Momentum is the next day’s starting pitcher, as the old adage goes, so this afternoon’s matchup of C.C. Sabathia and Ryan Rowland-Smith seemed to favor a big swing in favor of the Yankees. Despite the perceived mismatch, it still took late inning heroics by Alex Rodriguez to help the Yankees avoid being swept at the Stadium for the first time since last July.
From the first batter, Sabathia seemed to be in complete control, firing mostly fastballs at the Mariners’ hitters over the first three innings. Then, in the middle innings, Sabathia started mixing in his slider and change-up with equal success. Through the first six innings, Sabathia eased through the game with only 75 pitches, allowing only three hits along the way. He was so efficient, that it didn’t seem to matter that the Yankees couldn’t solve Ryan Rowland-Smith, who entered the game at 1-7 with an ERA of 6.18. The only real damage against Smith came thanks to Robinson Cano’s team leading 16th home run in the fourth inning. The blast increased the Yankees lead to 2-0, the other run coming in the first inning on an RBI groundout by Mark Teixeira.
In the seventh, Sabathia showed his first signs of vulnerability. After walking Jose Lopez with one out in the inning, Sabathia fell behind 3-0 to Josh Wilson before battling back to induce a shallow fly ball to left. Sabathia’s command eluded him again in the eight inning when he walked leadoff batter Josh Bard on four fastballs. Before the start of the frame, Sabathia had the grounds crew fill in a hole near his landing spot on the mound, so perhaps poor footing contributed to his late game wildness. In any event, Sabathia eventually found himself facing Russell Branyan as the go ahead run with two outs and runners on first and second. Three more wayward fastballs (one of which was generously called a strike) again put Sabathia in a hole, so the big left decided to drop a slider over the plate. The pitch looked to nestle into the strike zone, but unfortunately Posada failed to catch it. The passed ball now put the tying run in scoring position and Branyan promptly made the Yankees pay for the mistake by lining a two run single to right. Branyan was thrown out attempting to advance to second on the throw, but the damage had been done.
After sleepwalking behind the dominant pitching of Sabathia, the offense was once again pressed into action, this time off Mariners’ closer David Aardsma. With one out, Mark Teixeira injected some life into the inning by lining a single to deep right center field, setting up another late inning opportunity for Arod. The first pitch was a 95mph fastball that Arod just missed, so when a second one leaked over the plate again, the Yankees’ third baseman was ready. Arod lined the pitch into the right field seats, and in the process reclaimed the Yankees two run lead, put Sabathia in line for his league leading 10th victory and added to his growing list of late inning home runs. Once maligned for not being able to get a big hit, it seems as if Arod has spent the better part of the last three-plus seasons coming through when the team has needed him most.
Building on a perfect June, Mariano Rivera came on to slam the door in the ninth by effortlessly retiring the side in order. The victory was an important one because it not only snapped the Yankees two game slide, but also eliminated the need for AJ Burnett to be a stopper in his start on Friday afternoon. Having said that, the win was also somewhat hollow. The meager performance by the Yankees’ offense in this series could be excused when Cliff Lee and Felix Hernandez were on the mound, but failing to score more than two runs of Rowland-Smith is somewhat concerning. As discussed earlier, the Yankees have managed to win despite an underperforming offense, but it doesn’t seem likely that they can continue to rely on such a formula.
The Yankees three main weaknesses were on display in this game: Posada is now a poor defensive catcher, the team has one reliable reliever and the lineup hasn’t hit for a month. The last concern is probably the most pressing because so many members of the lineup have struggled since the start of June, and the bench has proven to be abysmal. Ironically, the very man who tied today’s game with an eighth single, Russell Branyan, was available on the market until being acquired by the Mariners on Monday. A lefty bat with power, Branyan would have been an ideal player to come off the Yankees bench and serve as a DH when Posada and Arod are both playing field. The Mariners beat the Yankees to the punch on Branyan, but there is still a month before the trade deadline passes. Hopefully, Brian Cashman is not fooled by the Yankees’ record and is able to add another piece or two to help out during the stretch drive.
C.C. Sabathia’s Pitch Breakdown
|Avg. Speed||Max Speed||Count||Strikes||Percentage|
|Four Seam Fastball||93.5||95.6||68||45||66.2%|
- With an infield single in the first inning, Derek Jeter passed Charlie Gehringer for sole possession of 43rd place on the all-time list with 2,840.
- Robinson Cano’s fourth inning home run was his 10th against southpaws, the most by any left handed hitter in the majors.
- C.C. Sabathia recorded his 10th win before the All Star Break for only the second time in his career, the other being 2007 when he went 12-3.