The New York Yankees beat the Detroit Tigers, 5-4, today in one of the most emotionally confusing games of the season. The two old war horses, Andy Pettitte and Mariano Rivera could not get the job done but the Yankees scored enough runs off of Justin Verlander to allow Brett Gardner to hit a shot into the second deck in right off of Jose Veras (welcome to our world, Detroit) to win the game in walk off fashion. To add to the emotional confusion, before Gardner's heroics, Alex Rodriguez was the offensive star of the game, A-Rod started the Yankees scoring with his first home run of the season with a shot to left off of Justin Verlander in the second inning and an inning later, hit a single to drive in another run. Alfonso Soriano hit his third homer as a Yankee off of Verlander in the fourth to give the Yankees a 4-1 lead.
The four runs were much more than was expected off of Verlander. Things looked grim in the first inning. First, Andy Pettitte again labored with a 30-pitch inning but escaped with only one run crossing the plate. Pettitte allowed three singles and a walk but was saved by a double play, third to first, started by Alex Rodriguez.
The Yankees went 1-2-3 in the bottom of the first and it looked like it was going to be one of those long days again--especially when Pettitte gave up a double and a walk in the top of the second and once again escaped without further damage.
After A-Rod's homer--which encouragingly came on an inside fastball--Lyle Overbay hit a single to center, Soriano struck out but then with Overbay running on the pitch (!), Curtis Granderson hit a single to put runners on first and third with one out. Eduardo Nunez hit a rope to center but Austin Jackson handled the hit and Overbay scored on the sacrifice fly.
Pettitte had his only decent inning in the third as he worked around an error by A-Rod on a slow roller by Victor Martine. In fairness to his A-Rodness, the ball did take a funny hop off the lip of the grass.
With two outs in the bottom of the third, Robinson Cano hit a ground rule double to left and then scored on A-Rod's single to right. With a 4-1 lead, perhaps the former Andy Pettitte would have settled down and closed the door. But he is not that Andy Pettitte any more.
In the top of the fifth, Miguel Cabrera led off the inning against Pettitte with a double. Prince Fielder struck out but Victor Martinez hit a single to make it first and third with one out. Joe Girardi had seen enough when Pettitte then walked Matt Tuiasosopo to load the bases.
Shawn Kelley came into the game with a record of 22 stranded base runners out of 24 this season. He did it again in this game and probably saved the game for the Yankees with a strikeout and a pop up to end the threat. Pettitte's line was 4.1 innings, eight hits, three walks, but only one run. Pettitte's WHIP is now up to 1.46. Sad.
Both Kelley and Boone Logan pitched an inning and a third and held the Tigers without a run. But the two best relievers in the Yankees' bullpen were not so fortunate.
In the top of the eighth, David Robertson gave up a homer to Brayan Pena as the first batter he faced. Jose Iglesias continued his pixie dust season with his second infield single of the game and things were not looking good for Robertson. Things looked even worse than that when Austin Jackson hit a roller down the third base line that A-Rod had to handle on the foul side of third. A-Rod made a nice play and threw to second. That's when the Yankees got a huge break.
Iglesias was clearly safe at second, but rookie umpire, Will Little, called him out. Jim Leyland argued to no avail. Then things got even more fortunate as Torii Hunter hit an absolute rocket to center. Brett Gardner raced back, leaped and caught the ball and slammed into the wall. The collision knocked the wind out of him and Gardner rolled the ball to left-fielder, Alfonso Soriano. Austin Jackson saw the ball on the ground and, after some indecision, ran to second. But Gardner had caught the ball and Jackson was tagged out for a double-play.
In the top of the ninth, Phil Coke proved once again that the Yankees are the only team he pitches well against as he easily blew them away in order. That set up yet another showdown between Mariano Rivera and Miguel Cabrera. But this time, Cabrera was the first batter up with a two run deficit for his team. Cabrera won the battle again with a bomb to right.
To pause a bit here, let's talk about pitch selection. Cabrera is too smart to be fooled by the in and out method of pitching. And since he goes the other way when needed, throwing him an outside pitch is just stupid. But for the second straight day, that is where Rivera was asked to pitch him and two homers were the result.
Rivera then got Fielder but Victor Martinez tied the game with his own homer to right and Rivera had recorded his third straight blown save. The reality is that the Yankees are unlikely to go anywhere and this is going to be one of those seasons where the playoffs are not going to happen. The least Yankee fans want is to see their old heroes, Pettitte and Rivera, go out like Gary Cooper in Shane. But it is not working out that way.
Rivera got the next two batters out weakly to keep the Yankees in the game and that got him a win when Gardner delivered his kill shot.
And so, it was a strangely emotional game today at Yankee Stadium. Two old heroes could no longer win their battles. The scorned A-Rod was a batting star and looked fairly nifty in the field and then Brett Gardner sent the fans home happy and got a Gatorade bath. Probably the biggest surprise of them all was that our Stacey was at the game and the Yankees still won.