Friday, June 25, 2010

Series In Review: Duel in the Desert

How many times did the 2001 World Series have to be mentioned during game broadcast this week? If Michael Kay ever speaks about it again…

In their first trip to the desert since 2004, the New York Yankees came into Arizona with the best record in baseball as well as the AL East lead by 1 game. The Diamondbacks, on the other hand, trailed the NL West by 13.5 games and held the 5th worst record in baseball.

With A.J. Burnett taking the mound against former Oriole Rodrigo Lopez, hopes were as high as the desert temperature. However, this didn’t last very long. After retiring the first 2 batters of the game, Burnett was hideous. 5 straight hits, 3 of which were homeruns by Justin Upton, Adam Laroche and Mark Reynolds, made the game 5-0 Diamondbacks very quickly. Miguel Montero would double home a run in the bottom of the 2nd to extend the lead to 6-0.

In the top half of the innings, Lopez was pitching the game of his life. After cruising through the first 2 innings, Lopez surrendered a Brett Gardner single to lead off the 3rd. Burnett and Jeter moved Gardner to 2nd and 3rd then Nick Swisher tripled him home to get the Yankees on the board. Mark Teixeira would pop out to end the inning.

Following a 2-out walk to Justin Upton, Upton would steal 2nd and Montero would single him home to give the D-backs a 7-1 lead. That would be all for "Bad Burnett" as he would only go 4 innings allowing 9 hits and 7 earned runs.

An RBI double by Alex Rodriguez and sacrifice flies by Posada and Swisher would give the Yankees hope, but Justin Upton took Chan Ho-merun Park yard for a three run homer to cap off an offensive outburst for the D-backs. They would win the game 10-4.

The second game of the series gave the fans a great pitching matchup between Andy Pettitte and Dan Haren. Haren had never lost a game to the Yankees while with the Oakland Athletics and Andy Pettitte is on track for the coveted Cy Young Award.

The game started off spectacular for New York. Derek Jeter would stroke a single to open the game and Alex Rodriguez, who hadn’t homered in his previous 50 at-bats now, approached the plate. He was tied for the 2nd longest homerless streak of his career. Just as John Sterling finished explaining that, Rodriguez drove a ball into deep left-centerfield for a 2-run dinger to give the Yanks a 2-0 advantage.

In the bottom of the 2nd, Dan Haren would come to the plate with the bases loaded and 2 outs. Haren, yes… the pitcher, was batting .425 yet still seemed like a joke at the plate. Well, he roped a pitch into rightfield to score 2 runs to tie the game.

Following a Rodriguez RBI single in the 4th to give the Yankees a 3-2 lead, Haren and Pettitte would exchange zeroes until the 8th inning strolled around.

Esmerling Vazquez would relieve Haren as well as the Yankee hardships at the plate. Derek Jeter reached base on an infield hit and Nick Swisher doubled to give the Yankees 2nd and 3rd with no outs. Teixeira singled to score them both, making the game 5-2. After numerous hits by Robinson Cano, Curtis Granderson, Colin Curtis and a sac-fly by Jorge Posada, the Yankees led the game 9-2.

Joba Chamberlain would escape the 8th with no damage and David Robertson would give back 1 run in the 9th but shut the door en route to a 9-3 victory.

The rubber match of the series showcased a starter who is starting to look like his old-self in Javier Vazquezand a starter who has completely lost himself in Dontrelle "D-train" Willis.

To say that this game was ugly would be an understatement. It was grostesque. Willis walked Jeter on 4 pitches to start the game and would advance him to 2nd with a wild pitch. Swisher would single to center to give the Yanks a 1-0 lead. Swisher would then be picked off 1st base before Teixeira and Rodriguez both walked. Robinson Cano would strike out swinging while Mark Teixeira was gunned trying to steal third.

Vazquez would start the game in similar fashion, walking Kelly Johnson on 4 straight balls. Stephan Drew and Justin Upton singled as Johnson was thrown out at the plate by Nick Swisher. Montero walked, Young struck out and Adam Laroche singled to right to score 2 runs before Montero was thrown out at third base.

Yes, 4 of the first 6 outs were made by mental lapses on the basepaths.

The Yankees would tie the game in the 3rd when Derek Jeter reached on an fielder’s choice (Javy out at 2nd) and Swisher, Teixeira and A-rod would all walk to tie the game. The Yankees didn’t even get a hit and scored. Cano grounded into a double play to end the top half of the frame.

Adam Laroche gave the D-backs a 4-2 lead in the 4th by singling home Montero and Young, but Javier Vazquez worked his way out of further trouble by retiring the side.

In the top of the 6th, Francisco Cervelli doubled to lead off the inning. Granderson singled, stole 2nd, and Brett Gardner grounded out to 2nd to give the Yankees a run as they trailed 4-3. Colin Curtis singled to bring home Granderson and the game was tied yet again. Jeter grounded into a double play to end the inning.

Damaso Marte surrendered a run in the 7th with one of the ugliest performances by a relief pitcher I’ve ever seen. He walks Young, balks and gives him 2nd base for free, throws a wild pitch to advance him to 3rd, and then allows him to score on a ball hit back TO THE MOUND.

A-rod was merely one of the saviors by tying the game in the 9th with a sac-fly to score Jeter. At this point, the game was basically painful to watch. With poor baserunning and pitching by both teams the score was 5-5 going into the 9th.

I can only imagine Girardi looked at the scoreboard of the AL East and noticed that every team had suffered a loss Wednesday night. With a chance to gain a game on Boston and Tampa, he decided the Yankees ought to go to Mariano. The decision panned out as Rivera held the game together to send it into extra innings.

On the third pitch of the 10th inning, Granderson drilled a 396-foot homerun into the rightfield seats as the Yankees jumped out to a 6-5 lead. Mariano Rivera would come to the plate in the 10th only to ground out to the 1st baseman.

The bottom of the 10th inning is where the world was reminded of how valuable and extraordinary Mariano Rivera truly is. Drew singled, Upton doubled to left and the Yankees walked Montero to face Chris Young. Rivera had successfully loaded the bases with no outs, and a hit would not only tie the game but most likely win it for the Diamondbacks. Young would foul out behind the plate to Cervelli for the 1st out of the inning. Adam Laroche, who was responsible for all 5 RBI, popped out to Rodriguez for the 2nd out of the inning. Mark Reynolds came to the plate and on a 2-2 pitch struck out swinging at the deadly cutter that has been responsible for Rivera’s continued success. Calm, cool, collected, as the rest of the Yankees fist-pumped and screamed in jubilance, Mariano Rivera acted as if what he had just done was routine. And to tell you the truth, it was. No other human on the planet could have mustered what Rivera did on Wednesday. The Yankees won 6-5 to take the series in the desert.

Series Notes:

  • Rodriguez snapped his 50 at bat homerless streak and had 6 RBI.
  • The Yankees improved their all-time record against Arizona to 12-7.
  • Mariano Rivera’s ERA is now 1.03.
  • Brett Gardner had 4 hits in the 10-4 loss.
  • Colin Curtis picked up his first hits and RBIs in the desert

The Yankees have gained a game on both Tampa and Boston and now lead the AL East by 2 games. New York is set to play a 3-game series with the Los Angeles Dodgers this weekend as Sabathia takes the mound tonight at 10:10.

Yankee stats from the series:

  • Record: 2-1
  • BA: 31 for 103 (.301)
  • RISP: 9 for 29 (.310)
  • Homeruns: 2
  • Runs: 19
  • ERA: 6.00

Diamondback stats from the series:

  • Record: 1-2
  • BA: 32 for 107 (.299)
  • RISP: 8 for 23 (.348)
  • Homeruns: 4
  • Runs: 18
  • ERA: 6.11

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