The Yankees had a nice, only intermittently terrifying 7-6 win over the Twins this afternoon. The good news: they flashed some long-overdue power, and though A-Rod (0 for his last 19) sat this one out, his MRI came back normal. The bad news: Kei Igawa.
Igawa walked the first batter he faced and then allowed three straight soft singles (though Cuddyer was hung up between 1st and 2nd on one of those), a strikeout, a bungled play near the mound that became an awkward pop-up single, and another strikeout; when the smoke cleared it was 2-0 Twins. It's rare to get significant booing at Yankee Stadium in the top of the first inning like that -- people are still filing in and buying hot dogs and whatnot -- but Igawa's got the knack for it.
Those first-inning hits were pretty weak, so you could try to chalk them up to bad luck if you were so inclined... except that later in the game he would go on to enjoy much better luck, and pitch even worse. During the in-game comments, someone asked what kind of pitches Igawa was throwing, and the truth is I could barely tell. You’d probably need to get a forensics team in there to be sure: “Well, based on this partial thumbprint, it appears this was meant to be a curveball… but it’s difficult to be sure, as the ball has suffered severe blunt trauma.”
The Yanks broke through for five runs off Kevin Slowey in the second, all with two outs...
[Off the top of my head and in no particular order, the worst pitcher names* ever:
And, of course, the immortal Bob Walk.
...Anyway! In that second inning, Robinson Cano homered, his fifth of the year; Andy Phillips and Miguel “Mig-Rod” Cairo hit back to back doubles to tie the game; Damon walked; and Melky Cabrera followed with a solid three-run shot to center, giving the Yanks a 5-2 lead. Melky’s been on fire recently, and his stats are beginning to come around to respectable levels, though after his molasses-slow start he still has a ways to go. Asked about Cabrera after the game, longtime friend, fellow home run-hitter, and carpooler Robinson Cano said, “we’re going to be making some jokes in the car.”
Igawa had a quick second inning and a passable third, but came undone again in the fourth. After a double and two quick outs (thanks to nice plays on line drives by Jeter and, believe it or not, Johnny Damon in center), Igawa walked tiny (but lovable!) .202 hitter Nick Punto, then got what he deserved: a two-run double, a single, and a tie game. Igawa recovered and made it through the fifth, but not before making thousands of viewers reflect with nostalgia on Tyler Clippard.
The Yanks then got scoreless relief from Luis Vizcaino, Scott Proctor, and Kyle Farnsworth… I feel this moment should be commemorated with some sort of plaque or official proclamation. But moving on. In the bottom of the 8th, the Twins brought in effectively twitchy submariner Pat Neshek, my choice for the final AL All-Star Vote (and I certainly wasn’t alone). With two out and Jeter on first, Matsui broke the 5-5 tie with a massive shot to right-center, and I may be wrong about this, but it seems like even though Matsui only has 10 homers this year, a lot of those have really been crushed. Rough day all around for Neshek, who also lost the 32nd All-Star vote to Hideki Okajima... but I still want a "Pitch in for Pat" t-shirt.
So it was 7-5 Yankees going into the ninth, but Mariano Rivera, thoughtful guy that he is, didn’t want fans to get bored. So decided to heighten the excitement by allowing two consecutive singles (though the second should probably have been called an error on Jeter, on a DP ball no less). He then settled down and, after a tense moment with one out, runners and second and third, and Joe Mauer at the plate, induced an RBI groundout; finally, Michael Cuddyer was called out on a somewhat questionable checked swing strikeout, ending the threat and the game. That moves Mo into a tie for third on the all-time saves list with John Franco (really? I always liked John Franco, but third all-time?). After the game, Rivera said he was thrilled with the personal milestone and determined to reach second place, and that this was just as important to him as the Yankees' record--... oh, just kidding:
"The most important thing is that we won the game," he said. " ... It's not about me."
* “What’s the pitcher’s name?” “What’s on second!” Sorry, had to get that out.