For much of the day, Sunday afternoon was a frustrating one. I was frustrated as I struggled through assembling a gas grill. Relegated to the outdoors, I was forced to listen to the game on the radio, meaning hours of suffering through John Sterling and Suzyn Waldman. Meanwhile, between the lines, the Yankees were surely frustrated with their inability to capitalize on a struggling Matt Garza. Garza battled through five innings, laboring constantly. He thrice pitched out of RISP jams, including in his final inning, where he walked the first two batters, #8 and 9 hitters Nick Swisher and Melky Cabrera, and still managed to wriggle out of trouble. He exited having surrended just one run - a third inning solo shot to Nick Swisher, the 100th home run in the brief history of the new Yankee Stadium.
In the other half innings, Joba Chamberlain turned in a representative outing. He wasn't as efficient as he'd been Monday, getting only six innings out of his hundred pitches, but he surrendered only five hits and one BB while striking out four. The one walk is particularly encouraging, as his walks have been up this year. It was his lowest walk total since his first start of the year. He generally cruised, allowing neither a hit nor a walk in four of his six innings and only got into real trouble in his final inning, where he allowed three singles and a walk, leading to two of the three runs he allowed.
Chamberlain gave way to Alfredo Aceves in the seventh. After starting the year in the minors, Aceves has ascended the pecking order in the pen, becoming one of Joe Girardi's most trusted relievers. Aceves once again rewarded that trust, working two innings of one hit ball while stiking out four. He gave the Yankees just what they needed.
In the bottom of the eighth, the Yankees finally broke through. After Derek Jeter led off with a flyout, Johnny Damon and Mark Teixeira hit back-to-back singles, putting runners on the corners. An A-Rod walk loaded the bases. J.P. Howell relieved Grant Balfour and walked Robinson Cano to cut the deficit to one.
Howell then nearly escaped without further damage, as he induced a potential double play ball off the bat of Jorge Posada. But third baseman Willie Aybar, subbing for the hobbled Mrs. Tony Parker, booted the ball allowing the Yankees to tie the score and leaving them with the bases loaded and still only one out. Hideki Matsui followed with a chopper up the middle. Posada was tagged on his way to second, but the gimpy-legged Matsui did his best Jake Taylor impression and beat the throw to first, allowing the go-ahead run to score.
Mariano Rivera returned to form in the ninth, needing just ten pitches to work a perfect frame. It gave Aceves, who wasn't recalled unitl early May, his fourth win on the year good for a tie for third on the team.
About the only remote negative on the day was the continued absence of Phil Hughes. As I stated earlier this week, I have no problem with a short term move to the bullpen for Hughes. However, the youngster still needs to pitch, and he has not appeared in a game now since his start last Sunday. Aceves has done a fine job and deserves to be getting the ball, but I don't see any reason why Hughes couldn't have gotten the call today.
That said, it was a good end to a fine Sunday afternoon. The grill was completed just fine. The Yankees are back to 10 games over .500 and are in position to take the series tomorrow night. Today's win coupled with a Red Sox loss put the Yankees back into first place. Come on back tomorrow; we'll do it again.
The nice thing about a four game series is that if you're a good team, it's very hard to lose the series. With Friday's rainout however, this has become a three game series, and with yesterday's loss the Yankees will need to win the next two to take the series. They've won three straight series and seven of eight dating back to A-Rod's return in Baltimore. It'd be nice to keep that momentum going.
In yesterday's game preview, I made an off the cuff, sarcastic remark about the Rays moving David Price to the eighth inning. Then in the recap, Jay offered up the story from the telecast that there was never any consideration from the Rays to do so. It must be nice for the Rays fans, not having to deal with the tired, foolish argument over and over again. I wish we were so lucky.
Joba Chamberlain takes to the mound today, coming off his best start of 2009: 8 IP, 4 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 2 BB, and 5 K in a win over Cleveland. His strikeout total might be somewhat lower than what we've grown to expect from Joba, but that was functional. Not going as deep into counts allowed Joba to get 8 innings out of his 106 pitches, compared to past starts this year where 108, 104, and 108 pitches netted him 5.2, 6, and 6 IP respectively. Getting deeper into games is certainly one thing upon which he needs to improve and Monday was a big step in the right direction. Starts like that will go a long way towards silencing those who want him in the bullpen.
He'll be opposed by Matt Garza. The lanky righty is off to great start and on pace for the best season yet of his young career. He faced the Yankees way back on April 14th, and held them to 2 runs on 5 hits and 2 BB over 7 innings, while striking out 9. Unfortunately for Garza the bullpen imploded in relief of him and the Yankees took the game 7-2.
So today's game is all about doing it again: getting to 10 games over again, taking the AL East lead again, getting in position to take the series again, and most importantly, for Joba to turn in a dominating performance again. Way back for Joba's first start of 2009 we went with Steely Dan, and today we'll do it again as well.
It's a beautiful Sunday. Enjoy it; I know I'm going to. I'll be back later tonight with the recap. Take it away Steely Dan....
You go back jack, do it again Wheel turning round and round You go back jack, do it again