The Yankees expected big things from Mariano Rivera this year. They expected small contributions from Marcus Thames. In so many ways, both have done more than the Yankees could have hoped.
One night after taking his first loss since May 18, Rivera was perfectly not perfect. He gave up a lead-off triple in a one-run game, then retired three all-stars in a row. Austin Kearns made a nice catch against Michael Young, Josh Hamilton chopped an inside pitch back to the mound and Vlad Guerrero grounded to third.
“I’m thinking, we’re in a tough spot here, but if anyone can do it, Mo can,” Joe Girardi said.
Thames was hitting third for two reasons: 1. Mark Teixeira is gone and 2. The Rangers had a left-handed starter on the mound. Thames biggest hits came after that lefty was gone, when Thames was the best option against right-handed relievers.
“I know my role,” Thames said. “But if I’m in there against a righty late in the game, I’m going to grind it out and try to have a good at-bat, try to do something to help the team… I’m not going to put any pressure on myself and go out and try to be Tex.”
• Girardi said nothing has changed regarding Teixeira. Barring some unexpected change, Teixeira will be with the team in Kansas City.
• Rivera on his reaction to the lead-off triple: “I don’t think about it. I just have to focus on the guy at the plate. That’s the one that’s going to do damage, not the guy at third base.”
• Good job by pinch runner Curtis Granderson to getting to third base on that wild pitch in the ninth. “That ball came off the wall hard,” Girardi said. “Without that speed, that’s probably a different play.”
• Javier Vazquez admitted being frustrated by his lack of velocity, but his fastball was slightly higher than it was in his last start, which Girardi called encouraging.
• Girardi on the misplayed rundown in the fourth: “We just botched it. I don’t’ know any other way to describe it. We messed it up. One late throw. Jorge held onto it just a second too long.”
• Cliff Lee seems to pitch a complete game every night, but the Yankees got him out after 6.1 innings tonight. He’d thrown a complete game in two of his previous three starts against the Yankees, and he’s lasted at least eight innings in his past 10 starts overall. “You start looking at his pitch count,” Girardi said. “His pitch count was starting to get up there, it was hot and you start wondering, maybe he’ll make a few mistakes and maybe we can get him out of there.”
• It will go largely overlooked, but the Yankees bullpen — even before Rivera — was terrific. Sergio Mitre gave them 1.2 hitless innings, then Kerry Wood went 2 scoreless.
• The Yankees truck out 17 times, tying a franchise record.
• Neftali Feliz blew a save for the first time since May 11, ending a streak of 20 consecutive save opportunities.
Associated Press photo of Rivera and Brett Gardner