowing the game-tying run, two hits, and walking two to allow his ERA back above 3 to 3.06. Nuke was terrific, pitching another 1-2-3 on eleven pitches. Get this: in his last eight innings (nine appearances), Nuke hasn’t allowed a hit or a run, has walked four and fanned seven. His ERA has dropped from 4.24 on June 22, when he last allowed a run, to 3.43 today. I know it’s Nuke, but I’m certainly impressed by what he’s done lately and, really, this season on the whole. Mariano struggled again in a tie-game situation, allowing a run to raise his ERA to 1.25, but fanned three more. Edwar pitched two hitless, one-walk innings today, fanning four. In his last eleven innings (eight appearances), Edwar hasn’t allowed a run, yielded only one hit, has walked two and fanned 15! Between Edwar and Nuke, their last 19 innings have seen one hit, no runs, six walks, and 21 K’s. They’re huge reasons why the pen has been excellent. As is Robertson, who wasn’t his best today but pitched out of trouble to earn his first major-league win. Congrats, kid!

The bats, especially most of those at the top half of the order, should be ashamed. Conversely, the bottom hitters were terrific, with #6-9 hitters going 10-22 with 3 runs and 3 RBIs. Cano was hitting everything, going 4-6 with 2 runs to up his average to .256. “The kid is hot tonight…but tell me where will he be tomorrow?” (Loverboy) He still needs to prove it to me, but Cano seems to be starting a second-half replication of last year’s surge. We’ll see. Betemit was 2-4 with his 15th RBI that tied the game in the ninth, a big hit, raising his average to .252. Melky and Gardner were each 2-6 with an RBI–Melky’s 35th and Gardner’s 7th, with Melky hitting .246 and Gardner .174. Jeter was also 2-6 with a run, hitting .283 now, and Jorge was 1-5. But the #2-4 spots were a combined 0-12 with 5 K’s but 9 walks. As a team, stranding 21 (10 of which were in scoring position) was a disgrace that nearly cost the Yanks the game. Unlike last night when six of the team’s seven runs were scored with two outs, the Yanks had only one two-out RBI–Betemit’s in the ninth. Yet in spite of themselves, the Yanks prevailed.

The Yanks remain 5 1/2 games behind in the division, with Tampa winning and Boston losing and therefore relinquishing first place. But the Yanks have two games in hand on Boston and are only three behind Boston in the loss column. They are also taking care of their own business, even if in excruciatingly frustrating fashion. Not a banner day at the plate, but it really could have been much worse, could have been a loss to keep one awake at night. Instead, the Yanks won the series today and go for the Crazy Stein tomorrow at 1:05, with Pettite (10-7, 4.03 ERA) facing the tough Justin Duchscherererererererer (10-5, 1.82 ERA) or, as I often call him, the guy with the big name and the small ERA.

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Published in: on July 19, 2008 at 9:31 pm  Leave a Comment  

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