Seven batters were hit in Saturday's game and yet there was no beef between the Yankees and Red Sox. My, how times have changed. But things got lively on Sunday night--Kevin Youkilis slid hard into home, brushing against Joba Chamberlain's leg in the fifth inning, and Chamberlain threw a pitch behind The Greek God of Walks in the sixth before walking him on a 3-2 pitch. Joba vs Youk would be some Beffy Battle Royale but it'll have to wait for another day. The loudest fight of the night came when Joe Girardi got himself run for arguing balls and strikes with home plate ump, Laz Diaz. But the Yanks had the biggest fight in them, as they rallied and won in extra innings, 5-4.
Chamberlain pitched well in the early going, working quickly and efficiently through the first four innings. But he allowed the first three runners to reach base in the fifth, with Youkilis scoring on a wild pitch. Chamberlain regrouped, struck out the next two batters and then shook Jose Molina off before throwing a 3-2 pitch to Jacoby Ellsbury. Molina went out to talk to Chamberlain who proceeded to walk Ellsbury on a check swing. Chamberlain threw a slider; apparently, Molina wanted a fastball. Dustin Pedroia was next and he fisted an inside fastball into right field for a two-run single. Chamberlain gave up three runs on four hits, he walked four and struck out five in six innings.
Alex Rodriguez, front page tabloid fodder all weekend, launched a knuckle ball into the left field seats to lead off the second inning, his 18th homer of the year and 536th of his career, tying him with Mickey Mantle on the all-time list. It would be the last hit the Yankees would collect until the sixth. Derek Jeter singled home a run before that inning was out, then helped give one right back in the top of the seventh as a throwing error led to a run.
Rodriguez lunged at an 0-2 pitch from Wakefield to start the bottom of the seventh, good for a bloop single to right field. After Jason Giambi popped out to right, Javier Lopez, a lefty, came on to face Jorge Posada, who had whiffed twice against Wakefield. On the 1-1 pitch, the Yankees put the hit-and-run play on, and Posada slapped an ouside pitch into right center field, putting runners at first and third. Robinson Cano then laced a breaking ball into the right center field gap, scoring both runs, good for a triple, and a tie game.
The Red Sox moved their infield in, and Melky Cabrera could not drive the run home. He tapped a ground ball to Pedroia who fired home in time to nail Cano for the second out. Manny Delcarmen relieved Lopez and struck out Molina to end the inning.
The Yankees' own heart-attack special, Kyle Farnsworth worked a one-two-three frame and Delcarmen returned the favor in the bottom of the eighth, thanks in part to a diving catch by Ellsbury, robbing Abreu of a hit.
Then, Mariano Rivera, a day after his Houdini Act, was on in the ninth. Sean Casey blooped the first pitch he saw into center field for a single; Cabrera made a stab for it but caught it on the short-hop. Brandon Moss entered the game to run for Casey and quickly advanced to second as Coco Crisp bunted the first pitch he saw from Rivera. In keeping with the spirit of the inning, pinch-hitter Jason Varitek swung at the first pitch, broke his bat, and nubbed a cutter to the right side. Rivera fielded the ball the tossed it to first for the second out, Moss to third.
How about another pinch hitter? How about Washington Heights' own, Manny Ramirez? How about some noise at the Stadium? First pitch, fastball for a called strike, a pitch that was right over the plate. Next, another heater, this one higher, called strike two. And now the Stadium was very loud, fans standing, clapping. Finally, a third cutter, over the outside corner. Ramirez didn't move his bat. Called strike three. What an odd sight, Ramirez like a statue. Six pitches in the inning for Rivera.
Hidkeki Okajima retired Rodriguez on a sharp ground ball to Lowell in the bottom of the ninth. He fell behind Giambi, 2-0, then 3-1, but got Giambi to pop up for the second out and then struck Posada out on a 3-2 curve to send the game into extra innings.
Ellsbury led off the tenth againist Rivera and he was hand-cuffed by a cutter, popping out to Rodriguez in foul territory. Pedroia took a strike, next, a fastball low, then swung wildly through a fastball before chasing another cutter--this one out of the zone--for the second out. J.D. Drew grounded out to Jeter for the final out, though Jeter's throw was high enough to make my heart skip a beat.
In the bottom of the tenth, Jonathan Paplebon got ahead of Cano 0-2, who put good swings on the ball, and then pounded a high fastball up-the-middle for a base hit. After hitting into a double play in a tight situation against the Rangers, Cabrera put down a bunt...successfully. Paplebon fielded, looked at second, hesitated, and then threw to first to get Cabrera. He had a shot at Cano too.
Wilson Betemit pinch-hit for Molina, took a fastball for a strike, swung through another one, took one high for a ball, and then waved through more gas to return from whence he came. Brett Gardner, in for Johnny Damon, who was placed on the DL for the first time in his career, fell behind 0-2, slapped two fastballs foul, took a fastball inside, another one just outside, fouled another heater off, and then grounded a splitter weakly past Paplebon. Julio Lugo dove for the ball, it knocked off his glove, Cano scored and the Yankees had the game. Shades of Luis Sojo in the 2000 World Series. It wasn't a great splitter from Paplebon, and the pesky Gardner, in the 21st at bat of his career, popped his cherry.
Cue Sinatra. A lovely, much-needed win as the Yanks split the series.