“It seemed like it was something out of a cartoon. It was unbelievable.”
Despite what the headlines say, last night’s game was exceedingly difficult to watch. It had a pretty ending, but there was a lot of ugly baseball on the Yankees’ side.
Let’s start with Hiroki Kuroda, who started the game without his best stuff. You can write it off and say that he battled, but in my eyes it looked like yet another game where started off cold and warmed up. It was a minor miracle that he earned the results that he did, and the first inning was a microcosm of what we’d see for the rest of the game. He immediately allowed a single to Nate McLouth, retired J.J. Hardy, but then with a little “Yankees Magic”, had McLouth caught stealing at second base. It wasn’t so much that Russell Martin made an incredible throw, but more that McLouth over slid the bag by a fraction of an inch while Derek Jeter stuck a questionably hard tag. If that’s not enough luck for you, it all ended with a caught line drive off Chris Davis‘ red hot bat.
In the third inning, he allowed his first run off a Ryan Flaherty homerun… Ryan Flaherty. Again, Nate McLouth singled in that same inning and stole second base successfully. Kuroda hit the “Yankee Magic” button again and forced Hardy to hit into a linedrive double play to Derek Jeter.
The fourth inning wasn’t much different as he allowed the first two men to reach base, followed by yet another caught line drive. He worked out of the jam just in time, because the next hitter, Manny Machado, proceeded to homer in the first at bat of the 5th. After that, it was smooth sailing for Kuroda, who only put 1 of the next 14 hitters on base.
As shaky as Kuroda was in the beginning, the second half of his game was absolutely stellar. He managed to pitch 8.1 IP, 5 hits, 2 runs, 1 BB, and 3 strikeouts. That usually earns you a win, especially with the best offense in baseball behind you, but Miguel Gonzalez tore apart the Yankees hitters all night.
If the Yankees ended up losing this game, the discussion would be all about how this team can’t hit in the post season. The truth is, Miguel Gonzalez is really damn good, he knows what he’s doing. Not only was the movement on his two-seam and changeup superb, but he had his command, and a brilliant game plan. A month ago, I wrote about how Miguel Gonzalez pitches to the Yankee lefties, hard up and away, slow down in the zone. I also begged that Joe Girardi stop stacking lefties against right handed pitchers with great changeups. Gonzalez used the same tactic last night.
The right handed Gonzalez allowed just 5 hits in his 7.0 innings of work, 1 of which came from a Yankee lefty. That changeup is a devastating pitch, and that’s why the Yankees could only get 1 run off him. For this reason, I wouldn’t read too much into what the lefty hitters did, it was just an awful matchup and Gonzalez ruled the night.
After Kuroda’s valiant effort, going into the bottom of the ninth with the score 1-2 was painful. The bats looked terrible all night, and I don’t think anyone had much faith in a comeback. Ichiro Suzuki led off with a lineout, and of course the opportunity landed squarely on the shoulders of Alex Rodriguez. The guy who had heard so much grief over the past couple of
days months years, and the guy who already struckout in 2 of his last 3 at bats finally had his shot at redemption. Except Joe Girardi pinch hit for him with Raul Ibanez.
This is criminal. This is just unbelievably criminal. This is letting the press run your team.
— Joe Sheehan (@joe_sheehan) October 11, 2012
Well, that escalated quickly. Girardi just pinch hit for Arod with Ibanez? Ibanez just hit a homerun? The Yankees just tied the game? This has to be a dream.
What followed was a few innings of very good relief pitch on both sides. Jim Johnson, that guy who keeps blowing games this series, well he really shaped up and retired the next 5. Then Brian Matusz came in to retire the next 3. Rafael Soriano also retired his part of the 10th, thanks to a lineout double play (more “Yankee Magic”), and David Robertson pitched well through the 11th and 12th.
All of a sudden, Raul Ibanez was back up in the bottom of the 12th and guess what?
That was it. Yankees are back up on the series at 2-1. With Phil Hughes pitching tonight against Joe Saunders, the Yankees could clinch an ALCS spot today! Without Ibanez, this team would be staring at a possible elimination game, which is why yesterday’s win was so important. Raul Ibanez became a Yankee legend last night.
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