Well, it was a moral victory of sorts, with the Yankees coming from behind to beat Boston 3-2 in the final game between the two storied rivals at this manifestation of Yankee Stadium. Jason Giambi entered in the seventh and hit a pinch-hit, two-run homer off Okajima to tie the game at 2, then drove in the winning run off Papelbon with the bases loaded in the bottom of the ninth to win it. Nice moment against Boston in this last game at the old ball park, and I’ll save the “but…” until later.
Mussina and Lester were dynamite, though neither got a decision. Each blanked their opponent through the first four innings, with Mussina allowing one hit and Lester three during that period. The Yankees had the best chance to score through four when Jeter and Abreu hit back-to-back one-out singles in the first, but A-Rod fanned (the first of three for him today, another terrible day) and Nady grounded into a force. Boston scored their two in the fifth. Lowrie singled, Cora was hit by a pitch, and Varitek’s single to right scored Lowrie, 1-0 Boston. Ellsbury’s 4-6 force scored Cora, 2-0 Boston, but it should have ended the inning, for Cano had the much easier play had he just taken the ball himself. Yet he took extra time with the toss to Jeter, whose throw after that couldn’t get the speedy Ellsbury. Poor choice from Cano.
A poor non-call nearly cost the Yankees in the top of the sixth. With Pedroia at second and Youkilis at first with one out, Bay hit a grounder to A-Rod, who tried to tag Pedroia but couldn’t because he was waaaaay out of the baseline, running onto the infield grass to avoid the tag–something that got Youkilis called out earlier this season. Yet third base ump Tim Timmons blew the call which should have ended the inning; terrible. But Mussina prevented any runs by fanning Kotsay. The Yankees blew another opportunity in the sixth when JD was hit by a pitch and Jeter singled (part of his three-hit day) to lead off, but although Abreu’s F8 moved JD to third, there he sat for A-Rod popped out to Varitek in foul territory, prompting vociferous booing, and Nady ended the threat with an F8. Terrible job again by A-Rod and this time Nady in the five-hole.
Cody Ransom doubled with two outs in the bottom of the seventh, ending Lester’s fine work. Giambi just pasted an 0-1, chest-high fastball to nearly dead center to tie the game, a clutch shot for the designated home run hitter, his 27th of the year and 391st of his career. With far more than the series sweep on the line but in fact the Yankees season (since they’re still mathematically in it), Mariano entered in the top of the eighth and worked around a lead-off E6 in the ninth, part of two innings of no-hit, excellent bullpen work. The Yanks won it in the bottom of the ninth when Nady singled, Cano lined out to third, Gardner pinch-running for Nady stole second prompting an intentional walk of Matsui, Pudge worked a walk and, with papelbon in to face him, Giambi lined an 0-2 fastball on the outer half to center, 3-2 Yankees.
Jeter was big, going 3-4 and getting robbed of a fourth hit by Ellsbury in the eighth, batting .297. Giambi was the offensive MVP today, going 2-2 with all three Yankees RBIs, his 81st of the year with his 27th homer of the year and 391st of his career. Cody Ransom’s double in the seventh makes him 3-4 this year, and the guy should play a bit more. Abreu and Nady had hits, but the offense was sluggish again. Lester had a lot to do with that, as did the usual bane of poor RISP for the Yankees. A-Rod was 0-4 with 3 K’s, JD was 0-3 with 2 K’s, Nady blew chances, Cano was 0-4, Matsui was 0-3, and Molina 0-2. The Yankees were 2-7 with RISP, both hits coming from Giambi, a terrible RISP hitter this season. Better late than never, I suppose, though it’s really late. A-Rod was terrible in the series, going 2-13 with 5 K’s and 2 GIDP. I understand people booing him because they’re frustrated. But Giambi has deserved the obos as well, being a bust and downright awful with RISP this year, today’s heroics notwithstanding. I know he various reasons why people are booing A-Rod, but it’s not productive. It also ignores many other culprits.
Mussina deserved a better fate, matching Lester very well and allowing just five hits, two runs earned, two walks, and fanning six on 113 pitches/73 strikes. He was great but, unfortunately, so was Lester, depriving him of his 17th win of the year and making the elusive 20-win season that much more difficult down the stretch. The Yankees now sit six behind Boston in the Wild Card race with 29 to play.
Nice that the Yankees won their last home game against Boston before moving to the new digs. They also prevented a sweep and kept their desperately faint playoff hopes alive. They might have provided themselves some crucial momentum with this late, dramatic victory. But to add a little perspective before anyone gets too jazzed up about the victory. Boston put another game between themselves and the Yankees, handily winning the first two games of the series and keeping the Yankees’ offense in check all series, allowing only 9 runs–three per game. The Yanks now have three fewer games now to make up six, instead of five, games in the Wild Card. Boston still leads the season series. The Yankees still haven’t shown a powerful offense with any consistency to prove that they can mount a miraculous comeback. I’d love for the Yankees to prove me wrong and somehow do it. I still just don’t see it happening. One win does not a miraculous comeback make, not even close.
Still nice to finish the old place on a high note against Boston, however. I can’t deny that.