Today’s game was the 81st game, which means we are officially halfway through the season. Today’s game also fell on some pretty important birthdays — Yankees long-time announcer John Sterling, the late George Steinbrenner, and of course America. So on America’s birthday, America’s team decided to remember the Boss on what would’ve been his 85th birthday with a very Steinbrenner-esque win (read: dramatic, with flair, and on top of the division). It was also the 76th anniversary of Lou Gehrig’s famous “Luckiest Man” speech at the old Yankee Stadium. Basically, it was a big day, and the Yankees did what they do best, embraced the importance and just ran with it to its inevitable conclusion — a win.
Michael Pineda got the start for today’s game against the visiting Rays in the continuing battle for dominance in the AL East. And Pineda was certainly dominant — 97 pitches into the 8th inning, giving up 5 hits, 1 walk, and no runs and striking out 10 batters. Just amazing outing. And he was earning the win as the Yankees actually gave him some early run support.
Now, the Rays starter was a good match for Pineda, pretty much matching him in many of his statistics — 113 pitches, 7 innings, 5 hits, 2 walks, and 10 strikeouts, but the Rays starter gave up 2 runs early and spent the rest of the game trying to catch up and defend against another Yankee strike. In the 1st inning, Gardner and Headley singled to get on base, and then Gardner scored on Alex Rodriguez’s single, moving Headley to 3rd. And Mark Teixeira’s sacrifice fly scored Headley; this would make Teixeira the AL RBI leader with 59 RBIs so far this season. And the Yankees were up 2-0 very quickly.
And they spent the game guarding that lead and fending off the Rays’ attempts to catch up and jump ahead. After a lead-off double in the 8th, it was time to head to the bullpen. Justin Wilson got the first 2 outs (both strikeouts) before Dellin Betances was called on to get a 4-out save. Simple enough. It is Betances. Until it wasn’t so simple. In the 9th, Betances allowed a lead-off single and then a 2-run home run to tie up the game, blow Betances’ save opportunity, and give up Betances’ first home run in 54 games (the 4th longest Yankee pitching streak in 100 years).
So the game was tied going into the bottom of the 9th, and the Rays sent in a new pitcher, their second reliever of the afternoon. Teixeira led-off with a double, and Pirela came in to pinch-run for him. Then Young walked, and the stage was set. No outs, 2 runners on base to do some damage, and Ramon Flores is up to bat. So the idea was to move the runners over, so Flores set up for a sacrifice bunt. The pitcher charged the ball and threw it to the 1st baseman, but the throw was off and pulled the Rays’ 1st baseman off the bag, so Flores was safe at 1st and Young safe at 2nd. That’s when they all realized that Pirela hadn’t stopped running and was headed into home. The throw to a desperate catcher wasn’t in time as Pirela slid home under the tag and scored the walk-off run to win the game.
Final score: 3-2 Yankees.
Always a great time when the Yankees can win, but somehow winning today always means more — a little bit for the Boss and a little bit for America.
Also, I do want to take the time once again to honor those who have served and are serving in our nation’s military. They know firsthand why we can say that our freedom isn’t free. And while we were celebrating at ball park or around backyard grills or before thundering fireworks, there were men and women who were fighting for continued freedoms around the world. We honor you today and every day, and thank you for your continued sacrifice. Come home safe.
Go Yankees! (And Happy Independence Day to my readers in the US!)