Game 131: NYY vs. TOR — The return, the spiral, the dome

Well, Derek Jeter’s 3rd return to the Yankees was pretty reflective of how the tonight’s game played out — highly anticipated, decent beginning, some highlights, not as productive as one may hope, and kind of mediocre when it’s all over. (Well, at least Jeter’s offense played out this way.) Jeter went 0-for-3 with a walk.

Tonight’s game against the Toronto Blue Jays was in their partial opened domed stadium. If you’ve been following me for any length of time (say since the last time they played at Rogers’ Centre), you know my strong dislike of domed/turfed stadiums. And what’s weird about the Blue Jays’ home is that it’s a retractable roof. So a partially opened roof tonight allowed for the usual view of the CN Tower and the entire stadium to be filled with the late summer muggy heat under clear blue skies. And turf actually kicks up the heat and causes the surface temperatures to rise at least 10-15 degrees hotter than the registered temperature just outside the stadium. A really unpleasant situation all over.

Anyway, one good thing about tonight’s game was oddly starter Phil Hughes, who really did an outstanding job, at least until the 5th inning. Up until then, he was rolling along with pretty good consistency, keeping his pitch count low, only allowed 2 runs (2 RBI singles in the 2nd and 3rd innings).

Before Toronto’s rally in the 5th, the game was tied 2-2. The Yankees offense began their mark in the 1st inning with Brett Gardner’s single, stolen base on a passed ball, advancing to 3rd on Jeter’s groundout, and then scoring the first run on Robinson Cano’s groundout. Then they struck again in the top of the 5th inning with Alex Rodriguez’s solo home run into the Yankees’ bullpen — it was his 650th career homer. Also in that inning, Gardner earned his 500th career MLB hit.

And then the bottom of the 5th happened. With 1 out, a double and a single put runners at 2nd and 3rd, pretty routine. And then things got weird. So the batter hits what should be a sacrifice fly out to right field, but the ball bounces off Ichiro Suzuki’s glove, earning him an error and scoring a run for Toronto (3-2). (Ichiro, very embarrassed, later said that he felt like “going home directly from right field” right then and there.) Another double scores another run (4-2). Hughes intentionally walks the next batter and loads the bases (still only 1 out). A sacrifice fly scores the final Toronto run (5-2) before the Yankees go to their bullpen.

With bases loaded, they opt for David Huff to get them out of the inning. Three strikes later, the damage is done and over. Huff completes the outing for Hughes over the next 3.1 innings, allowing no hits, one walk, and striking out 5 batters. Huff continues to prove excellent bullpen relief and a really good recent acquisition.

Now, like I alluded to above, where Jeter seemed to fall short offensively, he seemed to play some really good ball at shortstop. More than just some routine fielding plays, which he saw a lot of tonight, Jeter was also able to show off how his recovery has been going by catching a long fly ball between 3rd and left field in the 1st inning and a really nice leaping grab at short in the 7th.

All in all, tonight’s game wasn’t great, but with the two milestones by Rodriguez and Gardner and Jeter’s 3rd return, it certainly had its moments of greatness, even if they did end up in a mash-up of a lackluster evening. No one likes lackluster, but really, most of life is lackluster. So how do we ever find the great moments, the diamonds? You clean off the nasty, sift through the mediocre, and push on to the things that will sparkle and bring a smile to your face.

So that’s what we can remember from tonight — important milestones, great defense from the Captain, a pretty good start from Hughes, and still a chance at the postseason (something the Blue Jays cannot claim).

Go Yankees!

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