Archive for May 26th, 2010

With the score tied 2-2, Andy Pettitte was up to his neck in a jam that wasn’t his doing. After Brett Gardner failed to make a running catch in the right center gap and Arod erred on a subsequent bunt attempt, Pettitte faced a first and third situation with no outs. Orlando Hudson next hit a line drive that was ticketed for centerfield, but Pettitte threw up his glove at the last second and snagged the drive. With disaster temporarily averted, Pettitte then had to face the reigning MVP Joe Mauer. Limiting the damage seemed to be the best case scenario, especially after Pettitte fell behind in the count 3-1, but Mauer jumped on a cutter just off the plate and hit a scorching groundball to short stop that Jeter and Cano turned into a double play.

Nick Swisher rounds third base after his ninth inning home run gave the Yankees a 3-2 lead (Photo:AP).

After being granted a reprieve, the Yankees finally broke the deadlock when Nick Swisher belted a John Rauch changeup deep into the last row of the seats in the right field pavilion. Now with the lead, Joe Girardi once again summoned his closer. Earlier, in the suspended game, Mariano Rivera struggled a bit with his command, but in the evening tilt, he was on his game. Three ground balls later and the Yankees were exchanging high fives for the second time in one day.

Andy Pettitte was the reason the Yankees were able to hang close in yet another game in which their offense was dormant. After giving up a first inning run, Pettitte shut the Twins down until the seventh, during which time the Yankees built a 2-1 lead. In the fourth inning, Francisco Cervelli just beat out an attempted double play that would have ended the inning. Cervelli and the Yankees were rewarded for that hustle moments later when Kevin Russo’s double into the left field corner plated the tying run. In the sixth, the Yankees took their first lead of the game, and it was the bottom of the lineup that came through once again. With two outs, Russo, who has been in the middle of many a Yankee rally since being recalled from the minors, singled to extend the inning and then scored on Brett Gardner’s triple to right.

The Twins eventually tied the game in the bottom of seventh when long-time Pettitte nemesis Delmon Young doubled home Michael Cuddyer, whose single snapped a string of eight batters retired in a row. Pettitte quickly recovered from the blow to preserve the tie with a pitch count low enough to warrant coming out for the eighth inning, which set the stage for the climatic battle against Mauer.

After losing five of seven last week, two quick wins over the first place Twins was a much needed shot in the arm for the Yankees. Even more encouraging were the two strong starts by Pettitte and Burnett as well as a return to normalcy in the backend of the bullpen. However, the offense remains the 800 pound gorilla. The schedule does get easier after tomorrow’s series finale, but the Yankees still need the offense to pick-up, especially Mark Teixeira, whose slump has had a ripple effect on the entire lineup. With the AL East race tightening, the Yankees can’t afford to fall back into a funk. If they can avoid doing so, we may look back on this game, and Pettitte’s showdown with Mauer, as a turning point.

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Victories have been few and far between for the Yankees of late, so needing a full day to polish off a win seems strangely appropriate.

Derek Jeter receives congratulations from Brett Gardner after hitting a homerun in the sixth inning. Jeter's HR provided the margin of victory in a 1-0 win (Photo: The Canadian Press).

After playing five scoreless innings on Tuesday night, Derek Jeter belted a deep blast over the centerfield field wall to give the Yankees an immediate 1-0 lead upon resumption of the game. Then, in the bottom of the inning, Jeter’s defense helped preserve the lead when he fielded a ground ball deep in the hole and used his patented jump throw to nab Delmon Young with runners on second and third.

Aside from Jeter, the Yankee bullpen also played a major role in the game. David Robertson not only recorded 1 2/3 innings of shutout ball, but also endured a Joe Mauer line drive off his back that richoted into the glove of Alex Rodriguez for an out. With two outs in the seventh, Robertson eventually gave way to Joba Chamberlain, who also navigated the middle of the Twins lineup in the eighth. The highlight of that inning was a high fastball that Joba blew by Justin Morneau for a strikeout.

In the ninth inning, Mariano Rivera was able to close out the victory for AJ Burnett, who pulled off the rare feat of getting a win on a day in which he didn’t pitch. It wasn’t easy for Mo, however. For the fourth straight outing, Rivera seemed to struggle with his command, and even lowered his head after letting go of a 3-2 cutter that hung in the zone to JJ Hardy. Off the bat, it looked as if Hardy had tied the game, but the ballpark held the blast and Kevin Russo ran it down for an out. Rivera then walked Thome, as he had done in his last blown save, but rebounded to induce a double play from Denard Span.

The strong outings by Robertson and Chamberlain were particularly important to see because the Yankees may be without jack-of-all-trades Alfredo Aceves for an extended period of time. Even if both pitchers round into form, however, the Yankees will still need Mariano to regain  his form if they are going to defend their championship. In addition, the Yankees need bats like Teixeira, Cano and Swisher to awaken because the Yankees pitchers have been showing signs of cracking under the relative lack of support.

The Yankees send Andy Pettitte to the mound in the “second” game of the day, but probably can’t expect to win another low scoring affair. They will not only need Pettitte to give them length, especially with Robertson likely unavailable for the evening, but the lineup needs to take advantage of its scoring opportunities and jump out to an early lead.

Seasons can turn on a dime in baseball, so two road victories against a quality team like the Twins could go a long way toward snapping the Yankees out of their funk. The likes of Morneau and Mauer stand in that way, however, so a “twin killing” won’t come easy

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Last night, Minnesota Twins fans experienced their the first in-game rain delay since September 26, 1981, when a 48 minute hiatus interrupted a contest against the Texas Rangers. It was also the first delay of any kind at a Twins’ home game since August 29, 1992, when a lighting problem caused play to be halted for 29 minutes. Interestingly, the Yankees were the opponent on that night as well. Although play eventually resumed that night, yesterday’s interruption resulted in a suspended game, which will be played to completion at 5:05PM today. The game will resume in the top of the sixth inning with the score tied at 0-0.

Over the first five innings of yesterday’s game, the Yankees offense showed no signs of breaking out if its slump, so maybe the rain was a blessing in disguise. After a good night’s rest and some fresh air, maybe some of those sleeping bats will come awake. In the meantime, for those down in the dumps about the Yankees recent malaise, here is a look at the Yankee lineup from that game back in 1992. Remember, things could always be worse!

Bernie Williams CF
Randy Velarde SS
Mel Hall PH
Andy Stankiewicz SS
Don Mattingly 1B
Danny Tartabull RF
Dion James RF
Roberto Kelly LF
Mike Stanley C
Jim Leyritz DH
Charlie Hayes 3B
Pat Kelly 2B
Bob Wickman P
Steve Farr P

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