At first glance, Thursday night’s Yankee lineup — Jeter, Granderson, Teixeira, A-Rod, Canó, Swisher, Gardner, Cervelli, Curtis — gave the impression that Joe Girardi wasn’t treating the game with the utmost seriousness. It was questionable to go with a lineup that was essentially six-deep, since the Rays beat the Tigers earlier in the day for their sixth consecutive victory, and Dustin Moseley was getting the start.
The proof, or so I thought, came in innings 2-6, when the Yankees continually had base runners advance to scoring position, only to have poor situational hitting lead to nine men stranded. Not coincidentally, their success in putting runners on base aligned with Indians starter Mitch Talbot leaving the game due to a back strain. But the Yankees couldn’t capitalize; they were 0-for-10 with runners in scoring position until Derek Jeter’s two-out single in the sixth plated Brett Gardner to break a 1-1 tie.
In the seventh, Robinson Canó’s solo home run began a two-out rally and a string of nine straight Yankees reaching base. The Yankees broke the game open during that stretch, scoring six more runs as Francisco Cervelli, Curtis Granderson and A-Rod all had singles and Jeter had drew a bases-loaded walk to score a run. The Yankees stranded two more runners that inning, but at least they finally took advantage of an overtaxed Indians bullpen.
Two more two-out runs were scored in the eighth to pad the lead to 11-1. And again, multiple runners were stranded, thanks to A-Rod’s inning-ending strikeout with the bases loaded.
A-Rod’s strikeout was the last piece of drama to the evening. Six more plate appearances, no home runs. Stuck on 599 for more than a week now. He got on base twice and drove in three runs, though, so while at times it appears that he’s pressing, he’s still managing to contribute.
The real story, though, was Moseley. Girardi had said before the game that he’d be happy to get six innings out of Moseley, and that’s exactly what he got. After a rocky first inning that saw him throw 31 pitches, Moseley settled down and cruised through the next five, striking out four batters, walking only two, and retiring eight via the groundball. If the Yankees do not trade for a starting pitcher between now and next Tuesday, Moseley likely earned himself another start.
The rout improved the Yankees’ record in July to 18-6, tied for the best in MLB with the Rays. The only way the Yankees leave St. Petersburg without being in first place is if they get swept. The only team to sweep the Yankees this season? The Rays, May 19-20 at Yankee Stadium.
Should be a fun weekend. Let’s see if Girardi crafts a lineup card like Thursday’s at any point against Tampa.
NOTES AND NUMBERS
* Ten of the Yankees’ 11 runs were scored with two outs.
* After the 0-for-10 start with runners in scoring position, the Yankees went 7-for their next 11.
* Have you seen anyone get more at-bats with the bases loaded than A-Rod? Three more tonight, one last night; I checked his season splits during the game and was shocked to find that he only had 14 ABs with the bases loaded prior to Thursday.
* Both Mark Teixeira and Brett Gardner walked three times. Gardner reached base in all four of his plate appearances to raise his on-base percentage to .397. Conversely, Jeter, who has batted leadoff for most of the year, has an OBP of .338. At what point will Girardi even consider placing Gardner in the leadoff spot, considering the 59-point OBP differential?
* The two pitching staffs combined to issue 17 walks and throw 386 pitches. The strike percentage: 57 percent. The Indians’ staff WHIP for the game was 2.67.
* WTF: Andy Marte pitched the ninth inning for Cleveland and was able to retire the Yankees in order. On the other side of the ninth, Chan Ho Park, in his second inning of work, gave Girardi and pitching coach Dave Eiland major agita by allowing three runs on two hits, three walks and two wild pitches. Only when Swisher caught Luis Valbuena’s fly ball on the warning track was anyone able to breathe a sigh of relief.