It wasn’t supposed to turn out like this. With five games scheduled against the Orioles in Baltimore over the weekend, it seemed like a golden opportunity to get fat at the expense of the worst team in the league. But after dropping the opener on Friday night, having Saturday washed out by Hurricane Irene, and splitting a doubleheader on Sunday, Monday evening’s game became a must-win affair. Losing three of four in a series that a week ago looked like at least four wins would have been unacceptable.
Thinks looked a bit bleak at the outset, with both Derek Jeter and Alex Rodríguez out with nagging injuries, and something of an unknown quantity on the mound, as Freddy García was making his first start since coming back from the disabled list.
Hometown boy Mark Teixeira started things going in the right direction early on with a double to right to score Curtis Granderson for a 1-0 lead, but that would be all anyone would get for quite a while. García was in full Junkball Magician mode. After giving up a harmless two-out double to Adam Jones in the first, García cooly set down the next eleven Baltimore hitters before Mark Reynolds snapped the string with a solo homer in the fifth.
The Yankee hitters weren’t faring much better against the Baltimore starter, someone named Alfredo Simón. After Teixeira’s first-inning double, Simón took care of the next nine Yankees to come to the plate before running into a bit of trouble in the fourth. Robinson Canó flared a single out to left, and then Mr. Happy (you may know him as Nick Swisher) followed with a home run to right for a 3-0 Yankee lead.
It wasn’t a lot of support, but on this night it would be enough. García left after six successful innings with a terribly efficient line: 6.0 IP/2 H/1 ER/1 BB/4 K. (If you’ll excuse my editorializing, that line makes me think that a rotation of Sabathia, Hughes, Nova, Colón, and García might work from now through the end of September. But what do I know?)
The bullpen took over for the final three frames, and they were lights out as usual, save for one shocking exception. Rafael Soriano yielded a walk but struck out two in a scoreless seventh, and The Great One was flawless in the ninth, but David Robertson made things a bit sticky in between. After overpowering Nolan Reimold for the first out and popping up Robert Andino for the second, Robertson gave up a home run to J.J. Hardy. The two-run lead was cut in half, so there was some immediate importance to this, and when Nick Markakis then walked and stole second to put the tying run in scoring position it loomed even larger. But Houdini wriggled free yet again as Robertson was able to strike out Adam Jones to end the threat.
How good has Robertson been this year? This good. It was the first home run he’d allowed all season, and the first run he had given up on the road.
With a 3-2 victory and the split salvaged, they head to Boston. I don’t need to tell you what the standings say, I don’t need to tell you how the Yankees have done against the Red Sox this year, and I certainly don’t need to remind you about how Sabathia has fared against them. I won’t tell you that Tuesday night’s series opener is a must win game for either the team or the man, but a win would certainly be nice.
[Photo Credit: Nick Wass/AP]