Coming off his superb August, CC Sabathia struggled a bit at the outset of his first September start. He allowed singles to two of the first three batters he faced, then fell behind 1-0 on a sacrifice fly. In the second he gave up three singles to load the bases, but fanned the next two batters to end the frame. It was his last real scare for the night, and the Big Fella continued his recent hot streak with seven innings, seven hits, a lone run, a walk, and nine Ks.
Like the Orioles, the Yankees had no problems putting runners on base, but had difficulty bringing them home. Orioles starter Jason Berken allowed eight hits and two walks in 5.1 innings of work, yet was charged with just a single run as the Yankees left nine runners on base through the first six innings. The Yankees did manage to tie it up on an Eric Hinske solo shot in the third.
In the seventh, the Yankees finally managed a lead. Johnny Damon led off with a single, then Nick Swisher - batting third as Mark Teixeira got a night off - doubled to put two runners in scoring position for Alex Rodriguez. A-Rod, who tallied his 2,500th career hit in the fifth, added number 2,501 and gave the Yankees a lead they wouldn't relinquesh.
Brian Bruney, Phil Coke, and Phil Hughes recorded an out each in the eighth, but the O's cut the lead to one as Bruney gave a up a Nolan Reimold homer. With Mariano Rivera unavailable for the ninth due to a sore groin, the Yankees lead seemed even more tenuous.
The Yankee offense took all the suspense out of the game in the ninth, plating seven runs as they nickel and dimed the O's to death with two walks, seven singles, and zero extra base hits. The first five Yankees to come to the plate in the inning reached base safely, as did four of five Yankees batters between the first and third outs. While the Yankee offense got to pad their stats a bit more, the inning served as an apt representation of both the depth of the current Yankee line up and the general state of affairs in Baltimore for the past 12 seasons.
Despite the eight run lead, Phil Hughes, in need of innings, pitched the ninth to earn his second Major League save. He'll serve as the acting closer until Mo's ready to return. The bullpen will warrant watching this weekend with Mo out and Chad Gaudin, Joba Chamberlain, and Sergio Mitre starting three of the four games in Toronto, followed by a double header on Monday. The bullpen, currently at nine mortals and one dinged-up Mo, will likely have a lot of work ahead of them.