Despite picking up his league leading 13th win, C.C. Sabathia turned in one of his poorest starts of the season. In fact, with a game score of 42, only four starts ranked lower. Luckily for Sabathia, his mound opponent was Bruce Chen, so the margin for error was as large as the lefty himself.
In a game that featured 14 hits by each team, it is not surprising that the player who exhibited the best arm was an outfielder. In the first inning, Gardner fired a perfect strike to nail Wilson Betemit at second base for the final out of the inning. Betemit’s hit came with runners on second and third, but he was tagged out by Derek Jeter before the second runner could score. As a result, Gardner’s throw not only recorded an elusive out, but also wiped a run off the board. In the fifth inning, Gardner was able to once again bail out Sabathia when he turned another Betemit hit into an out by gunning Billy Butler down at the plate. Even though replays showed Jorge Posada never actually applied a tag, the strong throw beat Butler to the plate by plenty.
While Gardner was making major contributions with his arm, Jorge Posada was causing a lot of head scratching with his. In the sixth inning, with a man on third and one out, Sabathia induced Yuniesky Betancourt to strike out on a pitch in the dirt. The only problem was that instead of throwing to first, Posada fired to third base in an attempt to nab Willie Bloomquist. The ill advised play was compounded when the throw bounced past Arod, allowing Bloomquist to score and Betancourt to advance to second, where he was stranded after Sabathia struck out Podsednik and Ankiel to end the inning.
Posada almost literally threw the game away again in the bottom of the seventh. After C.C. Sabathia walked two batters in the top of seventh, Joe Girardi summoned David Robertson to rescue the big guy, whose pitch count reached a season high 120. Robertson retired Mike Aviles on a pop out to first before getting Bloomquist to strike out on a curve ball in the dirt. Posada did a great job blocking the pitch, but then looped a throw to first base that seemed destined for right field. Instead, Mark Teixeira leapt high to grab the toss and then just barely beat Bloomquist to the bag. Had he been running at full speed out of the box, Bloomquist would have reached safely and the outcome of the game might have been different.
Just as they have done all season, when one part of the team struggles, another steps up to compensate. Last night, it was the offense’s turn and they responded with14 hits and 10 runs. In particular, the first four batters in the lineup went a combined 10-20 with six runs and eight RBIs. Included in that attack was an inside-the-park home run by Derek Jeter on a deep drive to right center that first landed in the outstretched glove of David DeJesus before the outfield wall dislodged the ball and knocked the Royals’ centerfielder from the game. Another deep drive to right of note came off the bat of Alex Rodriguez, who belted his 599th career home run in the seventh inning. Arod had a final at bat in the bottom of the eighth that electrified the Stadium crowd, but history was denied as the Yankee third baseman “only” doubled in two runs to extend the Yankees lead to 10-4.
Although the 10-4 final makes the game look somewhat lopsided, the Yankees had to battle the Royals up until the eighth inning. In fact, with Joba Chamberlain on the mound and the bases loaded in the top of the eighth, the game seemed as if it might be slipping away. Chamberlain was able to wiggle out of the jam, but the question mark surrounding who will be the strongest bridge to Mariano Rivera remains. Even though Joba was entrusted with the eighth inning, it was really Robertson who was called upon to pitch out of the game’s tightest spot. Despite being somewhat inconsistent himself, Robertson has seemed to inch ahead of Chamberlain in the pecking order, which bears watching from here on out. As the calendar quickly approaches the July 31 trade deadline, the bullpen remains one area in which the Yankees could definitely use some major help.
C.C. Sabathia’s Pitch Breakdown
|Avg. Speed||Max Speed||Count||Strikes||Percentage|
|Four Seam Fastball||94.3||96.5||56||38||67.9%|