Yanks reverse fortunes with 1-run win over Orioles
The Yankees have guaranteed that the Orioles cannot leave town in first place. Hey, that’s a start.
The day after a demoralizing loss to Baltimore than reduced their lead in the American League East to two games, the Yankees stared at a 3-0, fourth-inning deficit against a pitcher, Wei-Yen Chen, with the same kind of sneaky fastball and tough breaking stuff as that of Friday night’s winning pitcher, Miguel Gonzalez.
Even worse, the Yanks lost their center fielder, Curtis Granderson, who was removed from the game before the start of the third inning with a barking right hamstring that as it turns out is not as serious as they feared. Yankee manager Joe Girardi said that an MRI on Granderson revealed tendinitis. He might even be available for Sunday’s series finale.
Ironically, it was Granderson’s departure that brought Steve Pearce into the game, one of three career bench warmers who fueled the seventh-inning rally that produced the three runs required to overtake the Orioles, 4-3. In so doing, the Yankees beat the O’s at their own game. Baltimore had won its 13 previous one-run games while the Yankees had lost 10 of their previous 13 one-run games. That’s a seven-game difference in the standings right there.
Pearce got the seventh-inning comeback started with a one-out single to left field. One out later, Jayson Nix walked to keep the line moving for Eduardo Nunez, who was recalled from Triple A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre and celebrated his return with a single to center that scored Pearce and chased Chen.
Reliever Pedro Strop, who throws hard but not always accurately, faced three batters and got none of them out. He walked Ichiro Suzuki to load the bases and Derek Jeter, who came back from 0-2 in the count to force home the tying run. Shortstop J.J. Hardy bobbled a one-hopper by Nick Swisher that sent Nunez home with the run that stood up as the winner.
What a turnaround for Nunez. He was farmed out in mid-May after failing to hold down the job as a utility man to play shortstop every day at Triple A. A thumb injury kept him on the disabled list most of the summer, and he finished the season with an unimpressive .223 batting average. He was delighted to be back at Yankee Stadium after a season of hotel stays and bus trips for the Yanks’ Triple A affiliate that played an entire schedule of road games while their home park in Moosic, Pa., was undergoing renovation.
“I am very happy to be back,” Nunez said. “To contribute to a big win is exciting. I mean, I got so excited after that hit I almost cried.”
The Yankees were actually pretty lucky to be in position to come back in this game. A ragged start by David Phelps, who walked six batters and hit one in 4 2/3 innings, could have put them well behind the 8-ball, but the Yankees turned two double plays behind Phelps, who also picked off a runner to minimize the damage.
Once again, however, it took the Yankees one full turn in the lineup before they got on the board when Robinson Cano connected for a Yankee Stadium home run that tucked its way into the left field stands with two out in the fourth inning. The long ball, that is the Yankees’ game, more so than the small ball they played in the seventh with help from erratic Orioles relief. This was not vintage big-league ball, not with more total walks (12) than hits (8).
As usual, Jeter put it best, again telling writers he doesn’t pay close attention to the standings.
“In the position we’re in, as long as we keep winning we’ll be fine,” the Captain said.