Yanks head to Baltimore after regaining lead
Many Yankees fans over the years have taken advantage of the relative nearness of Baltimore to make the trip to Camden Yards and see the team there. The Yankees can use all the support their fans can give them this week in a four-game series against the Orioles that starts Thursday night.
The Yanks gave themselves a needed boost Wednesday night in regaining the top spot of the American League East with a 6-4 victory over Tampa Bay while Baltimore lost by the same score at Toronto. So the Yankees take a one-game lead over the Orioles into the coming series.
Yankees general manager Brian Cashman told writers before the game, “We intend to win the American League East. That’s what we expect to do, and that’s what we intend to do. Buckle up – it’s going to be a hell of a ride this last month. I would tell our fans to hang in. We’re going to sprint this one out and do them proud.”
As it turned out, a sacrifice bunt that the Yankees did not rely on earlier in the game helped set up what proved the winning rally in the seventh inning as they unlocked a 4-4 score. Following singles by Andruw Jones and Steve Pearce with none out, Jayson Nix moved the runners along with a bunt so well placed that he nearly got a hit out of it.
Rays second baseman Elliot Johnson did the rest. Moving on contact when Derek Jeter hit a ground ball to the right side against a tight infield, pinch runner Ichiro Suzuki made it home on a wild throw to the left of the plate by Johnson that allowed Pearce to score as well. It was the kind of break the Yankees dearly needed during this stretch when they have struggled against division foes. Through the first nine games of a 22-game period against AL East competition, the Yanks are 3-6.
It was a break as well for Hiroki Kuroda, who failed to hold leads of 3-1 and 4-3 but ended up with the winning decision. He does not have to apologize considering the lack of run support he has had most of the season. There have been several losses Kuroda has endured this year when he has pitched well enough to win, so it is only fair that he get a victory on a night when he was not at his best.
To have notched the victory against a first-rate lefthander like Tampa Bay’s Matt Moore was also a major plus for the Yankees, who have been vulnerable against left-handed pitching in the second half, particularly during the six weeks Alex Rodriguez spent on the disabled list. They will see three more left-handed starters at Baltimore. Orioles manager Buck Showalter can read a stat sheet, that’s for sure.
All eight of the Yankees’ hits in the game, all against Moore, were by right-handed hitters as Joe Girardi filled his lineup with as many righty swingers as he could find. Russell Martin drove in three runs with a two-run double and a home run to get his batting average above .200 (.202) for the first time in 67 games since June 22.
Jeter had three hits and a run batted in. One of the hits was on fly to shallow center field that could not be handled by Johnson, who had a bad night in the field. That misplay also cost the Rays a run. Rodriguez sent Jeter home with a well-struck double to left. And don’t forget that Jones and Pearce, two more right-handed hitters, got the seventh-inning rally started.
Kuroda was hurt by a two-out, RBI single by Evan Longoria in the first inning, a two-out, two-run triple by Ben Zobrist in the fifth and a solo home run by Luke Scott in the sixth as he kept giving back leads the Yankees gave him. The bullpen did no such thing as Boone Logan, David Robertson and Rafael Soriano (36th save) combined for three shutout innings.
Not everything went the Yankees’ way. They struck out 15 times in the game. But they took advantage of opponents’ fielding lapses and held on to a lead when it was crucial. They have their share of fans in the Tampa Bay area where they spend spring training and some of their players have off-season homes. A trip to Baltimore, however, brings them even closer to their fan base. For all those headed down the New Jersey Turnpike, give the lads a helping hand.