Shawn Chacon pitched a marvelous game last night for the Yankees. He received support from his infield defense, particularly Robinson Cano and Alex Rodriguez, and stellar relief from Flash Gordon and Mariano Rivera as the Bombers eeked out a 2-1 victory in Baltimore. The Devil Rays beat the Tribe 1-0 (in a game that featured some fine defense of its own–thanks, Johnny Gomes?!?), and Ted Lily mastered the Red Sox as the Jays won at Fenway 7-2. New York is now one game ahead of Boston in the American League East. The Sox and the Indians are tied in the wildcard standings.
Chacon allowed one run–a solo homer off a 2-0 meatball to Javey Lopez–the only run he’s allowed in his last 23.2 innings. The Orioles only managed to get four hits off of the right-hander, all by Lopez (who missed another home run by a few feet and settled for a double instead) and Chris Gomez. Though he walked three, Chacon only threw 91 pitches, and once again, kept batters off balance all night, inducing plenty of soft grounders and harmless pop flys.
Robinson Cano has made some rookie errors in the field down the stretch but you can see why he’s got so much confidence–he makes difficult plays look easy. In the first, he ranged far to his right to backhand a ground ball by Miguel Tejada. There was no time to plant and throw, so in one motion, Cano fielded the ball, and whipped the ball across his body to first. The throw was true and Tejada was out by a step (Cano made a similar but less fantastic play in the fifth). Meanwhile, Rodriguez made two more tough plays himself, stabbing a sharp liner off the bat of Geronimo Gil in the fifth, and gunning out Tejada on a slow grounder in the sixth.
Rodriguez struck out in his first two plate appearances against Daniel Cabrera, Baltimore’s talented, but erratic starting pitcher. Cabrera actually pitched a fine game, keeping himself (and his pitches) under control. In the first inning, Rodriguez swung through a low, 3-2 fastball–a pitch that was right in his happy zone. The second time he was up, Cabrera uncorked his first change up of the game for strike one. The pitch was right over the heart of the plate. Rodriguez went down looking on a fastball on the outside corner. But in his third at bat Cabrera tried to sneak another breaking ball past Rodriguez–it was a flat curve, I believe, and it was up and over the plate. Rodriguez pelted it over the right center field fence for his 47th homer of the year. (Rodriguez now has more home runs in a single season than any other right-handed hitter in Yankee history.)
The Yanks chased Cabrera in the seventh after Jorge Posada singled to center (a screaming line drive, which was a scary moment for the pitcher who had been beaned by a Gary Sheffield liner in the previous inning), and Bernie Williams was plunked. After Cano successfully sacrificed the runners to second and third, Derek Jeter singled to right scoring the go-ahead run. Rodriguez was next and he lined a fly ball to right field. Jay Gibbons made the catch and threw the ball home. Bernie Williams beat the throw and slid under the tag but was inexplicably called out by home plate ump Hunter Wendelstedt. It was an awful call and one that Yankee fans hoped wouldn’t cost them the game.
It didn’t, and when Mariano Rivera struck out Javey Lopez to end the game, the Bombers–and undoubtedly their fans–were especially animated. With four more games left in the season, they just need to keep winning, stich-by-stich, day-by-day. Anyone got a mantra? I’m sticking with the ol’ reliable, Ohhhmmmmmm, myself.