Sometimes in a game, there are one or two guys to talk about. Sometimes there are none (and I hate writing those posts). But sometimes, it’s a whole lot of guys. And honestly, at the end of the day, I’d always rather talk about the team than single out individuals. Because individuals are great, but people on their own don’t win ball games. Teams win ball games.
I mean, it would be unfair to talk about how great tonight’s starter was without mentioning what a great defense was behind him. And if we’re nitpicking here, he could be the best pitcher in the world, but if the team doesn’t hit, they can’t win the game. I think fans love their stars; it’s why specific jersey numbers sell and certain names are chanted and cheered with reverence, but even the guys represented by those numbers all over fans’ backs at a game will tell you that they can’t do it alone. Tonight’s game against the Orioles was proof that the Yankees are a team, and the standout players are many and function to help each other win ball games.
Michael Pineda got the start tonight and proceeded to just dominate the Orioles. He threw 106 pitches over 7.1 innings (yes, just 5 out shy of a complete game), struck out 8 Baltimore batters, and gave up just 1 hit and 1 walk. That means the Orioles were only ever on base twice when Pineda was on the mound (another walk by a reliever was allowed in the 9th to give them a 3rd base runner total). But they couldn’t do much with it. Not with Pineda pitching like… well, Pineda. And not with the Yankee defense at their best as they were tonight. (Like Stephen Drew with 2 outstanding defensive plays tonight — a diving stop in the 1st and a nice grab in the 8th.)
Shawn Kelley came on to get the last 2 outs of the 8th inning and the first batter of the 9th, striking out two of the three batters he faced. He was replaced by lefty Rich Hill for the 2nd out of the 9th, and then David Phelps for the last. Phelps threw just 1 pitch to get the last batter to fly out to right field to end the game. Really good pitching all around. I know some people were complaining about Girardi using 3 different pitchers to get the 3 outs in the 9th. But when you have a bloated roster like they do in September, why not use everyone you can? It’s not like it was a save or tight game at that point.
I should probably mention that the Yankees did a pretty good offensive job today. I mean, not as good as some teams are doing around the league. I have to give some credit to the AL East Division champions (yes, they already secured that title and a spot in October baseball); they must have something that afforded them that title. I don’t know where it was tonight, and I’m really okay with never seeing it at all this week in the Bronx. (Seriously, Baltimore, you got your title already, so any kind of half-way effort you want to put into games is okay with me and about a half-million Yankees fans.)
Anyway, it was the bottom of the 3rd inning, Ichiro on base because of a fielding error, when recent call-up Jose Pirela made his major league debut and tripled to score Ichiro for the Yankees first run. Derek Jeter would later ground out and score Pirela. So in the first inning of his at-bat, Pirela tripled, got an RBI, and scored a run; and that was just the beginning of his night.
In the 5th inning, with 2 outs, Pirela singled and moved to 2nd on Gardner’s walk, and then he and Gardner scored Jeter’s double. In total, Pirela went 2-for-3 in his debut, with an RBI and 2 runs scored; not bad for his first game. And if we’re talking individual stats, it would be worth mentioning that Jeter was responsible for knocking in 3 of the Yankees’ runs tonight, defying most critics once again. And because a 4-0 game just isn’t quite enough, leave it to Chase Headley to hit a solo home run straight into the netting above Monument Park beyond center field to make the game 5-0 Yankees.
And there they sat. 5-0. A win, well-earned by good pitching and good defense and good batting and just by being a team. It’s those kinds of games I can get behind, the kind to celebrate and use as an example. Not bad for a Monday evening in the chilly Bronx on this last day of summer. (Yes, folks, tomorrow is the autumnal equinox.) Sad as it will be to say goodbye to this season, I can’t say I’m not ready for the fall. But isn’t that the way of things anyway? Keep moving forward, anticipating adventures and legends and traditions yet to come, even yet to be born. It’s what keeps hope alive — forward. What is that old Sinatra song? “The best is yet to come…” Bring it!