Let’s pick this up at 3-1 in the fifth inning. Leonys Martin had just hit his second homer of the night off Hiroki Kuroda and Yu Darvish had a two-run lead to protect against this year’s gluten-free version of the Yankee lineup. Darvish dropped a little curve ball into Brett Gardner’s trigger zone – low and in – and boom, 3-2.
This curve ball was not the worst curve ball Darvish threw all night, but it was the wrong pitch in the wrong spot to the second best hitter on the New York Yankees (shudder). No, the honors for the worst curve ball of of the night must be split between the loopy bits of nothing Darvish threw to Travis Hafner (in the fourth) and to Jason Nix (in the seventh) which were both also hit for solo jacks.
Yu Darvish has been ridiculously good this year, loading up strikeouts against very few hits and walks. The only thing keeping him from full flight is a few more homers than you’d like to see – 14 after tonight. I can’t speak for the first 11, but for one game at least, he was handing out lollipops.
I snuggled up with Willa, the recent addition in our house and main reason why I’m not around the Banter much this season, and administered her first full-inning dose of Mariano Rivera. She stretched out on my chest and filled her diaper just about the time that Mo’s nastiest cutter reduced Lance Berkman’s bat to so many matchsticks.
Both catchers gunned down potential base stealers in the late innings to ratchet up the excitement a few notches. Chris Stewart pegged Elvis Andrus with the help of Robinson Cano’s nifty sweep tag. But A.J. Pierzynski evened the ledger by wiping Brett Gardner off the map in the bottom of the ninth. If you told me a few years ago that Brett Gardner became the Yankees second best offensive player while simultaneously losing his ability to steal bases, I’d have asked you how you got a hold of Doc Doom’s time machine and why you hadn’t also altered the 2001 and 2004 postseasons if you were planning on creating alternate Yankee universes.
The game seemed destined for extra innings, though with Rivera and Robertson nothing more then empty casings on the dugout floor heading to the top of the 10th, not many extra would likely be required. Then with two strikes and two outs, Ichiro lashed out and bit into a 97 MPH heater from Tanner Scheppers and ended things right then and there. Yankees 4, Rangers 3.
Hiroki Kuroda and Yu Darvish battled to a stand still. Darvish was more brilliant, but inefficient and only lasted six innings. Kuroda had plenty left in the tank and only came out because Leonys Martin had his number. And if any Japanese fans (I know a few who scalped tickets tonight) felt they didn’t get their money’s worth with the double no-decision from the starters, they hit the jackpot when Ichiro said sayonara.
And here’s our newest fan, as captured by my wife just after the homer, happy with a great victory over a good team.
Photos by Jason Szenes (1 & 2) / Getty Images & Kathy Willens (3) / AP & Amelia DeRosa (4)