Raul does it again in Yanks’ assault on Valverde
What I looked forward to the least in this American League Championship Series was having to watch Tigers closer Jose Valverde at work. This guy is torture. He takes forever to throw the ball and goes through all sorts of gyrations on the mound after saving a game. So it was deliriously delightful for me to watch the Yankees beat up on him in the ninth inning as he failed to protect a 4-0 lead in Game 1.
The Yankees looked absolutely dreadful for eight innings, leaving 11 runners on base, including the bases loaded three times. Pathetically anemic were the Yankees. But just as the Athletics had mounted a comeback against Valverde during the AL Division Series, the Yankees awoke from their offensive slumber and got even on a pair of two-run home runs by Ichiro Suzuki and Raul Ibanez.
Russell Martin began the rally with a single. He took second on defensive indifference before Derek Jeter struck out. Suzuki got his first career postseason home run by pulling a low liner into the right field stands. Such homers are often known as rally killers because they clear the bases with a deficit still facing the team at bat. And when Robinson Cano struck out on high gas and Mark Teixeira fell behind 0-2 in the count, the Yankees appeared doomed.
I was thinking my usual thoughts about Teixeira in those situations – why not bunt when the defense is in an over-shift to the right side leaving most of the left side vulnerable? Even if Tex had hit a home run, it would not have tied the score. The Yankees needed a base runner at that time, and the Tigers were essentially conceding him first base.
Of course, once the count got to 0-2 that thought had to go out the window. Teixeira did the next best thing – he worked out a walk, which gave Ibanez, this year’s postseason batting hero for the Yankees, an opportunity to create more drama. And he came through again by driving a splitter that stayed up over the right field fence that brought the Yankees all the way back.