I can honestly say that when the game was finally called tonight I actually realized I wasn’t really breathing through much of the 9th inning. And in a game that looked like it was going to be quite a blowout for much of the time, that’s saying a lot.
The Yankees played some Saturday night baseball in Baltimore (which apparently is the “Crab Cake Capital of the World”, making me regret the egg rolls and chocolate mint ice cream I had for dinner). And it was Ivan Nova that went SuperNova for most of the game tonight. Much like yesterday with another starter, Nova was sailing through the game until his final inning.
Leading up to this, the Yankees kind of piled on the runs. In the 3rd, Headley led-off with a double, moved to 3rd on a fly out, and then scored on Austin Romine’s sacrifice fly.
But it was the Yankees’ 4th inning that made all the difference tonight. Beltran and Rodriguez started the inning with singles, and Starlin Castro’s double scored Beltran. Didi Gregorius missed a 3-run home run by centimeters — a foul ball above the foul pole was called a foul, reviewed by the umpires themselves, and upheld as a foul (not enough evidence to prove it was a valid home run). Gregorius then grounded out, but scored Rodriguez. Rob Refsnyder’s 2-out double scored Castro, and Romine’s single then scored Refsnyder to cap off this 4-run inning.
It was also the last inning for the poor Orioles’ starter tonight. But that didn’t stop the Yankees from adding to their score (and they ended up needing it). In the 5th, Gardner singled, moved to 3rd on Rodriguez’s 1-out single, and then scored on Castro’s single. And Ellsbury’s 2-out single in the 6th made for an interesting inning. He moved to 3rd on Gardner’s single, and then they orchestrated a bit of a double steal. Gardner started the run towards 2nd, so the O’s catcher threw too late to 2nd. Meanwhile, Ellsbury made the jog home and didn’t even slide in the steal home, beating out the tag by a half-second.
Through his first 6 innings, Nova threw 80 pitches, gave up just 3 hits, a walk, and no runs, striking out 6 batters. Yes, Nova was on fire tonight. But then there was that pesky 7th inning. Nova gave up a big solo home run (to be fair, it was to the current MLB home run leader), a single, a 2-run home run, a single, a wild pitch, and a walk — all with no outs in that 7th inning. It was time for a change as Nova threw his 103rd pitch.
And with Betances out having been with recent work, the Yankees opted for Nick Goody, which might not have been the smartest choice in hindsight. Goody’s first pitch was a passed ball, which moved the runners (to be charged to Nova) up in scoring position. His second pitch was right over the plate to one of the Orioles’ power-hitting outfielders, who promptly sent it straight into the left field seats for a 3-run home run.
Pitching changed #2 of the inning. The Yankees bring in Andrew Miller, who proceeded to set down the Orioles in order. Miller plowed right through the 8th inning as well, with a total of 6 straight outs, 2 of which were excellent strikeouts.
Going from a 7-0 lead to the slim margin of a 1-run lead in the 7th, the Yankees offense needed room to breathe slightly. And they got their insurance run in the 9th inning. With a new pitcher and 1 out, Hicks doubled and then scored on Alex Rodriguez’s single. It was just enough to make everyone hope for something positive, but not enough to remember to breathe through the 9th inning.
But it would Aroldis Chapman to add his own bit of drama. A warm-up pitch caught catcher Austin Romine‘s nail wrong and filled his glove with blood (how’s that for a nice image this evening?). X-rays all came back negative, of course, but as a precaution, McCann jumped in behind the plate to catch Chapman, despite the recent rest for his hyperextended elbow. Anyway, Chapman got 2 outs right off, but then walked a batter who moved to 2nd on defensive indifference. But then he got a pinch-hitter swinging for the final out and his 9th save of the season.
And suddenly everyone remembered to breathe again.
Final score: 8-6 Yankees
It should be noted that the Yankees offense got 16 hits off the O’s pitchers, but no walks. And every single starting player got a hit, and all but 2 scored a run. Also, every single starter now has a batting average above .200. One writer quipped something snarky about miracles. But maybe “on-paper” has finally caught up to reality.
Injury Update: Okay, so bad news on the 1st baseman front. Mark Teixeira officially has a partial cartilege tear in his right knee. (As someone who’se also had this, I can personally tell you this is not good, nor does it heal fast.) Teixeira is thus placed on the 15-day DL, but could be out for some time.
In his place, the Yankees signed and called up Chris Parmelee to rotate with Refsnyder and other infielders for the position. To make room for Parmelee, Ackley has been transferred to the 60-day DL, thus removed from the 40-man roster. Ackley won’t be back until 2017 due to surgery on his shoulder. (Seriously, though, 1st basemen, stop injuring yourselves!)
Chasen Shreve is working his way towards good news. His sprained shoulder joint has him on the 15-day DL, but lately he’s been working on simple throwing regiment. He is set for a rehab start soon, most likely with AAA Scranton before returning to the Bronx.
Tomorrow is the final game for this road trip, the rubber match (to decided who wins the weekend series). And then come Monday, the Yankees return home for a solid homestand agaisnt the Angels and Tigers. But it’s also one of my favorite weeks of the year — HOPE Week, culminating in Sunday’s Old Timers’ Day. Much to talk about next week.
Don’t forget to vote for the All-Star Game starters!
Final note: Also, our thoughts and prayers go out to the family and friends of Muhammed Ali, aptly dubbed “The Greatest”. His model for tenacity, drive, and competition and his boldness and courage in the face of a debilitating disease like Parkinson’s is to be admired and desired. Go and be the “Greatest” in your own life, at what you do, to the people who you love and love you. Be a champion for others, and live your life to its fullest, not letting the things that try to stop you and distract you get in the way.