After five innings last night, the Yankees were trailing 2-0 and being no-hit by Aaron Laffey. They then exploded with the following rally:
Melky Cabrera broke up the no-no with an infield single on a Baltimore chop that hopped over third baseman Casey Blake’s head to shortstop Jhonny Peralta. Derek Jeter followed with a squibber down the third base line that took a sharp left turn on Blake allowing Jeter to reach with another infield single. Bobby Abreu then singled to shallow left field to load the bases with no outs. Down 1-2 in the count, Alex Rodriguez was hit in the left thigh to plate the first Yankee run. Next, Jason Giambi and Hideki Matsui both hit slow bouncing balls to first base, exchanging two outs for two runs. That inexplicably drove Laffey from the game at 78 pitches. Facing reliever Jensen Lewis, Morgan Ensberg hit a weak chop that nearly rolled to a stop even with the mound. Lewis got to the ball first, but was forced to eat it as Ensberg reached with another infield single, this one plating the fourth Yankee run.
Joked Ensberg after the game, “We’ve tried hitting the ball hard. Robby Cano knows it, too. Jason [Giambi has] hit the ball real hard, but that doesn’t work. We need to start using the entire bat. We need to start dribbling balls and rolling balls over, which is exactly what we did.”
The Yankees added a fifth run in the eighth off Lewis when Johnny Damon pinch-hit for the aching Rodriguez (more on that below), walked, and was plated by a well-struck double by Hideki Matsui. Not that they needed it. Jonathan Albaladejo, Kyle Farnsworth, Joba Chamberlain, and Mariano Rivera each tossed a scoreless inning to wrap up the win for starter Mike Mussina. Kyle, Joba, and Mo combined for three perfect frames, striking out one man each. Farnsworth, who threw eight of his 12 pitches for strikes, effectively worked a new cutter into his usual fastball/slider mix. Albaladejo had runners on the corners with two outs via a walk and a single, but struck out David Dellucci to escape his inning. Mussina was sharp again, though less efficient. He didn’t allow an extra base hit in his five innings, but the two runs he allowed both came in the bottom of the fifth, which started with four straight singles. Moose did well to escape that inning with just two runs allowed, but Girardi was right to lift him once the Yankees got the lead in the top of the next frame.
As for Rodriguez, his right quad is the one that’s been bothering him and the pitch from Laffey hit him in the left thigh, but coming out of the box on a groundball to second in the first inning, he aggravated the right thigh. Rodriguez slowed up after just four strides on that groundout and appeared to be limping when he scored in the sixth, prompting Giardi to pinch-hit for him in his next at-bat. After the game, Rodriguez said he was probably only running at 50 percent when he scored and that he probably came back too quickly from the initial injury. Rodriguez plans to shut himself down for a few days. Said Rodriguez after the game, “There’s no way I could play tomorrow. . . . I had a quad injury like this in my senior year in high school and it lingered on for a couple months, so it’s important to get it right. . . . I think Jeter took the right approach where he took a litte bit more time, and that’s probably what I need, too. . . . Joe [Girardi] said [I’ll sit] one day, and we’ll take it from there, but if I had to guess, I would probably guess probably more than one day. . . . When I get back out there I want to be closer to 100 percent than I am now.”
As for Jorge Posada, who was absent from the Yankee dugout for the first time since September 1, 1996, there was no word last night on his diagnosis/prognosis, though I’m hopeful that we’ll hear something prior to tonight’s opener against the Tigers.