Neither win these last two nights were very pretty, but they were exciting. Appearances aside, wins by any fashion are still wins to the New York Yankees, and wins are all that matter.
In a virtual role reversal of last night’s dramatic 12-inning win, the Yankees jumped out ahead of Tampa Bay on Saturday and held the lead into the ninth before Steven Souza tied it up with a two-run homer off Dellin Betances.
Fortunately for the Yankees (44-37), the squandered lead was not followed by a loss, much like they way they did it to Tampa Bay less than 24 hours ago.
The team escaped with the win thanks to a botched scoop attempt by the Rays, which allowed Jose Pirela — pinch-running for Mark Teixeira — to score from second and give the team its second walk-off win in as many games.
The Yankees did not have a single walk-off win this season entering the weekend.
With sole possession of first place going into the game, adding another win to the column was all the Yankees could ask for against a division team.
“No matter how you win, what matters is that you win,” Brett Gardner said. “Especially against the Rays. It’s good to win a series.”
Starter Michael Pineda was spectacular on the hill, tossing seven-plus shutout innings. He was pulled after giving up a leadoff double in the eighth, but expressed after the game that he would’ve liked to at least finish that inning.
“I was feeling good,” he said. “This is the game. I want to (finish the inning), but I don’t have control (over) the situation.”
Much like Rays starter Chris Archer experienced last night, a brilliant pitching performance was wasted, at least on the stat sheet. At least in Pineda’s case, his outing laid the foundation for a win, while Archer’s no decision still resulted in a Tampa Bay loss.
• The decision to pinch-run Pirela was made based on the bunt, not a potential hit, according to Girardi. “We wanted to make sure that if we decided to bunt (Pirela) over, it would be easy for him to get there,” he said. “A base hit is probably going to score anyone no matter what.”
• Gardner may not be a catcher, but he spends a lot of time in center field watching his pitchers deal. He knows when a pitcher’s stuff looks good, and he thought Pineda was on top of his game Saturday.
“That’s the best stuff I’ve seen him have all year, probably,” Gardner said, confirming his assessment even when asked about Pineda’s 16-strikeout game earlier this season. “He obviously had great stuff when he struck out 16, but from center field, his fastball is up to 93-94 (miles-per-hour) and some of them are cutting and it looks like Mariano (Rivera).”
• Pineda has threw back-to-back quality starts for the first time in over a month, and both were extremely solid outings — combining for 18 strikeouts, two earned runs and one walk over 15 innings. After getting tuned up by the anemic Phillies lineup for eight earned runs in less than four innings, these two starts have been big confidence boosts for Big Mike.
“It’s very important for me because I want to pitch a good game and help my team get a win,” he said. “The division, everything is close, so I want to help my team and want to pitch a good game, so I’m happy with that.”
• Consider it nothing more than irony that hours after Andrew Miller throws a bullpen session, Betances blows a save and gives up his first home run in almost a year. The right-hander said he felt good; Souza just got the best of him that at-bat.
“(Souza) sat on it and put a good swing on it,” he said. “I’ll throw that pitch every time.”
• Final word goes to Betances, who showed his mental maturity after one of the worst outings of his career: “This is what makes you strong — times like these. You’re not always going to be perfect, as much as you want to (be). Times like this will help you and (make you) be a better pitcher.”
Associated Press photos
Enjoy the holiday (if you’re celebrating) with whomever you’re celebrating with. I’ll see you all for the series finale tomorrow!