Bronx, N.Y., April 15, 2012 – The Yanks took the rubber game of their three-gamer with Anaheim in Yankee Stadium Sunday night, but for a contest the Bombers led 8-1 after three, and eventually prevailed in by an 11-5 score, it was closer and less comfortable a victory than you might imagine. The good that you can say about the start from Ivan Nova, reportedly suffering from flu symptoms, is that he is 2-0 on the young season, that he pounced for eight strike outs in six innings, that he didn’t walk any batters until late, and that he allowed just four earned runs. The worst was that he allowed seven deep shots to or over walls while in there.
The best part of the Yankee game was the offense, which sounds strange when you allow that they have scored at least five runs in seven out of nine games in forging a 5-4 record. But outhit on the night, the home team went 6-for-14 with runners in scoring position, and scored runs with three of those eight supposedly “empty outs.” Each team homered twice, but this accounted for three runs for the visitors, while Derek Jeter (in the fourth) and Raul Ibanez (the seventh) delivered five runs with their shots, the latter a tape measure blast that fell just short of the longest ball yet hit to right field in the three-plus-year-old new Stadium.
A disturbing trend that continued was an irregular performance on defense, something that should not befall the starting nine Manager Joe Girardi sends out to defend, although there were no charged errors. Center fielder Curtis Granderson had a particularly difficult night, breaking out on a soft Maicer Izturis liner in front of him in the eighth that fell for a single; mishandling the throw on Izturis’s rbi double in the sixth; and getting too close to the wall on a Howard Kendrick first-inning laser that caromed off the wall past him and went for a triple. Right fielder Nick Swisher misplayed a Kendrick liner to right to a double in the fifth. But Grandy did make a nice running grab on a Vernon Wells bomb in the second; and Alex Rodriguez at third made nice plays on soft grounders in the sixth and eighth, while Mark Teixeira did a good job corraling an errant A-Rod throw in the sixth, and on a 3-3-6 double play in the fourth.
The work of the bullpen, another assumed strength, was spotty as well, as Rafael Soriano surrendered two walks, two singles, and a run in the seventh. But David Robertson came on to shut things down, and Boone Logan struck out the side in the ninth, matching what Nova had done in the third. Nova’s work was more good than bad, but he could have lost allowing four runs, and could have surrendered more if a shot or two carried a few feet further. His 15 of 27 first-pitch strikes was OK, and the 66/38 strikes/balls ratio was solid. He recorded strike outs with his fastball, his curve, and his slider, and managed eight punch outs on just nine swings and misses.
The offensive heroes were Jeter, with two runs scored and two hits, including the three-run homer; Robinson Cano, who reached safely four times and scored on three of them; and Ibanez, with two hits and three rbi’s including the bomb to right. Struggling Mark Teixeira had two hits, a walk, and an rbi; and each of the nine in the lineup had at least one run scored or an rbi. Brett Gardner, another flu sufferer, who leads the league by seeing 4.33 pitches per plate appearance the last three years, improved on the ratio by seeing 20 tosses in his four times up, with a hit, a walk, and two runs scored.
April 15, nominal tax day, represents a big moment in major league baseball, as every player on all the teams wore No. 42 today in honor of Jackie Robinson, who broke the color barrier in the game when he played for the Brooklyn Dodgers on this day 65 years ago. His widow Rachel and daughter Sharon were on hand for the ceremonies, at which three of the Tuskegee Airmen who displayed their bravery in World War II were also honored. It was touching that Rachel and Sharon were joined on the field by Robinson Cano, who is named for the Dodger great, and who wears No. 24 in his honor.
The Yankees have had momentous days on April 15 as well. The team honored Business Manager Ed Barrow, who came over from Beantown shortly after New York acquired Babe Ruth from Boston, and is credited with turning this one-time great pitcher into the greatest power hitter the sport has ever known when he moved Ruth to the outfield, with a plaque on this day in 1954. In addition, the Yanks won the first game in remodeled Yankee Stadium, 11-4, on April 15, 1976; and they played their only regular season game (outside of 1974-1975) in Shea Stadium pre-interleague play on April 15, 1998, ironically beating the Anaheim Angels that day as well.
The singular artist, inventor, and Renaissance Man Leonardo da Vinci was born on this day in 1452, so the Jackie Robinson and Yankee highlights are not the only special events April 15 shares with the drudgery of income tax returns. And in a game that gave the Yanks two series wins out of three, Ivan Nova did a professional job in claiming his right to continue in the Yankee rotation. The offense was good, the defense up and down. It was a Yankee win. But it was not
A Work of Art