Sunday, September 6, 2009

Killer Instinct

We're starting to see it again -- that killer instinct that we saw in the championship teams of the late 1990s.

The Yankees aren't merely winning games, they are putting away teams whenever they get the opportunity. In each of their last three wins, the Bombers sealed their victories by scoring big runs in the ninth.

Saturday, Robinson Cano led off the ninth with a double and came around to score a big run to pad the lead on a Melky Cabrera single to give the Yankees a 6-4 victory over the Blue Jays in Toronto. New York pushed its lead in the AL East to 8-1/2 games over the Red Sox and its magic number for clinching the division dropped to 19.

In Thursday's 10-5 victory, the Yankees scored three in the ninth to finish off he Jays. Wednesday they scored seven in the ninth to wipe out the Orioles in that 10-2 win.

Whether the Yankees have a lead or are trailing, there simply is no let up in this offense.

Cabrera went 2-for-4 with two RBI, including a single in the second that gave the Yankees a 1-0 lead. Cano went 3-for-4 with a homer in the fourth that made it 2-0.

And when the Jays tied at 2 in the fourth, the Yanks got it right back when Mark Teixeira led off the fifth with a homer to left. Alex Rodriguez and Jorge Posada pushed the lead to 5-2 with tw0-out, RBI singles in the sixth.

Derek Jeter also went 2-for-5 as he closes in on becoming the Yankees' career hits lead. Jeter has 2,715 in his career, trailing just Lou Gehrig at 2,721.

For a change, all that offense was needed as Andy Pettitte (13-6, 4.10 ERA) was only OK coming off his two-hit, eight-inning effort against the Orioles Monday.

Pettitte allowed four runs on four hits and five walks in six innings. He struck out just three and threw 60 of 101 pitches for strikes. This effort was more reminiscent of many of his first-half starts this season than his second-half dominance, but then end result was a win and that's what matters most.

He allowed the Jays to tie it a 2 in the fourth as Randy Ruiz homered ahead of walks to Edwin Encarnacion and Jose Bautista. John McDonald singled to bring in Encarnacion, but Bautista was gunned out at the plate thanks to a nice tag by Jorge Posada.

The Jays plated two more in the sixth to make it 5-4 when Bautista tripled to score Encarnacion and scored on a throwing error by Jeter.

But the bullpen closed it out with three scoreless inning from David Robertson, Brian Bruney and Phil Hughes, who pitched the final 1-1/3 for his third save as the Yankees continue to play it cautiously with Mariano Rivera's minor groin strain.

The Yankees finished off the Jays in the ninth. Let's see if they can finish of the series by going 3-1 to give them and 6-1 trip.

Runners In Scoring Position
5-for-19 (.263)
348-for-1,281 (.272)
First Half
217-for-819 (.265)
Second Half
131-for-462 (.284)
Since A-Rod's Return May 8
283-for-1,008 (.281)
Vs. Red Sox
36-for-163 (.221)

Up Next
Sunday at Blue Jays, 1:07 p.m., YES
Sergio Mitre (3-1, 5.65) vs. Brian Tallet (5-6, 5.17)

Last time out, Mitre allowed one hit in 6-1/3 innings in a 10-0 victory over the White Sox. His start was pushed back because of a bruised forearm that was sustained when he was hit with a liner in that game. It's tough to expect more than five inning from Mitre, but he surprised me last time out. Hopefully he'll do it again.

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