GAME 1: Yankees 4 Blue Jays 2
The Return of Le Pettitte Prince
It had been nearly three months since the last time we saw Andy Pettitte take the mound for the Yankees and boy, did I miss the guy. When Andy took that Casey Kotchman comebacker off his leg in late June, I remember thinking that the Yankees would be fine while he was on the DL – after all, the lead in the division was solid, the rest of the team was healthy, and the pitching seemed to be on the up and up. We all know that my thinking was far too optimistic, if not mortally flawed. Maybe Andy’s absence was not a direct cause of the Yankees sub-standard play in the second half, but it certainly didn’t help.
To be perfectly honest, even though he was supposedly feeling fantastic, I did not expect this line: 5.0 IP, 4 H, 0 ER, 2 BB, 3 K. While Pettitte didn’t bring his A-game (his command was suspect at times) he reminded us why having been around the block really matters this time of year. Pettitte flashed the grit we know and love, working out of jams in the 2nd, 3rd, and 4th innings. At 68 pitches through 4, it seemed like we would have to settle for only a glimpse at our old friend (he was on a 70-75 pitch limit) but Andy clearly made a case for a 5th inning return. 75 pitch limit? No problem. Pettitte retired the side on 7 pitches, leaving to the warm applause of the *light* crowd in attendance – good enough for his 4th win on the year.
But, but, we had him
The first inning was more or less all the Yanks could ask for on both sides of the ball. Andy Pettitte worked around a walk to Colby Rasmus en route to a quiet inning, and then the bats pounced all over Blue Jays starter Henderson Alvarez in the bottom of the frame. Ichiro, Swish, and Cano went 1B, 1B, RBI 2B to start the game, and it looked like it was going to be a short afternoon for the Blue Jays youngster. After Robbie’s long 2B, however, things settled down in a hurry. Two more runs were plated in the inning on an A-Rod groundout and a Granderson sac fly, but that was all the Yanks were going to get out of Alvarez.
Seemingly on the ropes after only three batters and down 3-0 after 1, Alvarez rebounded by retiring 17 of the next 19 hitters he faced and setting a career high with 7 K. In my series preview, I noted that Alvarez doesn’t generally have swing and miss stuff, but he sure missed a lot of bats this afternoon.
Who broke D-Rob?
David Robertson sometimes picks around the strike zone. We know this. D-Rob also occasionally loses faith in his curveball when he doesn’t bring his A-game. We know this as well. The problem is that we’ve become so accustomed to watching Robertson get into, and then wriggle out of, even the worst of jams. A regression was expected after last year’s frequent “Houdini on the high wire” acts, but it’s still a tough pill for me to swallow. Robertson lacked the ability to put anyone away this afternoon, giving up two 2-strike hits on his way to an overall line of 0.2 IP, 4 H, 2 ER, 0 BB, 2K. He was able to freeze two rookies on called third strikes, but everyone else he faced lumped him up. With runners on 2nd and 3rd and 2 outs, Rafael Soriano came on to bail D-Rob out. After a walk to Anthony Gose, Soriano got Rajai Davis to hit a sinking liner to left field that was snagged on a slide by Ichiro, narrowly averting a Stage IV Bullpen Meltdown.
After the Yankees added an insurance run on two out hits from Ichiro (ground rule double) and Nick Swisher (RBI 1B), Soriano pitched a dominant 9th for his 41st save. Everybody untuck.
Ichiro Suzuki: True Yankee
I like to throw this term around sarcastically because non-Yankee fans do (I’m reclaiming it) but today, Ichiro was definitely my favorite Yankee. Well, that is, after Andy Pettitte came out of the game anyway. Ichiro, hitting leadoff for the resting Derek Jeter, went 3-for-4 with 2 R and a game saving catch in LF to end the 8th. We can’t expect these types of games from twilight Ichiro all of the time (more to come later), but they are so enjoyable when they happen. Do you think Raul and Andruw gave each other “oh man thank goodness that wasn’t one of us out there in left” hugs of relief after the 8th inning catch? I like to think that they did.
GAME 2: Yankees 2 Blue Jays 1
Ichiro Suzuki: True Yankee (closer to serious this time)
Okay for real, Ichiro went 4-for-4 with a SB in the nightcap and drove in the eventual game winning run in the 8th. I wouldn’t lie to you! Are we cool? Do you believe me? Great. Ready for more? Of those 4 hits, 2 of them were doubles…off a lefty. ::head explodes:: It’s okay. I ran through the same gamut of emotions as I was watching the game. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. Ichiro accounted for 7 of the Yankees’ 15 hits on the day. He had a direct role in both wins and frankly I don’t see how we sweep without him. As I said above, this isn’t going to happen every game, but it happened twice today – a rejuvenated Ichiro came to play and the Yanks earned 2 much (much) needed wins with his help. No offense to D.J. Mitchell and Danny Farquhar, but if you had told me the tale of September 19, 2012 on July 23, 2012, I’d have packed their bags myself.
David Phelps showed us something
He isn’t flashy. He doesn’t throw smoke. The pitching motion is simple and compact. No facial expressions. A haircut you can set your watch to. The previous statements all describe David Phelps but yet, I’m intrigued. One week ago, Phelps gave the Yankees 5.2 IP of 1 run ball in a critical victory against the Red Sox. That was supposed to be his last start. Three days later, Phelps got 2 big outs in relief in a game the Yankees won against the Rays. Three days after that would bring you to tonight – a game that Phelps was only asked to start because ::dun dun dun:: WEATHER happened! We all feared the WEATHER yesterday, and rightfully so – doubleheader? What will it mean for the rotation? It’s so hard to sweep a DH! Grrrrrrrfffrustration.
You know who didn’t look frustrated? David Phelps. Sure, he did not have great stuff tonight. He was pick, pick, picking and had poor command. But look at the the week he had, detailed above. His relief appearance happened on his throwing day, of course, but that can still go a long way toward mucking up a guy’s routine. When Phelps was at 40 pitches through 2 IP, I thought we were on the fast track to watching Derek Lowe pour sweat all over the mound from the 4th through 7th, effective or not. Phelps was able to reign it in, however, and turned in a gutsy performance with an end line that looks much better than he made it look: 6.2 IP (ties career high), 3 H, 1 ER, 3 BB, 6 K. He also pumped out a career high 110 pitches (previous high: 98) on a night that Joe Girardi needed some length from his starter.
Maybe it is because I didn’t expect much when he was called up, but David Phelps, I’m intrigued.
Until tonight, he was Ricky RomeROFL
It wasn’t pretty, but Ricky Romero held the Yankees to 1 ER in 6 IP despite walking 5 and allowing 7 hits. A WHIP of 2.00 over 6 innings is the pitching equivalent of playing with fire, but Romero was able to excape trouble several times by relying on a fastball-changeup combo that had Yankee hitters off balance, expecially A-Rod. Rodriguez ended a potential threat in the 1st by grounding into a double play, and then struck out with men on base in the 3rd and 5th innings. Rodriguez was also K’d by Steve Delabar in the 7th to cap a day he’d soon like to forget: 0-for-7, 5 K, GIDP.
Romero was the beneficiary of a lucky bounce in the bottom of the 2nd when Chris Stewart laced a 2B to left field that skipped up the wall and into the seats, scoring McGehee from 2nd but preventing Ichiro from scoring from 1st. Romero also got some help from his defense, as Colby Rasmus made a strong throw from CF on Ichiro’s 1B to nail Jayson Nix at the plate. As has been the case with Romero for the better part of 2012, it felt as though the wheels were going to come off at any moment, but the Yankees just couldn’t capitalize.
What did I miss?
- Derek Jeter led off the evening game with a single, his 200th hit of the season. This marks the 8th time in his career he has reached the 200 hit plateau. He’s also playing on a bum foot. It’s old hat to say it, but he is pretty amazing.
- Omar Vizquel passed Babe Ruth (yes, that one) on the all time hits list in the afternoon game. His RBI 2B in the 8th inning off David Robertson was the 2, 872nd hit of his career.
- Rafael Soriano saved both ends of this doubleheader for his 41st and 42nd saves on the season. This means that fans who stayed for both games were treated to “El Rey de Monticulo” multiple times today. That is Soriano’s answer to “Enter Sandman” and the title translates to “King of the Mound.” Hard to argue in 2012.
The Yankees go for the 3 game sweep of the Jays at Yankee Stadium Thursday evening at 7:05pm. CC Sabathia (13-6, 3.96 ERA) will oppose Aaron Laffey (3-5, 4.55 ERA) in a matchup of lefties. As I write this, the Yankees sit 1 full game in first place, pending the outcome of the Orioles-Mariners game, which looks like it may go as long as last night’s. Oh boy.