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He Meant To Do That
Posted By Cliff Corcoran On July 26, 2009 @ 10:54 pm In Cliff Corcoran,Game Recap | Comments Disabled
Heading into Sunday’s finale against the A’s, Yankee manager Joe Girardi figured he had a well-rested bullpen (Phil Hughes last pitched on Thursday night, Mariano Rivera hadn’t pitched since Wednesday) and his fifth starter on the mound making just his second major league start since 2007, so he devised a plan that required his starter to go no more than six innings.
As it turned out, Sergio Mitre only needed 72 pitches to get through the first five frames. Still, nursing a one-run lead heading into the sixth, Girardi had lefty Phil Coke warm and waiting. Kurt Suzuki led off with a single off Mitre, and with four of five hitters behind Suzuki being left-handed, Girardi put his plan into effect right there and then.
Since Girardi didn’t appraise me of his plan before the game, I had no idea what the hell he was doing. Mitre had given up three runs on nine hits, but he hadn’t walked anybody and was getting a ton of ground balls. After a rough first in which he allowed two runs on a double and three singles, two of the latter well-placed bouncers up the middle, Mitre had pitched effectively and economically. After pitching around a two-out single for a scoreless second, Mitre worked a four-pitch third, hitting Scott Hairston with a curveball with his first pitch, then getting a 1-6-3 double play from Jack Cust on his next offering and getting Suzuki to groundout on an 0-1 pitch. A pair of singles set up a Mark Ells sac fly in the fourth, but Mitre survived his own throwing error on a would-be double play by getting a successful 6-4-3 DP on the next pitch thanks to some great glovework by Derek Jeter and Robinson Cano (Jeter ranged into the hole, turned and fired a strike to Cano without making a leap; Cano caught the ball with his back to first then spun and made one of his signature all-wrist throws, hard and on the money to Mark Teixeira to beat Adam Kennedy at first). In the fifth, Mitre again induced a 6-4-3, then struck out Cust on four pitches.
Mitre had thrown 91 pitches in his last start, so there was no good reason to take Mitre out. It smacked of overmanaging, particularly after Coke gave up a two-out, two-run homer to righty-swinging Mark Ellis that gave the A’s a 5-4 lead.
Fortunately, the Yankee offense was having none of that. After Mitre gave up two runs in the top of the first, the Yankees answered back with four in the bottom of the first, the key hit being a three-run bases-loaded double by Robinson Cano (who went to third on the throw home, but overslid the bag and was tagged out for the third out). After Ellis’s two-run jack gave the A’s their second lead of the game, the Yankees stormed right back with three in the bottom of the sixth when Melky Cabrera drew a one-out walk, Cody Ransom doubled him to third, Derek Jeter singled them both home, then Damon doubled and scored on a Mark Teixeira single. (Jeter didn’t score in that sequence because he was picked off first by A’s starter Dallas Braden, who has a sick move. Jeter was roughly two steps off the bag when Braden quickly stepped off the rubber and fired the ball right at Jeter’s bellybutton. The ball got there almost before Jeter could react and all first baseman Daric Barton had to do was put his glove on Jeter’s stomach and catch the ball.)
With Phil Coke thus having successfully vultured the win, Girardi went to Phil Hughes, who worked a 1-2-3 seventh striking out Hairston and Cust and then Suzuki to start the eighth. Hughes then lost a eight-pitch battle with Ryan Sweeney, walking him, and gave up a double to Daric Barton to put runners on the corners and put his scoreless streak in jeopardy. Girardi promptly brought in Brian Bruney, who struck out Mark Ellis on four pitches, then brought in Mariano Rivera for the four-pitch save. A pair of groundouts and a pair of strikeouts later, the Yankees had taken the series with a 7-5  win, wrapping up their second-half-opening home stand with a 9-1 record.
I love it when a plan comes together.
Some thoughts from the game:
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 7-5: http://sports.espn.go.com/mlb/boxscore?gameId=290726110
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