"We're back in order," Manager Joe Torre said. "We're dragging a little bit, but I thought we showed a lot of dogfight in us over the last three games. I'm very proud, but it's a little bit too early to pat ourselves on the back, because we have a lot of work to do."
Aaron Small has a big chin and from the profile looks like the protagonist from the recent animated movie, "The Incredibles." He's not fat at all, he's tall and well-built, but he's got some kind of jaw. Jason Giambi's high-school teammate had a decent outing for the Yankees last night, throwing a lot of off-speed pitches and working into the sixth inning. The offense gave him plenty of support as New York beat Texas, 9-4 to remain a half-game behind first place Boston. I liked the headline on the back page of today's Daily News: "Biggie Small."
The Rangers' starter, Joaquin Benoit started off well, striking out the first four batters he faced (he would get Alex Rodriguez on strikes three times in all, and the three-four-and-five batters in the line up would go hitless on the night). Benoit's stuff looked good early on as he combined a good change-up with a lively fastball. But he left an off-speed pitch over the plate to Jason Giambi in the second, and the Yankee DH lifted a high fly to center field. Gary Matthews Jr lined it up and narrowly missed robbing Giambi of a dinger. I didn't think it would make it over the fence, but it did and the Yanks were on the board. Before you knew it, Jorge Posada reached out and slapped another hanging off-speed pitch into the upper deck in right field.
Richard Hidalgo answered with a solo home run in the second, but the Yanks came back with two more homers in the fifth, a solo shot by Tino Martinez and a three-run job by Robinson Cano--both off Benoit's slow stuff. With the Yankees ahead 7-2 (Jason Giambi added another solo dinger), Small walked two men in the bottom of the sixth and was relieved by Tanyon Sturtze, who promplty left a high fastball over the plate. Hidalgo pounded it into right field. One run scored and men were on second and third. Next, Gary Matthews Jr. walked, putting the Yanks in a tight spot. Sturtze got Rod Barajas to pop out for the second out, but then fell behind 3-0 to the lead-off hitter Dave Dellucci. He did manage to get two strikes however, then Dellucci fouled off two more pitches before grounding out to Tino Martinez.
Sturtze recorded two outs in the seventh, but then allowed a single to Hank Blalock and a walk to Alfonso Soriano. Tom Gordon relieved him and got the Yanks out of the inning. A run would score in the eighth when a ball went through Martinez's legs at first, but Tino hit his second home run of the night in the top of the ninth, and that was that. (Both Martinez and Giambi's second homers came off lefties.) To cap it off, Rivera overwhelmed the heart of the Texas order in the ninth. Mark Teixeira led-off and swung at two cutters, up and in for strikes, then went down looking at a two-seamer on the outside corner. Blalock took an outside fastball for strike one, fouled off a cutter for strike two, laid off a high fastball, then swung through another high heater for strike three. Soriano took a cutter for a strike, leaned back at a fastball that came up and in, then split his his bat in two on a cutter, and grounded out weakly to second. It was vintage Rivera and the Yanks left Texas with another series win.
According to Tyler Kepner in the Times, the decision to send Wayne Franklin back to the minors and bring up Alex Gramman did not come from Joe Torre, but from Tampa. As Bernie Williams told the Daily News:
"It is weird," Williams said. "This year, more than any other, there's a trend of no margin for error. It seems like when you hit or play well, you get to keep playing. If you struggle a little, you sit. And if you're new and you struggle, you're not here anymore."
Tonight gives Randy Johnson vs. Bartolo Colon in California. I expect that Colon will be terrific, especially considering his last performance vs. the Yanks.