Yanks keep game under control
The groans in the Yankee Stadium crowd of 42,460 started from the moment Juan Rivera’s bat made contact with a 93-mph cutter from Rafael Soriano and the ball made its way toward the outer reaches of right field. With a runner on first base and the Yankees clinging to a one-run lead in the eighth inning, fans were fearful that the Blue Jays just might take control of the game.
Rivera’s fly ball didn’t have enough legs, however, as Nick Swisher gloved it on the warning track. Disaster averted. Soriano’s adjustment from closer with the Rays for whom he had a league-high 45 saves last year to setup man with the Yankees has been closely scrutinized, to the point that already it has been suggested in some media circles that maybe manager Joe Girardi should find somebody else for that job.
Yet it is hard to argue with the skipper’s logic that if Soriano is going to get comfortable making the adjustment from ninth-inning specialist to eighth-inning specialist he is going to have to keep pitching in the eighth inning.
Soriano’s scoreless eighth Saturday was one of the important elements of the Yanks’ 5-4 victory Saturday over Toronto. This was one of those games where the Yankees seemed to allow the opposition back into the game.
A.J. Burnett didn’t have much of a breaking ball and had to gut his way through six innings in which he allowed four earned runs and nine hits. He didn’t walk a batter, however, and while the Blue Jays again ran rampant (three more stolen bases, giving them 30 in 27 games), A.J. got one huge out with a pickoff of speedy Rajai Davis at first base.
This came in the fifth inning when it appeared Toronto was working itself back into the game. Rookie second baseman Mike McCoy hit his first major-league home run leading off the inning to trim the Yanks’ lead to 5-3. One of the best plays after a long home run is a bunt, which Davis pulled off nicely.
Burnett is among the easiest pitchers to run against and is not known to have much of a pickoff move, but he looked like a right-handed Andy Pettitte by catching Davis leaning and getting an important first out. The Blue Jays helped the Yankees again in the sixth, A.J.’s last inning, by running into trouble. Rivera got greedy trying to steal third and was gunned down by catcher Russell Martin to complete a strike-‘em-out’-throw-‘em-out double play.
Joba Chamberlain, Soriano and Mariano Rivera (ninth save) took over from there. The Yankees prevailed in that rare game when they did not hit the ball over the fence. This was only the fourth time they have not homered in a game, and they are 2-2 on those occasions. They took advantage of a wild Kyle Drabek (four walks in 2 1/3 innings) and showed some aggressiveness of their own on the bases.
A break-up slide at second base by Eric Chavez in the second inning avoided a double play as the Yankees grabbed the lead with three runs on singles by Martin and Curtis Granderson and a sacrifice fly by Derek Jeter. Robinson Cano, who led off the third with a single, stole second and scored on a single by Chavez.
“I love it when the guys play hard,” Girardi said. “I don’t care how we get runs so long as we get them.”