"That's why the Yankees are the Yankees," Rays DH Jonny Gomes said. "The buffoonery they had earlier, that was something else. But they're the Yankees and they're here now. They mean business. And they're not taking no for an answer." (N.Y. Daily News)
Welp, Cliff was right: neither pitcher was pretty last night. But that didn't stop the Yankees from winning their fourth straight game. Down 5-1, the Bombers scored seven runs in the top of the sixth inning, giving Aaron Small all he would need in order to up his record to an improbable 8-0. The final score:Yanks 9, Rays 5. According to the YES broadcast, it was the tenth time this season that the Yanks have come back from a deficit of four or more runs, a team record. Robinson Cano hit a huge grand slam and Alex Rodriguez made like David Ortiz with a tie-breaking two-run blast which gave the Yanks the lead for good. New York inched to within a half-a-game of the idle Cleveland Indians and a game-and-a-half to the Boston Red Sox who lost to Oakland last night at Fenway Park.
Aaron Small had two bad innings. In the second, he allowed two doubles and hit a man as the Rays jumped to a 2-0 lead; in the fifth, he gave up two singles and a long home run (which hit the catwalk) to Johnny Gomes (hey, the dude can hit the high fastball, 'specially when it ain't that fast). He also retired the side in order three times. The most important work for Small came after his offense reclaimed the lead in the top of the sixth. He retired the next five men, throwing strikes, and keeping the aggresive Rays hitters off-balance with his breaking pitches, throwing them slower rather than harder.
When Julio Lugo punch a two-out triple in the gap, Small's night was over. Alan Embree came in and struck Carl Crawford out on sliders. Tom Gordon and Mariano Rivera worked the last two innings and neither was crisp. Gordon got two outs in the eighth, but also put two men on base. Mariano replaced him and walked the pinch-hitter Eduardo Perez on five pitches, before falling behind Toby Hall 2-0. But Rivera regrouped and got a ground ball out to escape unscathed. The Yanks added two insurance runs in the top of the ninth (and hey, Cano and Rodriguez tripled) for some breathing room, and Rivera retired the side in order to end the game.
Bubba Crosby--my girlfriend's new favorite Yankee (oh, how she adores the underdog)--had a career-high three hits, Gary Sheffield had three himself, but it was Cano and Rodriguez who were the offensive stars (with an assist from Hideki Matsui). Again, the big inning was the top of the sixth when Matsui led off with a bloop double down the left field line off of Seth McClung. Bernie Williams followed with a walk before Jorge Posada singled sharply through the left side. McClung throws hard but he was tiring and Cano launched a 1-0 fastball deep into the right field stands. He managed to strike Crosby out but then walked Jeter and had to deal with Rodriguez, who he had plunked in the back in the previous inning. McClung was on the ropes and Rodriguez drilled a low fastball to deep center for his 42nd homer of the year. Some personal payback for him, and a measure of payback for the entire team in their final game against Tampa Bay.
The Yanks did exactly what they needed to do here. Now, all they have to do is continue win two of three in each of their remaining series and they'll have a fighting chance to play into October. I hate to end on a down note, but I'd be remiss if I didn't link to Bill Madden's article today about how Boss George and his crew have effectively frozen Stick Michael out of the picture. This is depressing and does not bode well as far as the future is concerned, but we can't worry about that right now. With just under three weeks left in the regular season, it's all about the team on the field, playing good ball, winning ball games, and hopefully making the playoffs.