I missed almost the entire game while at a meeting but, on the way out, saw I had received texts from my better half indicating some Yankee success at the plate–a good sign. Rather than check the Yankees’ web site via the phone, I called home, and the first thing I heard from my wife was that the Yanks were completing an inning-ending DP in the eighth to escape trouble; another good sign. I got home for the top of the ninth, and Mariano looked good, getting Howard looking on a pitch slightly outside, allowing a two-out double to Ibanez (whom I’ve always liked) before whiffing Stairs on a nasty cutter down and in for a two-inning save to even the series.
Hats off to A.J. for providing such a strong start and out-pitching the unflappable Pedro. He was outstanding, going seven strong and allowing just four hits, two walks, a run earned, and fanning nine on 108 pitches/68 strikes. His curve was nasty and sharp, and Burnett used it to both get ahead and set down batters. He was particularly tough on Howard, K’ing him three times. He also mixed in a crackling fastball, locating it well on both sides of the plate.
Brilliant start, especially since Pedro was on early. He had only allowed one hit before Teixeira cranked a deep homer into the visitors’ bullpen in right center in the bottom of the fourth to tie the game at one. Matsui whacked a two-out homer on a 1-2 curve low and in–not a bad pitch, really–giving the Yanks their first World Series lead, 2-1 in the sixth. After A.J, buzzed through the Phillies in the top of the seventh, getting Ibanez and Stairs looking on curves painting the black outside, the Yanks tacked on a big insurance run in the bottom half when Hairston looped a single to right, Brett the Jet pinch ran and Melky singled him to third on a hit-and-run. Jorge pinch hit for Molina and singled in Gardner on a 1-2 fastball tailing back over the plate, 3-1 Yanks. But the Yanks got a bad break when JD lined to first, called out even though Howard trapped it, and doubling off Jorge.
Mariano entered and let Rollins get away, walking him in an 11-pitch at-bat with one out. Ruiz singled, but Mariano got out of it against Utley, inducing a 4-6-3 DP that replays showed Utley barely beat out, but it was bang-bang. Regardless, the Yanks got the break at first back. He made the ninth look considerably easier than the eighth.
Matsui’s 2-3 game with his solo homer was big, as was Teixeira’s solo shot. The Yanks need these very players to deliver, for they make it considerably more difficult for Philadelphia to avoid A-Rod as a result. Of course, A-Rod needs to warm back up, going 0-8 with 6 K’s thus far. He just needs to sit off-speed more often late, and not allow fastballs to speed by him early in the count. Jeter had a double (with 3 K’s), Jorge’s RBI single was huge, and Melky, Cano, and Hairston added singles.
But this was A.J.’s game, and he was an ace last night. I feel infinitely better about the Yanks’ chances after last night’s win. I really don’t see Philadelphia winning all three at home, honestly. Taking Game 3 is now imperative, with Lefty facing Cole Hamels. I like A-Rod’s chances of warming up against Hamels.
Big win last night; very big.