Tremendous if frustrating victory, with the Yanks surrendering a five-run lead but ultimately prevailing 6-5 in Anaheim. With Texas’s loss, the Yanks made the playoffs win or lose tonight. Yet the win was all the sweeter, for the Yanks topped their nemesis in their home ball park, moving back to 5 up in the loss column for home field. They also moved to six games ahead of Boston (five in the loss column) in the East after Zach Greinke shut down the Red Sox. Huge win and evening, nothing short of huge.
The Yanks blew chances in the first two innings, leaving runners on in scoring position to keep the game tied. Thankfully, Gaudin was again good in the first few innings before petering out. In the third, the Yanks exploded for four runs on two two-out homers. Teixeira singled and A-Rod creamed a two-run shot to deep center, on the rocks, his 27th of the year, 2-0 NY. After Matsui reached on a catcher’s interference, Posada ripped one to deep right, 4-0 Yankees, Posada’s 22nd, 4-0 Yankees. The Yanks had a good chance to add on in the fourth when Jeter singled for his 200th hit and stole second, his 27th steal of his great year, but the Yanks missed a chance to add on. Yet Matsui ripped his 28th homer of the year in the top of the fifth, 5-0 Yanks.
Yet Gaudin tired, letting the Angels back in the game. With two outs in the fifth, Figgins launched one deep to right, but Swish literally overran the ball and sailed into the corner as the ball went out behind him, over the short wall, 5-1 Yankees. Izturis doubled, Abreu walked, and Vlad singled in Izturis, 5-2 Yankees. Aceves entered and fanned Hunter, holding the line at 5-2.
The Yanks’ offense went stagnant, and the Angels warmed up. Morales and Rivera singled, Aybar flew out to right to move Morales to third, and Matthews pinch-hitting singled, 5-3 Yankees. Figgins singled, Izturis popped out, Abreu walked, 5-4 Yanks, and A-Rod robbed Vlad of at least a single to hold the lead.
After Aceves allowed a double to Morales, Hughes pitched out of the jam; great work by the kid. He also worked well in the eighth, but Cano screwed things up by allowing a grounder from Kendrick to skid between his wickets. Kendrick them stole second and went to third on Posada’s errant throw, no outs. Figgins popped out, but Izturis singled him in to tie the game at five. Abreu walked, yet Hughes fanned Vlad and Hunter; very impressive.
I playfully shrugged as it moved to the top of the ninth, saying aloud, just score and get Mariano in the game. Amazingly, they did. Brett the Jet singled, stole second on a pitch-out not surprisingly, Jeter walked, JD bunted with two strikes to advance The Jet and The Captain, Teixeira was intentionally walked, and A-Rod lined the first pitch to center, scoring Gardner 6-5.
Mariano entered and walked Morales, although he should have been out on a K. But after Willits entered as a pinch runner, and though he tried to stole second, Mariano fanned Rivera and Jorge threw out Willits, two down. Mariano then got Aybar on a weak 4-3, ending the game with a huge win. Mariano earned his 41st save and 523rd save of his incomparable career. Vital win.
A-Rod was big tonight, hitting his 27th homer, driving in 3 for 89 this year, batting .284. A-Rod will have a big October. Posada was 1-4 with his 22nd homer, with 79 RBI, batting .283 and throwing out Willits in the ninth of a big win. Teixeira and Cano went 2-4, and Cano now has 46 doubles. That officially is a lot. Jeter earned his 200th hit for the seventh time in his illustrious career. Brett the Jet paid dividends with his single, 23rd steal, and game-winning run. What an asset. Matsui’s 28th homer was crucial, and we shouldn’t be so quick to presume his absence in 2010. His production will be tough, at least, to replace. JD had a single and laid down a good bunt, apparently on his own in the ninth.
Gaudin started great but collapsed. Aceves struggled but hasn’t pitched much lately. Nor has Marte but, honestly, I know that Girardi wanted to turn Morales around to hit righty in the seventh, but it didn’t work. Hughes was at least as good a chance, primarily because of Marte’s lack of work. Hughes was very good and deserved a better fate after Cano’s screw-up in the eighth. But he got his eighth win, the same amount Mariano had in 1996 ironically enough, and Mariano notched his 41st save.
Not an easy or smooth win by any means, but an important win nonetheless. This required some grit, and the Yanks showed some tonight. Although the grander champagne celebration looms, the Yanks earned October baseball tonight. That’s something of which to be proud.
Enjoy it, Yankees fans.