Continuing a series-long trend, the Yankees broke open a tight 2-1 pitcher’s duel by jumping on the Indians’ bullpen for six runs in the seventh inning. Over the course of the four game set, the Yankees and Indians combined to score 25 runs (17 for the Yankees and eight for the Indians) in the seventh inning, including at least one half inning of four runs or more in each game. The late inning outbursts belied the weakness of the Yankees’ and Indians’ bullpens, which entered the series ranked 12th and 13th in ERA among all American League teams.
Just as AJ Burnett did in yesterday’s game, Andy Pettitte removed the Yankees bullpen from the equation by turning in yet another strong outing. After surrendering a game tying solo homerun to Johnny Peralta in the second inning, Pettitte only allowed two more batters to reach base and retired the final 14 he faced before exiting after the Yankees broke the game open in the seventh. Pettitte not only had command of his fastball early, but also consistently threw all of his other pitches for strikes, including his changeup and curveball at an impressive rate of 70% and 55%, respectively. In total, Pettitte needed only 90 pitches, 58 of which were strikes, to breeze through the Indians lineup.
While Pettitte was mowing down the Indians’ lineup, the Yankees weren’t having much better luck with Indians’ starter Mitch Talbot. Two out RBI singles by Alex Rodriquez and Brett Gardner in the first and fourth innings, respectively, gave the Yankees a 2-1 lead, but Talbot pitched well enough to keep the Indians in the game. Unfortunately for Cleveland, the combination of the seventh inning and their shaky bullpen once again proved volatile. After Derek Jeter singled with one out, Manny Acta lifted Talbot in favor of Rafael Perez, who promptly gave up a single to Curtis Granderson and then intentionally walked Mark Teixeira after a wild pitch moved both runners to second and third and made the count 3-0. With Arod coming to the plate, Acta opted for Chris Perez, but the wild righty fell behind 3-1 before leaving a 95mph fastball over the middle of the plate that Rodriguez drove over the centerfield fence for his 20th career grand slam. It was also the third time Arod has hit a grandslam after the opposing manager decided to load the bases by intentionally walking Mark Teixeira (in total, Arod is 5-5 with 18 RBIs in that scenario), so other managers would be wise to take notice.
The Yankees added two more runs in the seventh and then three more for good measure in the eighth, giving Chan Ho Park more than enough room to navigate through the Indians final two turns at the plate and close out the 11-2 victory.
By winning three of four against Cleveland, the Yankees did what they had to do. In a race as tight as the AL East, beating weaker teams at home becomes imperative. In fact, blowing such a big lead on Saturday still stands out more than the three victories that surrounded it. With Baltimore next into the Stadium, the Yankees have to continue to hone their killer extinct against teams that they should dominate. Granderson has already returned to the lineup, and Jorge Posada is not that far behind. Aside from the injury to Aceves, the Yankees are almost back to full strength. Despite a spate of injuries, the Yankees find themselves in decent shape on Memorial Day, the season’s traditional first milestone. As the pennant race heads into June, the Yankees need to start firing on all cylinders and reassert themselves in the division.
- At 3:00PM, the Yankees joined the rest of baseball in holding a Memorial Day tribute. The timing couldn’t have been better as the top of the seventh inning ended at 2:58, meaning the tribute was immediately followed by the singing of God Bless America.
- “I am not much of a night owl,” Andy Pettitte said with a smile in a postgame interview, referring to his success in day games. Coming into the game, Pettitte was 5-0 with a 1.08 ERA under the sun.
- Pettitte’s 7-1 start to the season represents the best winning percentage in the first eight decisions of any season in his career.
- Pettitte’s victory also tied him with another legendary Yankees lefty on the all-time wins list. With 236 victories, Pettitte and Whitey Ford rank 60th all-time. As a Yankee, however, Pettitte’s 199 wins still leave him well behind Ford for the franchise record.
- Alex Rodriguez’ 7th inning grandslam was the 20th of his career, putting him behind only Manny Ramirez (21) and Lou Gehrig (23) on the all-time list.
- Robinson Cano extended his hitting streak to 14, the last six of which have been multi-hit games.
- The first of Derek Jeter’s two hits moved him past George Sisler for sole possession of 44th place on the all-time list.