Give the Yankees this: they’re in a team-wide slump right now, but they’re still not boring. Even in a game in which they look listless, they’re almost a sure bet to put together a late-inning rally that falls just short of the necessary number of runs to qualify as an actual comeback.
They did it again Sunday night. For the third time in his last four starts, CC Sabathia was off his game, his pitches staying up in the zone, two of them leaving the park. Sunday night it was Jason Bay who turned around, in Joe Girardi’s words, “a changeup that cut” and a sinker that was up in the zone, tripling his home run output on the season. Those two blasts, one over the 384 sign in the left-field gap, one more than 400 feet to the opposite-field gap, plated three Mets runs. Prior to Bay’s first shot, in the second inning, a single by lefty Alex Cora, a last-minute sub for the aching Luis Castillo at second base, plated the Mets’ first two runs. After Bay’s second shot in the fifth, rookie lefty Ike Davis singled and was driven in by a David Wright double.
That made it 6-0 Mets and prompted me to comment in my liveblog from the pressbox, “I’m calling another just-short late-inning rally tonight.”
Johan Santana gave up three singles in the first three innings, but only CC Sabathia, who singled to lead off the third, got past first base. From the third through the seventh, Santana retired 13 straight Yankees. Then in the seventh, the Yankees finally broke through when Nick Swisher worked a two-out walk, and Francisco Cervelli hit a ball off the top of the left-field wall, inches below the foul pole for a long single.
Down, 6-1, the Yankees loaded the bases on a pair of walks and a Mark Teixeira slump-busting single in the eighth as Santana passed 100 pitches, but Jerry Manuel brought in side-arming lefty Pedro Feliciano, who got Robinson Cano to pop out to strand all three runners.
Finally, the Yankees put an honest-to-goodness rally together in the ninth against Ryota Igarashi, a first-year Japanese import fresh off the disabled list. Another Swisher walk was followed by a Cervelli single, Kevin Russo fielder’s choice, Juan Miranda pinch-hit RBI single. That forced Manuel to go to his closer, and Derek Jeter greeted old foe Francisco Rodriguez with a big RBI double to make it 6-3. Brett Gardner followed with an RBI groundout to third, failing to get a close call, though replays showed he was out by the tiniest of margins.
Teixeira followed with a flare that dropped in front of Cora for a hit, putting the tying run on and bringing up Alex Rodriguez for a big time confrontation with K-Rod. Rodriguez battled Rodriguez for eight pitches, getting ahead 2-0, then 3-1, fouling off four pitches in the at-bat, two of them with the count full, but once again the Yankees fell short. The third 3-2 pitch in the fourth full count of the inning was a changup in the zone that dipped just below Alex Rodriguez’s swing for strike three.
Mets win the game, 6-4, and the series.
The Yankees take a travel day and head to the new ballpark in Minneapolis. Here’s hoping they don’t run out of gas in St. Paul.