Hell of a game in the Bronx today. The Yanks jumped out to a 2-0 lead on Dustin McGowan in the first, but Chien-Ming Wang gave those runs back in the fourth on a two-run pop-fly home run off the top of the right field wall by Matt Stairs.
Once again, Wang wasn't sharp. Of his 90 pitches, just 12 were sliders and only one was a changeup. Wang got strike three of his four Ks with those secondary pitches, but every other pitch he threw was a sinker, and too many of them were either up or out of the zone. Wang started the fifth inning by walking Joe Inglett, the fourth free pass he issued on the afternoon. After a groundout, pesky David Eckstein reached on an infield single. Alex Rios then hit a soft fly ball to center field, but Inglett, apparently thinking there were two outs, took off like a rocket from second base. It was a terribly play by Inglett, but it appeared to distract Melky Cabrera as the ball ticked off the pinky of his glove and fell for a run-scoring error. With that, Wang folded. He hit Scott Rolen with a pitch, gave up a booming double in the left-center-field gap to Stairs, and another down the right field line to Lyle Overbay. Joe Girardi pulled his starter at that point, but the damage was done. The Yankees were down 7-2.
Undeterred, the Yankees fought back. Ross Ohlendorf stranded Overbay at second and the offense got two of those runs right back in the bottom of the inning by loading the bases with no outs and getting an RBI groundout from Bobby Abreu and a sac fly from Alex Rodriguez. That's almost exactly how the Yankees first two runs scored in the first inning. In that frame, a Johnny Damon walk and Derek Jeter double put runners on second and third with none out. Abreu got Damon home and moved Jeter up on a groundout and Jeter scored on Rodriguez's sac fly to right field when Rod Barajas failed to come up with Kevin Mench's throw, which had beaten Jeter to the plate. In the fifth, Rodriguez's sac fly was actually a foul-out near the tarp that was caught by the second baseman Inglett. Damon, thinking Inglett's momentum had him too twisted up to make a good throw, decided on his own to tag up go. He was out by five feet, but Barajas again failed to catch the ball.
In the sixth, LaTroy Hawkins pitched a 1-2-3 top of the inning and the Yankees got another two runs back in the bottom half when Robinson Cano delivered a one-out single, Toronto manager brought in lefty reliever Jesse Carlson to turn around Wilson Betemit, and Betemit delivered a right-handed two-run home run into the netting over the retired numbers.
Hawkins came back out for the seventh, but put the first two men he faced on base. Girardi then went to Jose Veras who got a 3-6-1 double play and a strikeout to keep the Yankees within one run. Veras pitched himself into a jam in the seventh, but again managed to Houdini his way out of it, thanks in part to the Blue Jays giving up their first out on a sac bunt. The second out came on a 6-2 out at home plate, and the third on a fly out to the gap in right that saw Melky Cabrera make an impressively rangy catch.
The Yankees mounted their own threat in the eighth against reliever Scott Downs. With two outs, Betemit singled (again batting right-handed), Cabrera singled, and both runners moved up when Downs crossed up Barajas on what was ruled a passed ball. Johnny Damon then crushed a full-count offering to the Modell's sign in the right field gap, but defensive replacement Brad Wilkerson one-upped Cabrera by making a game-saving catch at the wall to end the inning.
Kyle Farnsworth then entered the game and gave up three straight hits to give the Jays an insurance run, sending the Yankees to the plate in the bottom of the ninth against B.J. Ryan trailing 8-6. Ryan made quick work of Jeter and Abreu, but Alex Rodriguez hit a 2-1 hopper to the left side that squirted through the infield for a single to keep the Yankees alive. The ball was just out of the reach of third baseman Scott Rolen and Rolen's attempt seemed to distract the shortstop David Eckstein as the ball tipped off his glove and bounded into left field.
Rodriguez took second on fielder's indifference and thus was able to score when Hideki Matsui delivered a single up the middle. With Posada having been pinch-run for in the eighth, Jose Molina was due up next, but Girardi had Jason Giambi on the bench nursing a sore foot, and sent the mustachioed slugger to the plate to pinch-hit. Giambi quickly fell behind 0-2, but Ryan left the next pitch up and Giambi launched it to orbit, sending it just fair to the back of the Tier Boxes in the right field upper deck for a two-run game-winning home run.
Said an out-of-breath Giambi to YES's Kim Jones moments later, "I was working it, trust me, I was talking to it, I was leaning with it, trying to keep it fair. He just ended up hanging a slider and I just got the bat head to it." Adding, "the mustache is staying."
The win is just the Yankees' second when trailing after seven innings this season and had the never-say-die feel of the wild 14-13 game the Yankees won against the Rangers on a walk-off Posada homer in mid-May of 2006. It also won the series against the Jays, making the Yankees 4-2 against Toronto on the season, got them back to .500 on the season. Tomorrow they start a three-game series against the AL-worst Kansas City Royals, and should have all nine intended starters in the lineup together for just the second time since Opening Day.
The Yankees 2008 season has been begging for a turning point. Today's game might have been it.