Thursday, September 20, 2012

Good Afternoon, Hooded Hawk; Good Evening, Mr. Phelps

Monday's rainout forced a day-night doubleheader -- separate admissions, of course.  Far be it for the richest sports team in the Western Hemisphere -- according to Forbes magazine, the Dallas Cowboys are very close, but only the Manchester United and Real Madrid soccer teams are worth noticeably more -- to let fans see 18 innings of baseball for the price of 9.

In the opener, Andy Pettitte showed no ill effects of his 1st start since getting hurt being pushed back 18 hours. He was going to be limited to 5 innings no matter what he did, and he did very well, allowing just 4 hits and 2 walks -- no runs, earned or otherwise.

Every pitcher, no matter how good, needs offense. Ichiro Suzuki led off the bottom of the 1st with a single to right. Nick Swisher singled him over to 3rd.  Robinson Cano smacked his 42nd double of the season, scoring Ichiro. Alex Rodriguez grounded to 1st, scoring Swish and moving Robbie over. Curtis Granderson flew to center, scoring Robbie. 3-0 Yankees.

With the Hooded Hawk's pitch count limited, Joe Girardi brought in the aging and struggling Derek Lowe, who surprisingly pitched a good 6th, Joba Chamberlain and Boone Logan a decent 7th. David Robertson got in trouble in the 8th -- I'm still thinking Girardi messed him up -- but Rafael Soriano came on for a 4-out save. A Swish single in the 8th provided an insurance run.

Yankees 4, Blue Jays 2. WP: Pettitte (4-3). SV: Soriano (4-1). LP: Henderson Alvarez (9-13).


In the nightcap, David Phelps took the mound.

Fans of the TV series Mission: Impossible -- not the movie series with Tom Cruise, which is an even greater abomination and betrayal of the fans than the film I can only call J.J. Abrams' Star Trek -- will remember the recording that IMF Director Jim Phelps (played by Peter Graves) would have to hear at the beginning of most episodes, which I can paraphrase here:

Good evening, Mr. Phelps. The team in front of you is the Toronto Blue Jays. They are a terrible team according to their won-lost record, but they have been very pesky against the Yankees. Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to do whatever you can, within the rules of baseball, to prevent them from scoring runs. As always, should you, or any of your Yankee teammates, be caught or killed, the Steinbrenner family will disavow any knowledge of your actions. This tape will self-destruct in five seconds. Good luck, David.

Impossible? Not at all. Fortunately, our Mr. Phelps did not self-destruct. He pitched nearly as well as Pettitte, and, not coming back from injury, pitched longer, into the 7th. But he tired, and loaded the bases with 2 out.

And then Girardi put me in the position of having to disavow his actions: He brought in Boone Logan. Did I mention the bases were loaded? Well, Logan got out of the jam, to keep the game tied at 1-1.

Both runs were scored in the 2nd inning. In the Yankees' case, it came on one-out walks by Jayson Nix (playing 2nd base, giving Cano the night off) and Casey McGehee (playing 1st base in place of the injured Mark Teixeira), a single by Ichiro that resulted in Nix being thrown out at home, and a double by Chris Stewart that scored McGehee -- but it was a ground-rule double, so it couldn't score even the speedy Ichiro, limited by the rules to take only 2 bases.

Logan got the 1st 2 outs in the top of the 8th, and Cody Eppley the last one. Grandy led off the bottom of the 8th with a walk. Nix bunted him over to 2nd. Girardi sent up Raul Ibanez to pinch-hit for McGehee, hoping to take advantage of that nice close right-field porch.

The Jays changed to a lefty pitcher, so Girardi called by the lefty Ibanez for the righthanded Steve Pearce. Then Grandy stole 3rd, a gutsy move that meant that Pearce only needed to get the ball out of the infield for the potential winning run. But Pearce struck out. That brought up Ichiro, and he singled Grandy home to complete a 7-for-8 day.

Eppley pitched to just 1 batter, but 3 Soriano outs later, it was enough to make Eppley the winning pitcher. Yankees 2, Jays 1. WP: Eppley (1-2). SV: Soriano (42). LP: Steve Delabar (4-3).


The Yankees need good performances by all starting pitchers down the stretch.  e needed both the Hooded Hawk and Mr. Phelps to come through for us yesterday, and they did. Ivan Nova seems back on track after a slump and a Disabled List stint for the injury that apparently caused that slump. Phil Hughes has been much better lately. And Hiroki Kuroda has been consistently solid all season long. The only one to worry about is, surprisingly, CC Sabathia -- although maybe it shouldn't be surprising. By the standards of this era, CC has thrown an ungodly number of innings in his career.

The Baltimore Orioles also won last night, so the Yankees are now a half-game ahead of them in the AL East -- but 1 ahead in the All-Important Loss Column. The Yanks' Magic Number to clinch the Division is down to 14.

The Toronto series concludes tonight at Yankee Stadium II, with Hughes starting against Aaron Laffey.

The Washington Nationals and Cincinnati Reds can both clinch their respective Divisions today.

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