So, this is how the other half lives. With both Mariano Rivera and Joba Chamberlain unavailable in the bullpen, the Yankees were forced to sweat out what otherwise would have been a rather comfortable win. Once again, Joe Girardi’s curious handling of the bullpen put the game in jeopardy, but he eventually came to his senses and summoned Alfredo Aceves to close out the victory.
The Yankees needed several innings from their bullpen because Andy Pettitte was only able to go five innings. Pettitte’s early departure resulted from minor stiffness in his left tricep, which according to Girardi was first experienced during his last start against Chicago. Pettitte became the latest Yankees to head for an MRI, which has cast several clouds over the team’s otherwise sunny 19-8 start.
With the exception of a slight hiccup in the fourth inning, when he walked Nolan Reimold to force in a run, Pettitte appeared to be in fine form. His velocity appeared normal and he was able to throw his curve for strikes when needed. As he has done all season, Pettitte plowed through the opposition with efficiency, which allowed the Yankees to build a 6-1 lead before his departure.
Solo homeruns by Nick Johnson and Nick Swisher in the first and second innings, respectively, gave the Yankees an early 2-0 lead and also forced Orioles starter David Hernandez out of the strike zone. Hernandez spent the rest of his outing pitching into trouble, and eventually wound up surrendering six runs.
Pitching was not the main culprit for the Orioles. Lou Montanez, a last minute replacement in CF for Adam Jones, was unable to make two plays that helped the Yankees to build their lead. In particular, Montanez tentatively pursued Mark Teixeira’s fourth inning fly ball to deep right center, turning an inning ending catch into a two-run double. The Orioles infield defense, which essentially featured four players out of position, kicked the ball around, just as they had all series. Ty Wigginton’s and Garrett Atkins’ limited range as well as Miguel Tejada’s inability to play a bunt directly contributed to two of the Yankees runs.
Despite playing poorly, the Orioles chipped away at the deficit with three homeruns late in the game. Sergio Mitre, who was solid in his stint of 2 1/3 innings, gave up the first blast to Wigginton in the eighth, and then David Robertson was victimized for the other two when Matt Wieters and Nolan Reimold went back-to-back in the ninth. With the lead narrowed to 7-5, Girardi next called on Boone Logan, but he was only able to record one out while walking the tying runs on base. Finally, Girardi turned to the steady hand of Aceves, who retired the dangerous Wigginton on a fly ball to right.
- Andy Pettitte is now 27-6 lifetime against the Orioles. Only Whitey Ford (30) has won more games against the Orioles since their move to Baltimore in 1954.
- Alfredo Aceves, who was born in Mexico, celebrated Cinco de Mayo with his second career save. Aceves’ other save was earned on July 5, 2009 against Toronto.
- With three hits, Nick Johnson’s batting average surged 37 points to .171.
- After starting the season on fire, Robinson Cano has now been held hitless in three of his last five games.