Saturday, July 18, 2009

Now That's A Moonshot!

Well, at least someone paid attention to my keys to the second half.

Mark Teixeira had the most important of the of the Yankees' three hits with runners in scoring position Friday, smoking a dramatic, three-run homer in the rain during the seventh inning to rally New York to a 5-3 victory over the AL Central-leading Tigers, starting a 10-game homestand in style. The win was the Yankees' 26th come-from-behind victory and kept them three games behind the Red Sox in the AL East.

Despite some strong first-half numbers, Teixeira hit just .245 (23-for-94) with runners in scoring position. While he did have 63 RBI, Teixeira's production in scoring situations just wasn't satisfactory for a No. 3 hitter.

Friday he changed that, turning the tide of the game with his seventh-inning moonshot.

With the Yankees trailing 3-2, Derek Jeter led off the seventh against hard-throwing reliever Joel Zumaya with a single and went to third on Johnny Damon's double to right.

Zumaya started off Teixeira with three straight balls, but after the complimentary strike one, he grooved a 99 mph fastball down the middle that Teixeira absolutely demolished to right.

"I’m looking for a pitch to pull because if I pull the ball, it gets a guy in, gets the runner over, there’s no outs at the time," Teixeira said. "Looking for something middle of the plate, maybe a little in and that’s where he threw it."

It was a great piece of hitting and just what the Yankees needed because things did not look good to that point.

A.J. Burnett looked rusty coming off the long layoff. His curve was not sharp and his control was off.

The Tigers jumped on him in the first. Curtis Granderson led off with a double, advanced to second on a ground out to second and scored on Miguel Cabrera's grounder to short. Burnett, however, couldn't finish off the inning cleanly after that, allowing a single to Marcus Thames and walking Clete Thomas before getting Brandon Inge to line out to second.

The Yankees got that run back in the bottom half as Damon walked with one out and Teixeira (3-for-5) singled. After Alex Rodriguez flied out to center, Hideki Matsui singled in Damon with the runners advancing to second and third on a throwing error. Rookie starter Luke French then got Jorge Posada to ground to third to end the threat.

Given the reprieve, Burnett couldn't make it stand in the second. Josh Anderson walked to lead off, stole second and advanced to third when Burnett made a bad throw on a pickoff attempt. With one out, Burnett hit Grandson with a pitch before surrendering an RBI single to Placido Polanco to make it 2-1.

Granderson struck again in the fifth, leading off with a homer, but Burnett was able to avoid further damage in the inning thanks in large part to Melky Cabrera. With one out Miguel Cabrera laced a hit to right-center that Melky fielded cleanly and came up with a strong throw to Jeter at second, just in time to nail the runner.

Burnett battled through his outing, gutting out six innings, allowing three runs on six hits and five walks. He struck out just one and threw only 57 of 104 pitches for strikes.

Burnett did not come to New York with a great reputation for being able to fight through when he didn't have his best stuff or command, but he has done just that in his last two starts, allowing the Yankees to win both. It's a very good sign for the team's No. 2 pitcher.

Meanwhile the offense was again letting the opposition off the hook. With one out in the fourth against French, Posada walked and Robinson Cano singled to put runners on first and second. Nick Swisher, however, fouled out and Melky flew out to left.

The Yankees were given a run back in the fifth, but failed to make the most of two errors made by the Tigers. With one out, Damon (2-for-4, 3 runs) walked and came around to score on a single to left by Teixeira that went between the legs of Anderson and rolled to the wall to make it 3-2. A-Rod then followed with a grounder to third that Inge botched. But the threat stalled as Matsui lined to second for a double play, with Polanco catching A-Rod off first.

The Yankees couldn't even punch a run across a reliever named Fu-Te Ni in the sixth after Posada led off with a ground-rule double. Cano popped to short and Swisher struck out, to give the Yankees two unproductive outs. Cabrera then singled to left, but Anderson gunned out Posada at the plate to end the inning.

I won't get on third base coach Robbie Thompson for sending the runner there. I want this team to be more aggressive on the bases and I want them to put pressure on the defense. By sending Posada, even though he is very slow, Thompson did just that. Anderson made the play. Tip your hat to him. He just as easily could have fired the throw up the line.

If I'm going to get on anyone, it's Cano and Swisher for failing to hit the ball to the right side to get Posada to third.

But Teixeira's blast turned things around and Phil Hughes continued to shine, striking out six in two more scoreless innings, while allowing three hits to earn the victory. Mariano Rivera closed it out for his 24th save.

Not a bad start to the second half.

Runners In Scoring Position
3-for-12 (.250)
220-for-831 (.265)
First Half
217-for-819 (.265)
Second Half
3-for-12 (.250)
Since A-Rod's Return May 8
154-for-559 (.275)
Vs. Red Sox
11-for-82 (.134)

Up Next
Saturday vs. Tigers, 1:05 p.m., YES
Justin Verlander (10-4, 3.38 ERA) vs. CC Sabathia (8-6, 3.86)

The Yankees signed Sabathia precisely for these types of games. They expect him to be able to take on stud aces such as Verlander and match them zero for zero. Let's see CC do just that.

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