In a game that saw four collective blown leads, the Yankees outlasted the Rangers 6-5 (in an ESPN Sunday Night Marathon Heartbreaker, no less!) on the strength of three more timely long balls and a huge go-ahead base hit.
This one started somewhat strangely, with CC Sabathia uncharacteristically giving up a two-run home run in the top of the first to Adrian Beltre, on a pitch that really wasn’t all that bad — a high 94mph fastball that was actually a ball — and all you could really do was tip your cap to Beltre for managing to not only get around on the pitch but put it into the seats. In fact, it was basically the Beltre and Michael Young show for Texas on offense all night, with Beltre lofting an excuse-me single on another ball, this time low and away, for his third RBI in the fourth; and knocking Young in as the go-ahead run (and 4th RBI of the evening) a half-inning after Russell Martin launched a game-tying two-run shot (his 4th of the season!). For his part, Young went 3-4 and knocked a ground-rule double off Joba Chamberlain to tie the game in the seventh a half-inning after Curtis Granderson hit a go-ahead two-run blast. After Rafael Soriano did his job with a scoreless eighth, the Yankees had two runners on with two out against old friend Arthur Rhodes, and Eric Chavez came through with the game-winning RBI single to score Mark Teixeira. With the Yankees back on top with a one-run lead, Mariano Rivera came on in the ninth and was Mariano Rivera.
Sabathia’s final line was OK — 6.1IP, 8H, 4ER, 2BB, 6K — but not very Sabathia-esque, although the big man was probably due to give up a home run. Still, it’s critical for the Yankees to win the big man’s starts, and that much better when they can do so on nights when he doesn’t have his best stuff.
As for Texas, my prediction of starter regression finally came to a head in this game, as the previously-unscored-upon Alexi Ogando gave up five earned runs on three bombs. That being said, outside of a Robinson Cano solo blast in the second inning, Ogando was cruising through the first four innings of this game before running into some trouble in the 5th. True to form, he also recorded a whopping 10 of his outs in the air, and somewhat surprisingly only recorded one strikeout. The Yankees seemed to be expecting a steady diet of fastballs around the strikezone, swinging early in the count and often, and they got them — 40 of his 61 (66%) four-seamers went for strikes, and 66% of his pitches were four-seamers. Ogando was perhaps too around the strike zone, if such a thing exists, and didn’t run up a three-ball count until the 7th inning, when he walked Jorge Posada.
Derek Jeter (1-4) looked slightly better in this game than he has, actually lifting three balls in the air and only grounding out once, though Brett Gardner (0-2) continues to look seriously lost at the plate. Thankfully the Yankee offense has continued to produce in spite of these two mostly dragging it down — kind of amazing the team leads the Majors with 27 home runs despite one-third of the regular starting lineup combining for zero — though if one or both continue to produce at replacement-level levels (Jeter entered the game at 0.0 fWAR; Gardner at -0.4 fWAR), the Yankees are going to have some tough decisions to make.
Alex Rodriguez, who sat this game out with a sore back and oblique, was sent for an MRI and it came back clean, per Joe Girardi. Today’s off day couldn’t come at a better time for the Yankees — for as excellently as Chavez has filled in for A-Rod, no one can replace arguably the hottest hitter in baseball right now (MLB-leading .541 wOBA), and hopefully the extra rest enables Girardi to pencil Alex back into the lineup on Tuesday in Toronto.