Tuesday night's epic triple-comeback classic lasted three hours and 49 minutes and saw six Yankee pitchers throw a total of 165 pitches. Last night, Chien-Ming Wang and Mariano Rivera set the Rangers down with a mere 95 tosses in a mere two hours and 34 minutes. If not for a two bad pitches by Chien-Ming Wang in the eighth and a trio of errors by the right side of the Yankee infield earlier in the game, the 4-3 win would have been about as tidy a game as one could ask for after Tuesday night's glorious mess.
The Yanks took an early lead in the bottom of the first when Derek Jeter reached on an infield single, was pushed to second by an eight-pitch walk to DH Jason Giambi, moved to third on an Alex Rodriguez fly out to right and was plated by Tuesday night's hero, Jorge Posada.
Working with alarming efficiency, Wang managed to get into and out of a third inning jam on nine pitches (single, single, line-out, double play), but ran into trouble in the fourth when Robinson Cano botched a play at second base for the first of his two errors on the night. After Mark Teixeira grounded out to Cano to start the inning, Phil Nevin drew a five-pitch walk. Hank Blalock then hit a sharp grounder to Alex Rodriguez's left that the Yankee third baseman managed to stab and shovel to second to force out Nevin. Cano, thinking of turning another inning-ending double play, took the throw coming across the bag, but dropped the ball while making the transfer to his throwing hand. Not only that, but in his haste to turn the DP, came too far across the bag to get the neighborhood call, a situation likely exacerbated by his flubbing the transfer. Nevin was called safe and Kevin Mench followed with an RBI single on the next pitch before Wang struck out Brad Wilkerson on three more throws.
Cano literally booted another ball in the top of the fifth, but another DP grounder erased his baserunner and Wang pounced on a Gary Matthews Jr. bunt to get out of the inning on just seven pitches. The Yanks then sprung into action with two outs in the fifth when another eight-pitch Giambi at-bat ended in a flared double to left center. Alex Rodriguez followed with his second infield single of the game, this one ticking off the end of Hank Blalock's glove in the shortstop hole (the first was a Baltimore chop Alex beat out). That brought up Posada, who again delivered an RBI single. Cano and Bernie Williams followed with RBI singles past Mark DeRosa into right before Andy Phillips threw his bat at a 2-2 pitch to ground into an inning-ending fielder's choice.
Wang continued to cruise from there, needing eight pitches in the sixth--with Cano narrowly avoiding another error on the first out (as in the fifth, he didn't stay down on a grounder right to him), before turning yet another inning-ending double play--and eight more in the seventh, thanks to a terrific spin play by Jeter ranging behind second. Incidentally, Andy Phillips, who committed the first error of the game in the first, made difficult picks at first on both the sixth-inning double play and Jeter's spin-throw in the seventh.
In the eighth, Wang got DeRosa to ground out on his second pitch, but then gave up a double to Gerald Laird and a two-run homer to Matthews on his next two offerings to bring the Rangers within a run. He then needed just seven more pitches to get Michael Young and Teixeira to ground out to end the inning, ending his night having thrown 68 percent of a mere 81 pitches for strikes across eight innings of work. Mariano Rivera, pitched a 1-2-3 ninth to wrap things up.
In other news, Carl Pavano threw just nine pitches in his third rehab start, his second with double-A Trenton, failing to answer the bell for the second inning because of tightness in the triceps of his pitching arm. Pavano left his previous start nearly 30 pitches shy of his allotted total due to bicep soreness, which was categorized as typical spring training soreness. Confusingly, roving pitching instructor Rich Monteleone described the problem as "soreness from his forearm, also his triceps . . . where he had it last time."
Pavano, whose rehab clock fittingly expires on June 6 (6/6/6) was expected to throw 90 pitches last night, make one more rehab start on Monday and then rejoin the team, likely making his first start in the last series of the month in Detroit. Now Joe Torre, has said that Pavano is likely headed back to Tampa, and that the setback "stops [the rehab assignment] short." Indeed, given these two setbacks, even if the soreness is insignificant Pavano won't be able to get his pitch count up to where it needs to be by June 6. Pavano's last major league start came on June 27 of last year and he was initially expected to be out for the minimum 15 days. He's now on the verge of having been out of commission for a full calendar year without having had surgery, broken or torn anything. Remarkable.
Speaking of sore starters, the Yankees are considering starting Aaron Small in place of Shawn Chacon on Sunday. Chacon took a comebacker off his left shin (his landing leg) against the Red Sox last week and it's believed that the resulting bruise has caused him to alter his mechanics, resulting in his poor showing in that game and the disaster start that set the stage for Tuesday's comeback. The Yankees will have the hematoma ultrasounded today with thoughts of draining it, and have instructed Chacon to lighten his workouts and stay off the leg as much as possible.
The Yankees finish their series with the Rangers today sending Jaret Wright up against Vincente Padilla, whose worst start of the year came against the Yanks in Texas. Fittingly, Wright will be making his eighteenth start as a Yankee, surpassing Pavano's pinstriped total. Go figure that the guy who failed his physical would turn out to be the better signing of the two (faint praise to say the least). At least the entire blogging/sabermetric community didn't see this sort of thing coming. Oh wait, we did.