Michael Kay loves calling extra innings “bonus cantos,” but when they come in a regular season game that began with a compelling starting pitching matchup, they feel like anything but a bonus. Saturday afternoon’s contest between the Yankees and Blue Jays began with Chien-Ming Wang dueling Roy Halladay, but ended in the twelfth inning with Brett Tomko and Sean Camp. The Yankees won, but I still feel a little bit ripped off. Some of that feeling likely comes from the fact that, while the Yankees unexpectedly won a game started by Halladay, something they hadn’t done in six tries since Wang bested Halladay on Opening Day of last season, they may have lost Wang.
Wang pitched well for five innings yesterday, getting ten of his 15 outs on the ground. He got into a bit of trouble in the second by walking Lyle Overbay with one out, then giving up a ground-rule double to Vernon Wells and a two-RBI bouncer up the middle to Alex Rios, but killed that rally there by getting Dave Dellucci to hit into a double play. He then allowed just one more baserunner over the next three innings until Marco Scutaro led off the sixth with a double and, after an Aaron Hill groundout, Adam Lind homered to right, erasing what had been a 3-2 Yankee lead.
Wang’s next pitch sailed low and away from Scott Rolen. Jorge Posada, who immediately ran out to the mound and called out the trainer, later said Wang “didn’t throw that ball, he seemed like he kinda spotted it in there.” Wang was immediately removed from the game with what an MRI later diagnosed as a shoulder strain and bursitis. That ruined what had been a long, but seemingly fruitful comeback by Wang, who won his first game in more than a year against the Mets his last time out and entered the sixth with a lead on the great Halladay.
The Yanks got to Halladay early, scoring a run in the first on a one-out walk to Johnny Damon, a groundout that moved Damon into scoring position, and an RBI single to right field by Alex Rodriguez on which Damon just beat Raul Chavez’s tag at the plate. They then added another in the second on a solo homer by Hideki Matsui and yet another in the fourth on a lead-off homer by Posada, which gave the Yankees that 3-2 lead.
Making just his second start since returning from a groin injury, Halladay was clearly off his game. Having walked just 15 men and allowed just seven home runs all year, he issued three of each in this game and ultimately gave up five runs. David Robertson coughed up another run after Wang’s departure by walking the first two men he faced then giving up another RBI single to Alex Rios, but Halladay couldn’t hold the 5-3 lead. With his pitch count in the high-90s, he opened the seventh by giving up a single to Derek Jeter and a game-tying Yankee Stadium homer to the third row in right field to Johnny Damon.
And so it stood for the next five innings as Phil Hughes, Mariano Rivera, Phil Coke, and Brett Tomko combined for five hitless innings (two of them by Coke). The Yankees had their chances before the twelfth. Hideki Matsui hit a one-out ground-rule double off Brandon League in the eighth, but Melky Cabrera couldn’t move him over, and Brett Gardner struck out to strand him. Derek Jeter led of the bottom of the ninth by working a nine-pitch walk off Jeremy Accardo. After Damon struck out, Jeter moved to second on a fly ball to deep center by Mark Teixeira. Cito Gaston then had Accardo walk Alex Rodriguez and brought in Jesse Carlson, who got Robinson Cano to ground out to strand both runners.
Cano was nearly the goat again in the bottom of the twelfth. Teixeira led off with a double off Camp, again prompting Gaston to have Rodriguez intentionally passed. Cano was then assigned to bunt the runners up, but Camp didn’t throw him a strike, so Cano took to 3-0. One pitch away from loading the bases, Cano inexplicably bunted the 3-0 pitch (Girardi later said, “he misunderstood something”). Not only that, but he didn’t get the ball far enough away from home plate, and Teixeira, who was expecting Cano to take and was thus headed back toward second base as the ball neared the plate, was easily forced out at third.
No matter, Jorge picked his teammate up by delivering a game-winning single to center. Game over. Yankees win 6-5, take a 2-0 lead in the wrap-around series, emerged victorious from a Roy Halladay start on a beautiful Independence Day Saturday, and pulled within one game of the Red Sox, who lost to the Mariners. Just try not to think about Chien-Ming Wang’s shoulder while you’re watching things blow up in the sky tonight.
The latest on Wang is that he is indeed headed to the DL, but could only miss a month. The All-Star break will allow the Yankees to avoid using a replacement starter more than twice in the next three weeks, but they’ll still need to get a good four starts or so out of whomever takes Wang’s place. Phil Hughes is the obvious choice, though the Yankees might argue that he’d need to be stretched out before moving back into the rotation, ditto Alfredo Aceves, the obvious Plan B. Girardi said after the game that neither would be able to throw much more than 50 pitches right now, but that the team would discuss its options. Stay tuned . . .