The Yankees current road trip has been a roller coaster ride, but one with very little enjoyment. The first four games had featured more chills than thrills, and, for the most part, thrown the team for a loop. Last night, however, the Yankees were finally able to enjoy the heights as the team rebounded to reverse a recent trend of extra inning losses and reclaimed their hold on first place.
The Yankees entered the second game of their first place showdown with a bullpen of well rested relievers, but the main question was whether Ivan Nova would pitch well enough to make their availability relevant. Over the first four innings, however, the young righty pitched so well it didn’t seem as if there would be much need for going to the pen. Nova needed only 50 pitches to breeze through the first four frames, allowing only three base runners. In the meantime, the Yankees staked the rookie to a 6-0 lead as Matt Garza struggled to solve the mystery of Robinson Cano and Alex Rodriguez, who went a combined 5-10 with a five RBIs and a homerun a piece.
Coming on the heels of Monday’s brutal loss, the early dominance was quite an impressive bounce back statement. Then, the fifth inning happened. After surrendering a lead off homer to Carlos Pena and then a double to BJ Upton, Nova appeared to press, especially as relievers started to jog down the left field line to begin warming in the bullpen. It was just two starts ago that Girardi pulled Nova from a game only one out from qualifying for a win, so perhaps that was still fresh on his mind? Whatever the reason, Nova eventually allowed four runs to cross the plate before once again being lifted with two outs in the fifth.
Just as he did in Nova’s start against Toronto, Girardi called upon Boone Logan to clean up the mess, but this time, Joe Maddon countered the move with the right handed bat of Willy Aybar. After jumping ahead 1-2, Boone left a slider over the plate and Aybar deposited it deep into the left field stands. In the blink of an eye, the Rays had turned a six run deficit into one-run lead and the Yankees seemed destined for another crushing defeat.
If Girardi was right about one thing in the previous night’s postgame, it was that the Yankees have plenty of resilience. Instead of hanging their heads, the team immediately tied the game in the top of the sixth, but did squander an opportunity to retake the lead when Austin Kearns struck out with the bases loaded. With the game now tied, the Yankees well rested bullpen was finally put to work, and, by the end of the night, it was a job well done.
After surrendering the go ahead home run to Aybar, Boone, who had not given up a run in 25 appearances dating back to July 18, recovered to retire the next four batters before handing off the baton to Chamberlain, Wood (whose use seemed to defy Girardi’s rule about resting a reliever that pitched in three of four games) and Robertson. That trio held the Rays hitless over the next three innings, thanks in large part to a fantastic diving catch by Granderson to end the ninth. So, the stage was set for another night of extra inning drama.
There were several points in the game when Jorge Posada’s bat could have been used off the bench, but leading off the 10th inning eventually proved to be the right time. Ahead in the count 2-0, Posada sat on a fastball and crushed it deep over the batter’s eye in center field. Ultimately, however, Posada’s heroics in the top of the inning would be overshadowed by a classic baseball blunder in the bottom.
With one out and Carl Crawford on second base, Matt Joyce lifted a lazy fly ball to Greg Golson in medium-deep right. In the previous game, Golson had trouble tracking fly balls in the dome, so this time, he gingerly approached the ball, trying to make sure not to overrun it. Considering Crawford’s speed and Golson’s position, a tag to third seemed as if it would go uncontested. However, after catching the ball, Golson took one step toward third and fired a laser throw to Alex Rodriguez, who impressively fielded the short hop and slapped the tag on Crawford to end the game.
One night after Brett Gardner ended an inning getting thrown out at third on a steal attempt, it seems hard to believe that a similar mistake would be made the very next day, especially in games of such importance between quality teams. Joe Maddon and Crawford justified the decision on the grounds that it took a great throw and an extra base against Rivera has added significance, but ultimately, questionable decision making factored into the outcome for the second straight game.
Most Consecutive Games Without Surrendering a Run, Yankees Pitchers Since 1920