Thursday, May 27, 2010

Game 45 Recap

This wasn't Andy Pettitte's best start of the season in terms of innings pitched and runs allowed, but it was probably his most impressive overall. Joe Mauer singled in a run in the first inning and Michael Cuddyer and Delmon Young stacked up a single and a double for another in the seventh inning but Pettitte needed just 83 pitchers (a whopping 65 of them for strikes) to make it through those seven frames.

When Drew Butera led off the eight inning with a double just out of the reach of Brett Gardner, the game was still tied at two. Denard Span - who terrorized the Yanks in these two games, reaching base six times - then laid down a soft bunt towards third. The Yankees had the wheel play on, which put Alex Rodriguez in position to field the ball get Span at first, but A-Rod couldn't handle it and the Twins had runners on the corners with no one out. It seemed a forgone conclusion that the Twinkies would plate at least one run and take the lead heading into the top of the ninth.

Pettitte tried to keep Span close at first base with a pair of pick off attempts. With two double plays on the night already, Andy knew that a Twin-killing was his best chance at escaping the inning. He almost got an unexpected one on the second pitch of the at bat when Orlando Hudson looped a curveball right back over his head but Pettitte snared it with a full extension and whipped his head to third and then to first to see if the runners had strayed. They hadn't, but he was one step closer to getting out of the jam.

Although it was just one out and a well placed grounder or a deep enough fly ball would have given Minnesota the lead, there was a light at the end of the tunnel. A light considerably dimmed, however, by Joe Mauer standing directly in front of it.

The Yanks played in at the corners but left their middle infielders at double play depth and on the first pitch of the at bat, Pettitte threw a cutter low and away, hoping that Mauer would cue it off the end of the bat, but he didn't offer. Pettite then checked Span at first base with a pick off attempt and threw a cutter over the outside corner for a strike.

Cervelli set up almost comically inside on the next pitch, but Pettitte missed low to bring the count to 2-1. Another pickoff attempt. Pettitte proceeded to come back inside with another fastball that made Mauer to check his swing, but the pitch missed by the slimmest of margins and 3rd base umpire Chris Guccione said that Joe didn't go. That brought the count to a dangerous 3-1.

Pettitte and Cervelli then went back to the same pitch that they started Mauer with, except this time he did swing at it and grounded into an inning-ending 6-4-3 double play.

Andy might have missed some of his spots in that at bat by a bit, but he was either inside and off the plate or low and away out of the zone - two spots that even Mauer can't get good wood on. It was one of my favorite at bats of the year given that I was more or less resigned to Mauer or Morneau finding a way to drive in that run, but Pettitte, primarily by virtue of his ability to spot the ball, was able to get exactly what the Yanks needed in that spot.

Pettitte's Houdini-esque escape from that jam was rewarded in the 9th inning as Nick Swisher hit a two out, line drive blast off of Twins' closer Jon Rauch that left the yard in a hurry and gave the Yanks a 3-2 lead.

Although he had closed out the earlier game, Mariano Rivera came back to nail this one down as well. He induced three grounders from Morneau, Cuddyer and Young and the Yanks pulled off their second one run victory of the day.

There were other parts of this game that were worth of further exploration, namely Brett Gardner's RBI triple and Kevin Russo's run-scoring double and/or catch up against the wall, but those likely would have gone to waste if Pettitte wasn't able to wriggle out of that 8th inning jam.

It was a great win for the Yanks (both of them, actually) and they'll look to go for the sweep tomorrow night at 8.

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