Bronx, N.Y., September 3 (or 14?), 2010 — The Yankees beat the Blue Jays in the first of three Friday afternoon in a game some thought wouldn’t be played with Hurricane Earl heading up the coast toward New York. The anticipated Ivan Nova/Jose Bautista confrontation also blew over much like the hurricane did. And although the rookie righthander held the Jays to three runs with an impressive array of pitches, he began the game without the fastball we’ve seen, and left it before qualifying for a victory.
Perhaps a bigger factor in the Yankee win was the wildness of Toronto starter Brandon Morrow, who walked three in the first two innings, only to have all three score, and who managed just seven first pitch strikes to 19 batter before being pulled after three frames. Handed a 1-0 lead when Travis Snider homered off Nova in the top of the first, Morrow missed with eight of nine pitches to start, and hot-hitting Mark Teixeira delivered one run and set up a second with a 3-2 double off the right center field wall. The usually hard-throwing righty also hit a batter in the second, and he scored as well.
Nova, meanwhile, pitched economically around singles in the second and the third, throwing lots of curves, changes, and sliders, seeming to give up early on a fastball that hovered in the low nineties, easily five mph slower than what we’ve seen in his first two starts. Staked to a 5-1 lead through three, he wavered however, giving back two runs when Lyle Overbay and Aaron Hill doubled to right center on consecutive pitches in the fourth. Whether it was because he didn’t want his rookie hurler to absorb a loss or that he just thought he had gone as far as he could, Joe Girardi pulled Nova with two down in the fifth when he followed a Snider single and Bautista routine fly by walking Vernon Wells on five pitches.
Boone Logan did his usual great job by striking out Overbay to quell the threat, but he walked Hill leading off the sixth before retiring DH Adam Lind. David Robertson struck out Mike McCoy to close the frame, but not before issuing a walk to light-hitting ex-Yank Jose Molina. It was feast, then famine in the seventh as well, as Robertson whiffed Snider but walked the next two. The Yanks had enlarged their lead to 7-3 in the sixth as Curtis Granderson followed up his two-home-run, three-rbi Thursday with a two-double, three-rbi game. He had lifted a soft liner over first in the second that scored two runs as Brett Gardner stunned the Jays by beating the throw to the plate from short right all the way from first base. Now in the sixth Granderson doubled in Gardner again, though Brett had a less eventful trip, scoring from third following his rbi triple.
But the Yanks have seen too much explosive Toronto offense in 2010 not to be concerned by the two walks in the seventh, and Joe G. summoned Kerry Wood from the pen. End of game, as Wood was flat-out great. He struck out Overbay swinging, then retired Hill on a routine fly to left after falling behind 3-0. There was no such drama in the eighth as Wood ended a seven-pitch inning by striking Molina out on three pitches. Kerry was so good that the official scorer bucked tradition, which would have handed the win to Logan as the pitcher of record once the game became official after five, and designated Wood the winner.
Nova wasn’t bad; he just didn’t have the command — or the fast ball — we saw him throw on the road. He allowed three runs, six hits, and two walks, and did not strike out a batter. He threw 13 of 22 first pitch strikes, and pitched to a 43/31 strikes/balls ratio. Following Logan, Robertson, and Wood, Mariano Rivera finished up in a nonsave situation with a one-two-three ninth. As Enter Sandman thrilled those in attendance who may not have expected to see him, the Scoreboard posted the following stat: Mo has converted 141 of 148 save opportunities (95.3%!) since April 29, 2007.
Gardner’s three runs scored and Granderson’s three rbi’s led the offense. With Derek Jeter getting a rare day off, they topped Girardi’s lineup to perfection, and Ramiro Pena and Eduardo Nunez complemented them perfectly from the bottom of the order with two hits apiece and a run scored and an rbi between them. The team has won seven straight, and has a record 1.5 games better than any other team playing the game. With promising reports on Alex Rodriguez, due back Sunday, and Andy Pettitte, who could be pitching a rehab game next week, it’s hard not to keep checking the calendar to see how far removed the postseason is.
How cool would it be, I wonder, if this were the 1752 season rather than the 2010 one? That year the British Empire, of which the eastern half of the United States was a part, adopted the Gregorian Calendar, in effect skipping 11 days, after the second day in September. Friday, as the day following September 2, would have been September 14, just 20 days from the end of the season, and the beginning of the postseason.
Or they could play the next four weeks just like they’re supposed to.