Coming off of three dramatic walk-off wins in a row, it would havev been understandable, and perhaps not too surprising if the Yankees were due for a letdown. When Andy Pettitte allowed 2 quick runs in the top of the 1st inning on back-to-back RBI singles by the modern day M+M boys, I began to wonder if the Yankees were playing with house money today, and would go quietly against the young, soft-tossing Glen Perkins.
To my surprise, the Yankees did no such thing, erupting for 6 runs against the hapless Perkins in the bottom of the 1st. Mark Teixeira and Alex Rodriguez hit back-to-back home runs in the 1st to plate 4 runs, and Melky Cabrera and Francisco Cervelli added RBI singles in the frame to chase Perkins.
Now that the Yankees had spotted Pettitte a 6-2 lead, my next fear was that the Yankees were going to go into coasting mode offensively, and not add on any runs after the first inning. For the most part, this is exactly what happened. Knuckleballer RA Dickey shut the Yanks down for 4 1/3 innings in relief of Perkins, and the Twins began to battle back, scoring runs off of Pettitte in the 4th and the 6th.
A Mark Teixeira home run (his 2nd of the game, this one coming from the left side of the plate) in the 7th gave the Yankees a little breathing room at 7-4, but the Twins would not go away, as Denard Span went deep off of the homer-prone Edwar Ramirez to bring it to 7-5. A walk to Joe Mauer by Ramirez brought the tying run to the plate in the form of the dangerous Justin Morneau, who had already hit 3 home runs off of Yankee pitching in this series. With the lefty Morneau up in a key situation, Girardi went to Phil Coke, who struck Morneau out swinging on 3 fastballs away.
With Mariano Rivera getting the night off after pitching a lot over the past few games, it was up to Coke to close the game out. He made things interesting, allowing a leadoff walk to Joe Crede, who eventually came around to score on a 1-out groundout by Michael Cuddyer. With 2 outs and nobody on, Coke committed the unforgivable sin of walking the light-hitting speedster, Carlos Gomez. However, Coke escaped further damage, retiring pinch-hitter Mike Redmond on a grounder to Canó to earn his first big league save (and hopefully, with Brian Bruney soon to return, his last).
Mark Teixeira was unquestionably the hero of hte game, going 2 for 4 and driving in 4 on his 2 home runs, the first of which put the Yankees in the lead after falling behind by 2, and the 7th-inning shot which ended up being the margin of victory. Teixeira was a big factor throughout the series, not only with the bat, but also making some great plays defensively to save runs (most notably his diving stop in Sunday’s game with the bases loaded). There is no question that Alex Rodriguez’s return is a significant factor in Teixeira’s improvement, as it takes some of the pressure off of him, as well as allowing him to see better pitches (Hideki Matsui hardly provided the same protection).
Nick Swisher continued his struggles by going 0 for 4, but the rest of the lineup contributed to the victory, as Melky Cabrera pushed his average up to .317 with a 2 for 4 day, and Francisco Cervelli went 2 for 2 to raise his average to .375. Swisher has had an awful May, going 5 for 46 so far (a paltry .109 BA) with 19 strikeouts, as many as he had in the entire month of April. I’m not sure if there’s an injury or if this is just a slump (likely the latter), but hopefully he can get out of it. At least he hasn’t gotten to the point where frustration causes him to lose his plate discipline. This hits will come, and Swisher seems to be saying positive despite his struggles. Twice today he came close to hitting a home run, so maybe he is getting it back together.
I have to say, I am very pleased (and a little surprised) by what Cervelli and Pena have brought to the team. Both are very good defensively (in Pena’s case, at multiple infield positions), and they seem to have brought a spark to the team. I knew about their good defense coming in, but I expected much less from them offensively. While neither is a real power threat, both of them can make consistent contact, which allows them to pick up some cheap hits when they don’t get all of a pitch. Cervelli has eased the pain of losing Posada and Molina together, and if he keeps this up, it will be tough to send him back to the minors.
The bullpen still is a problem, as Ramirez was once again taken deep, and he combined with Veras and Coke to walk 4 batters in 2 1/3 innings. The walks have been a problem throughout the season, but hopefully they can get that under control. Brian Bruney’s imminent return (in the next few days) should help out in that area, assuming he gets back to his early-season form. Coke and Aceves have been reliable enough, but right now I have no confidence in Ramirez, Veras, or Albaladejo. I would love to see Mark Melancon or Dave Robertson get another shot, but that seems unlikely barring injury, as Girardi seems to trust these guys.
Overall, there’s not a lot to be unhappy about in this 4-game sweep. The Yankees have capitalized on some good outings from their starters, and come up with timely hits, and everyone in the lineup except Swisher is producing. This team looks like a different team from the one that got swept by Boston, and hopefully they can continue to play this way, and the bullpen can start to pull its weight.
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