Wednesday, June 17, 2009

CC & Cano Carry

For the first four innings of last night's game, everything went accoring to plan. The Yankees pushed across a run via a Melky Cabrera sacrifice fly in the second inning and another on a single by Robinson Cano in the third. CC Sabathia mowed through the Nationals' line-up, who collectively looked like they'd much rather be somewhere else. It only took 46 pitches to get through the four frames and CC never used up more than 5 pitches on any single at bat. He gave up three hits, but his efficency and dominance made the outcome of the game seem like a forgone conclusion.

Anyone who bought into this notion was in for a rude awakening in the fifth inning, however. Former Yankees Alberto Gonzalez and Wil Nieves got on via back to back one out singles, the latter the result of a tough 9 pitch at bat, setting the table for the legendary Anderson Hernandez.

Owner of a .309 career slugging percentage and one home run in 356 plate appearances, Hernandez was clearly not cause for much concern. But down 1-2, he reversed a floated change up into the most unlikely of home runs, just of the the reach of Johnny Damon in the left field corner. A shocked crowd at the Stadium watched in relative silence as Hernandez rounded the bases and the Nationals pulled ahead 3-2.

The circumstances were similar to the three run homer Sabathia gave up to Willy Aybar in his last start against the Rays. In the sixth inning of that game, Sabathia looked dominant aside from a hiccup the inning before, but allowed two quick baserunners, and in a flash, Aybar turned the game on it's head with a three-run homer to left.

Not to fear, because another Yankee castoff would factor into the decision. Good old Ron Villone (or should I say bad old Ron Villone) entered the game with a 0.96 ERA for the Nationals on the season, allowing just two runs in 18 2/3 innings pitched. Memories of Villone's 120 or so innings with a 4.90 ERA for the Yankees foreshadowed what was about to happen next.

In the top of the 7th Villone came into to replace Sharion Martis, who had allowed only one earned run despite walking 5, giving even more creedence to the rookie starter conspiracy. Ronny V promptly served up a single to Johnny Damon and a towering double off the wall in left center to Mark Teixeira to tie the game at 3. A-Rod struck out to a chorus of boos, but the player of the night, Robinson Cano stepped in finish the deal.

Robby laced a line drive over the head of Elijah Dukes in centerfield who made two mistakes on the play. His first was misjudging the ball off the ball, which allowed it to fly over his head and roll back to the wall. The second was casually flipping the ball to the relay man, which Cano read as a green light to try and take third. The second and third legs of the relay were much more efficient and Cano was busted trying to stretch. The damage was done however, and the Yanks never looked back.

Sabathia forged ahead into the top of the 8th and had retired the last ten batters before Nick Johnson stepped into the box. With two outs, he walked on 10 pitches, and that was it for the big fella. Joe Girardi, working an incredibly sort leash, came out to get Sabathia in favor of the recently activated Brian Bruney, taking him off the disabled list and throwing him directly into the fire. The move worked as Bruney got Ryan Zimmerman to ground out to second base. Touching 96 with his fastball, it looked like Bruney hadn't missed a beat. Funny how having effective releivers can make a manager look smart.

The Yanks put up another run in the bottom half of the frame and Mo did what Mo does in the top of the 9th.

Sabathia and Cano were the two centerpieces to this victory. The walk to Johnson was the only one Sabathia allowed in his 7 2/3 IP, to go along with 6 hits. He only struck out two, but that could be chalked up to the fact that most of the guys on the Nationals came up hacking. Being on a last place team doesn't provide a whole lot of incentive to be patient at the plate. Cano went 4-4, factoring in three of the team's runs by driving in two and scoring another.

One odd/end: In the sixth inning, after hitting a soft grounder to third, Derek Jeter was noticably limping down the line to first. He was removed from the game with "stiffness in his left ankle" or something vague to that affect and he is listed as day to day. You never know with Jeter, but one would assume by how gingerly he was treating it, he is going to get at the very least a day off.

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