June 18, 2012, Bronx, N.Y. – Only the most tentative of Yankee fans were feeling the heat early in their Monday night battle with the Braves in Yankee Stadium. Coming off nine straight wins and 14 quality starts in 15 games, ace CC Sabathia and the Bombers were not only behind Mike Minor and Atlanta 2-0 halfway through; they were being no-hit by the young lefty. Although CC had collected his eighth win in this same match up six days earlier in Georgia, he had struggled early, and Minor left that game up 4-0.
Alex Rodriguez delivered the big blow that night, even if he did so after Minor left the contest. This game was different in three key ways: Minor was around long enough to get the loss this time; although Minor quickly got ahead of Rodriguez 0-2 to start the home fifth, it was Alex again to start Atlanta’s downfall; and this time it was with a much smaller hit, a clean single into center. After a walk and strike out, Minor fell behind Russell Martin 3-0. Back under .200, Martin was Joe’s Girardi’s designated hitter in this one, and he apparently took the designation seriously; Russell smacked the very next pitch into the left field corner, just inside the line, for an rbi double. Jayson Nix then walked, but Chris Stewart fouled out with the sacks filled and two runners in scoring position, leaving it up to Derek Jeter.
It’s no secret that despite the nine-game winning streak going in, the Yanks have consistently failed with the bases loaded in 2012 (failed except for the five grand slams, including A-Rod’s last week, that is), but their Captain came through this time, stroking a two-run single up the middle on a full-count change up, and CC had a 3-2 lead. With a little help from his defense, he made sure not to waste it.
While the Yanks were adding single runs in the next three frames on Mark Teixeira and Robinson Cano singleton homers sandwiched around another Jeter rbi single, Sabathia saw to it that the visitors had no reply. CC was a strike thrower this night, finding the zone with all eight pitches in the first, and 24 of 31 through the third. He threw first-pitch strikes to the first nine Braves hitters, and 25 of 34 on the night. But building their 2-0 lead into the fifth, Atlanta batters reached the Yankee lefty for six hits and his lone walk while striking out four times. In the last four frames CC retired 12 of 13 around one hit, held them at two runs to tie Ivan Nova with the team lead of nine wins, and struck out another six. A 2/1 strikes/balls ratio is superb, but his 84/32 at the end was closer to 3/1. All the but the first one of his 10 whiffs were swinging strike outs, and the veteran lefty posted his first complete game of the year.
With Sabathia wasting no time, his “D” was there for him too; 13 of the 17 out makers who did not go down on strikes did so on ground balls, and A-Rod, Cano, and Jeter made fine plays in the waning innings. Not restricting his game heroics to his offense, the veteran shortstop’s diving stop and force at second on Michael Bourn’s base hit bid up the middle to close the top of the seventh was the cream of that crop.
Martin and Jeter were the only Bombers with two-hit games; Russell drove in one, and Derek led the way with three rbi’s. Cano scored twice and drove in a run, and Tex scored and drove in one run with his long drive. When Alex Rodriguez scored the Yanks’ first run on Martin’s fifth-inning double after getting the Minor trouble started in the fifth, he passed Mel Ott for 11th place on the all-time mlb runs scored list, with 1,860. Teixeira’s blast to left, a bomb as Cano’s following line shot to dead center would be, was the home team’s 100th roundtripper of the year. But not only did the Yanks finally win a homerless game Saturday; they took a lead they would not relinquish in this one before clearing any fences.
Teams make all kinds of statement games over the long years through lots of close contests, and blowouts too. On June 18, 1960, the Yankees rode long home runs off the bats of Mickey Mantle, Roger Maris, and Moose Skowron to sweep a four-game set in Chicago vs. the White Sox with a 12-5 win. Exactly 40 years later, an entirely different group of White Sox players returned the favor in the Bronx, pummeling Orlando el duque Hernandez and the Yanks 17-4 to sweep four.
The Yanks had another big win one June 18 in 1916, using scores in every inning but the eighth to best Cleveland 19-3. Exactly 101 years earlier, much of Europe exacted revenge agaainst Napoleion and his armies on June 18, 1815, in the battle of Waterloo. And one more detail about the Palehose sweep in the Bronx in 2000: That win gave the Chicago club a little-known major-league mark: They had just won their 10th straight game against teams with a .500 record or better. On June 18, 2012, the New York Yankees equaled that record: