Unimpressed by the Tigers' young ace Justin Verlander, the Yankees staked Chien-Ming Wang to a 5-0 lead in the third inning last night, but the Yankee sinkerballer couldn't hold it, giving back three in the fourth and loading the bases with no outs to start the fifth. Though a Jason Giambi solo home run had increased the Yankee lead to 6-3, Joe Torre had seen enough, Yanking Wang in favor of rookie Darrell Rasner.
It was a hell of a position for Rasner to make his Yankee debut in, and somewhat reminiscent of Torre bringing in a struggling and homer-prone Javier Vazquez in a similar situation in the seventh game of the 2004 ALCS. Indeed, Magglio Ordoñez laced Rasner's first pitch into center to bring the Tigers within one, but Rasner recovered to set the next three men down in order and preserve the lead, finishing the inning by getting Omar Infante waiving at a nasty breaking ball.
The Yankees loaded the bases themselves with one out in the seventh against fireballer Joel Zumaya, but because of the injuries to Derek Jeter and Gary Sheffield, had Terrence Long and Miguel Cairo due up. Long fouled out on the first pitch he saw and Cairo grounded out to end the threat.
Scott Proctor and Fernando Rodney then traded pairs of scoreless innings, leaving it up to Kyle Farnsworth to protect the Yankees' one-run lead in the bottom of the ninth because Mariano Rivera--two days after pitching three innings in a regular season game for the first time since 1996, the third of which came with a five-run lead--strained his back putting on his spikes before the game.
Farnsworth was greeted by lead-off hitter Curtis Granderson, who worked him over for nine pitches before flying out to left. Marcus Thames did the same, but instead worked a walk, thanks in part to the small strike zone of home-plate umpire Laz Diaz. Farnsworth then got ahead of Ivan Rodriguez 0-2 on a called strike and a checked swing only to have Rodriguez yank a ball out of the dirt and into left field for a single pushing Thames to second. That man Ordoñez then poked Farnsworth's next pitch into right for an RBI single, tying the game and pushing the winning run to second with one out. Farnsworth then fell behind Carlos Guillen 3-1. Guillen sent Farnsworth's 27th pitch of the inning into right to score Rodriguez for the win, preventing a four-game Yankee sweep.
Hey, tough knocks. Whatchugonnado? The Yankees have bigger problems than taking three of four from the team with the best record in the majors. Gary Sheffield has a torn ligament and a dislocating tendon in his left wrist that, if it doesn't respond to a few weeks of therapy, will require surgery that could keep the Yankee right fielder out for the remainder of the season. Derek Jeter was useless in Tuesday's game after jamming a finger on Monday and hasn't played the last two days. The severity of Rivera's back problems is unknown, and Johnny Damon and Jorge Posada are both playing hurt, the latter's torn hamstring tendon costing the Yankees a crucial run in the seventh last night when Jorge was unable to score from second on an Andy Phillips single and was instead stranded at third by Long and Cairo.
The good news is that Damon, whose foot injury has finally been identified as a broken sesamoid bone in his right foot, is feeling better after sitting out Tuesday and Wednesday and that Jeter is expected to play against the Orioles tonight. In addition, Shawn Chacon's rehab remains on schedule with him set to make a rehab start with the Trendon Thunder on Sunday and, if all goes well then, return from the DL to start on Thursday. The Yankees are also hoping Octavio Dotel will be ready to join the team a week later following a minor league rehab assignment that's expected to begin next week.
Oh, and Bubba Crosby's recovery from his hamstring injury has been slower than expected. He's now expected back next weekend, which is at least good news for Kevin Thompson.