Well, that was a real nail-biter for about ten minutes there. Do you remember when, in previous recaps, I joked about how Andy Pettitte never seems to get any run support? Never mind. Playing Super Mario to the Devil Rays’ goombas, the Yankees won the last game of the series 21-4. Look at that box score… I mean, reallylook at it.
This wasn’t Andy Pettitte’s best outing. He was uneven, alternately dominating (8 Ks) and all too hittable, with 11 baserunners allowed in six innings of work. But he managed to ease out of most of his jams without too much damage, just three runs total -- not that it mattered.
The Devil Rays took a one-run lead in the second on a Carlos Pena homer, and I hope that, for their sake, they really savored the moment. The Yankees tied it in the bottom of the inning off D-Rays starter James Shields, on another bomb from Hideki Matsui, who set a career high with five hits. I’d say he’s continuing his hot streak, but to be fair, a well-watered potted plant might have teed off on Tampa Bay's pitching on Sunday. The Bombers took a 3-1 lead in the bottom of the third, but Pettitte immediately gave it back with a series of singles that tied the game; as he wriggled out of the inning, I thought we were in for a slugfest, but a tense slugfest.
Then the bottom of the fourth happened. Rather than try to summarize the entire thing, I’ll just give you the straight play-by-play:
Robinson Cano triples.
Andy Phillips singles to left, Cano scores, 4-3 Yankees.
Shelley Duncan walks.
Melky Cabrera grounds into force out, Duncan out at second, Phillips to third. One out.
Derek Jeter singles to right, Phillips scores, Melky to third. 5-3 Yankees.
Bobby Abreu singles to right, Melky scores. 6-3 Yankees. Double steal, throwing error, Jeter scores, Abreu to third. 7-3 Yankees.
Alex Rodriguez walks.
Hideki Matsui singles to center, Abreu scores. 8-3 Yankees. Pitcher Casey Fossum replaces James Shields.
Jorge Posada singles to left, Rodriguez scores. 9-3 Yankees.
Robinson Cano singles. Matsui scores. 10-3 Yankees. Wild pitch, runners advance.
Andy Phillips strikes out. Two out.
Duncan Shelly hits a three-run home run to left. 13-3 Yankees.
Melky Cabrera walks.
Derek Jeter grounds out.
Now that’s what I call Farnsworth-proofing. It was not unlike batting practice, except, according to Torre in the Times, even better:
“I’ve never seen anything like these last two days,” Manager Joe Torre said. “Even in batting practice you don’t get hits every time you swing the bats. This was incredible.”
Ouch. This all took more than half an hour, and Pettitte was understandably a bit rusty on his return to the mound, despite having retreated to the clubhouse to throw into a net... but by that point, nobody cared.
The Yankees scored seven more runs before the end, including homers from Abreu, Cano, Rodriguez, and Duncan, again. The rookie’s now gotten three curtain calls in two days, and while there’s really nowhere to go from there but down, his goofy, intense enthusiasm has been charming; I plan to enjoy it while it lasts.
The Devil Rays, meanwhile, dragged out a series of interchangeable, young, overmatched relievers, of whom only Gary Glover was at all effective. And thank god for him, because otherwise the Yankees would probably still be batting in the sixth. The bullpen wasn't helped by its fielders, who were charged with two errors but made a considerable number of other sloppy mistakes besides. “Some of the play today, and in this series - it’s just not acceptable at the major-league level,” said Al Leiter, sounding pained.
By the end of the game, Miguel Cairo was at short, Johnny Damon was inserted in right field, Andy Phillips played third and Duncan was at 1st. Sean Henn planted himself at the far outside edge of the batter's box and struck out, in his first Major League at-bat, as the Yankees had lost their DH. Posada was still behind the plate, however; new Yankee Jose Molina had only just arrived, and could be seen looking on with bemusement at the Yanks’ increasingly giddy dugout antics. He only narrowly avoided getting caught in the bouncing Cabrera-Cano sandwich that engulfed A-Rod after his home run.
--Fun Facts: Every Yankee starter was on base at least twice, scored at least one run, and had at least one RBI; the team has scored 38 runs in its last two games, on 45 hits. For perspective, the Yankees haven’t had two 20-hit games in a row since they were just proto-Yankees at the dawn of the 20th century, and haven’t scored this many runs in back-to-back games since the Great Depression.
--Among the many balls careening out of the Stadium yesterday was Alex Rodriguez’s 498th career home run, which means his 500th is likely to come on the road. That’s too bad, but really, it seems ungrateful to complain about any aspect of A-Rod’s current season. While I realize that RBIs are an unreliable, largely team-dependant statistic and rarely pay them much mind… if you have 99 of them on July 22nd, you’re doing something right.
Those of you more intrigued by the sultry siren-song of sabermetrics might be happy to learn that Magglio Ordonez’s reign of VORPish terror has finally come to an end, and A-Rod has resumed his rightful place at the top of the charts, 59.3 to 54.