On an afternoon when neither starting pitcher seemed to have any interest in going deep, Jesus Montero certainly did, connecting for his first career home run in the fifth — a tie-breaking shot to right field that would also end up being the difference in the game — and a two-run shot in the seventh, that gave the Yankees two additional huge runs that they most definitely needed in Sunday’s wild 11-10 victory over the Orioles at Yankee Stadium. Montero became the first Yankee to hit his first two MLB home runs in the same game since Shane Spencer did it on August 7, 1998, and neither blast was a cheapie either — both bombs were opposite field shots to right, giving Yankee fans quite an introduction to a player who has perhaps even more raw power than initially expected. While it’s the smallest of small samples, I can’t help but note that Montero is now hitting .385/.467/.846, good for a .549 wOBA and 255 wRC+, across his first 15 career plate appearances.
Freddy Garcia had nothing in this one, lasting only 2.2 innings — his second-shortest outing of the season — and giving up seven runs on nine hits. Thankfully the Yankees have developed a knack for bailing their starters out of terrible performances these days. Down 7-2 after 1 and 1/2 innings, the Yankees immediately fought back against Brian Matusz, as Curtis Granderson punched a two-run double to cut the lead to one, which drove Matusz from the game. Perhaps it’s simply a matter of growing pains, but Matusz just doesn’t seem right this season. Last Labor Day he threw six strong innings of three-run ball against the Yankees, leading the O’s to victory. His line in this game was an ugly 1.1 innings of five-run ball (not to mention being shelled by the Yankees a week and a half ago), and Buck Showalter didn’t even think about letting Matusz work his way out of trouble.
Enter Chris Jakubauskas, who promptly walked Mark Teixeira before plunking Alex Rodriguez, loading the bases for Robinson Cano. This at-bat had “foregone conclusion” written all over it, and sure enough, Jakubauskus’ 91mph fastball was no match for Cano, who fouled off four pitches before absolutely pummeling the seventh pitch of the at-bat into the right-field bleachers for his third grand slam of the season. It was a majestic shot, putting the Yankees ahead 8-5, and truly underscored just how out of the Yankees’ league the Orioles are. Though to Baltimore’s credit, it wasn’t for lack of trying. The O’s did manage a whopping 17 hits against Yankee pitching in this one, and managed to put the tying and go-ahead runs on 2nd and 3rd with two outs against a shaky Mariano Rivera in the ninth before Mo recovered to fan J.J. Hardy and save the game.
Joe Girardi was certainly thankful that rosters expanded on Thursday, as he was able to piece together most of the game without using his top relievers. Of course, the bullpen didn’t quite make it to the finish line without some hiccups of its own — I know he won’t be pitching any meaningful innings, but I’m already over the Scott Proctor reunion — but the end result is all that matters. Also of note, Mark Reynolds hit his sixth home run of the year against the Yankees, giving Reynolds the most home runs of an opposing player against the Bombers this season. David Ortiz has five, and Jose Bautista four (h/t to our own William).
Just like that, the Yankees are riding another five-game winning streak, and Boston’s loss to Toronto extended the Yankees’ lead on first place to 2.5 games. Between a rare sweep of the Blue Jays and Jesus Montero introducing himself to the league in style with a multi-home-run game that included the game-winner, this truly was a Labor Day weekend to remember in Yankeeland.
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