The Yankees showed a lot of fight in the ninth inning by coming back from certain defeat, while AJ Burnett, who took the mound with a black eye, looked as if he had done most of his fighting before the game. Although no explanation was given as to who took a swing at Burnett, with one swing of the bat, Alex Rodriguez turned another dismal defeat into an exhilarating victory that helped lift a sinking team off the mat and back into sole possession of first place.
Rodriguez’ three run home run (his second of the night) with two outs and two strikes in the ninth was the big hit that has eluded the Yankees over most of the last 10 games. Just as important, however, were Jorge Posada’s 11-pitch at bat that culminated in a lead off single as well as Curtis Granderson’s base hit, which helped set Arod up as the go ahead run. Combined with ninth inning heroics from the Angels’ Brandon Wood, who belted a game winning homer against the Rays, the Yankees dramatic rally allowed the Bronx Bombers to leap back atop the AL East.
The Yankees actually took an early lead in the game when Arod belted his first round tripper in the second inning. After the blast, the Yankees loaded the bases with one out, but, as they have done all road trip, squandered the opportunity and really never threatened against Kevin Millwood again. The Orioles righty, who entered the game at 3-15 with a 5.30 ERA, needed 34 pitches to escape the second inning jam, but rebounded to turn in one of his best performances of the season.
AJ Burnett also pitched one of his better games in a while, limiting the Orioles to three runs over seven innings. The homerun ball bit Burnett once again, however, as solo blasts by Adam Jones and Robert Andino gave the Orioles the 3-1 margin they carried into the ninth inning. In spite of his strong outing, the continued improvement of the enigmatic Burnett was not the main story. Instead, the focus became a large black and blue that he sported around his right eye. After the game, both Girardi and Burnett refused to comment, but with Brian Cashman making a rare road visit, it isn’t a stretch to assume that the shiner resulted from a clubhouse altercation. Although clearly wild speculation, such conclusions are likely to abound as curiosity ferments amid the Yankees silence on the issue.
Normally, the sensationalism around a story like a pitcher taking the mound with a black eye would overwhelm the game, but Arod’s home run was such a major event that it overshadowed Burnett’s shiner. Over the next 24 hours, you can bet they’ll be a lot of digging into the cause of Burnett’s bruises, but for tonight the focus remains on Arod’s bruising bat. Since returning from the DL, Arod is hitting .341/.439/.683 with four homeruns and 14 RBIs, which is kind of ironic because during that span the Yankees have gone 3-8. If the Yankees are to go far in October, they will need Rodriguez to dominate, and the early indications are he may be gearing up to do just that. Now, if only the rest of the lineup would follow along.
Arod’s Late Inning, Long Ball Heroics* As A Yankee