For six and two thirds innings tonight, it appeared that the Yankees might just have a magical moment in what's becoming a very memorable season. Andy Pettitte was mowing down the O's with ease, breezing through the order and needing just 77 pitches to set down the first twenty batters in a row.
With two outs in the seventh, Adam Jones bounced a 1-0 delivery to third. Jerry Hairston Jr., giving Alex Rodriguez a night off, had made a nifty play to get the second out of the sixth and keep the perfecto alive. This time, on a far more routine play, Hairston booted the ball, ending the perfect game. The next batter, Nick Markakis, shot a single down the left field line, ending the no hit bid. Lest anyone be quick to heap criticism or blame upon Jerry Hairston Jr, please remember two things. First, shit happens. Second, Melvin Mora led off the eighth with a home run, ending the shutout as well.
The home run from Mora was the only run yielded by Pettite, or any Yankee pitcher, the entire night. Pettitte continued his post All-Star Break dominance, running his record to 4-1 with a 2.56 ERA and 7 quality starts in 9 outings. For all the talk of the Yankee offense, consider this: tonight marked the fifth consecutive game that Yankees pitchers have allowed three walks or fewer, the fourth consecutive with two or fewer, and the third in the last four with one or fewer. Yankee starters have allowed just two free passes in the last four games and five in the last complete turn through the rotation. Tonight's game was the second time in the last three that Yankee pitchers have allowed four men or fewer to reach base via hit or walk.
As for the Yankee offense, Nick Swisher led off the third with a solo shot to give the Yanks a one run lead, then made it 2-0 in the fifth when he followed Robinson Cano's leadoff double with one of his own. From there, Joe Girardi fell in love with the bunt again, having Hairston attempt a bunt on an 0-1 pitch, and after he was hit by a pitch, having Melky Cabrera lay down a failed attempt that saw Swisher forced out at third.
The Yanks added three more in the eighth as Derek Jeter led off with a double, Johnny Damon drove him in the single, Mark Teixeira singled, and then with two outs, Cano doubled Damon and Teix in.
Perhaps the only blemish on the night (bunt fetishes aside) was another spotty performance from Brian Bruney. Charged with protecting a four run lead, Bruney went 3-0 on the leadoff batter, walked him on the sixth pitch of the plate appearance, and then after getting an out, gave up a single. It was enough to prompt Girardi to summon Mariano Rivera - perhaps a bit unnecessary, but Mo hasn't had much opportunity to work of late, and if that's the worst thing that happened on the night one can't really complain too much.