Last week, Texas Rangers closer Joe Nathan pitched the ninth inning for the American League All-Star team. That didn't sit too well in New York. Tonight, Eduardo Nunez and Brent Lillibridge proved too much for Nathan in the ninth inning as the Yankees rallied with for a wild 5-4 win.
The Yankees opened the scoring with an impressive string of non-out-making in the top of the third. Melky Mesa led off with a double and Austin Romine drove him home with a double of his own. It was the first run the Yankees scored against Texas pitching in their last 22 innings and the first run they scored against any pitching in their last 15 innings. After Brett Gardner moved Romine to third with a single of his own, Ichiro Suzuki drove him home with an infield single to deep short. With two on, no outs, two already in, and Robinson Cano stepping up to the plate, the Yankees looked poised for a big inning. Then they remembered what year it is. Cano promptly grounded into a double play and Lyle Overbay fell victim to a fine sliding catch from center fielder Craig Gentry to end the frame.
Vernon Wells, of all people, kept the up the parade of doubles to lead off the fourth. He moved to third on a fly ball from Nunez and scored just ahead of the throw on a fielder's choice grounder from Lillibridge. That man Vernon is a regular one-man offense these days.
Yankees starter Phil Hughes may not have pitched his way through the sixth inning, but he did shock the baseball world by giving up zero home runs in Arlington. The Ichiro/Gardner/Mesa outfield kept busy - eight of Hughes' 15 outs came via the fly ball. His breaking pitches looked flat throughout the game - yet another reason his homer-less outing seemed too good to be true.
The Rangers took the lead in the bottom of the sixth. Nelson Cruz reached first base thanks to a Lillibridge error with one out in the inning, and he would score one batter later on a double by Adrian Beltre. A.J. Pierzynski flew out, giving Hughes a chance to to limit the damage to one run, if only he could get out the struggling Elvis Andrus. Alas, it was not to be. Andrus singled in Beltre, and Hughes was yanked after a mere 80 pitches.
Joe Girardi decided to "play the percentages" by bringing in Boone Logan to face the lefty Mitch Moreland (I'm compelled to put the phrase in quotes--since lefties hit for a higher average, on-base percentage, and slugging percentage against Logan than do righties, the move was literally the exact opposite of playing the percentages). What followed was oddly poetic: the first batter after Hughes left the game hit the go-ahead home run, turning a 3-2 lead into a 4-3 deficit.
Preston Claiborne and Joba Chamberlain combined for a spotless 2.1 innings of relief - naturally, Joba was aided by the fielding genius of Gardner, who ran the equivalent of a 10K tracking down fly balls blasted all over the Texas outfield in the bottom of the eighth.
Heading into the ninth, Rangers pitching had retired the last 12 Yankees in order. Nathan made quick work of Overbay before surrendering a walk to Wells. Nunez--he of the 64 OPS+ heading into tonight--worked the count to 3-2 before lacing the ball beyond the reach of Gentry for a stand-up triple. Lillibridge singled over the drawn-in infield to bring in Nunez with the winning run.
American League All-Star Setup Man Mariano Rivera struck out two in a dominant close-out performance. Somebody needs to call Jim Leyland and tell him that this kid might have a future at the back end of the bullpen.
Mom Quote of the Night:
During Melky Mesa's third-inning double.
Mom: "Who is this guy?"
Me: "Melky Mesa."
Mom: "RUNNNN, LITTLE MELKY! I knew he was fast. Look at those long legs! When you have short legs, like me, they don't take you far."
My dear Joe Nathan, have you not heard the old Klingon proverb that "revenge is a dish best served cold?" Well, my friend, it is very cold in Texas in July.
Wait, does that work? Oh, who cares...YANKEES WIN!!!!
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