June 7, 2009

Rivera redeems himself, another comeback win

The Yankees (33-23) captured their 20th comeback victory in a 4-3 defeat of the Rays (29-29).

Quick ‘Cap:
In an exciting pitchers duel, both young pitchers were worked hard and neither went deep into the game.  In the third, both Joba Chamberlain and Matt Garza allowed a run.  B.J. Upton hit an RBI double, and Nick Swisher led off the bottom half with a homer. 

Garza left after five —his shortest outing of the year— and Joba left after the sixth.  Joba couldn’t quite make it out of the sixth unscathed, but it was still a quality outing.  Gabe Gross hit a two-run single with two out to give the Rays a 3-1 lead.

The Yankees were shut down by a normally shaky Rays bullpen until Grant Balfour came on in the eighth.  He allowed singles to Johnny Damon and Mark Teixeira, and then walked Alex Rodriguez.  Then Robinson Cano walked in a run, Willy Aybar booted a double play ball, and then Hideki Matsui beat out another double play ball allowing the winning run to score. 

Mariano Rivera went back to doing his thing in the ninth, and he ended the game by inducing a grounder from the guy he intentionally walked yesterday – Evan Longoria.  Full box score here.

It was certainly a great way to bounce back against an opponent they have struggled against this season.  The Rays kind of handed the game away in the eighth, because the Yankees didn’t have any big hits.  But that’s the thing with this lineup.  It’s so deep that every hitter is patient enough to work a walk.  Three walks in the eighth won them the game.

Surprisingly, Garza was outlasted by Joba, but his worst inning was his last.  Why can’t Joba last even longer though?  Because he threw 56/100 pitches for strikes.  More importantly, of the 26 batters he faced, he started 16 of them with balls.  First pitch strikes are crucial to pitching deep into games, and Joba needs to work on that.

Noteworthy Performances:
- Alfredo Aceves bridged the gap to Mo, tossing two shutout innings.  He also struck out four (three in the eighth).
- Rivera needed a second chance at this team, and got it.  According to Suzyn Waldman, Joe Girardi pulled him after 2/3 of an inning yesterday to keep him fresh for today.  Well that certainly worked out.

Up Next:
The rubber match is set for Monday night on ESPN (so I will get to watch).  As of right now, Andy Pettitte (5-2, 4.33) will take on Andy Sonnanstine (4-5, 7.07).  But don’t be surprised if Phil Hughes makes an appearance tomorrow, as he was expected to pitch in today’s game.

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