No hangover for first-place Yankees
An umpire’s staggeringly errant call notwithstanding, the Yankees got out of Baltimore still in sole possession of first place in the American League East. They suffered no hangover from the blunder by Jerry Meals Saturday night and turned the page emphatically with an old-fashioned blowout Sunday to move back into first by a game over the Orioles.
The 13-3 victory was an ensemble effort with contributions galore. Manager Joe Girardi steered the team as if it were a playoff game. When a 5-0 lead became 5-3 in the third, Girardi did not hesitate to remove a shaky Freddy Garcia. The bullpen was masterful as four relievers combined for 5 2/3 innings of shutout, one-hit, two-walk, nine-strikeout work.
Joba Chamberlain may have finally shaken off the dust of his recovery from Tommy John surgery and an ankle injury by striking out four of the six batters he faced and was deserving of the winning decision, his first. Boone Logan, Cory Wade and Derek Lowe followed suit as the slugging Orioles had only four hits, none of them home runs. The Bird had a dozen dingers in the previous three games of the series.
Perhaps the most satisfying aspect of the victory was the re-emergence of Curtis Granderson as an offensive force. Mired in a 5-for-43 (.116) slump and with only two hits in 18 at-bats (.111) on the trip previously, Granderson was benched against a left-handed starter for the second game in a row. He came off the bench as a pinch hitter and hit reliever Jake Arrieta’s first pitch for his 35th home run.
That blow came when the score was still tight and began the tack-on attack the Yankees kept up with seven runs over the next two innings. Granderson had a hand in both rallies with a two-run single in the seventh and a two-run double in the eighth in taking over the club lead in RBI with 86.
Robinson Cano reached base in all five of his plate appearances and scored three runs. Alex Rodriguez, who singled, walked and was hit by a pitch, also touched the plate three times. Ichiro Suzuki had two hits and an RBI and played all three outfield positions. Russell Martin continued his hot trip with two hits and an RBI. He is batting .476 with one double, two homers and eight RBI in 21 at-bats on the trip which continues after Monday’s open date Tuesday night at Boston.
With a double, his 15th home run and three RBI, Jeter enjoyed his 58th multi-hit game despite playing (as the designated hitter) with a nagging right ankle that has been noticeable the past several days. You know what is said in May when a player has a condition like that. “If this was September, he’d play.” Well, it is September. Jeter is playing.
Is he ever? The Captain is entering the conversation for the AL batting race. DJ leads the majors with 191 hits and is well within range of his eighth 200-hit season. His batting average is up to .324. The only players ahead of him with 22 games to play are Angels center fielder Mike Trout (.328) and Tigers third baseman Miguel Cabrera (.326), both of whom are also strong candidates for the Most Valuable Player Award. Jeter might find himself in that conversation, too.
The Yankees not only split the four-game set at Camden Yards but also the season series with Baltimore at 9-9. They have to keep it up against the Red Sox. If the Yankees and Orioles are tied atop the division at the end of the regular season, the tiebreaker will be divisional record. The Yankees are 29-25 against AL East teams while the O’s are 32-24. So there is still plenty of work to do.