In a game that featured both what's right and what's wrong with the Yankees at this stage in the season, the Yankees defeated the Rangers 9-2 to take the rubber game of the series and hold a share of first place for the first time since April 16, 2008.
In the first inning, the Yankees jumped out to a lead they would never relinquish, as Mark Teixeira launched a two run homer to left, his 15th of the season, good for second in the AL. Teix would add a hot shot single in the third and just miss a second long ball in the fifth when he tomahawked one to the centerfield warning track. Over his last 15 games Teixeira is hitting .426/.486/.918 with 8 HR and 22 RBI.
Hideki Matsui and Robinson Cano would also get in on the homer act, with Matsui homering to right in both the sixth and seventh innings and Cano crushing one to right in the ninth. The other Yankee runs would come on an RBI double by Derek Jeter in the second and a Kevin Cash two run single in the sixth.
Cash, getting his second start in the series, went 2 for 4, raising his average to a robust .231, and leaving him at 5 for 9 in the series. He also threw out 1 of 2 would-be base stealers on the night. After entering the series 1 for 17 on the year, and entering the game having caught just 1 of 9 on the bases, Cash is probably sad to leave Texas. With Posada set to come off the DL as soon as Friday, Cash may want to consider staying there.
All told, Jeter, Teixeira, Matsui, Cano, Gardner, and Cash all had multi-hit games. Every starter save for Johnny Damon recorded a hit. Damon gave the team a scare in the field, crashing into the left field wall at a time when the team can scarcely afford to lose another outfielder. Angel Berroa made another ninth inning pinch running appearance and got doubled up at the plate for the final Yankee out when he tried to score on a Jeter flyout.
From the mound, A.J. Burnett earned his first win since April 14th, and did so in an unusual manner. He went 6 scoreless innings, allowing only 3 hits, issuing 4 walks, and striking out 7. But, he threw under 60% of his pitches for strikes and needed 117 pitches to get through 6 innings, a whopping 19.5 pitches per IP.
With Burnett done after six, the Yankees needed three innings from the bullpen. Despite a comfortable eight run lead, Joe Girardi would not let Brett Tomko pitch for the first time since Sunday. Nor would he immediatley turn to Chien-Ming Wang, who hadn't pitched since Friday and desperately needs innings.
Instead, Jose Veras got the ball for the twenty-first time this season, and turned in yet another representative performance: double, groundout, homer, walk, showers. David Robertson came on to clean up the mess Veras left and illustrated why he should have been on the roster ahead of Veras a long time ago, using six strikes on eight pitches in retiring both batters he saw.
Wang pitched the final two innings, and looked far better than he did against Philly on Friday. He needed just 26 pitches in working two perfect innings, throwing 69% of his pitches for strikes. He recorded two outs via strikeouts, two on the ground, and two in the air. The GB/FB ratio isn't quite what you'd like to see from Wang, but looking at it over a two inning outing isn't very telling.
What is telling is that his sinker looked good. It was staying down in the zone and his velocity was good. Wang looked like a far more confident pitcher last night. He's not where he once was, nor is he where he needs to be in order to be trustworthy again. But let's hope tonight was step one on the path to recovery.
Open Thread: February 24th Camp Notes
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