When I was a boy the Milwaukee Brewers were Gorman Thomas and Ben Oglivie, Robin Yount and Jim Ganter, Sixto Lezcano and Paul Molitor. It still seems odd to me that they’re a National League team, but I suppose there are fans a generation older than I am for whom it seems odd that Milwaukee ever had an American League franchise.
On Tuesday night they looked like a minor league franchise. Zack Greinke was on the mound for the Brewers, and I was looking forward to watching him pitch. I know what you know about Mr. Greinke — he’s apparently one of the best pitchers in the game — but all day I kept wondering how it was that I had never really seen him pitch. Apparently the schedule usually worked out for the Yankees when Greinke was in Kansas City, and they missed him more often than not. Right about now, I’m guessing Greinke wishes they had missed him again.
The first sign that the night might not go Greinke’s way came with the first batter he faced, as his normally pinpoint control deserted him and he hit leadoff man Brett Gardner. (Greinke would walk a season-high three batters on the night; he had only walked nine batters in his previous 60.1 innings.) Curtis Granderson then hit a sky-high fly ball to straightaway center field. It should’ve been the first out of the game, but instead center fielder Nyjer Morgan inexplicably fell over while attempting to field the ball, which skipped away untouched and allowed Gardner to scamper home on Granderson’s standup triple. (Later in the game Rickie Weeks would inexplicably fall over in the middle of what should’ve been an inning-ending double play.) Mark Teixeira then grounded out to second, scoring Granderson and opening a 2-0 Yankee lead.
Two more Yankees reached base that inning, forcing Greinke to expend 27 pitches to get three outs, and after Yankee starter Freddy García needed just nine pitches to retire the Brewers in the top of the second, Greinke was back on the mound again after only a few minutes rest. The Yankees took advantage. After Eduardo Nuñez and Gardner opened the inning with a single and a walk, then eventually advanced to second and third on a double steal, Teixeira picked up another ground out RBI for the Yankees’ third run. There were two outs, and it looked like Greinke might be able to get out of the inning with minimal damage, but he walked Alex Rodríguez, allowed a run-scoring single to Robinson Canó, and then served up fairly large (left-handed) home run to Nick Swisher. Suddenly it was 7-0. Greinke would finish the inning, but the Yanks had finished him. The second inning was his last.
From there, García put it on cruise control as he pitched to the scoreboard. He allowed base runners in each inning and two runs in the fourth, but he never let the Brewers get a look at the game. After his six effective innings, the Yankees piled on a few more runs to make things more comfortable for the bullpen. Teixeira hit his major-league-leading 24th home run in the bottom of the sixth, scoring two; Jorge Posada singled in a run; and Russell Martin plated another with a ground out, and the score was 11-2 when Hector Noesi took over in the seventh.
Noesi made it through the seventh and eighth, and Cory Wade handled the ninth, and the game was over. Yankees 12, Brewers 2.
If I had told you back in March that Rafael Soriano and Joba Chamberlain would be lost for the season, Phil Hughes would miss almost the entire first half, Bartolo Colón would emerge as the #2 starter before following Hughes onto the DL, they would insert a former minor league outfielder into the starting rotation, Jorge Posada’s batting average wouldn’t climb above the Mendoza line until June 9, Derek Jeter would spend almost three weeks on the disabled list, and the team would go 1-8 against the Red Sox, you surely wouldn’t have believed me. And if you did believe me, you’d expect that the team would be teetering on the brink of implosion.
Nothing could be farther from the truth. These Yankees sit a game and a half in front of those pesky BoSox, they’ve scored more runs than any team in baseball, they have the largest run differential by a wide margin, and they’re sporting the best record in the American League. What might this team do when all the missing pieces return in the second half?
[Photo Credit: Nick Laham/Getty Images]