With two men on and just one out, the tying run came to the plate against Mariano Rivera in the ninth inning last night (Rivera had allowed a bloop double and then hit a batter). At the same time in Detroit, the Tigers were staging a ninth inning comeback against the Red Sox closer Curt Schilling. However, Rivera steadied himself, retired the next two hitters and sealed a 5-2win for the Yankees. With the Sox and A's losing, the Yanks now trail Boston by three-and-a-half games in the AL East, and Oakland by just a game-and-a-half for the wildcard.
Jaret Wright had his longest outing as a Yankee, pitching into the seventh inning. He was aggresive and threw strikes. The Devil Rays hit the ball sharply several times off of Wright, but for the most part, they went directly at Yankee fielders (Alex Rodriguez made an especially nifty pick on a Jorge Cantu ground ball in the bottom of the fourth). Wright gave up two runs on four hits, a walk and a couple of strikeouts. Even better, he only threw 79 pitches and was still throwing in the early-to-mid nineties in the sixth inning.
Alex Rodriguez, the Bombers' candidate for the American League MVP, led the offense cracking another memorable home run. This one--a solo shot--hit one of the catwalks. Rodriguez knew it was gone off the bat and went into a home run trot. The TV cameras showed centerfielder Joey Gathright going back on the ball as if he had a chance to make a play. Then he just stopped and kept looking up. The ball never came down. Suddenly, Rodriguez was hustling into third. But just as he slid, the umpires signaled that the ball was indeed a home run. Oh man, Jeter is going to bust his chops for this one, I thought.
It was Rodriguez's 36th of the year, tying his 2004 total. The Yankee third baseman went also walked, doubled and collected three RBI. Gary Sheffield hit a long fly ball in the first, and then a home run foul in his next two at bats. He finally straightened it all out in the seventh and hit a solo homer off of Travis Harper, his 25th. (The Yanks hit the ball hard against Harper again, but mercifully, a few shots--Matsui, Bernie--were caught for outs.) Sheffield also had an RBI single against Casey Fossum. It was an impressive piece of hitting as Sheffield waited on a sloooow breaking ball, somehow keeping his hands back, and slapping the pitch into left for a base hit.
The Yankee offense was tough on Fossum last night. They didn't end up scoring a lot of runs but made Fossum work. Jason Giambi saw 23 pitches (11 and 12 respectively) in his second and third at bats. (After Rodriguez's long homer, Giambi actually hit the catwalk in right field. The ball was way up in the upper deck but just foul.) Fossum objected to a call against Sheffield before the RBI single. He made a gesture and slumped his shoulders. Ken Singleton commented that Fossum's move would not endear him to any of the umpires. Sure enough, Fossum was called for a balk in the sixth inning by the second base umpire. I couldn't actually see where he balked. Perhaps he just wasn't too popular with the umps. Lou Piniella did not come out to argue on his pitcher's behalf. Fossum pleaded his case to Lou in the dugout after the inning but his manager did not appear overly sympathetic.
The Yanks have won five straight. Carl Pavanowill not return this season, but Wright's performance was encouraging. If Randy Johnson turns in a good one tonight, Yankee fans will have even more hope that their team can somehow reach the playoffs this year.