Sunday night’s rubber game between the Yankees and Dodgers didn’t deliver on its promise as a pitchers duel. Dodgers lefty Clayton Kershaw was nails, but Andy Pettitte made two throwing errors on bunts in the third, putting the Yankees in an 3-0 hole, then coughed up two more runs in the fourth, the latter on a Ronnie Belliard solo homer, to put the Yanks down 5-0.
Kershaw, meanwhile, allowed just three baserunners through five innings, those coming on a Derek Jeter leadoff single, a pitch that hit Brett Gardner in the wrist, and a single by Gardner’s replacement, Chad Huffman (Gardner will see the team doctor on Monday). Jeter singled again to lead of the sixth, but Kershaw struck out Nick Swisher, and Casey Blake made a nice play on a hard grounder to his right by Mark Teixeira to force Jeter at second. That brought up Alex Rodriguez with two out. Rodriguez worked the count full, then turned on an inside fastball, sending it over the “Mannywood” sign in left for a two-run home run, his third jack in the last five games, to bring the Yankees within 5-2.
The Dodgers added an insurance run against Joba Chamberlain in the eighth, handing a 6-2 lead to their dominant closer, Jonathon Broxton, in the ninth. Broxton entered the game with some ridiculous numbers, including a 0.83 ERA, 13.2 K/9, and 9.60 K/B, and had allowed just one earned run in his previous 23 appearance, including 1 1/3 hitless innings against the Yankees on Saturday.
The Ox started his night by striking out Teixeira on four pitches, but Rodriguez singled on his fifth. Alex took second on defensive indifference on the first pitch to Robinson Cano, and when Cano connected for a double to right, Rodriguez scored to make it 6-3 Dodgers.
That brought up Jorge Posada, who quickly fell into a 0-2 hole, then battled Broxton for seven more pitches, working the count full before singling to right to bring the tying run to the plate. Following Posada’s nine-pitch battle, Curtis Granderson worked Broxton over for an eight-pitch walk, putting the tying run on base and loading the bases for . . . Chad Huffman?
With Brett Gardner knocked out of the game and no designated hitter, the Yankees’ rally came down to Chad Huffman and Colin Curtis, who had gone in for Nick Swisher as part of a double-switch, a pair of rookies who to that point in their major league careers had combined for three hits and three walks in 15 plate appearances. Joe Girardi’s bench at that point consisted of Francisco Cervelli, the backup catcher, and Ramiro Peña. On the mound stood the 300-pound Broxton, one of the game’s most dominating closers. It hurt to watch.
Until Huffman singled to right on a 1-1 pitch, scoring Cano and Posada and pushing Granderson to third. Suddenly all Curtis had to do was deliver a productive out with a speedy runner at third to tie the game. Curtis fell into a quick 0-2 hole, but then took three balls, one of which looked like strike three at the knees, and one of which, a slider in the dirt, almost tied the game on its own. With the count full, Curtis fouled off four pitches. Then, on the tenth pitch of his at-bat and Broxton’s 40th of the inning, he hit a hard grounder to James Loney at first base.
With two outs, Huffman on first, and Granderson on third as the potential tying run, Loney had two choices. He could either throw home to prevent the run, allowing the inning to continue, or he could throw to second in the hope of turning a game-ending double play. Loney chose neither of those options, instead trying to accomplish both at once by scrambling over to force out Curtis at first, then firing home to get Granderson. Only Loney’s throw tailed away from the runner and the time it took him to get the force was enough to allow Granderson so slide in clearly ahead of Russell Martin’s tag with the game-tying run.
From there, the Dodgers lost their cool as both Garret Anderson (who entered the game in the ninth as a defensive replacement for Manny Ramirez) and Martin got ejected for arguing over called strikes that were indeed strikes, while the Yankees made it look easy. Mariano Rivera worked a 1-2-3 bottom of the ninth around Anderson’s ejection. Robinson Cano responded to Joe Torre’s decision to bring in lefty George Sherrill to face him in the top of the tenth by launching a two-run home run to left center, and Rivera worked around an infield single and Martin’s ejection to nail down the 8-6 win in the bottom of the tenth.
Meanwhile, the ESPN camera’s lingered on Joe Torre, who had the look of a man watching his ex-wife make out with an underwear model. Torre said before the game that he was looking forward to putting this much-hyped and emotionally charged series behind him. I don’t imagine that was ever more true than when he was watching Mariano Rivera nail down a comeback win against him for the first time.