Friday, August 14, 2015

Yank Offense Wakes Up at Just the Right Time

The Yankee offense, somnabulent since their outbursts against the Chicago White Sox and Boston Red Sox last week, finally woke up last night, in the finale of an away series against the Cleveland Indians.

Just in time to move on to Toronto for (so far) the biggest series of the season, against those pesky Blue Jays.

Lately, the Yankees have been getting good pitching, and the bats haven't backed it up. Last night, it was nearly the other way around. Nathan Eovaldi was shaky, barely getting into the 6th inning, allowing 4 runs on 7 hits and 3 walks.

But Jacoby Ellsbury, one of the most notorious culprits lately, opened the game with a single to left. Brett Gardner, also one of the most notorious culprits lately, drew a walk. Alex Rodriguez and Carlos Beltran followed with popups, and you could have been forgiven for thinking, "Well, here we go again: Yankee RISPfail." But Brian McCann sent the ball down the right-field line, and it was just fair. It was his 20th home run of the season. More importantly, it was 3 runs for the Yankees before the Tribe even came to bat.

Stephen Drew, one of the most notorious culprits all season long, is batting just .195, but he homered in the 2nd, his 15th of the season. With a 4-0 lead, we began to think we might finally have gotten off the deck. That feeling didn't last long, as the Indians scored twice in the 3rd to make it 4-2.

Didi Gregorius led off the 4th with a single, and Drew doubled him home. Yes, Stephen Drew got 2 hits in 1 game, and 1 of them wasn't a home run. (He's getting to be like Dave Kingman, although his homers don't go as far, and he can actually field a position.) After Ellsbury struck out, Gardner doubled Drew home. 6-2 Yankees.

With 1 out in the 6th, Drew reached 1st base on an error, and a passed ball got him to 2nd. Ellsbury drew a walk, and Gardner singled Drew home with his 3rd run of the game, the Yankees' 7th to the Indians' 2.

But the Indians chased Eovaldi with 2 runs in the bottom of the inning, making it 7-4. They got another in the 7th, thanks to Dellin Betances being a little wild. 7-5, and we got nervous again.

With 1 out in the 8th, Drew contributed again, with a walk. Ellsbury singled, and, yet again, Gardner got Drew home, with a single. Betances pitched a scoreless 8th, and the game went to the bottom of the 9th, with the Yankees up 8-5.

Andrew Miller came in for the 1st time since blowing a save opportunity for the 1st time all season, after 24 successes. And he did not bounce back the way we had hoped. He allowed a leadoff single, then got 2 outs, then defensive indifference and a single got a run home. Uh-oh...

The batter was Abraham Almonte, the chunky 26-year-old Dominican center fielder that the Indians picked up from the San Diego Padres at the trade deadline. He represented the tying run, and, the way the Yankees have been going lately, we could be excused for thinking, in the immortal words of Han Solo, "I've got a bad feeling about this!"

Miller struck him out looking. Ballgame over! Yankees win! Theeeeeeeeeeee Yankees win!

Whew.

Yankees 8, Indians 6. WP: Eovaldi (12-2). SV: Miller (25). LP: Trevor Bauer (9-9).

*

So the big showdown with the Jays begins tonight. The Yankees are 62-51, the Jays 64-52. The Yankees have 2 games in hand on the Jays, so while the Jays lead the American League Eastern Division by half a game, the Yankees actually lead by a whole game in the All-Important Loss Column.

Here are the projected starting pitchers for the series at the SkyDome -- I mean, the Rogers Centre (under either name, they hated it when you included the "the" in the name, but I don't care):

Tonight, 7:07: Ivan Nova vs. David Price.

Tomorrow, 1:07: Masahiro Tanaka vs. Marco Estrada.

Sunday, 1:07: Luis Severino vs. Drew Hutchinson.

For some reason, the Jays are alone among MLB's 30 teams in that they list the official start time of a game at :07, not :00 or :05. This reflects the way it usually works out, as a 7:00 PM broadcast usually sees the first pitch happen at 7:07 or 7:08. Yet most teams still list the start time as 7:05. At least they don't say 7:00 on the dot as they did when I was a kid. (Or, as was more frequent back then, 7:30 or even 8:00.)

The Jays have won 11 straight games, for the 2nd time this season. And they're still only "in first place" by half a game. This tells me that, if fans of the Detroit team will excuse me, they are paper tigers. A good solid 2 out of 3 will send that message, the message that they are not worthy of making the Playoffs. A sweep, reversing the result of last weekend in The Bronx, will show them, beyond any doubt, that we are the New York Yankees -- and they most certainly are not.

And our bats have woken up, at just the right time, and are ready to send the message.

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