The Yankees won ugly yesterday afternoon, beating the Mets 11-8 in a game that saw almost constant scoring by both teams. The Mets scored in each of the first four frames, driving Tyler Clippard from the game in the fourth after taking a 5-4 lead on a one-out, two-run Ramon Castro homer and then putting two more men on base. Luis Vizcaino shut the door and the Yanks took back the lead for good in the bottom of the frame on a two-run Derek Jeter homer, but at 6-5 the game was far from over. Tom Glavine got bounced in the fifth and the Yankees scored two runs in each inning from the second through the sixth to build their lead to 10-5, but even that wasn't all.
Kyle Farnsworth was up to his old tricks in the eighth, walking the leadoff man and number eight hitter, then watching him come around to score before striking out Carlos Beltran and David Wright to end the inning. The Yankees got that run back in the next half inning, but Mariano Rivera followed with his worst outing since April. Entering the game, Rivera hadn't allowed a run in his last 10 1/3 innings and had allowed just six base runners and struck out 12 over that span. Yesterday, Mo was greeted by back-to-back singles by Carlos Delgado and Paul Lo Duca, then, after a Shawn Green fly out, Ramon Castro singled to load the bases. Mo bore down and struck out Ruben Gotay on three pitches for the second out, but Carlos Gomez reached on yet another infield single (his fourth in two games) to plate Delgado and Jose Reyes singled off Rivera's ankle to plate Lo Duca before Mo finally got Carlos Beltran to pop out to end the game.
The good news on Rivera is that there's no conern over the ankle and he didn't allow any extra base hits or walk anyone, and he was able to bear down and K Gotay (who had singled, homered, and walked twice in his previous four plate appearances), so odds are the outing was just a fluke, though the 33 pitches he threw likely eliminate him from tonight's rubber game.
In other good news, Luis Vizcaino, who picked up the win yesterday, hasn't allowed a run in his last five outings and has a 1.13 ERA over his last seven. He's still walking a ton of batters, but he's striking out even more, suppressing hits, and getting the job done. In other words, he's gone from being a Kyle Farnsworth imitator to being a Brian Bruney imitator. Supposedly some coaching from Rivera has made the difference.
Finally, Clippard's poor outing yesterday has opened the door for the return of Kei Igawa. In his last two starts, Clippard has a 14.14 ERA and a 2.43 WHIP. Igawa, meanwhile, has reworked his mechanics and posted the following line over his last three starts in triple-A Scranton:
20 IP, 15 H, 4 ER, 6 BB, 21 K, 1.05 WHIP, 1.80 ERA
The Yankees won't need a fifth starter again until Saturday, but all signs point to the return of Iggy. Clippard has already been demoted, with the Yankees bringing up Kevin Thompson to finally expand their bench back to four men. With Randy Johnson back on the DL, Vicaino pitching well, Igawa due to return, and Bobby Abreu and Alex Rodriguez carrying the team, Brian Cashman could look a whole lot smarter a week from now than he did just a few short weeks ago.
As for tonight's game, this should be a real treat. Not only is it the rubber game of the home half of the subway series, with the Yanks poised once again to hit their high-water mark of the season by going three games over .500 with a win, a win which would also earn them a split of the season series with the Mets, but the pitching match up is Chien-Ming Wang versus El Duque. Seriously now, could it get much more fun than that?
The one concern going into tonight's game is the fact that the Mets, particularly rookie speedster Gomez, have been getting an unusual number of infield hits and have stolen ten bases in two games against Jorge Posada and the slow-to-the-plate Yankee pitchers. Wang has allowed just five steals all year, but his ground ball tendencies could make him susceptible to the turnaround in the Mets line-up with Gomez and Reyes legging out infield hits. As for El Duque, he allowed just two runs in his first 19 innings after coming off the DL in late May, but had a rough go in his last outing against the Dodgers, though he still hasn't allowed a home run in his last 38 2/3 innings. Here's hoping he breaks out the eephus against Rodriguez and Alex gives it a ride.