Just as they did on Saturday night, the Yankees fell behind 3-0 early yesterday as Mike Mussina showed his usual long-rest rust and spent as much time arguing with home plate umpire C.B. Bucknor as he did actually getting hitters out during the first three innings. Moose locked it down, however, and the Yankees rallied against Edwin Jackson in the fifth to take the lead, hitting for the cycle with a Robinson Cano single, an Andy Phillips triple that was badly misplayed by B.J. Upton in center (payback for Upton robbing him of a 400-foot extra-base hit on Saturday), a Wil Nieves double (his first extra-base hit of the year), and a two-run Derek Jeter home run.
Mussina fought his way through six innings with the help of some great defense, starting with his own, as he snagged a comebacker from the first batter he faced. Later in the first inning, with Carl Crawford on second and Brendan Harris on first, Carlos Peña singled to center to plate Crawford, but Melky Cabrera threw behind Harris to catch him rounding second base too far for the second out. The third inning came to a scoreless close when Hideki Matsui threw out B.J. Upton trying to score from second on a single to left thanks in part to Upton’s sore quadriceps and a great swipe tag by Wil Nieves. In the fourth, Carl Crawford ground to Andy Phillips deep at first, and Phillips beat Crawford in a footrace to the bag, colliding dramatically with the Tampa center fielder (thankfully, neither player was injured). The fifth ended on a 4-6-3 double play, and Melky again gunned out a runner at second base in the sixth as he caught Ty Wigginton trying to stretch a single.
Ron Villone came on in the seventh and promptly coughed up the lead by surrendering a two-run homer to Peña, but the Yankees quickly fought back in the eighth. Alex Rodriguez led off with a double to drive reliever Brian Stokes from the game. Hideki Matsui greeted Casey Fossum with a single that put runners on the corners. After Melky struck out, Robinson Cano plated Rodriguez with a sac fly on which Matsui alertly took second. Gary Glover then came on to face Phillips, who singled home Matsui to regain the lead and took second on the throw home. After pinch-hitter Jorge Posada was intentionally walked and Johnny Damon was unintentionally walked, Derek Jeter ground to third baseman Akinori Iwamura, but Iwamura couldn’t find the handle on the ball and all hands were safe, with Phillips scoring what proved to be a crucial insurance run.
I say crucial because Kyle Farnsworth opened the eighth by giving up a ground-rule double to Upton that missed being a home run by all of three feet. Wigginton then singled Upton home to pull the Rays within one. Rays manager Joe Maddon then pinch-ran for Wigginton with Josh Wilson with Dioner Navarro at the plate and one out. Navarro hit a hot shot to the left of Phillips at first, which Phillips snared on a full dive, then clamored to one knee and doubled Wilson off second for what would prove to be not only an inning-ending play, but a game-saving one.
Mariano Rivera wrapped things up with a heart attack ninth that started with a single by Iwamura, followed by catcher’s interference as Posada came out of his crouch to try to throw out Iwamura stealing second and tipped Carl Crawford’s bat with his glove in mid-swing. That put runners on first and second with no outs in a game the Yankees lead by just one run, but Brendan Harris ground into a 5-5-3 double play and Carlos Peña, who had driven in three of the six Devil Ray runs to that point, popped out to give the Yankees a 7-6 victory.
So, while it wasn’t a dominating performance, the Yankees did what they needed to do in taking three of four from the Devil Rays. They’ll have to play better ball to do the same against Toronto this week, however. Meanwhile, Andy Phillips, who is hitting .302/.362/.453 this season, is the story of the day. Pete Abraham kicks things off.