I got tired just watching the Yankees’ rather epic pair of games in Texas, so I can only imagine how the players felt when they dragged themselves to the extremely hot and humid ballpark in Kansas City tonight. They were showing signs of wear – Nick Swisher was pulled late in the game with incipient heat exhaustion, as was the Kansas City center fielder – but the Yanks built a little lead and then clung to it for dear life, eventually staggering home with a 4-3 win. Of course, it probably helped that they were facing the Royals, who are now 47-68, but never mind.
Fun fact: in the seventh inning, Mark Teixeira faced Kansas City reliever Kanekoa Texiera, and flew out.
C.C. Sabathia was in near-ace form tonight, and by pitching to within one out of a complete-game Yankees win, he was exactly the horse the team needed. He flagged in the ninth, quite understandably, but prior to that he scattered his hits and gave up just one run, when Alex Gordon doubled and Mike Aviles singled him home. But that came in the fourth inning, and by then, the Yankees had earned themselves a little wiggle room – all of which they’d eventually need.
Curtis Granderson and Austin Kearns (!) were the main hitting stars tonight. As is often the case when a slumping player breaks out, much of the credit for Granderson’s turnaround seems to be going to hitting coach Kevin Long, who worked with the outfielder on some widely-publicized changes to his swing; but whether it’s related to his work with Long or not, Granderson seems to be returning to decency. His second-inning single scored Robinson Cano and gave the Yanks a lead they’d cling to til the end. They tacked on another in the third, when the much-missed Teixeira hit a sac fly that scored Derek Jeter, and another in the top of the fourth, on Austin Kearns’ homer. (Granderson hit a double in that inning too, for good measure, and walked once as well, just to show off). Their final and eventually crucial insurance run came in the seventh, in rather unexciting fashion, when Derek Jeter – that guy again – scored on an A-Rod groundout.
The bottom of the ninth was a stressful little mini-game in itself. When C.C. reached 110 increasingly laborious pitches, accompanied by an alarming amount of sweat and baserunners, David Robertson was called in to mop up with two outs and Royals on first and third. The last out played hard-to-get. Willie Bloomquist doubled in two runs, and suddenly it was a one-run game. Wilson Betemit, refusing even to ground out properly, instead ended up on first base. Finally, Jason Kendall, after a determined 8-pitch at-bat and numerous fouls, struck out and let everyone go off to bed. Robertson eventually got it done… and then did not punch any older relatives or, so far as I know, anyone else in the face, so the Yanks have that going for them.