If the Yankees were going to win the rubber game of their weekend series against the Rays, it seemed a given that Andy Pettitte would have to go toe-to-toe with fellow All Star lefty David Price. So, when Pettitte surrendered a three run homerun to Carlos Pena in the first before departing with a groin injury in the third, it felt as if the game and series were all but lost.
Coming on the heels of AJ Burnett’s foolish confrontation with a clubhouse door, you probably couldn’t have blamed Joe Girardi if he was caught off guard by Pettitte’s sudden injury. Instead, Girardi correctly identified that the game was on the line and summoned David Robertson, his best relief option outside of Mariano Rivera. With runners on first and second and a 3-1 count on Kelly Shoppach, Robertson threw the fourth ball to load the bases, but then responded by popping up Sean Rodriguez and retiring BJ Upton on a fly out to right.
After escaping the top of the third inning, the Yankees tied the score at three on Mark Teixeira’s RBI single, but still faced the specter of needing six more innings from the bullpen in order to beat the American League’s ERA leader. Robertson chipped in with another shutout inning before turning the ball over to Chan Ho Park, who actually recorded four outs in the fifth when Jorge Posada’s throwing error allowed Shoppach to reach first on a strikeout.
The combined efforts of Robertson and Park bought the Yankees offense some time to mount another attack against Price, and that’s exactly what they did in the bottom of the fifth. As he has done so well for most of the season, Brett Gardner sparked the rally by leading off with a walk before stealing second and eventually scoring on Derek Jeter’s single up the middle. Then, with two outs, the Yankees added three more runs with big hits by Arod and Jorge Posada.
After watching their young stud surrender seven runs in five innings, the Rays looked a little shell shocked and never fully recovered. The Yankees tacked on a couple of extra runs, including one in the eighth on Arod’s 598th career home run, but the story of the game was the bullpen’s strong 5 2/3 innings of relief that was capped off by one out from Mariano Rivera.
After the game, the focus quickly shifted from the team’s impressive victory over Price to the status of Pettitte, who was diagnosed with a grade-one strain of his left groin. Even though the diagnosis was a “best case scenario”, Pettitte still could be headed for the disabled list.
Yankees starters only pitched 11 1/3 innings over the weekend, so coming away with two victories has to be seen as a major coup for the Yankees and a lost opportunity for the Rays. Unfortunately, the injuries to Burnett and Pettitte have the potential to hamper the Yankees going forward, which makes Brian Cashman’s pursuit of Cliff Lee seem rather prescient. For much of the season, the starting rotation has compensated for the inconsistencies of the bullpen and lineup. So, if the Yankees are forced to fill in the gaps of a depleted rotation, those two segments of the team will need to keep performing as they did today.
- Carlos Pena’s first inning homerun was his sixth career long ball against Andy Pettitte, the most by any player against the Yankee lefty.
- The seven earned runs surrendered by David Price were the most in his young career. Price also saw his ERA jump from a league leading 2.42 to 2.84.
- Robinson Cano’s first inning triple was the Yankees’ 22nd three-base hit of the season, good for tops in the American League.
- Alex Rodriguez’ two RBIs increased his July leading total to 19. Teammate Mark Teixeira ranks second with 14.