Quick post tonight, though I’d love to write more. The Yanks exploded for seven in the fourth, then added another in the fifth to open the game wide open. A brief scare from Albaladejo and Mariano took the game from 8-1 to 8-6, but Mariano closed it down for a big win. Joba was tremendous in his best start of the year thus far. He escaped a bases loaded, one-out jam in the third of his own making (three walks) by allowing just one run on a sac fly, and fanned Cabrera on a nasty curve.
Right away, the Yanks came back and put up seven. Matsui walked, Cano lined out to right, Jorge singled a fast-looking Matsui to third then deftly stole second himself, and Swish ripped a chest-high hanging change-up out to left for his sixth homer, 3-1. Honestly, Swish looked like Yogi, a notorious bad-ball and high-pitch batter, in crushing that. Melky and Pena singled, Jeter’s 6-4 forced Pena at second, and JD belted a double to right to score Melky, 4-1 Yanks, ending Porcello’s night. After getting behind Teixeira 2-0, Rapada intentionally walked him to load the bases, which Matsui promptly cleared with a double high off the wall to left, nearly a grand slam. Teixeira would have been out had Laird held onto the ball, but he didn’t, 7-1 Yanks. Swish ripped his seventh homer in the fifth, a solo shot deep to left, 8-1 Yanks.
Meanwhile, Joba put things on cruise control after struggling in the third, working 1-2-3 innings in the fourth, fifth, and sixth with two K’s in the fourth and fifth apiece, and a meager five pitches necessary to get through the sixth. He allowed a single and hit a batter in the seventh, but then quickly set down Inge, Anderson, and Santiago. He was tremendous and efficient today, making it not just two terrific starts in a row but two consecutive excellent ones from Hughes and Joba, the kids with so much promise. The line: 7 IP, 3 hits, 1 run earned, 3 walks (all in the third), 1 HBP and 6 K’s on 88 pitches/50 strikes. His fastball was repeatedly 94-96, less than the ridiculous gas when he came out of the bullpen but still very good as he continues to build arm strength. Coke worked an 11-pitch 1-2-3 eighth with a K amidst a false alarm for the stadium, resulting in a message for fans to exit the stadium before being rescinded–bizarre. Albaladejo was atrocious in the ninth, allowing two runs (four in all) before Mariano entered for the last out and allowed a three-run shot to Granderson, 8-6. But Mariano got Polanco to pop out to end the game.
At the plate, Swish was the man, going 2-5 with his 6th and 7th homers and driving in 4, giving him 19 in all, batting .307. He’s been invaluable to the Yanks thus far, no question, and his infectious personality and seemingly boundless energy have invigorated the team with some new blood and passion. What a steal, obtaining him for Wilson Betemit. After going 5 for 31, Swish is now 5 for his last 12, with 3 homers, 6 runs, and 6 RBI to raise his average 21 points in the last three games. Matsui is also hot, going 1-2 with 3 walks and 3 RBIs (8 on the year), batting .295. He has a nine-game hitting streak in which he’s literally doubled his batting average–from .148 to .295–by going 14-34 with 6 runs, 5 RBI, 4 doubles, a triple, and a homer. What a difference he makes in the lineup when he’s hot. JD was 2-4 with an RBI double, his 9th RBI, and a run, batting .297 with everything from his cap down sore. I tip my cap to him for playing through pain, and playing well, with Nady and A-Rod out and the team needing a jump. Cano (.371), Jorge (.277), Melky (.311), and Pena (.227) each had a hit, while Jeter (.278) went 0-5, and Teixeira (sub-Mendoza at .197, but with an OBP of .365 due to 16 walks) 0-3, though each scored a run and Teixeira walked twice.
Some other encouraging signs:
- the Yanks hitting to the opposite field, especially Swish and Matsui on the three-RBI hits;
- great work by the middle of the order, with the #4-7 batters combining to go 5-16 with 4 runs, 7 RBI, and 4 walks;
- 3-7 with RISP, stranding 9 but improving on a dismal RISP average that was second-last in the AL at .234 entering tonight’s game;
- 7 strong innings by Joba for a team that, before tonight’s game stood 10th in the AL in starters’ innings pitched with 112 1/3;
- Coke has been excellent, and here are his numbers for his last 7 appearances: 6 IP,2 H, 3 runs 0 earned, 3 BB, 2 K. After his ERA ballooned to 13.50 in the wretched loss on Easter to KC, it has now dropped to a reasonable 4.15. I have a decent amount of trust in the guy and, right now, that goes a long way in a bullpen long on struggling relievers.
The Yanks are tied with LA with the fewest games played at home thus far–six. Key hitters such as Teixeira have struggled, A-Rod is out, and the team has struggled badly with RISP. Wang has been abysmal, other starters have been inconsistent, and parts of the bullpen have ben a train wreck. Yet the team has a winning record at 11-10, plays 18 of the next 24 games at home, has had Hughes and Melancon step up and perform so far, and they should soon get A-Rod back. This last one is key, for if A-Rod returns in reasonably good form, it will mean that Teixeira will get a lot more good pitches to hit. It will also mean that either Swisher or Posada will bat eighth, making the lineup as a whole but especially the bottom of the lineup all the more productive. If the every-other-year theory of A-Rod works this year (2005 and 2007 MVP) or, as Frank the Sage terms it, “if Odd-Rod shows up,” this team will be in business. But A-Rod needs to come back healthy and ready, not gimpy and, while he’ll need some time to be at the top of his game, hopefully he won’t be searching two months for his form. No stupid distractions, either–no tabloid nonsense, no ‘roids, no extraneous garbage, please.
Back to the Bronx with some momentum. After Toronto loses to KC tonight (down 11-3 in the 9th), the Yanks will be 3 games out. Burnett (2-0, 5.47 ERA) gets mystery righty Anthony Ortega (0-1, 7.20 ERA) for the Superfluous Acronyms tomorrow night.