I'm not embarrassed to admit that I had thrown the towel in on this game once the Yankees fell behind 5-0. Prior to last night the biggest deficit the team had overcome was three runs. In fact, I even started drafting my game recap while the game was still underway, focusing heavily on the 2010 Yankees' seeming inability to rally this year. Feel free to read it; it's quite amusing in light of the surprise Yankee win. Needless to say, I'm not unhappy to have to have scrapped it and start over.
So back to that 5-0 deficit. Dodgers' starter Clayton Kershaw had been cruising, and the only blemish on his record was a two-run bomb off the bat of the suddenly resurgent Alex Rodriguez. Kershaw tossed seven innings and struck out five, while walking zero -- this was especially surprising, given that Kershaw had led the NL in BB/9 prior to this weekend's action.
Despite allowing five runs, Andy Pettitte wasn't terrible and really only had himself to blame. Though he was only docked for two earned runs, he was responsible for both Yankee errors, so in a way it almost feels like he should've been charged for all of them. Funny how baseball works sometimes. Andy was also only able to get through five innings, and basically turned in the less-than-stellar start he'd been long overdue for. If this is the worst Andy gets this year, I'll gladly take it.
Joba Chamberlain coughed up a big insurance run in the eighth, enabling the Dodgers to increase their lead to 6-2, and all but putting the game out of reach. Then the ninth inning happened. Joe Torre, who burned the Yankees countless times over the years through his disastrously poor bullpen management, brought his closer, Jonathan Broxton in, to protect a four-run lead. This in and of itself wasn't a terrible move, as Joe obviously wanted to seal the victory without any shenanigans, and Broxton is in the midst of another outrageously good season, leading all National League relievers in WAR.
Of course, as we've seen firsthand with our own untouchable deity of a closer, even the best falter every so often, and last night was fortunately one of those nights for Broxton. After Mark Teixeira unsurprisingly led the inning off with a strikeout (speaking of Tex, what are the chances he can bring his season numbers even close to respectability? Never in my wildest dreams did I think he'd be hitting .229/.344/.408 on June 28. Tex has posted 0.6 WAR and has been worth $2.3 million, according to Fangraphs. Ugly, ugly stuff), A-Rod hit a single and scored on a Robinson Cano double. Jorge Posada followed with a single, and Curtis Granderson drew a huge walk to load the bases for rookie Chad Huffman. Huffman improbably came through with the biggest hit of his young career, blasting a two-run single to bring the Yankees within one. At this point, the insurance run surrendered by Joba loomed rather large.
Colin Curtis came to the plate and put together an incredibly impressive 10-pitch at-bat, before grounding out to James Loney at first base. However, with Granderson at third and only one out in the inning, Loney got greedy as he stepped on first and then tried to nail Curtis at home. Granderson just slid in under the tag, and this was one of those instances where having speed on the basepaths was huge, as almost anyone else on the roster would probably have been dead to rights at home.
With the game now tied at 6-6, the Yankees improbably having come back from a four-run deficit in the ninth inning against the top closer in the National League, they pretty much HAD to find a way to win this game.
Big time kudos to Joe Girardi for tossing stubborn, old-school managerial conventional wisdom completely out the window and going with Mariano Rivera in a tie game on the road in the bottom of the ninth for the second time in a week. I'm pretty sure that Joe Torre did not do this one time in his entire 12-year tenure at the helm of the Yankees. Despite getting burned countless times, Torre never learned that you have to go with your best reliever in the highest leverage situation, regardless of whether it's technically a save situation.
Rivera took care of business in the bottom of the ninth, paving the way for Robinson Cano's huge go-ahead two-run home run in the top of the 10th off George Sherrill, who he had previously been 0-11 against. This was also classic Torre bullpen mismanagement, going for the lefty against Cano, despite the fact that (a) Cano hasn't exactly struggled against lefties this year (.301/.362/.612) or really at any point in his career (.300/.343/.470); (b) Cano's in the midst of an MVP-caliber season and hasn't really had trouble hitting anyone; and (c) Ramon Troncoso had just recorded an out and seemed to have the situation reasonably under control.
Mo nailed down the save in the bottom of the 10th, which also saw another Dodger -- Russell Martin -- get tossed from the game, making him approximately the 8,000th Dodger to get thrown out this weekend for arguing balls and strikes. I understand their frustration, but it still seemed pretty disrespectful and childlike for these guys to be slamming their bats and chucking their helmets at every call that didn't go their way.
So the Yankees overcame a five-run deficit for the first time in 2010, winning 8-6. This was also the first four-run deficit they overcame in the ninth inning since April 19, 2007 at home. The 2010 Yankees improved to 3-1 in extra inning games, with all three of those victories impressively coming on the road, where it always seems like it's going to be impossible to win.
The Yanks also improved to 3-3 all-time against Los Angeles in Interleague Play, and picked up their first ESPN Sunday Night Marathon Heartbreaker victory of the year, improving to 1-2 in that horrifyingly annoying category. The 2010 Yankees ended up going 11-7 in Interleague overall, which is a pretty sterling record, and 5-4 in National League ballparks. They also were able to maintain a two-game lead over Boston, who just keeps winning despite losing seemingly half the team to injuries, and picked up another game on the still-reeling Rays.
Photo courtesy of the AP.
Monday, June 28, 2010
by Larry Koestler