Yankees 4, Rangers 3: Just enough homers

Jason Szenes

The team known as the Bronx Bombers played tonight in the Bronx...so they hit some bombs.

Ichiro Suzuki hit a walk-off blast as the New York Yankees - the 2013 version (???) - used four solo home runs to out-muscle the Texas Rangers, 4-3.

The Rangers seemingly came into the game with a clear plan - starter Yu Darvish would throw almost nothing but breaking balls and their offense would rely mostly on the power of number nine hitter Leonys Martin. It was a bold plan, and they darn-near pulled it off.

The Yankees tried playing station-to-station baseball against Darvish in the bottom of the first - following a Brett Gardner ground out, Ichiro, Robinson Cano and Travis Hafner hit back-to-back-to-back singles to score a grand total of zero runs. It was clear from the get-go that Darvish had no control (and/or no trust) in his fastball, so he resorted to throwing a string of get-me-over breaking balls. Somehow, he managed to freeze Lyle Overbay with his sixth or seventh breaking ball in a row for strike three, and Zoilo Almonte grounded out on yet another breaking ball to end the inning. The Rangers announcers even turned it into a running gag: "Gee, I wonder what pitch he's gonna throw here." Yukkity-yuk, good times.

The Rangers, who were for some reason unwilling to rely on four singles to score a run, jumped out to a 1-0 lead thanks to a home run off the bat of Leonys Martin - a hard-hit line drive, but complete and utter Yankee Stadium Special that landed in the second row of the right field bleachers.

Then, as if to show the Yankees how it's done, the Rangers scored a run in the fourth on a error, base hit, base hit and a one-out ground ball that was hit too slowly to turn the double play. I was actually hoping Hiroki Kuroda would throw nothing but breaking balls down the middle of the plate, because apparently you aren't allowed to swing at those with the bases loaded. Jayson Nix saved a run with a fine play on a grounder up the middle. Cue Suzyn Waldman voice: he does something every game!

The game suddenly got interesting in the bottom of the fourth when the Yankees basically said, "forget all this small-ball crap." Darvish threw what seemed to be his 60th breaking ball in a row to Travis Hafner...and Hafner swung. Huzzah! Not only did he swing, but he knocked the ball into the right center field bleachers for a home run to make it 2-1. The teams exchanged solo shots in the fifth: Martin hit his second of the game in the top half, and Brett Gardner brought the Yankees back to within one with an absolute bomb in the bottom half (another breaking ball!). Later in the inning the Yankees had a chance to score - runners on the corners with one out - only to be victimized by the same set of circumstances that bit them in the first. Lyle Overbay struck out, making him 0-for-2 with two strike outs with a runner on third in the game, and Almonte hit a grounder to short to end the inning.

Though he was around the 100 pitch mark and clearly struggling, Ranger manager Ron Washington left Darvish in for the sixth inning. Jayson Nix said "Thanks, Ron" with his bat, blasting his second home run of the year to tie the game at three. And yes, it was another breaking ball. For those scoring at home, that was Nix's second "something" of the game.

Kuroda pitched a solid game, outside of the two Martin dingers - 6.2 IP, 5 H, 3 R (2 ER), 6 K, 1 BB - and the offense should feel good about bailing him out after letting him down so many times this season. Boone Logan struck out his one lefty, and tag team of David Robertson and Mariano Rivera made sure the Rangers didn't put any more runs on the board. Chris Stewart threw out both Texas runners who tried to steal in this game with a pair of dynamite throws, so I won't make fun of him tonight. Zoilo Almonte failed to get a hit, but did make a fine running catch in left in the first. Please, Mr. Girardi, don't take him out of the lineup tomorrow.

This was a satisfying game to win, inasmuch as it would have been a horrifying game to lose. The Yankees went 1-for-7 with runners in scoring position, but they made up for it the good old-fashioned Bronx Bomber way. For one June night at the Stadium, it felt just old times.

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