If I told you before the game that the Yankees would knock Cliff Lee out before the eighth inning while hanging four runs on the best pitcher in the American League in the process you’d have (a) Called me crazy, (b) Signed up for that all day every day, and (c) Likely assumed the Yankees would’ve won.
Well if you picked all of the above, you’d have been right! The Yankees, rather amazingly, battled back and toppled the Rangers 7-6, despite falling behind Lee and the Rangers 6-1 after five innings. I have a feeling there are going to be a number of shocked Yankee fans waking up tomorrow morning that called it a night after seeing Lee and Texas run out to a five-run advantage.
This win was big on a lot of fronts — it hopefully helped give the Yanks some confidence against the seemingly invincible Cliff Lee, it prevented the Yankees from losing three in a row for the second time in two weeks, it prevented the suddenly hot Red Sox from gaining any more ground (they remain five games behind first, though only 3.5 out of the Wild Card) and it was great to see the struggling Yankee offense mount their first five-run comeback since June 27 in Los Angeles.
The first five innings and the last four innings almost felt like two different games. Javier Vazquez started for the Yankees and was lousy for the third straight start, throwing 4 1/3 innings of six-run ball. Vazquez has certainly had his share of ups and downs on the 2010 season, but one aspect of his game logs sticks out more than others:
April 9 @ Tampa Bay: 5 2/3 IP, 8 ER
May 1 vs. Chicago: 3 IP, 5 ER
May 27 @ Minnesota: 5 2/3 IP, 5 ER
July 31 @ Tampa Bay: 6 1/3 IP, 4 ER
August 6 vs. Boston: 5 1/3 IP, 3 ER (6 R)
August 11 @ Texas: 4 1/3 IP, 6 ER
What do these outings have in common? They’re all against potential playoff opponents. Not exactly confidence-inspiring.
Cliff Lee began to falter in the 7th, having yielded two runs up to that point, and was removed before the 8th inning for the first time in his last 11 starts. It was at this point that Rangers manager Ron Washington started to get cute with his bullpen, and he would eventually go through every available pitcher save Scott Feldman. The Yankees were able to move to within one on a Marcus Thames solo shot and after Kerry Wood pitched a scoreless bottom of the eighth, the almost surreal ninth inning unfolded as follows:
Lance Berkman works a full count walk off Neftali Feliz.
Curtis Granderson pinch runs for Berkman.
Brett Gardner laces an opposite field single, giving the Yankees runners on second and first with no outs.
Neftali Feliz unleashes a wild pitch, allowing Granderson and Gardner to move up to third and second.
Derek Jeter hits a grounder that eludes Cristian Guzman, who was playing in, scoring Granderson and tying the game, 6-6. There are still no outs.
Nick Swisher strikes out. One Out.
Marcus Thames delivers his third hit of the evening through the left side, scoring Gardner to put the Yankees ahead 7-6.
Alex Rodriguez and Robinson Cano would both make outs, but the damage was done.
Of course, Elvis Andrus subsequently led off the bottom of the ninth with a triple, putting the tying run on base with no outs for the Rangers. Thankfully for the Yankees they have God on their team, as Mariano Rivera calmly dispatched the next three hitters in order, getting Michael Young to fly to shallow right (aided by a heck of a catch from Austin Kearns), all-around beast Josh Hamilton (who was already 3-4 on the night) to ground right back to the pitcher and Vladimir Guerrero to ground out to third.
Nice to see the Mark Teixeira-less Yankees nab a split in Texas against two of the top pitchers in the AL, including nemesis Lee, and even better to see the team not only get to play its next four games against a mediocre team in the Royals, but incredibly miss Zack Greinke for the second time this season.
Photo c/o The AP