As I said, it’s gonna be like this, and the sooner we come to terms with it, the better. The Yankees will lose two or three or eight games in a row, and hysteria will follow. The team is awful, the general manager is asleep, the manager should be fired! But soon enough, things will look up, and so it was on Saturday night.
After the disappointment of the previous two games, the Yankees hit the ground running in the first inning when Chase Headley and Alex Rodríguez each singled to put runners on first and second with one out. Mark Teixeira struck out, but that brought up Brian McCann, the hottest man in the Yankee lineup. He watched strike one, then laced a single into right field to score Headley, extending McCann’s impressive string of eight straight games with an RBI and giving his team a 1-0 lead.
Nathan Eovaldi was on the mound for the Bombers, and he pitched the way he almost always does, like a tightrope walker in a rainstorm; every step was an adventure. Before we even had a chance to enjoy that 1-0 lead, Eovaldi had worked himself into a first-inning jam with runners on first and second and two out. Josh Reddick singled to left field, but the newest Yankee, Ramon Flores, recently called up to replace Slade Heathcott, charged the ball and fired home to nail the runner at the plate. It must’ve been nice for Flores. The first time he touched a ball in a major league game he turned it into an out at the plate. Sure, McCann helped him out with a nifty diving tag, but when he tells the story to his grandchildren years from now that throw will have become a laser that split the dish and caught the runner by three strides. (In the next inning Flores made a play that won’t have to be exaggerated, as he raced fifty feet to his right to make a diving grab in foul territory. Quite a debut for the youngster.)
Eovaldi’s struggles continued in the third inning. Even though his fastball was consistently in the mid 90s, the Oakland hitters weren’t in the least bit frightened. Billy Burns, Marcus Semien, and Stephen Vogt opened the frame with singles to load the bases, but Eovaldi limited the damage, I guess, by allowing just a sacrifice fly and a run-scoring single before getting the final two outs. Even so, the A’s had the lead, 2-1.
For the fourth straight inning the A’s led off with a single, and this time it was the bespectacled Eric Sogard. In this day and age of lasik surgery and contact lenses, there are few things more rare than a baseball player wearing glasses. Sure, there’s an occasional middle reliever who will sprint in from the bullpen wearing sports goggles, but Sogard’s frames look like something your mother used to wear when she went to Mah-jongg Mondays with the other housewives on the block. All that’s missing is a chain dangling around his neck. I can only assume that he lost a bet at some point and doesn’t realize that he’s playing on national television every night.
At any rate, Sogard singled to center, moved to second on a groundout, and then eventually scored on a single from Marcus Semien. The A’s had their third run, and it looked so easy.
Finally, in the top of the fifth, the Yankee offense began to stir. Jose Pirela started the rally with a two-out single, and the inning stayed alive when third baseman Brett Lawrie (probably still celebrating Friday night’s home run) flat out dropped Brett Gardner’s line drive, putting runners on first and second. Headley took advantage with an RBI singled grounded up through the middle, and the Yanks were within striking distance at 3-2.
Eovaldi got two outs in the fifth before allowing a single to Lawrie. It was the eleventh Athletic hit of the night, and Joe Girardi had finally seen enough. He lifted his starter in favor of Chasen Shreve, who would calmly strike out Mark Canha to end the inning, and then all four A’s batters in the sixth.
The Yankee hitters, meanwhile, struck again in the top of the fifth when Carlos Beltrán socked a two-run homer to dead center field to give New York a 4-3 lead with only six outs to go until the firm of Betances and Miller could turn out the lights.
After Shreve coasted through his inning and a third, Justin Wilson came on for the seventh to retire Semien and Vogt before an anxious Girardi brought in Betances to get the final out.
The game was pretty much over at that point, but the Yankees tacked on another run in the eighth, just to be safe. Teixeira led off with a single, and when he noticed that the A’s weren’t holding him on, the speedy Tex swiped second without a throw. It wasn’t defensive indifference, it was defensive ignorance. Three pitches later McCann grounded out to the right side, allowing Teixeira to trot to third, and then That Man Beltrán slapped a single to left to bring Teixeira home with the insurance run. Speed kills.
Betances cruised through the bottom of the eighth, making you wonder if he’ll ever give up an earned run this season, Andrew Miller took care of the ninth, and the Yankees had their win, 5-3. Tomorrow they’ll get another, just you watch.