Game 84: NYY vs. MIN — A Twin Cities win

Before the trip to Minneapolis, the Yankees made a couple of roster adjustments. Recent struggles sent Yangervis Solarte back to AAA Scranton. In his place, they signed Zelous Wheeler from AAA Scranton. To make room on the 40-man, they have designated Dean Anna for assignment. Now, all you Solarte fans (like my mom), don’t worry. A lot of rookies get sent back to AAA to work on the things they need to in order to come back stronger and better. Even non-rookies sometimes get that treatment when they’ve slipped into bad habits. I don’t think there’s one current starter that didn’t get sent back at one point early in their career. But don’t worry, Wheeler has already proved he’s MLB-level worthy (more below). And I know Anna will land on his feet somewhere.

Anyway, the Yankees faced a former teammate in tonight’s game against the Twins, one of the Twins’ more solid starters this year — Phil Hughes. But unlucky for the Twins, they faced one of the Yankees’ more solid starters — Masahiro Tanaka. And even though Tanaka wasn’t a flawless in his outing tonight, it was strong enough to give him the win and put him in the lead over all other starters with 12 total wins so far this season. That’s right, Tanaka now leads all of Major League Baseball in wins, and his numbers mean he could win 20 or more games his rookie year.

So tonight, over 7 innings, Tanaka threw just 85 pitches, giving up 9 hits and 4 runs, striking out just 3 batters. He managed to spread those runs scored out. In the 1st, with a runner on base, a double scored the runner before the batter that hit the double ended up getting caught in a rundown trying to get to 3rd. In the 3rd and the 6th, it was ground outs that scored a run per inning. And an RBI single in the 7th to push in the fourth and final Twins run.

It took the Yankees until the 5th inning to cross the plate themselves. In the 5th, Teixeira and McCann each single to get on base and then scored on Carlos Beltran’s sweet 3-run home run. Two batters later, in his second Major League at-bat, Wheeler smacks his first career home run, a nice solo shot into the Yankees’ bullpen. (I imagine that the same mother in Alabama who screamed when she found out he was called up was screaming as he rounded the bases with a grin as wide as Alabama plastered across his face.)

Then the Yankees decided to hit the Twins hard with another high-scoring inning in the 7th. Ichiro walked, Wheeler singled (and his mother screamed again), and Brendan Ryan doubled and scored Ichiro, which triggered a Twins pitching change. Brett Gardner’s single scored Wheeler (another Alabama scream), and Derek Jeter’s ground out (the first out of that inning) scored Ryan.

By the time, it was time to send in Dellin Betances in the 8th inning, the Yankees were up 7-4 over the Twins, so all the Yankees bullpen had to do was keep the score planted there. And they did. Betances threw a quick 14 pitch 1-2-3 8th inning. And then David Robertson claimed his 19th save of 2014, striking out 3 batters in his 9th inning. And they won.

As I write this, I can hear the echoes of fireworks from nearby celebrations starting early. And the Yankees will be on the road until after the All-Star Game in 12 days right there in Target Field. They took their first of a 4-game series against Minnesota tonight, before heading to another Great Lake state to play 4 games against Cleveland, and then back on the Eastern Seaboard for a 3-game weekend series against Baltimore. It’s a long road trip, but it will be interesting to see if the Yankees can use this trip to get back on the winning side of things.

After tonight’s win, the Yankees now sit at 42 wins-42 losses, or .500 average, currently 3.5 games behind Baltimore and Toronto (who are both struggling as of late). Now’s the time to make up for June struggles, gentlemen.

Also, to all those on the East Coast, stay safe during the storm.

Go Yankees!

 

Game 55: MIN vs. NYY — Failing a rubber match against former Yankees

I think the biggest story from today was that former Yankee Phil Hughes actually pitched a great game for his new team, the Twins. Sometimes all it takes is a change of scenery for some pitchers to find their pace and place again. It seems to have worked well for him. And not so much for the Yankees today, well that’s not the whole story.

Chase Whitley took the mound again for what ended up being another no-decision, though he should have been in line for the win. His 83 pitches took him through a solid 5 innings, allowing 5 hits, 1 run, and striking out 6 batters. Whitley is continuing to show his candidacy for a more permanent spot in the Yankees organization, definitely an asset to have. That sole run came in the 3rd inning — with 2 outs and a runner on 2nd, an RBI single scored the Twins first and only run for a while.

The Yankees answered back in the 4th inning, deciding to show off their dominance. Brett Gardner led off with a triple (a double for most everyone else, but a triple with his speed) and then scored on Jeter’s single. Ellsbury singled and McCann walked to load the bases, so Jeter easily scored on Ichiro Suzuki’s sacrifice fly. And suddenly, the Yankees were up and defending their 2-1 lead.

Dellin Betances pitched the 6th and 7th innings just flawlessly, striking out 5 of the 6 batters he faced, using just 22 pitches overall. The internet was abuzz again with Betances-love. I don’t think New York fans can get enough of him. He’s like the oasis in the bullpen’s desert, there when it seems like everything else doesn’t work.  The 8th inning belonged to Adam Warren who struggled through his 20-pitch inning, but ultimately made it out unscathed.

Defending that 2-1 lead, the Yankees went into the 9th inning prepared to get those quick 3 outs and go home. And with David Robertson jogging in to the sounds of “Sweet Home Alabama”, it was as good as done. Except it wasn’t. Robertson just didn’t have anything today, and it cost him the save and the Yankees the win. His first batter promptly smacks a home run into the left field seats to tie up the game (blown save). Two outs and two walks later, a double scored a run (3-2 Twins) and an intentional walk loads the bases. Matt Daley pitched to one batter — former Yankee Eduardo Nunez — whose solid double scored two more Twins runs. (5-2 Twins). Matt Thornton came on to get that elusive last out, but a quick single scored two more runs and planted the Twins lead (and ultimate win) at 7-2 Twins. (Small fun trivia note: Nunez lost his helmet running home… again!)

And there was not much you could do about it. The bottom just fell out of the whole game right in that measly half inning. Too bad, because it was a pretty great game up until that point. And I’m not just saying that because the Yankees were in the lead. No, I’m saying that because it was well-fought and earned, rather than essentially some sloppy pitching just handing over the game. Even Robertson admits he kind of stunk today.

One of the things that hit me as I watched the 9th inning unfold, after I got over my initial frustration, was that today’s game showed two sides of the same coin from the bullpen. Today’s game featured two men who are known for their successes, who are really good at what they do, but who are also far from perfect. So I made the comment: “Betances showed us today that he is immortal. Robertson showed us today that he is human.” Some days, you could say the same thing in reverse. How many times have I marveled at Robertson’s magic, calling him “Houdini”? How many times have I been disappointed with some flawed pitching from Betances (though admittedly not as much lately)? But that is the thing about this game — baseball is a game of constant failure played by men who are far from failures.

The best part of failure is learning what not to do again, learning to grow and make different mistakes. A failure is someone who refuses to learn from their failure. A success is someone who isn’t afraid to fail and learn from it. The reality is that failure is always an option. But staying down in that failure isn’t. Strength isn’t ignoring failure but rather overcoming it.

Today, they failed. So tomorrow they learn from those failures and become better players, better men, a better team because of it. They are not, however, failures. Far from it. And that makes me proud to be a Yankees fan.

Go Yankees!

On a spending spree, off with their beards…

Pretty much right after I clicked “publish” yesterday, the Yankees continued to make some announcements that certainly would have made yesterday’s post, especially due to all the contract lingo. They have non-tendered Jayson Nix, Matt Daley, and David Adams, which means they have released them to pursue other contract options (which can still technically include the Yankees). None of them have been major producers for the 40-man roster, but all have their moments, points of development, and youth that could definitely come in handy when negotiating a contract for the next season.

Today, the Yankees announced a press conference this Thursday in which they will officially sign catcher Brian McCann to his contract and unveil his number with the pinstripes. A friend recently mentioned that he will have to get used to wearing that catcher’s mask without the cushion (and warmth in those early spring months) of his trademark scruffy beard. All players know that being a Yankee means “clean-cut, clean-shaven”, and this has deterred some players (including recently a very notable, very bearded pitcher) from signing with the Bronx Bombers. Honestly, this seems like a rather superficial (not to mention vain) reason not to sign with a team that’s willing to invest their money in your career, as hair does this miraculous thing and grow on its own when you don’t cut it.

And the biggest news story has to be that the Yankees officially signed Jacoby Ellsbury for a 7-year, $153 million deal, with an 8th year option. Yet another Red Sox refugee to Yankee pinstripes. Ellsbury has played center field for the Red Sox since the beginning of his career and turned down their qualifying offer earlier this fall. Now, this doesn’t mean that Gardner is somehow out in the cold as Girardi has a way of working out an overly-packed roster for the overall benefit of the team. Much like Gardner, Ellsbury is known for his speed around the bases, stealing 52 last year alone (1st in the AL). The addition of Ellsbury actually signals a newer rotation for the “experienced” players that were in the outfield due to injuries last year (Soriano, Ichiro, and Wells), which could mean that the Yankees will now return to a rotating DH.

In smaller contract news: Curtis Granderson met with the Mets and had salmon (not joking), the Mariners might be interested in Robinson Cano (not joking), Phil Hughes signed with the Twins (still not joking), Alex Rodriguez’s arbitration could be over with a final decision by January 1 (not joking), and they cancelled Christmas (okay, that’s the bad joke). I think Hughes signing with a smaller-market team could certainly help his ERA and overall pitching career, as a change of scenery is often all that’s needed to put some fire into a player (think: Ichiro, Soriano, or even Raul Ibanez). Granderson and Cano are exploring their first time on the free agent market, and while personally I wish to see #14 and #24 back in pinstripes for 2014, the realistic side of me knows that there’s still a long way to go for both players (especially to bridge the gulf of Cano’s negotiations). And the Yankees will know whether they have a 3rd baseman for 2014 by the new year, and that’s really what’s holding up most of the larger contract signings for now.

Well, I say that because it’s the Yankees. They’re signing two very large contracts for McCann and Ellsbury before the end of the year, but to most people (especially those of us who remember the spending spree of 2008-9 grabbing Teixeira, Sabathia, and AJ Burnett), this seems like a “cheap year” for them. It’s amazing how relative all the contract talk seems.

I should note that today it’s been hard to keep up with my Twitter feed on the trade/contract news, which sort of flies in the face of my original assumption that it was going to be a little slow this off-season. It also forces me to push back some planned blog posts on Yankees history until there isn’t a million news stories. They say that “no news is good news”, but not to a blogger. No news means I have to be creative and original and can’t just comment and opine about current events. Of course, on days like today, I kind of wish I could have just been a little creative.

I guess part of me kind of loves that the Yankees just recruited to of its rivals to work for them — McCann from the (great 90’s rival) Braves and Ellsbury from the (forever infamous rival) Red Sox. There is a certain amount of justification and satisfaction. Of course, who doesn’t want to play in New York? Oh yeah, the bearded ones…

Go Yankees!

The free agency dance begins

I realize that the Yankees had a bit of a deadline with their potential free agents, but Monday seems to have been heavily laden with news for its public. Well, not really complete news, more like the beginning of news.

When looking at potential free agents coming off their roster, a club can make “qualifying offers” to agents they don’t want to let go. It’s usually seen as a sign that says “we’re still interested in you and retaining you even if we’re only offering a year contract to you”. Most players don’t take it and opt to go for bigger, longer contracts (even if it’s with the same club), and by doing so, they actually gift the club with a prime draft pick for the next draft (next July). Last year, Nick Swisher and Rafael Soriano were offered qualifying offers, both opted free agency, and both were signed pretty quickly elsewhere (Cleveland and Washington, respectively).

This year, they made offers to Robinson Cano, Curtis Granderson, and Hiroki Kuroda. There is a lot of speculation already as to what they’re each going to do, and I’ve been doing my own private speculating. But since I don’t speculate here, you’ll know if I’m right after the player deadline of November 11 to respond to the offer — they will either take it and sign for a year with the Yankees or refuse it and try for a better offer elsewhere. And honestly, I think we’ll be looking at three very different results for these guys.

Now, there were some people who didn’t get qualifying offers from the Yankees — Brendan Ryan, Kevin Youkilis, Mark Reynolds, Travis Hafner, Lyle Overbay, Phil Hughes, Joba Chamberlain, and Boone Logan. This means that all of these guys are now officially free agents, and their agents are probably busy exploring all options available to their clients. It will be interesting to see where everyone lands, and honestly, I wouldn’t be surprised if the Yankees picked up a couple of these guys at least for a year or two.

Almost on the other spectrum of things, the National Baseball Hall of Fame has released its latest ballot and is to be voted on next month by the Veterans’ Committee. There are 12 men on that list that have had a major impact on baseball history, including Joe Torre, Billy Martin, and George Steinbrenner. I think in all Yankee fans’ minds all three should get at least the required 75% votes to walk into Cooperstown next year. The annual players ballot will be released later this month and will include the five players who didn’t make the it last year but had enough vote to carry over for this coming year and a whole slew of really amazing newcomers including former Yankees pitcher Mike Mussina.

Like I said, it’s really just a “beginning of news” kind of day. At first, it sounds like there’s news, but really it’s just  something that could develop into news someday soon. But when I think about it, baseball is always an evolving story. Even when a team wins the World Series, they have to spend the off-season rebuilding and focusing on developing their dynasty. The 2012 Giants, for example, barely made any changes last off-season and ended up holding up the bottom of the NL West in 2013; they figured “why mess with success?” and it backfired big time on them. So, now they’re working on figuring out what went wrong with their 2013 formula and what went right with 2012 and then how they can make 2014 work better for them.

And (not that I ever want to glorify the Yankees’ arch-rivals) then you have the Red Sox who were easily the worst team in 2012, fired their manager, shuffled their roster, picked up some prime guys from all over free agency, and somehow powered their way to the top of the AL and became World Series Champions just a few weeks ago. But now, the Red Sox are going to spend their entire 2014 season defending their title. This is actually good news for the Yankees because unlike almost every other team in the league only the Yankees know what it’s like to establish and maintain a dynasty. Is anyone else hoping 2014 starts a new dynasty?

Go Yankees!

Game 158: TB vs. NYY — Eliminated from October

Four games left in the season and the Yankees are officially eliminated from the postseason, thanks to tonight’s loss to the Rays and the Indians win over their opponent. Something I think many people saw coming this month. I said it yesterday: the Yankees aren’t playing October baseball this month. I should clarify this for a few people — when you play baseball in the later part of the regular season, you should be gearing up to play at the highest level of excellence, often reserved for the postseason in October; and two weeks out from the postseason, any team with a shot at the postseason should be playing October baseball.

There is one part of the team that is playing October baseball — the defense. It certainly isn’t the offense or the pitching. The Yankees handed the ball to Phil Hughes to begin tonight’s game, and that was kind of part of the problem tonight. Hughes pitched 2 solid innings and 4 batters in the 3rd, allowing 7 hits, 2 walks, 3 runs, and 2 strikeouts. Back-to-back doubles in the 1st inning scored the first Tampa Bay run and an RBI single plated another runner in the 3rd, and his 3rd earned run came when a runner, on with a single scored on a sacrifice fly under Hughes’ replacement, David Huff. Huff entered the game in the 3rd with no outs and bases loaded, which scored that run from a Hughes’ batter. He grabbed the final 2 outs of the inning, keeping the runners from scoring more.

In the 6th, with 2 runners on base and 2 outs, Huff gave up a 3-run home run and then a solo home run on the very next batter. Daley got the final out for the Yankees, and the Rays had 7 runs on the board after 6 innings. It wasn’t pretty. Cabral threw a scoreless 7th inning, and Robertson worked his magic in the 8th, going 1-2-3. And Preston Claiborne in the 9th promptly allows an additional run via a leadoff solo home run.

Offensively, the Yankees looked alive in the beginning when Eduardo Nunez and Robinson Cano each hit doubles, scoring a run to tie up the game in the 1st. And down 3-1 in the 3rd, Nunez hits a leadoff solo home run to put the score at 3-2 Rays. Into the bottom of the 8th, the Yankees attempt a late game rally. Suzuki and Cano singles, and Wells walks to load the bases, with 2 outs. Overbay then works a walk, and the Rays allow Suzuki to walk home. The score is 7-3 Rays and ends up 8-3 by the end of the game.

A tough loss for a lot of reasons, as you can imagine. And despite what some analysts said, the pitching wasn’t as great as it should be on either side of the field. Phenomenal pitching can take a weaker offensive team and make it extraordinary, especially in the postseason. And October baseball winners are those teams that have that amazing pitching staff plus the sparking bats plus the lightning defense.

Tonight, that last category belonged to the Yankees, and a good portion of that to Eduardo Nunez. In the 5th inning, in what can only be described as one of the best plays I’ve seen a 3rd baseman make all season, Nunez grabs a deflected ball in the shallow infield and fires it to 1st base for the out; a play usually pulled off by players much more seasoned that him. That kind of defensive action (plus his offensive contribution today) could really solidify Nunez’s role in the future of the Yankees roster, and personally, I think he’s a really great 3rd baseman. Then Brendan Ryan got in on the defensive action with a giant running leap to save a run from scoring in the 5th inning. And in the 7th inning, the infield worked a great double play as Cano to Ryan to Reynolds (4-6-3).

Tampa Bay Rays v New York Yankees
Rivera & Jeter present Pettitte
with farewell gift from the team
via Google Images

Prior to tonight’s game, the Yankees honored Andy Pettitte with a special ceremony. Long-time teammates and Core Four members Mariano Rivera and Derek Jeter presented Pettitte with a framed base from the last day Pettitte pitched at the stadium (Sunday). Everyone on the team signed the base for Pettitte to remember all the great times and great teams he had at Yankee Stadium. The base itself had Rivera’s Day logo on it and featured side plates with the date and “Mariano Rivera Day”.

Steiner Sports also presented Jeter and his “Jeter’s Leaders” with a check for $250,000 to Jeter’s foundation, the Turn 2 Foundation, for the partnership they have with them. Recently, they partnered in fundraisers with Steiner hosting online auctions for signed sports memorabilia, with all the funds going to Turn 2. Turn 2 is a leadership initiative that develops teenagers into leaders in their community and helps with programs in several major cities to encourage kids to lead healthy lifestyles through sports.

Yes, today was tough with the loss and the elimination from the postseason, but there are still four games to play. The season isn’t over yet, and there is still work to be done. No matter what, you can count on the Yankees making every effort they can to win games that technically won’t count for anything but morale. Because that’s who they are. A win, even one that “doesn’t count”, is still a win. And winning is always the goal.

So here’s to wrapping up the season with some wins…

Go Yankees!

Game 152: NYY vs. TOR — 8th inning wake-up call

The Yankees know they’re coming to the end of the series. The silly stereotype of “dumb jock” doesn’t really apply to most baseball players, especially a clubhouse filled with well-educated, ridiculously literate, seriously smart men. So when the calendar hits September, they know that time is running out, and the cliché of the “long season” isn’t going to fly much longer. So when you’re down to your last two weeks of games and your postseason isn’t locked in, every game counts, everything matters, every pitch is crucial, every run is icing on the cake.

It was a Hughes/Huff outing tonight again north of the border. Phil Hughes went first, 56 pitches over 3.1 innings, just 4 hits, a 2-run homer in the 4th, and 2 strikeouts. And after that big home run, the Yankees flipped to David Huff, who ended up giving up another home run (just a solo home run this time) in the 4th inning. His 47 pitches took him through the 7th inning, but he never allowed another hit or run, so that certainly helped the Yankees. In fact, Huff’s tight game actually earned him the win tonight.

This was because the Yankees came alive in the top of the 8th inning. Brendan Ryan hit a lead-off ground-rule double (thanks, Toronto fan, for your silly interference), (a pitching change), Curtis Granderson singles, (a pitching change), a strikeout, and Robinson Cano singles home Ryan. And then it got interesting. Alfonso Soriano doubles and scores Granderson, and Vernon Wells’ double off the left field wall scores both Cano and the speedy Soriano. And suddenly, that 3-0 lead the Blue Jays were so sure of late in the game got flipped on its end. The Yankees had an inning and a half to protect their tight lead of 4-3.

So they did just that. “Houdini” David Robertson got two quick outs in the 8th inning, but allowed a single to a player and was to face one of their most consistent hitters. So they went to Mariano Rivera for a 4-out save. Rivera nabbed that last out in the 8th but gave up back-to-back singles in the 9th, (maybe just to make things more interesting for the fans), before getting those final 3 amazing outs, with runners perched in scoring position. And Rivera walks away with his 44th save of the season, and number 652 for his career.

Old Sign
courtesy of Google Images

I’ve been reading a lot lately about how attendance is down at parks all over the country, even at stadiums where there’s a playoff race happening. There’s some really tight division and wild card races in both the NL and AL, and people just aren’t showing up. And without being pessimistic or instructional, I have no other option but to be encouraging — I’m encouraging you to go to a game or two or ten before the regular season ends. Most of America lives within driving distance of a major league park, and if you don’t, make it a fun weekend road trip.

Ask yourself what’s holding you back from watching a game. And if it’s what always gets tossed around, I’m guessing your number one answer is ticket prices. But here’s the trick, you don’t have just one place to buy game tickets, like it’s a concert. Look for online discount ticket exchanges; I’ve had a lot of success finding tickets for at least half the regular price. Fun story: I once paid $7 a ticket for $75 seats, through such an online store. That’s a rarity, I know, as it’s usually not that discounted. But you never know until you take a risk and try for it.

Just go to a game. You don’t have to “root for the home team”, or even the visiting team. Just go enjoy a game for what it is — a wonderful sport, steeping in history and legend.

After all, you never know if you may be watching the next Babe Ruth or Mickey Mantle or Derek Jeter.

Go Yankees!

Game 147: NYY vs. BAL — Wild Weather, Wild Catch, Wild Pitch, Wild Scoring

The Yankees certainly know how to keep this game interesting. Right off the top, Brett Gardner is pulled from the game with oblique soreness after an awkward checked swing. While they were able to put in Granderson and still have plenty of players available off the bench. Gardner isn’t the easiest guy to lose, as an oblique injury, even a minor one could bench him for the last 15 games of the season. Bryan Hoch (Yankees’ beat reporter) put it plainly tonight, “Gardner has been one of the Yankees’ most consistent performers this year. In 145 games, he has batted .273, setting single-season career highs in hits (147), doubles (33) and home runs (eight), while playing Gold Glove-caliber defense in the outfield and stealing 24 bases in 32 attempts.”

But it was Phil Hughes back in action to start today’s game. Both he and his 4th inning replacement David Huff were on tight leashes tonight. The Yankees know that every game is absolutely vital, especially with several really tough series coming up. They each went 3 total innings, throwing to an additional batter in the following inning (Hughes into the 4th, Huff the 7th): Hughes went 50 pitches, 3 hits, 1 earned run (an RBI single in the 3rd), and 1 strikeout; Huff 40 pitches, 2 hits, 1 earned run (a solo homer in the 7th), and a strikeout. Actually, together they make a pretty good pitcher, but since neither can really be consistent as a starter, perhaps this may be the best way to split up a start for them for the next couple of starts. An interesting idea, at least.

Now, before we move on to the next pitcher, we should probably explain why the Yankees were getting nervous at the creeping Orioles’ offense. Because once again, the Yankees were hitting, and hitting really well. In the 2nd inning, Eduardo Nunez hits a lead-off single and scores on Mark Reynolds’ 200th career homer. Then with no outs in the 3rd, Alex Rodriguez walks, Alfonso Soriano doubles, and Robinson Cano walks to load the bases. With a simple swing of the bat, Vernon Wells shoots one into left field for a 2-RBI single, scoring Rodriguez and Soriano. And in the 7th, it’s Curtis Granderson to add to the Yankees’ lead with his own solo home run that bounced into the concourse over the right field seats. (Camden Yards is known for being a “hitters’ park” due to the shortened depth of its fences, but Granderson’s would have been out in the deepest stadium. The man can hit pretty hard, pretty far.)

Adam Warren gets the first two outs in the 7th inning, but with two men on, they opt for fresh Cesar Cabral for that final out, keeping the Yankees’ lead intact. So, of course, going into the 8th 5-2, the Yankees turn to their set-up man, David Robertson to do his Houdini magic. On the 0-2 pitch, the lead-off hitter smacks a long ball deep into left field, but it’s Soriano to the rescue to reach over the wall and rob the runner of his addition to the score — what many people have dubbed the “Catch of the Season” (at least for today). Perhaps it should have been a sign, something a bit too close for comfort, and with 2 outs and 2 on with back-to-back singles, Robertson gives up a 3-run home run to blow the save and tie up the game. Houdini took the night off; it was just David having an off-night.

So they head into the 9th, knowing how vital this game is for both teams to have even a small chance at the postseason. Brendan Ryan singles (his first as a Yankee), and Chris Stewart bunts back to the pitcher who throws so wide of 2nd that most grandmothers could have made the run to 3rd, unless they tripped over 2nd base like Ryan did and had to stay there. So two on, no outs, and Granderson lays down a perfect sacrifice bunt to advance both runners. Rodriguez is deep into his at-bat, when a really wild pitch bounces in the dirt and far away from the catcher. With Rodriguez signally furiously, Ryan is able to score standing up (his first as a Yankee) and push the Yankees back in the lead at 6-5. After intentionally walking Rodriguez, a double play send the game to Mariano Rivera.

Three batters and three outs later — game over. Yankees win 6-5 and now sit just one game out of the second wild card spot. The postseason is no longer a dream, but a real distinct possibility. I should also note there was a one hour and eighteen minute rain delay at the start of the game. The skies over Baltimore were anything but friendly.

Also, it was Mariano Rivera who earned tonight’s win. And with everyone wondering how that was possible, it’s actually pretty easy. Even though Robertson pitched the inning before they technically earned the run that won the game, he also officially blew the save. Had the Orioles won, Robertson would have earned the loss and was therefore ineligible for the win no matter what happened. That meant the only pitcher available to earn the win would be Rivera, and thus was scored accordingly. Not a common scoring dilemma, but at least one that makes sense.

I just hope the Yankees take this 3-game (out of 4 in the series) win momentum to Boston — enemy territory, where the enemy is 9.5 games ahead and 99% a shoo-in for the AL East division title. Despite their Duck Dynasty beards, Boston is one of the best teams in the league (boy, is that not a comfortable thing for a Yankee fan to admit). And the last series in the Bronx (friendly territory) was an uphill battle. It will be either really interesting or really devastating to see how this weekend turns out. But with a play-off spot within reach, I don’t think the Yankees are quite ready to give up just yet.

But then again, when are they ever ready to quit? They are, after all, the Yankees.

Go Yankees!