For eight innings today, the Yankees looked like the oldest team in Major League Baseball. Miguel Gonzales didn't allow a hit for the last 16 batters he saw, and only allowed three hits over 6.0 innings. But while Yanks had only four hits, they bunched three of them in one inning to score the three runs they would need for the 3-2 win.
The game started off full of promise. MiGo needed just five pitches to get through a clean first inning, and while the Orioles didn't score in the first inning, they extracted 19 pitches out of starter Shane Greene in the process. Nick Markakis' leadoff single was wiped out by Alejandro De Aza's GIDP, and after Adam Jones used an "excuse me!" swing to somehow dump a ball into RF for a double, Nelson Cruz then struck out mightily. Because that's the only way he strikes out. Jones was stranded, but it seemed the O's would break out any time.
So, for those keeping track, that's five pitches for MiGo after one inning, and 19 for the guy starting for the team that burned through all their good relievers yesterday.
Then came the second inning. And, 36 pitches later, the Yankees had scored three runs. First up was a home run by Brian McCann, on a 9-iron shot on a pitch so low Vlad Guerrero is stroking his beard, nodding his head and saying "Not bad, kid" in Spanish somewhere in the Dominican Republic. Mark Teixeira then walked.
Fox analyst Tom Verducci made the point that the Yankees roster is full of pull hitters who only use one side of the field. Caleb Joseph must have noted that, too, because the catcher called for four straight pitches outside to begin the at-bat against Chris Young. The last pitch of the at-bat was inside, not outside, after MiGo had apparently shaken off his young catcher, and Young laced it down the LF line for a double. Tex lumbered to third base (because that's the verb you are legally required to use when describing his attempts to run), and Young stood at second base.
Antoan Richardson sent a pitch to RF to score Tex and the Yanks found themselves with a 2-0 lead with runners at the corners. Zelous Wheeler looked quite bad while striking out, and suddenly, MiGo was one pitch away from getting out of the inning with a manageable 2-0 deficit.
Jacoby Ellsbury came to bat with two outs and those runners on the corners, and the Yankees made the decision to attempt a steal of second base against the catcher with the highest caught stealing percentage in the league. Richardson got a great jump, and although Joseph had a high fastball to get a better start, sailed the throw just a tad high, allowing Richardson to steal second. Which wouldn't have been so bad in and of itself, except that Chris Young started towards home before Joseph even released the ball. So, no out at 2B, the run scores, and although Ellsbury popped up behind home plate to end the threat, the Yanks had themselves a 3-0 lead.
And, at this point, I raise a practical question: Tom Verducci made a point concerning the elimination of the "Fake to 3B, throw to 1B" tactic for pitchers. Since that's not an option, why the throw down to 2B? Why not do a fake throw to a middle infielder and throw back home, or, alternately, just don't throw down to 2B? Feel free to discuss in the comments.
Shane Green has good stuff, and while he didn't have it for very many batters in a row or even pitch to pitch, he did enough to last 5.1 IP. He was at 46 pitches after 2 innings, 71 pitches after 3 innings, and 90 after 4 innings. But the O's could never quite get enough hits together to score. They left runners stranded in the first three innings, and could only manage a RBI single by Nelson Cruz in the 3rd inning and a home run by Steve Pearce on Greene's 113th pitch of the day in the 6th inning. Inning after inning, the O's would get a base runner, but just couldn't bring them in.
The Yanks brought in Esmil Rogers to finish the 6th and start the 7th, lefty specialist Josh Outman (great name for a pitcher) did his job getting Nick Markakis and de Aza to finish the 7th, Shawn Kelley handled the 8th and David Robertson (whom FOX had told us all game was most definitely not available) closed out the 9th. The O's gave the home fans a bit of hope with a 9th inning leadoff single to Jimmy Paredes. Ryan Flaherty bunted him to second base on a kind of crappy bunt that died in the wet grass, but did move the runner to second base. Alas, pinch hitter Delmon Young couldn't beat out a weak lollipop Derek Jeter throw on a Baltimore chop, and Nick Markakis grounded out to the second baseman to end the game.
Since Stupid Toronto (CITO STILL SUCKS!) decided they wanted to win a game today, the O's magic number is still Brooks Robinson. The American League East lead is a robust 10.5 games, and are still seven games ahead of the teams in the second AL Wild Card spot. So, today's game was kinda bleh, but ultimately, we're another day closer to the goal. Now if we all can just get through tomorrow night and that last JEETAH game in Baltimore and an ESPN broadcast...