Yanks Clinch Series 6-2, Pad Lead

Sorry for the late recap, but a late-night chinwag with Frank the Sage, who was as ebullient as I was after last night’s win, kept me up prohibitively late.  Excellent way to take the series finale in Tampa Bay, with Joba pitching as well as he or any other Yankee starter has all year in beating the Rays 6-2.  He went eight efficiently dominant innings and got steady run support from the offense.  In a way, the win had a very slightly bittersweet quality to it, for watching Joba mow down TB last night was a glimpse of the impressive present and future with Joba as a front-line starter, while also a reminder at this point in the season that Joba’s innings cap may well prevent him from starting games in the last month, necessiating a rotation shuffle rife with uncertainty later.  Nonetheless–and I would agree with shifting Joba to the pen to prevent overworking his young, talented arm–last night’s win was as impressive a pitching performance as I’ve seen all year from a Yankee starter.  Joba was that good.

The Yanks’ offense gave him run support right away when Jeter led off the game with a triple sliced into the right field corner, and scored on Teixeira’s single, 1-0 Yanks.  The Yanks missed a chance to add on in the third when Swish and Jeter singled, but JD and Teixeira’s quick outs ended the frame.  Teixeira stole at least a single from Navarro with a great leaping catch, snaring the ball way up on its apex for yet another tremendous defensive gem.  Another defensive gem soon followed, for Bartlett singled for Tampa Bay’s first hit, then he was caught stealing on a good strong throw from Posada, and  great tag by Cano who avoided Bartlett to receive the ball, then slapped the tag on his backside before he reached the base; great play.

In the fourth, A-Rod singled to center and Matsui slapped a fastball up and away into the left field corner.  Posada popped out, then Cano’s 4-3 scored A-Rod, 2-0, but Swish’s K ended what could have been more.  Still, the Yanks steadily added on to support, Joba, who continued to buzz along.  In the fourth, Joba buzzed Longoria’s tower on the first pitch, then got him to pop out.  This prompted a response which Garza admitted after the game was intentional, plunking Teixeira in the top of the fifth, which I believe should elicit a suspension if he was stupid enough to reveal his intention.  Joba briefly flirted with trouble in the bottom half, walking Pena and Gross but escaping unscathed.

The Yanks added on in the sixth when Cano homered to deep right center after fouling a fastball off his shin, not unlike but less dramatic than Bucky Dent fouling one off his leg before homering in the one-game playoff in 1978.  Joba put up an important goose egg in the bottom half, allowing a single to Crawford through the box but fanning Longoria, who stared out at Joba who lingered near the mound.  However, it appeared to me that Joba simply forgot that it was the third out.  Joba worked a fast, nine-pitch 1-2-3 seventh before the Yanks added another run in the top of the eighth.  Matsui chopped one over the mound, and Bartlett’s errant throw gave Matsui second before Posada’s single scored Ransom pinch running.  Joba worked around Bartlett’s two-out single to cap a brilliant night–8 IP, 3 H, 2 BB, 5 K, and no runs on 101 pitches/65 strikes.  He was nothing short of brilliant.

The Yanks added two more in the top of the ninth when Melky crushed a long homer to deep right, a couple rows from the back of the stands, 5-0, and Teixeira followed two batters later with a homer creamed to dead center, 6-0.  It should have stayed that way, but Bruney entered and again struggled, with Crawford hitting a lead-off triple to right that Swisher lolly-gagged to retrieve, allowing the swift Crawford third.  Longoria followed with a long homer to left, 6-2.  Pena then doubled, prompting Girardi to go to Mariano, who quickly fanned Burrell on three pitches.  After walking Gross, Mariano fanned Hernandez on a nasty cutter to finally end the game.

Jeter was 2-5 with his first triple of the year, batting .323.  Teixeira was 2-3 with his 26th homer of the year and 2 RBI, 74 on the year, batting .285.  Matsui was 2-4 to raise his average to .259.  Cano was 1-4 with his 16th homer, 2 RBI (56 this year), batting .308.  Melky was 2-4 with his 9th homer, batting an improved .290.  He’s 10 for his last 20 in his last seven games, raising his average 16 points in the last week, and is turning over the lineup very well.  Posada’s RBI single (47) put his average at .284.  A-Rod was 1-5 with 2 GIDP, and Swish was 1-3 while looking like an elephant on roller skates in right field.  Only JD (0-4 with a BB) went hitless among the starters.

I feel for Bruney, whose velocity was good but location again poor.  He can’t be trusted in close games right now.  Conversely, Mariano’s BB was just his 5th this year.  His WHIP is 0.831 and his ERA 2.08, just tremendous, and his 2 K’s give him 49 in 43 1/3 IP.  There’s no one like him, and I wholeheartedly concur with The Sage’s assessment that Mariano merits consideration as one of the greatest players ever.

With Boston’s 8-6 loss, the Yanks now sit 3 1/2 games ahead in the East, and 7 1/2 ahead of Tampa–8 in the loss column.  It can’t feel good for Boston that they’ve beaten the Yanks all eight times thus far, yet sit 3 1/2 behind the Yanks.  Methinks their unbeaten string against the Yanks crashes hard to earth in early August.  The Yanks are gaining control of the tough East, but need to keep it rolling against Chicago, where they play their next four before Monday’s off day, and two in Toronto before returning home to face Boston.  The series win in Tampa Bay was just what they needed, and taking three of four from Chicago would be ideal.  Shifting gears, as The Sage rightly says, is what’s necessary now to distance themselves from Boston, Tampa Bay, and a tough Angels team that is within 1 1/2 games for home field in the AL.  The Yanks now sit at their high water mark of 62-39, 23 games over .500 and playing great ball.

Soak it in, Yankees fans.

Published in: on July 30, 2009 at 9:36 am  Leave a Comment  

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