Jobu reviews the Yankees’ big series win against the Texas Rangers.
The blogosphere was all aflutter coming into this series for a few reasons. First of all, this is being billed as the Battle for the American League’s Best Record, because you know, it’s not enough that the Yankees and Rangers have built up a pretty good rivalry over the last few years (and some in the mid-late 90s as well). Anyway this big four-gamer in the Bronx was also a big challenge for the Yankees, who have been struggling against good teams (and the Red Sox) of late. In the end The Yankees took two out of three and really made a big statement in the American League, that they are not to be taken lightly.
Game 1: Yankees 8, Rangers 2
As we mentioned in the review of the last series, CC Sabathia was placed on the DL with an elbow issue. To take his place, the Yankees bumped David Phelps to the mound to start this game against the newest Ranger, Ryan Dempster. I was once upset that the Yankees didn’t make a push for Dempster, but the way he’s been pitching in Texas, Cashman’s starting to look smarter and smarter. The Yankees crushed him to take game one. Opening salvos are back!
Phelps had made a couple of starts before this game, but had always failed to get through the required five innings for a win. Considering he was on a 75-80 pitch count for this game, I didn’t think he’d be able to pitch five in this one either. Things started out a little rocky for Phelpsy, as he allowed a bloop-filled run in the top of the first, and a solo home run to David Murphy in the second, but he settled down nicely after that, using two pickoffs to keep himself out of further trouble as he figured out which pitches were working and which weren’t. He retired seven of the last eight batters he faced, and made it through the fifth with this final line: 5 Ip, 6 H, 2 R, 1 BB, 3 Ks, 78 pitches and his third win of the year (3-3).
Phelps, however, was almost outdone by newest Yankee Derek Lowe. Not to get too excited about his debut, but Lowe was fantastic in this game. The 39-year old pitched four scoreless innings, using only 44 pitches. He got four strike outs and four ground balls, and earned a save in his Yankees debut. Let’s hope he keeps it up!
Salami Is Great
I don’t know what’s wrong with Ryan Dempster. I don’t really believe that the switch from the NL to the AL can turn a pitcher from one that puts up a 2.25 ERA to one that suddenly sees that balloon to 8.31, so there must be something else going on. The Yankees were all over him in this one, although it took them basically a full turn through the order to get to him.
The bottom of the third started out with singles by Russell Martin and Raúl Ibañez, who moved to second and third on Ichiro’s sacrifice bunt (he was trying to bunt for a hit). Derek Jeter then walked, which brought up Nick Swisher. Dempster’s second pitch was a little too good, and Swisher hit a crush job, no doubter into the second deck in right for a grand slam to give the Yankees a 4-2 lead. They quickly reloaded the bases off of Dempster on a walk to Robinson Canó and singles by Mark Teixeira and Eric Chavez, but only managed one more run, on a deeeeeeep sacrifice fly by Curtis Granderson.
They would tack on three more runs before the night was done, all off of Dempster (not sure why he was forced to pitch six in this game). Chavez continued to terrorize AL pitching by hitting his 13th home run of the season in the bottom of the sixth, and the Yankees added two in the seventh on a triple by Ichiro, an RBI double by Jeter and an RBI single by Swisher. 8-2, that’s how you do that, friends.
Notable Offense: HR – Swisher (15), Chavez (13), RBI – Swisher 5 (63), Granderson (67), Chavez (30), Jeter (38), 2 hits for Swisher, Chavez and Ibañez
Game 2: Yankees 3, Rangers 0
After the pounding they shelled out in game one, the Yankees sent Hiroki Kuroda to the mound against one of the better young starters in the league, Matt Harrison. Harrison came into this game with 13 wins, so you knew it wasn’t going to be a cake walk. What we didn’t know was the Kuroda would pitch one of his best games of the year, and Swisher would come through with another huge home run for a big game two win.
Kuku for Roda
Kuroda was absolutely lights out in this game. For most of the night, he just used his fastball and slider all night and completely shut down the best offense in baseball. He didn’t allow a hit until the top of the seventh (an infield single to Elvis Andrus), and the only other hit he allowed was a dinky single up the middle to Michael Young in the eighth. Hiroki got 15 outs on the ground and didn’t even let the ball out of the infield until the fourth. This was a huge start, not only for Kuroda, but for the Yankees as well. It’s nice to know Hiroki has our backs while CC is on the DL. His final line looked like this: 9 Ip, 2 H, 0 R, 2 BB, 5 Ks, 109 pitches and his eleventh win of the season (11-8). His ERA is now a very spiffy 3.06 for the year. Thank you, Hiroki.
Despite the loss, Harrison was pretty great for the Rangers in game two. He allowed plenty of base runners in the first six innings, but never let the Yankees get the big two-out hit. He shut them out through those six innings, but a one-out single by Jeter in the top of the seventh was enough for Ron Washington to give him the hook. Washington turned to his fireballing righty, Alexi Ogando to get through that. Epic fail.
Ogando came in with guns blazing, getting ahead 0-2 on Swisher with two 99 mph fastballs. Swish fouled off three pitches and took a couple to even the count at 2-2 before somehow laying off a hard slider to run the count full. He knew he’d get a 3-2 fastball, and it was slightly up, and he hammered it into the bullpen in right center for a two-run homer. That, coupled with the Grand Slam from game one, makes Swisher the clutch player of the series so far. Anywho, Ogando wasn’t done sucking. The next batter was Teixeira, and he also got a fat pitch to hit. He turned it around for a solo homer. Belly to Belly, Yankees win.
Notable Offense: HR – Swisher (16), Teixeira (23), RBI – Swisher 2 (65), Teixeira (77), 2 hits for Jeter, Teixeira and McGehee
Game 3: Yankees 3, Rangers 2
Despite the wins in games one and two, I felt this was a pivotal game in the series for the Yankees. If you win the first two, and lose the last two, all is pretty much lost. The Yankees sent Freddy García to the mound in this one, while the Rangers countered with Scott Feldman. The results were a great pitching performance, some clutch early runs and a big Yankees win to guarantee the series victory.
I know I’ve been hard on Freddy this year, but he continues to pleasantly surprise me almost every time out. This time, he basically shut down the best offense in baseball, other than Josh Hamilton. Hamilton tagged Freddy for two monster home runs (one in the fourth and one in the sixth). There’s nothing wrong with giving up home runs to Josh Hamilton. That’s what he does. The rest of the lineup, the Nelson Cruzes, Adrian Beltres and Ian Kinslers of the world didn’t do anything. Freddy was brilliant, and he was rewarded with the following line: 6.2 Ip, 4 H, 2 R, 1 BB, 6 Ks, 100 pitches and his seventh win of the year (7-3). In fact, Freddy leads the team in wins since Andy Pettitte’s injury. Go figure! The Yankees bullpen took over from there, as Logan, Robertson and Rafael Soriano finished off the Rangers for the win. Untuck the shirt, Yankees win.
One And Done
The Yankees basically won the first two games on the strength of one big inning, and that trend continued in game three. Once again, Swisher was the one who got the scoring started. Jason Nix had an infield single, stole second and moved to third on a single to right by Jeter, which brought up Swish. It wasn’t a home run this time for Swish though. He blooped a double to left field that scored Nix and moved Jeter to third to give the Yankees a 1-0 lead. Granderson then hit a sac fly to score Jeter, and Swisher scored on a clean line drive single by Chavez. That was all the scoring the Yankees would do, as they held on for the 3-2 win.
Notable Offense: RBI – Swisher (66), Granderson (68), Chavez (31), SB – Nix (4), 3 hits for Chavez, 2 for Ichiro, 2 for Nix
Game 4: Rangers 10, Yankees 6
It’s always nice to sweep, especially against a tough opponent like the Rangers, but you knew Texas would end up taking a game in this series. They’re just too good, and were due for a break. Their break was getting to face Iván Nova, who went back to his terrible ways after a great start his last time out. The Yankees got to Derek Holland, but the bullpen couldn’t hold it and the Rangers took the last game to avoid being swept. Three out of four ain’t bad though, right?
Not At All Super
I was hoping Nova would take what he did against the Blue Jays his last time out, grow some confidence and blow the rangers away to complete the sweep. He didn’t. The Rangers knocked him around. He did manage to get himself out of trouble a lot during the day, which kept things from being a lot worse than they could have been, but it wasn’t good. Two runs in the first and two runs in the sixth was what the Rangers were able to muster against Iván. The Yankees ended up coming back to take the lead, but things just didn’t work out. Nova’s final line looked like this: 5.2 Ip, 7 H, 4 R, 4 BB, 2 Ks, 103 pitches and a no decision.
As I said earlier, the bullpen wasn’t very good in this game. Eppley, Logan, Chamberlain and Rapada combined to give up six runs in 3.1 innings, which helped the Rangers come back to win after the Yankees had come back from a 4-0 deficit to take the lead. The bullpen was pretty great throughout the series so it’s tough to complain, but they were also mismanaged by Joe Girardi again, which didn’t help. Girardi left lefties in to face righties, righties in to face lefties, etc. It was bad.
Not Enough Comebacks
The Yankees were down four runs in the bottom of the sixth and hadn’t really done anything at all against Holland through the first five innings. It made their comeback inning all the more thrilling because it kind of came out of nowhere. Ichiro singled to lead things off and moved to second on a groundout by Chris Stewart. Jeter singled Ichiro in and moved to second on the throw home, which allowed him to score when Swisher followed up with single. After Teixeira struck out for the second out, the slumping Andrew Jones got a fatty fastball to hit and crushed it out to left to tie the game. Casey McGehee then hit a pretty routine fly ball to right that was dropped for a two base error by rookie Mike Olt, and he scored on a big single by Russell Martin. The Yankees would add another run in the bottom of the seventh on a fielder’s choice by Teixeira, but they were already losing by then. They simply didn’t have another comeback in them, especially afte the bullpen let the Rangers score the eight, ninth and tenth runs of the game.
Notable Offense: HR – Jones (13), RBI – Jeter (39), Swisher (67), Jones 2 (30), Martin (32), Teixeira (78), SB – Martin (4), 3 hits for Ichiro (2,557), 2 for Jeter (3,247)
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