It's amazing how this offense can go from scoring at least four runs in nine of ten games, fall to completely lifeless in a matter of days, and then suddenly come back to life with little warning. They were dominated today by Cubs ace Jeff Samardzija, who hurled seven shutout innings of four-hit ball, and the Yankees never once appeared comfortable against him. Fortunately, they had some friends in the Cubs' bullpen and defense.
Chase Whitley started the game for the Yankees, and he immediately ran into trouble when Junior Lake beat the shift on a single to right with one out and stole second to move into scoring position. Whitley pitched around Anthony Rizzo, walking him to bring up Starlin Castro. However, Whitley worked out of it by inducing a pop-up to third and an easy grounder from Luis Valbuena, ending a scoreless first after 15 pitches--not too bad a workload considering the five batters faced.
The Yankees threatened in the second when both Brian McCann and Ichiro Suzuki reached via singles to left, putting a runner in scoring position and two outs for Brian Roberts. The second baseman was not able to capitalize on the opportunity though, grounding out to first to end the inning. The Cubs countered with their own attempt in the bottom of the second when after striking out the first two batters, Whitley surrendered a double to Mike Olt that went over Brett Gardner's head. Fortunately, Whitley got to face Samardzija next, and the pitcher hit an easy fly to center, stranding Olt.
After a quiet third, the Yankees mounted a two-out rally in the fourth. McCann walked and Yangervis Solarte grounded a single up the middle, but Ichiro could only muster a grounder to second, ending the inning. The Cubs did not encounter such difficulties in the bottom half of the fourth, when they scored the game's first run.
With one out, Valbuena, Welington Castillo, and Nate Schierholtz all singled consecutively against Whitley. Schierholtz's single was particularly frustrating, as it took a bad hop in front of Mark Teixeira and instead of runners on second and third with two outs, the Cubs had bases loaded, one out. Olt took advantage of the opportunity and drove a deep fly ball to center, scoring Valbuena.
Samardzija bounced out to end the inning, and although Whitley limited the damage, the Cubs had the lead. After a leadoff triple down the right field line by Emilio Bonifacio in the fifth, Whitley induced a pop-up from Lake and departed the game in favor of Dellin Betances, who continued his dominance with a strikeout of Rizzo and fly ball to center from Castro. (Later, Dellin ran his K total up to 45 on the season and his K/9 up to 15.6 K/9. Ridiculous.) Whitley threw 71 pitches in 4 1/3 innings of work, allowing one run on six hits and a walk. It wasn't a bad outing per se, but as Jesse noted on Twitter, three of the five starters in the rotation only seem capable of going about five innings. Joe Girardi had hoped prior to the game that Whitley could give him six innings, but alas. That's not going to be good for the rotation in the long run.
Despite Dealin Dellin's nice work to keep the score 1-0, the Yankees' offense continued to frustrate. Jeter led off with a single but never reached second base. Ellsbury continued his awful slump with a weak pop up to third and Teixeira grounded into a 3-6-3 double play. Ellsbury is 1-for-27 and now has just five hits in his last 53 at-bats, an .094 average. Woof. April Ellsbury really needs to make a comeback.
While the Yankees continued to flail at the plate, the Cubs added an insurance run against Adam Warren. Pinch-hitting for Samardzija, Ryan Kalish tripled to almost the exact same place Bonifacio did, and unlike last night, the Cubs successfully executed a squeeze play to bring the runner home. It looked like the Cubs would cause even more problems when they loaded the bases with one out for Castro, but Warren got him to hit a 1-1 pitch on the ground right to Jeter, who started a double play that ended the inning. Keeping the score at 2-0 turned out to be a crucial play in the game.
The Yankees were dismal all day long until they came alive in the ninth inning, down by two runs. Facing Cubs closer Hector Rondon, Mark Teixeira led off with a single to center, and he moved to second on a Brian McCann walk. Brendan Ryan pinch-ran for the catcher and Yangervis Solarte followed with a bloop to center that loaded the bases with no one out, a golden opportunity. It briefly seemed like they might squander it when Ichiro Suzuki grounded a ball to short. Starlin Castro flipped to second for the forceout, but Darwin Barney threw the potential double play ball away and two runs scored, knotting the game at two. There might not have even been a play, as Ichiro was running well down the line, but Barney's error cost the Cubs. The rally ended shortly thereafter and Matt Daley threw a surprising 1-2-3 inning to move the game to extras.
Extra innings would have ended quite early if not for some timely pitches by the Yankees bullpen. Daley ominously started the 10th with a leadoff walk to Rizzo and after getting Castro to pop out, he also walked Valbuena to move the winning run into scoring position. Daley rebounded by fanning Castillo on a called strike three, and Girardi elected to turn to lefty Matt Thornton to face the same-handed Schierholtz. After a long at-bat that reached three balls, Schierholtz hit a bullet right to Gardner in left field, ending the inning and prolonging the game.
After a couple more frames and pitching changes, the Yankees finally broke through against old friend Jose Veras in the 13th inning. Ryan led off with a sharp liner that went off Valbuena's glove at third base, and Solarte followed with a walk to move him into scoring position. Preston Claiborne, who had thrown the previous 1 2/3 innings, then had to bat because the Yankees were out of pinch-hitters, and he successfully bunted the runners to second and third with one out for John Ryan Murphy (who subbed for McCann once Ryan pinch-ran for him). Veras uncorked a wild pitch that nearly hit Murphy, bringing Ryan home with the long-awaited go-ahead run. Murphy added an insurance run by singling to right field and scoring Solarte, making the score 4-2.
David Robertson, the last non-starter in the bullpen, entered the game to try to close it out, and close it out he did. D-Rob struck out two Cubs and allowed just one hit, finally ending the marathon game. It was the first time all year the Yankees had rallied for a win when trailing after the seventh inning, and dear sweet fancy Moses was it welcome.
The Yankees will move on to the other side of town where they face (gulp) Chris Sale tomorrow afternoon at 8:10pm EST while they send David Phelps to the mound.