Backup catchers should be seen, but not noticed. During the YES broadcast, that’s how former Yankees’ second stringer John Flaherty described the life of a number two backstop. Chris Stewart must not have gotten the memo.
Over the first 10 games of the season, the Yankees have had no problem getting men on base, but driving them in hasn’t been as easy. So, after squandered scoring opportunities in the first two innings by leaving a total of five men on base, it seemed as if it would be another frustrating night in the Bronx. However, all that changed in the bottom of the third.
After falling behind 3-1 in the top half of the inning (which also featured the ejection of Twins center fielder Denard Span and manager Ron Gardenhire), the Yankees quickly mounted another rally, but this time they would not be turned away. The unlikely hero in the inning was Stewart, who, in only his fifth at bat of the season, gave the Yankees a 4-3 lead with a bases loaded single that knocked Twins’ starter Francisco Liriano from the game. In total, the team scored four runs in the inning and then never looked back.
Once staked to a lead, CC Sabathia took his game to another level. In each of the next three innings, the big lefty retired the Twins in order and at one point set down 13 consecutive Minnesota batters. Meanwhile, the Yankees continued to tack on runs, including two more RBIs from Derek Jeter, a homerun by Andruw Jones, and a final tally by Stewart, who ended the game with a career-high 3 RBIs. The outburst was more than enough for Sabathia, who departed with one in the eighth having given the Yankees only their third quality start of the season.
Although Stewart was the focal point of the offense, just about every hitter had a good night. However, there was one exception. Alex Rodriguez was not only the sole member of the lineup without a base hit, but his failure to drive in a run extended a peculiar streak that has seen the Bronx Bombers go 11 straight games without an RBI from the cleanup slot, the fifth longest such stretch in baseball history. For most teams, such a prolonged period of futility from the cleanup slot would debilitating, but the Yankees’ have managed to win six of their first 11 games without a contribution from the four-hole. Of course, that really shouldn’t be surprising. What else would you expect from a lineup that has a backup catcher capable of driving in three runs in one game?