May 23, 2012, Bronx, N.Y. – Finally, the Yanks got to play a game Wednesday night where life itself, seemingly, did not hinge on how they would perform at the plate with no one out and the bases loaded. With the superb Andy Pettitte going seven-plus innings, and two long balls by Alex Rodriguez and one by Curtis Granderson, the Yanks had a 5-0 lead after three, and coasted to the 8-3 win from there.
Pettitte, after whom the task of throwing a ball to batters in baseball could be renamed “petching” should his decades-long mastery continue, dominated the Royals as he had the Reds, surrendering nothing but two singleton home runs among seven hits. He struck out eight, and allowed just one walk, to Alex Gordon to start the eighth before Joe Girardi pulled him to tumultuous cheers. Finding the zone on first pitches just 15 of 28 times, the veteran lefthander threw 71 of 98 pitches for strikes, with a surprisingly high 15 coming on batter swings and misses.
If there is a flaw in Andy’s game, it could be his defense, something the Royals expoited. He simply can’t make all the plays around the mound and running to cover first, and most in the stands would take his work without his doing so. He was late covering on one infield hit in the third, and just couldn’t make the play on another one toward the box one out later. No run scored that frame because the ailing Mark Teixeira made a fabulous play in both starting and finishing a 3-6-3 double play.
After Billy Butler homered with one down in the fourth, Pettitte was reached for three singles, the third another infield safety. But the veteran southpaw responded by striking out the side. A Mitch Maier homer leading off the top of the fifth represented basically KC’s final hurrah, until they tacked on a meaningless run against David Phelps in the ninth.
The home team, meanwhile, piled on three more runs in an ugly home fifth featuring Jeter’s bunt single as the only hit, an error, a hit by pitch, and three walks, two of them of the bases-loaded variety, driving in a run apiece. The Royals used three pitchers that frame, and six in the game. And speaking of ugly mistakes, the Scoreboard displayed the sadly demoted Francisco Cervelli’s likeness when Jayson Nix, wearing the No. 17 that Cisco has for a few years, was introduced before being hit with a pitch to start that unsightly bottom of the fifth.
With considerable help from wild KC pitching, the Yankee eight-run outburst may not have been all it seemed, but it was like a long pull of fresh air after gasping for a week for the crowd populating the seats Wednesday night. Granderson gets kudos for starting the mayhem with his one-out bomb in the first, his 14th on the season. Returning to his offensive ways, Jeter added three hits, and lined hard to the outfield twice, one of them a double to the left center field gap on the first pitch of the bottom of the third; it was the lone time he would score. Derek tied Paul Waner for 15th on the all-time hit list with 3,152 with his eighth-inning single. I overheard one fan comment that with George Brett and Cal Ripken coming on the list next, that they are “brand names”; I guess he hadn’t had the pleasure of seeing what Waner did in Pittsburgh the better part of a century ago. And although the Yankee first baseman had no hits to add to his stupendous play on the 3-6-3 that closed the top of the third, Mark Teixeira chose this 227th anniversary of the day Benjamin Franklin invented bifocals to show a “good eye” and draw three walks good for two runs scored and an rbi.
But make no mistake about it: This one goes to A-Rod and his two A-Bombs. Yankee May 23 history is replete with power-earned wins, including Pettitte’s 7-3 win over David Cone and the Red Sox on this day in 2001 featuring five Jeter hits, including a long ball. The Bombers cleared six fences in a 12-0 win over the Twins on May 23, 1990, and it was also this day in 1962 that Joe Pepitone became the sixth player in AL history to hit two homers in one inning, as the Yanks drubbed the Kansas City A’s (not Royals) 13-7. And twice on May 23, a Bomber has struck three home runs in a day, Tony Lazzeri in a doubleheader sweep of the Athletics in 1936, and Joe DiMaggio 12 years later, all in the first of two against Cleveland, a 6-5 win.
Rodriguez’s 635th career home run in the first, this one to left, took a 1-0 Yankee lead and upped it to 3-0; No. 636 in the third, to center, gave New York a 5-0 lead. Both were majestic rainbows, no-doubt-about-it shots that fit John Sterling’s classic “high” and “far” description, though if you’re one who has seen four Alex flies die on the warning track this homestand, you could be foregiven for harboring a smidgen of doubt.
Through the offensive struggles the last few weeks, the Yanks do seem to be roundiing out a solid starting rotation, with CC and Pettitte leading the way, and Hughes and Nova improving substantially. Hiroki Kuroda has been less consistent, but he can keep batters off balance. The pen has been great all year, with David Robertson healing slowly and, it is hoped, returning soon, and the defense is solid as well, and will get better when Brett Gardner returns. Pitching and “D” can win games, and it’s the formula that was used to salvage what was a 1-3 homestand, and even it at .500. Now add the occasional long ball to the mix, and you’re in business. Which is why so many fans left the Stadium tonight with smiles on their faces, thinking,
Alex, at Last!