"A New York Treasure" --Village Voice

The Grandy Man Can

If you want to know the truth, these recaps usually write themselves. Either you’ve got a ho-hum game that only needs a generic rehashing, or there’s a singular moment that leaps out as the obvious focal point of the story. This isn’t rocket science.

And then there’s a game like this one. Do you start with A.J. Burnett’s shockingly successful start? The eighth inning Score Truck delivery? The positive contributions of Alex Rodríguez, Nick Swisher, and Mark Teixeira?

Maybe we should start in the first inning. After folding quickly in the top of the first against Tiger starter Rick Porcello, the Yankees took the field in the bottom half behind A.J. Burnett. There’s no need to rehash the trials and tribulations of Mr. Burnett, so I’ll just sum it up like this: somehow it felt like the Yankees were behind before Burnett even threw his first pitch.

And then he went about the business of building a small fire. He walked lead off man Austin Jackson, but when Ramon Santiago popped up a bunt and Delmon Young grounded out to third, it looked like maybe our fears were unfounded. Maybe everything would be okay.

Nine pitches later, though, Burnett had walked the bases loaded. Don Kelly was at the plate, Cory Wade was warming in the bullpen, and the Fat Lady was warming in the wings.

Kelly took a ball, then laced a line drive directly at Curtis Granderson in center. Granderson took three or four quick steps in and to his left before realizing the ball would be over his head. He sprinted back towards straight away center, but the ball was just a bit faster. He leapt into the air, fully extended his left arm, and caught the ball just before crashing back to earth.

The inning was over, but it wasn’t hard to imagine what might’ve happened if Granderson hadn’t made that catch. With all three runners moving at the crack of the bat, the Tigers would’ve scored at least three runs on the play, and probably four. Girardi would’ve had to lift his starting pitcher two outs into an elimination game, and Yankee fans would’ve died a long, slow death over the ensuing eight innings. Thankfully, it didn’t happen that way.

The Yankees again went down meekly in the second, but a strange thing happened when Burnett took the mound again in the bottom of the inning. He was good. He needed only eleven pitches to retire the side in order on a grounder to third, another back to the box, and a swinging strikeout. He gave up a two-out walk in the third, but a harmless grounder to short by Miguel Cabrera ended the inning. The old A.J. made a brief appearance in the fourth and yielded a lead off homer to Victor Martínez and then a one-out double to Jhonny Peralta, but he recovered to strike out Alex Avila and Wilson Betemit.

By that point he was working with a lead. The resurgent Jorge Posada was hit by the first pitch of the third inning, and Russell Martin followed that with a single up the middle. If you were scripting a rally, you probably wouldn’t start out by putting a catcher on first and a old catcher on second, but two batters later Posada was jogging home and Martin was racing up his back to score on a Derek Jeter double. Posada scored standing up, but Martin needed a nifty slide to get around Avila’s tag and the Yankees were up 2-0.

Martin started another Yankee rally with another single up the middle to lead off the fifth. Brett Gardner slapped a single to left, and they looked to be in business. When Jeter followed with one of the worst bunt attempts you’ll ever see, allowing Porcello to nail Martin at third, it looked like it might be a lost opportunity for the Yankees.

Porcello had been cruising since his troubles in the first, but he had been helped tremendously by a generous strike zone. When Sabathia was on the mound last night, it was frustrating to see the blue TBS strike zone box riddled with pitches on the corners and edges of the zone that were called balls; it was equally frustrating to see so many of Porcello’s pitches land outside of the blue only to be called strikes. It was clear, though, that his lack of control would eventually do him in, especially since so many of his pitches were leaking up to the top of the zone.

He lost a pitch up to Granderson, and Curtis pounced on it, rifling it to the wall in right field, scoring Gardner and pushing Jeter to third. Tiger manager Jim Leyland made the obvious call and walked Robinson Canó to load the bases for Rodríguez. (Let’s think about that for a moment — he chose to load the bases for a man who’s hit more grand slams than any in the history of the game not named Lou Gehrig. Even so, it was the right decision.)

A-Rod was down 0-2 in the blink of an eye, but Porcello let another pitch drift up in the zone, and Rodríguez was able to get enough of it come up with a sacrifice fly for a 4-1 lead. Teixeira, whose postseason average with the Yankees continues to plummet, struck out looking to end the inning.

Burnett faced only three batters in the fifth, then retired Cabrera, albeit on a blistering liner to Jeter, and Martínez to open the sixth. When Kelly singled and Girardi came out to the mound, I was actually hoping he’d leave him in, perhaps the strangest thought I had all night long. But Girardi knew that Rafael Soriano, David Robertson, and Mariano Rivera were easily fresh enough to get the final ten outs, so he made the move.

Peralta was due up next, and he lifted Soriano’s first pitch towards left center field. This play wasn’t nearly as important as the one in the first inning, but it was spectacular. Granderson had been shading Peralta just to the right of second base, but he got an excellent jump on the ball. He was at full speed almost immediately and closed the gap with fifteen strides before going horizontal and making an incredible grab for the final out of the inning.

Granderson lay on the turf for a minute or two with the wind knocked out of him, but jogged off the field and returned to a hero’s welcome and an embrace from Burnett in the dugout.

Soriano blitzed through the Tigers in the seventh on eight pitches and the game seemed to be in hand. After the top of the eighth, it was out of hand. The Yankees sent eleven men to the plate and scored six runs — one on a balk, another on a wild pitch, and four others on singles by Jesus Montero, Gardner, and Canó. Yankees 10, Tigers 1.

And so the series comes back to the Bronx and everything is rosy again. The bullpen will be fresh, thanks to that eighth-inning outburst and Wednesday’s off day. The offense will be deeper and more potent, thanks to the resurgence of A-Rod. The Stadium will be louder than it’s been all year, thanks to the gravity of the moment. Most importantly, Ivan Nova will be on the mound.

So enjoy your day of rest today, but do so knowing that you’ll enjoy Game 5 even more.

[Photo Credits: Andrew Weber/US Presswire; Leon Halip/Getty Images; Duane Burleson/Associated Press]

Categories:  1: Featured  Game Recap  Hank Waddles  Playoffs  Yankees

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1 Shaun P.   ~  Oct 5, 2011 5:59 am

Brilliant recap of brilliant game, Hank.

I was driving home during the first few innings, and I was nervous before the first pitch. All the comparisons yesterday were with Wright and Game 4 of the '06 ALDS. Try as I might, I can't forget that game. The comparisons were a little too coincidental to dismiss.

Then, when AJ threw Cabrera two unintentional balls and then intentionally walked him, and then couldn't find the plate, I was instead reminded of the ALCS lat year. More lovely memories.

Then Granderson caught the ball to end the inning, and all comparisons and nervousness left me.

How long until Game 5?

2 RIYank   ~  Oct 5, 2011 7:15 am

Hank, did Alison stay up?

3 Just Fair   ~  Oct 5, 2011 8:00 am

[0] Good stuff as usual.
Walking around yesterday pre game I could not get those damn Styx lyrics out of my head. "I know you feel these are the worst of times." But now we have a full 36 hours to revel in AJ's start, Curtis' superman catch, Alex's hits, and at least even Teix hit the ball hard twice. Thursday night in the Bronx is going to be beautiful and I caught on Nova on YES this morning smiling and displaying an air of confidence about his win or go home start. October Baseball. The BEST of TIMES!

4 ms october   ~  Oct 5, 2011 8:31 am

echo the sentiments - excellent recap hank - thanks.

i feel like i/we were all talking ourselves into aj yesterday. as you captured so well hank that first inning was a clusterfuck in the making. but damn if baseball is not a game of inches and strange turns. after that inning i was talking myself into aj even more.
what a great way to keep the season going - great starting pitching from of all people aj, the bullpen breezes through - nice work messrs soriano, hughes, and logan, and the score truck re-emerges with an assortment of drivers!

5 Yankee Mama   ~  Oct 5, 2011 8:31 am

Great recap. Thanks. Those two catches by Grandy were what October baseball is all about, going the extra dive. More than that, I was so happy for AJ. It's a feel good story of a person righting his ship. Boy, is he talented when he's not being a head case!

Props to A-Rod. Even he was laughing at his single. Hey, you take whatever you can get.

A friend called me last night when it became 10-1 and said I could go to bed now. Iwas like, "fuggedaboutit!" I wanted to savor every drop.

Now they're coming home to Mama.

6 Ben   ~  Oct 5, 2011 8:44 am

I also thought the talk yesterday about hope, and how AJ was gonna mash were way off.

Never been happier to be wrong.

Don't know if anyone could ever replace Bernie for me as best non-pitching Yankee, but Grandy is sure making a case for himself. That guy is the balls.

7 Ben   ~  Oct 5, 2011 8:45 am

Sorry. Not Best. I meant favorite.

And thanks for the write-up Hank.

8 Hank Waddles   ~  Oct 5, 2011 9:49 am

[2] No, Alison didn't get to watch. I'll have to give her the blow-by-blow on the way to school this morning. The games collide with dinner time out here on the west coast, and since we've got a no TV rule for our kids on weeknights, I usually record the games and start them as they're getting ready for bed, about two hours after the actual first pitch. I'm thinking an exception might be in order for Game 5.

9 T. Hawk   ~  Oct 5, 2011 9:54 am

In the first inning I was trying to just focus on watching AJ try and hit his spots. It was actually pretty therapeutic and humorous in its way. I mean he was all over the place. If Russell put the glove on the lower outside corner, AJ would throw it to the upper inside corner, out of the zone. Hilarious!

When he got into a groove, he still missed his spots but miraculously somehow hit them at times too. I noticed on a strikeout, he had that strikeout swagger but even then he'd missed by a mile. It must be weird being AJ.

Nick Swisher has got to stop trying to hit home runs. When in history has that approached ever gotten anyone out of a slump?

10 T. Hawk   ~  Oct 5, 2011 9:54 am


11 Boatzilla   ~  Oct 5, 2011 10:06 am

Fantastic report, Hank. I especially enjoyed the relaxed pacing.

BTW, We also have the "no TV on week nights" rule. That may be why Sachi's a bookworm, but who knows.

12 Greg G   ~  Oct 5, 2011 10:27 am

Summing it up perfectly Hank, "somehow it felt like the Yankees were behind before Burnett even threw his first pitch."

That catch of Granderson's in the first reminded me of the kid with the boomerang in "The Road Warrior." It looked like it was sped up, and there was no way he would get up to get it. AJ should give Grandy his playoff share, because twice Grandy saved his ass.

So many feel good stories last night, and I only wish there was no off day, so that ARod, Tex and Swisher could try and get rolling.

This also bodes well for the rest of the playoffs if/when the Yanks advance. They needed the middle of the order to get going and will eventually need a 4th starter.

AJ could just as easily follow this up with another horror show, but this was a tremendous confidence boost. I also agree with Hank that I was thinking he should be left in longer, but Girardi certainly made the right call.

I loved how when Girardi went to the mound and pounded AJ on the chest. It looked like he might knock the wind out of him. Girardi is one of the only managers in baseball, who look like they could kick almost anyone's ass.

Let's go Yankees!!!! Let's go Nooooooooooova!

13 RIYank   ~  Oct 5, 2011 10:55 am

Hank, No TV School Nights is a great rule.
But I vote in favor of the special exception tomorrow night.

14 kenboyer made me cry   ~  Oct 5, 2011 11:23 am

Great write up, nice night, good sleep, beautiful day. The shift to fall is on, and tomorrow night will be perfect. Can't wait.

Does this prove that AJ's biggest obstacles are self made? When things go wrong, they spiral out of control for him fast. Get thee to a sports psychologist this off season.

And in Detroit, the team and fans must be melancholy of the loss and the result of that loss of Curtis Granderson. Imagine if the Yankees played a pivotal series against a team with Johnny Damon or Matsui, or for that mater Ian Kennedy and one of these players were the primary key to their defeat?

15 Bama Yankee   ~  Oct 5, 2011 12:06 pm

[14] Or imagine if the Yankees played a pivotal series against Detroit with Kenny Rogers being the primary key to their defeat? Oh, wait... ;-)

Last night's game didn't make up for that 2006 Game 3 debacle against the 41 year-old Gambler...but it sure was nice. :-)

16 Crazy8Rick   ~  Oct 5, 2011 3:43 pm

Who'd a thunk it! The good AJ showed up when it counted most. Hank, you could've bought me for a penny and got change back, if anybody would have told me that AJ would be one of the hero's of the night. Question:Is there a big red 'S' on Granderson's tee shirt underneath his uniform?? 'Look, it's a bird, it's a plane, its....GRANDERSON!!"

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"This ain't football. We do this every day."
--Earl Weaver