Monday, July 8, 2013

Two Out of Three Usually Ain't Bad

The Yankees needed to keep the momentum from their 4-game sweep in Minnesota going, heading into this weekend's home series with the Baltimore Orioles, who had swept them 3 straight in Baltimore last weekend.

On Friday night, it looked like the Yankees had gone back to their June pattern of good pitching wasted by RISPfail.  Ivan Nova hit Chris Davis to start the 2nd inning, then allowed a home run to Matt Wieters.  Other than that, he pitched a classic.  And by "classic," I don't just mean he pitched well.  I mean he threw a complete game.

Note to my younger readers: A "complete game" is when a man pitches all 9 inning innings, with no relief pitcher coming in.

Nova, who has struggled a lot these last couple of years, went 9 innings, and aside from that Wieters home run, allowed no runs on 3 hits and 1 walk.  He struck out 11, which is pretty strong, although the 1 walk in 9 innings is more important.

But the Yankees had trouble scoring again.  Going into the bottom of the 9th, they trailed 2-1, having gotten just 5 hits.  The run came in the bottom of the 4th.  With 2 out, Vernon Wells singled, Lyle Overbay drew a walk, and newcomer Luis Cruz singled Wells home.

That was it until the 9th.  Jim Johnson, the Orioles' closer, came in, and David Adams led off with a single.  Brett Gardner grounded into a force play, which Johnson screwed up, trying to get Adams at 2nd.  So now it was 1st and 2nd, nobody out.  Ichiro Suzuki bunted them over to 2nd and 3rd.

Our old pal William Nathanial Showalter III, a.k.a. Buck, ordered that Robinson Cano be intentionally walked.  The Yankee Fans booed, but this was absolutely the right call.  It set up the force play, maybe a double play to end it, and it's not like he was putting the winning run on base: It already was.

Travis Hafner worked a walk to force Adams home with the tying run, and Wells singled home Gardner to win it.  Yankees 3, Orioles 2.

WP: Nova (3-2).  LP: Johnson (2-7 -- he's got a lot of saves, but the Orioles are not going to win a postseason series with him as their closer).

*

On Saturday, I tempted fate.  I went to the Shore, to my old haunt of Point Pleasant Beach.  I went to Martell's Sea Breeze -- once home to the Curse of Martell's.  Every time I went there, if the Yankees were playing, they lost.  And I don't mean they were 0-1, or even 0-5.  It was more like 0-30, including some embarrassing losses, some to teams we really want to beat, like the Red Sox or the Mets.

In retrospect, there's probably a few times the Yankees did win while I was there, but I just didn't notice it.  Anyway, the curse was broken on Labor Day weekend 2011.

For a while, it looked like the curse was back.  The O's touched up Andy Pettitte for 4 runs in the first 4 innings, but the Yanks chipped away.  Hafner led off the bottom of the 2nd with a walk.  Zoilo Almonte continued to impress, singling Hafner to 2nd.  Overbay singled and the bases were loaded with nobody out.

This made our RISPfail senses tingle.  But no, Cruz struck again, singling home Hafner.  Yankee Fans, many of them Giant fans remembering doing it for receiver Victor, started a "Cruuuuuuuuz!" chant.  Still bases loaded, nobody out.  And Eduardo Nunez, whose bat isn't much better than his tin glove, returned from inhury with a sacrifice fly to get Almonte home.  Unfortunately, Overbay was thrown out at 3rd on the play, and Chris Stewart struck out to end it.

In the 5th, Nunez led off with a single.  Then Stewart singled.  Gardner bunted them over.  Ichiro singled home Nunez.  Cano singled home Stewart.  4-4.  In the 6th, Nunez continued his comeback, singling home Overbay, who had led off with a single and been bunted over by Cruz.  5-4 Yankees.  That's how it ended, as the old men came through: Pettitte (6-6) and Mariano Rivera (29th save).

*

Yesterday was a different story.  Hiroki Kuroda had been pushed back due to injury, but he was fine, going 7 innings, allowing no runs, 3 hits, 1 walk.  Pitching like that deserves at least 2 runs, wouldn't you say?

If only.  Nunez had another sac fly, this time in the 2nd, and that was all the Yankees got.  They stranded 2 runners in the 4th, and left Stewart on 2nd in the 7th.

David Robertson, with a chance to be the American League's final All-Star, got through the 8th.  So Mariano took the mound in the 9th, having saved 29 of his 30 opportunities this season.

He got Manny Machado to ground out, no problem.  But he allowed a single to Nick Markakis, and gave up a home run to the dangerous Adam Jones.

The bottom of the 9th was weak: Overbay and Cruz struck out, and Nunez grounded out.  Nobody to sacrifice home, and there were 2 outs anyway.

Orioles 2, Yankees 1.  WP: Darren O'Day (5-0).  SV: Johnson (30).  LP: Rivera (1-2).

Usually, two out of three ain't bad.  Especially against a good team.  But when you're 2 outs away from a sweep of a good team, and you've got the Hammer of God on the mound, you kinda want to finish it off.

*

Here's how the AL East stands: Boston leads, Baltimore and Tampa Bay 4 1/2 back (both 4 back in the loss column), the Yankees 5 back (but also 4 in the loss column), and Toronto 10 (9) back.  Baltimore and Tampa Bay stand to be the 2 Wild Card teams, and the Yankees are half a game back, but even in the loss column.

The final week before the All-Star Break begins with the Yankees hosting the Kansas City Royals:

Tonight: Phil Hughes vs. Jeremy Guthrie.

Tomorrow night: CC Sabathia vs. former Tampa Bay ace James Shields, who's not doing too well in Kansas City.

Wednesday night: Nova vs. Wade Davis.

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