Well, he was better than I expected. PaVoldemort returned for his first start since April 9, 2007 and, other than a rough second, held the Orioles in check through five as the Yankees won their second straight in Baltimore, 5-3. The Yankees got two runs in the first off the troublesome Guthrie, two more in the third off a huge Giambi homer to center, and added an insurance run when Matsui hit a solo shot in the seventh. The bullpen was very good, with Bruney throwing two very good innings, Veras solid in the eighth, and Mariano closing it down for his 30th save of the year and his 473rd of his illustrious career.
The Yankees ably assisted PaVoldemort with two runs in the first when JD singled and, with two outs, A-Rod tattooed another drive very high off the center field wall, nearly out, to score JD. Yet again, however, Bobby Meacham did his best to get a Yankee base runner thrown out when he sent JD despite Jay Payton’s throwing the ball in from center before Damon had even reached third base. Also, had Ramon Hernandez applied a proper tag and blocked the plate, JD would have easily been called out. But he left home plate open and, as ump Joe West rightly called and gesticulated, tagged JD in the chest after his foot had slid across home. Horrible call from Meacham again. He long ago deserved to be fired. A-Rod took third on the throw and scored on Giambi’s single, 2-0 Yankees.
PaVoldemort worked through the first despite allowing three singles. With first and second and no outs, Mora lined to second and cano swipe tagged Roberts for a terrific unassisted double play. PaVoldemort got into trouble in the second, really his only bad inning. Scott led off with a double that nearly left the yard, Millar walked, and Payton singled to load the bases. Castro’s sac fly to left center scored Scott but, since JD wrongly called off Nady and took the ball, also allowed the other runners to advance on Damon’s rag arm, 2-1 Yankees and a great call by Sterling on the play. Roberts’s slow 6-3 scored Millar to tie the game, and Markakis’s single made it 3-2 Orioles. Mora then K’d on PaVoldemort’s 28th and final pitch of the inning, but not without some controversy for the ball skipped into Pudge’s glove, yet he never tagged Mora nor did he throw down to first. However, Mora was called out for “abandoning the chance for first by walking toward the dugout.” Sterling called it “convenient” for West initially made the call right away. It seemed a cover for Orioles manager Dave Tremblay, who was summarily ejected for arguing with West–Pudge neither tagged Mora nor threw to first to retire Mora–who never tried to advance, either. However, it was ultimately the right call and not simply “convenient” for, as the MLB rule book, Rule 6.09(b) states, “A batter who does not realize his situation on a third strike not caught, and who is not in the process of running to first base, shall be declared out once he leaves the dirt circle surrounding home plate.” Odd way to end the second, the Orioles’ only good inning. By the way, while Sterling got the call wrong on Mora’s K, he really did have a very good game behind the microphone. He nailed Damon’s stepping in front of Nady right away, among other solid observations.
The Yankees responded right away in the third with two outs. A-Rod was hit above the elbow and, on a 3-2 hanging slider belt-high, Giambi deposited it deep into the right-center field bleachers, 4-3 Yankees. Hand it to PaVoldemort for good work in a 1-2-3 third, and also working out of a jam–and being a good teammate–in the fourth when, after hitting lead-off batter Millar and allowing a single to Payton, PaVoldemort then struck out the side, including Roberts and the tough Markakis looking. He also worked around hitting Mora to lead off the fifth, not allowing a runner to get past first. His line after 5–7 hits, 3 runs earned, a walk, and 5 K’s on 91 pitches/54 strikes–was fairly good, especially for having surgery and about 500 days between starts. He gave the Yankees what they needed–a decent start, a chance to win, and held the O-Birds–a team that has played the Yankees well this year–in check. Kudos to the bag of excrement. He’s earned himself another start–if he doesn’t slip on the bar of soap in the hotel shower and lacerate his pancreas on the spigot.
Matsui’s homer to lead-off the seventh provided big insurance for the bullpen, ripping into a 2-1 fastball and launching it to right center, 5-3 NY. Bruney was very good, allowing only a single to Payton in the sixth. Veras worked around a lead-off single to Hernandez in the eighth, fanning 2 and looking good, and Mariano entered in the 9th and cleaned up for the save.
Giambi–who by the way has grown his mustache back–was 2-4 with a run and 3 RBIs, giving him 76 RBIs on the year, and belting his 25th homer of the year and his 389th of his career, tying him with Cincy catching great Johnny Bench. A-Rod was 1-3 with 2 runs and his 78th RBI. Matsui’s solo homer was his 9th of the year and the 38th RBI was his 500th as a major-leaguer and a Yankee. A hearty congrats to Matsui, one of my favorite Yankees. Nady, Cano, JD, and Jeter each added a single, and Jeter’s extended his hit streak to nine games.
So the Yankees got something out of PaVoldemort this year. I never would have thought it. He was also better than I would have expected, which I today would be mediocre. He wasn’t great and was understandably rusty but, other than a bad third, was not bad. He left too many pitches up and needs to gain more velocity. He also allowed too many base runners. I’m also far from sold on the guy simply because of one start. But the guy, like him or not and I certainly can barely stomach PaVoldemort, gave the Yankees a quality effort for the win. It might not have hurt that PaVoldemort threw to his old catcher Pudge from 2003 with the Marlins, to settle him down a little. With Boston’s loss and the White Sox’s loss, the Yankees sit 5 games behind the Red Sox for the Wild Card. Their fate isn’t exactly in their hands since the Yankees have to contend with a team from the Central–either the Twins or the White Sox–against whom they only play three games the rest of the way (against Chicago in September). Yet with six games remaining against both Boston and Tampa–who have been better than the Yanks but who each have injury woes of their own–the Yankees are in an unlikely but not impossible position. It will take lots of wins, a great streak for several weeks that they’ce barely shown themselves capable of this year, and some help and luck.
Could today’s win–from PaVoldemort of all people–be a spark of something positive the rest of the way? Don’t hold your breath. But you can’t yet rule it out, either. As I’ve said a thousand times already this year, we’ll see.
I likely won’t be in touch much the next day or so since tomorrow is my son’s birthday and we’ll be busy. Darrell Rasner (5-9, 4.93 ERA) faces the difficult Daniel Cabrera (8-8, 4.98 ERA) as the Yankees go for the sweep.