The off-season acquisition of Randy Winn evoked much consternation amongst Banterites and associated Yankee fans. It wasn’t like Winn was a lifetime fourth outfielder. Through 2008, he had compiled a .288/.347/.425 line (102 OPS), with 104 homers and 193 stolen bases.
But here was a player who couldn’t add much punch to an impotent Giants lineup in 2009, posting a .262/.318/.353 line in 597 PAs, with a mere two homers and twice as many strikeouts as walks.
His range in the outfield, as he turned 35, was diminishing a bit from above average towards slightly above league-average. And now the Yanks wanted to add him as a 4th/5th outfielder . . . asking him to come off the bench for the first time in his career.
This season, he had started three games, and appeared in nine others, with one single and five strikeouts in 13 ABs. This was Winn’s first start since Curtis Granderson’s groin strain and DL stint Saturday.
Starter CC Sabathia endured very little trouble with the Orioles line-up, save for an opposite field line drive homer to Matt Wieters to lead off the 2nd. He struck out only two through his first four innings, but kept the ball on the ground, to the tune of nine groundball outs.
Orioles’ starter Jeremy Guthrie, who had faced Sabathia only last Wednesday, was also locked in early in the game, allowing only two walks and a single in the first three innings.
Alex Rodriguez led off the bottom of the 4th with a single to left. Robinson Cano flied out to left and Posada grounded out to second (A-Rod moving to second on the out). Nick Swisher, who owns Guthrie (now 13-24 lifetime) laced a long single off the right field wall, scoring Rodriguez to tie the game. Brett Gardner was fooled on a change-up, but managed to punch a single up the middle.
Winn then stepped to the plate. With an 0-1 count on him, he plastered a 91 mph fastball deep into the Yankee bullpen . . . his first homer in 491 at-bats. That would be all Sabathia needed in a 4-1 win in a tidy 2:29.
CC sailed through eight innings (106 pitches), assisted by two double plays. There were only two flyball outs against him all night. He didn’t have his best stuff, striking out only two despite throwing 69 strikes out of those 106 pitches.
The only drama after the fourth inning took the form of Yankee injuries. Jorge Posada took himself out of the game after the fifth inning, citing tightness in his right calf. This was the same leg he got plunked in last week, so the possibility of a cascade injury may be there. [Late news from Mark Feinsand: MRI reveals mild calf strain.]
With a three-run lead heading to the ninth, the (heretofore unknown) other injury came into play, as it turned out NOT to be Mariano Rivera time. Joba Chamberlain came on to finish it out. Joe Girardi later revealed that Mo had awoken Saturday to stiffness in his left side (after pitching Friday night). Rivera threw a bit during pre-game, and said he felt better, but not 100%. Girardi stated he would like to hold him out at least one more day.
Otherwise, the big news from the game was the red-hot Robinson Cano Nick Swisher. Prior to this game, Swisher had gone 16-45 (.356) with three homers and 11 RBI in his last 11 games, raising his average from .200 to .282. Michael Kay mentioned during the broadcast that Swisher had been working with hitting coach Kevin Long on “quieting” his stance, allowing the bat to rest on his shoulder with less wiggling prior to the pitch. It seems to be paying off, and facing Guthrie didn’t hurt either, as Nick added two singles and a double.
With the win, the Yanks moved to within one game of the idle Rays, with AJ Burnett set to face Brian Matusz Tuesday night.