After three intense, nail-biting games against Boston and Texas, Yankee fans and players alike were probably looking forward to a nice relaxing weekend in Kansas City. Guess again.
Last night’s game started off innocent enough as the Yankees reached soft tossing Bruce Chen for single runs in second through fourth innings. The first run was driven in by Curtis Granderson, who was unveiling new adjustments to his swing that were worked on with hitting coach Kevin Long. Granderson made his teacher even more proud the next time up, when he lashed a double into the right field corner, his first extra base against a lefty since June 1.
Also headlining the offense was Austin Kearns, who belted his first Yankee home run in the fourth inning, just as Long and Joe Girardi were discussing why the strong, hard swinging outfielder doesn’t hit more homeruns. The joys of irony. Otherwise, the Yankees had a rather tame offensive showing, adding runs in the third and seventh on a Mark Teixeira sacrifice fly and Alex Rodriguez RBI ground out, respectively.
Just as he did in his previous start against Kansas City at Yankee Stadium, C.C. Sabathia allowed his fair share of base runners, but seemed to be toying with the Royals’ hitters. Instead of mixing in too many sinkers and sliders, Sabathia attacked the aggressive Kansas City lineup with one of his best fastballs of the season complemented by a hard change. Despite the blistering heat, which claimed Gregor Blanco and Nick Swisher as victims, Sabathia’s fastball averaged 96 mph over his 8 2/3 innings and topped out 99 mph. His last pitch of the game rocketed in at 97 mph. To say that Sabathia was feeling strong last night would be an understatement.
The Yankees rode their big lefty all the way to two outs in the ninth, but at 110 pitches, Girardi decided it was time to go the bullpen. With runners on first and third and the tying run at the plate, David Robertson entered the game and promptly gave up a two-run double to Willie Bloomquist, who went 3-4 and saw a total of six pitches in his four at bats. Next up to the plate was former Yankee Wilson Betemit, who entered the game when Blanco had to leave with heat exhaustion. Hoping to avoid the “serendipity creates hero” storyline, Robertson made several outstanding pitches to Betemit, but the Royals’ third baseman nubbed a roller in front of the mound and reached on an infield single. What had seemed like an easy win was now perilously teetering on the brink, with the veteran Jason Kendall threatening to push the game into the loss column. Once again, however, Robertson hit all of his spots in a tense eight pitch at bat that concluded with Kendall swinging over a hellacious curve ball that seemed to disappear from the strike zone.
Coming on the heels of three classic battles against quality teams, many were fearful that a series opener in Kansas City might turn out to be a trap game. Say what you will about Girardi’s management style, one thing his teams never seem to be guilty of is being unprepared. Had the Yankees lost last night, it would have certainly been a crushing loss, which would have negated all the good will created by Wednesday’s comeback victory against Cliff Lee, but not one attributable to a lack of concentration. Luckily, the Yankees’ victory negated the need for that discussion.
- With two more hits, Derek Jeter passed Frankie Frisch for sole possession of 37th place on the all-time hit list.
- At 15-5, Sabathia tied David Price for most wins in the American League, and also reached 15 wins within the first 25 starts of a season for the first time in his career.
- David Robertson recorded the second save of his major league career. His first save came on July 27, 2009 in an 11-4 victory over Tampa Bay.
- Nick Swisher’s three hit game was his 13th of the season, one ahead of Robinson Cano for the team lead and tied for 10th most in the major leagues.