The Yankees got after Holland right from the get go, loading the bases with one out in the first inning. Holland nearly got out of the jam by striking out Mark Teixeira, but Curtis Granderson lined a 1-2 pitch into center to bring home two runs and ensure that the Yankees did not completely blow that golden scoring opportunity. C.C. Sabathia gave one of those runs back in the bottom of the frame when Ian Kinsler scored as Josh Hamilton grounded into a double play, and the two teams would settle into a bit of a rhythm there for the next few innings.
Things really got going for the Yankees in the top of the 5th inning. Chris Stewart, the Yankees’ new light hitting backup catcher, started the inning off by drawing a walk, and then went first-to-third on a single to right by Derek Jeter (Editor’s note: Stewart did not, in fact go from first to third on the single, rather he advanced to second on an errant pickoff attempt and was nearly thrown out at second base, only to be saved by Elvis Andrus dropping the ball. I blame the Fox Sports Southwest broadcast for my faulty memory, as they spent the entire inning mostly ignoring that there was a fairly important inning going on in favor of yukking it up with Pudge Rodriguez to such a gratuitous extent that even Michael Kay would have complained that they weren’t paying enough attention to the action on the field. Thanks to commenter Chad for pointing out the mistake) . That bit of good base running would pay off in the very next at bat, as Stewart was able to score on a sacrifice fly by Nick Swisher, but two batters after that, Alex Rodriguez would make that all irrelevant, blasting a shot over the left-center field wall for a three run home run (Robinson Cano singled in the prior at bat). The home run was A-Rod’s third of the year, gave the Yankees a shiny 6-1 lead, and brought a cascade of fresh boos from the Rangers’ fans, which was sweet music to my ears, at least.
From that point, it was mostly a war of attrition to the end of the game. Derek Jeter added another run to the Yankees’ lead with a double in the 6th inning, but a Josh Hamilton home run in the Rangers’ half of the frame evened that out on the scoreboard. Mark Lowe would come in to relieve Holland in the 7th, and he and Koji Uehara would combine to hold the Yankees’ scoreless over the game’s final three innings while striking out five Yankees in those three innings (the Yankees struck out only once in six innings against Holland). Sabathia would allow two more runs to score in the bottom of the seventh after back to back one out doubles by Brandon Snyder and Craig Gentry to get the Rangers within three runs at 7-4, but that would be the extent of the Rangers’ comeback attempt.
Texas’ last best chance to really get back in the game was probably the 8th inning, when Joe Girardi opted to send Sabathia back to the mound, trying to squeeze one more inning out of his horse. The Rangers had Hamilton, Michael Young, and Mike Napoli due up to lead off the inning and Girardi was gambling, in a way, by not turning the game over to David Robertson but, on the other hand, you’ve gotta let C.C. be C.C., and the big guy didn’t disappoint, retiring the Rangers’ 3-4-5 hitters in order via three groundball outs. After throwing 104 pitches over the previous seven innings, Sabathia needed just five pitches to set down the heart of the Rangers’ order and turned the three run lead over to Mariano Rivera. Mo also retired the Rangers’ in order in the ninth to close out the 7-4 victory and put a big feather in the Yankees’ cap at the midpoint of this current road trip.
The win makes it four victories in a row for the Yankees, who have opened their road trip to Dallas-Fort Worth via Boston 3-0. With Sunday’s rain out factored in, that means they’re guaranteed to go home to face Detroit having won more games than they lost against two teams that won 90+ games in 2011. Not too shabby.
Derek Jeter: I’m just going to start C&P’ing Jeter’s name into this space to save myself the trouble. The Captain collected four hits on this night, and had a chance at a 5-5 performance in the ninth, but Uehara was able to get Jeter swinging behind a splitter after falling behind in the count 2-0. Jeter also collected his 5th double of the season in the 6th inning, and is now hitting a rather stout .411 on the season. I guess Minka is the anti-Kate Hudson or something?
Alex Rodriguez: I don’t know that A-Rod’s game was necessarily that spectacular in the grand scheme of things, but I’m definitely including him here anyway. A 1-2 night with two walks is a solid performance in his own right, but his 5th inning home run broke the game open, and I love it when A-Rod homers in Texas. The fan reaction is so comically juvenile whenever A-Rod does anything, but it’s even sweeter when they’re booing as Alex is trotting around the bases. You’d think that after watching Jon Daniels build a pretty darn good pitching staff over the past few seasons there, Rangers’ fans would have figured out by now that the guy hitting 50 home runs and otherwise giving the team consistent Hall of Fame caliber production wasn’t actually the reason they were finishing in the cellar during those seasons. I guess they were too busy watching the Cowboys to notice?
C.C. Sabathia: Like I said. his official line doesn’t necessarily make you do that smug smirk-and-nod thing when you see it, but this is one of those games when the actual performance was greater than the final line. Three of the four runs Sabathia allowed came after the Yankees had a 7-1 lead, and even if you don’t think that makes a difference, holding the Texas lineup to four runs over eight innings is hardly a bad night in its own right. That 8th inning was huge too, as not only was it likely a big confidence boost for the Yankees’ ace to set down a trio of hitters as talented as those guys so easily, but by finishing eight innings in the opener of a series that’s now situated between two off days, Sabathia has given Girardi the ability to take an all hands on deck approach with the bullpen over the next two games if he feels the need to. Those are the little things C.C. brings to the table, even if his ERA for the game is an unimpressive 4.50.
Mark Teixeira: Maybe Tex wanted to stay in Boston? He went 0-4 on the night and could have killed an early scoring opportunity with that first inning strikeout.
Andruw Jones: Jones was also 0-4, and continues to get off to a slow start to the season as an important role player on the team. The My 9 cameras did catch him in a rather cool moment before the 9th inning, however, as he was playing catch in leftfield with a Rangers’ fan in the front row. Probably made that dude’s life.
The Yankees will try to take the series from the Rangers and win their fifth game in a row as they get their first look at Yu Darvish. Thanks to Sunday’s postponed game, the stars have aligned such that it will be Hiroki Kuroda taking the mound for the Bombers to oppose Darvish, so this should be a pretty big event in Japan. Hopefully the wily veteran has a few lessons to teach the talented youngster.