Gardner’s been struggling, and his first home run of the season was surely a sign that he might be turning a corner. More importantly, Russell Martin had just been hit in the upper back by a pitch that seemed intentional. Martin had homered in each of his previous two at-bats, and although Gardner’s response had no impact on the game — it was well out of reach at that point — it did send a kind of message.
“It took all the pain away,” Martin said. “… There’s no doubt about it (that the pitch was intentional). I want to stay in the lineup so I’m not going to do anything stupid, but I wouldn’t recommend him doing that again.”
Said Alex Rodriguez: “Situations like that, moments like that, they bring our team closer together.”
Said Joe Girardi: “It was beautiful. I’ll just say it was beautiful.”
Said Gardner: “Russ had a great game, and I’m glad he’s OK. Obviously he got hit kind of high. It was quite a coincidence, I guess.”
Rodriguez had six RBI tonight, CC Sabathia picked up his first win and Gardner had two extra-base hits. But it was Martin who stole the show and paid the price. He has six home runs this season, one more than he hit all of last year and only one less than he hit in 2009.
“Obivously it’s my best start of my career,” Martin said. “I think it’s my workouts from the offseason that are paying off right now. I’ve got a quicker bat and feel stronger. I’ve been choking up a little bit on the bat. I just feel quick, and I’ve been hitting mainly fastballs. I feel good, man.”
Gardner is off to the worst start of his career, but tonight he had a double and the emotional two-run home run. When Martin was hit, Gardner said his only thought was that he knew he’d get another at-bat. There were two outs at the time, and Gardner had been on deck wondering if he’d get another chance.
“Just take a good swing,” he said. “Be ready and don’t get cheated. So many times I take pitches on the outside corner and try and get a perfect pitch to hit. Just go up there and be aggressive and try and take my A swing.”
Here’s Martin’s postgame interview.
And here’s Gardner.
• Of course Sabathia played down his first win of the season, but it’s hard to downplay the fact that he was so effective just one day after being pretty sick with a sore throat, the chills and stomach pains. “I felt like crap yesterday,” he said. “Being able to sleep all day today, hang out and get some fluids, it definitely helped me.”
• Sabathia said he was happy with his changeup, and Martin said he had a good slider, but it was the fastball that made the difference for the Yankees ace. “They were swinging early in the count,” Sabathia said. “The two-seamer was working pretty good, and the first time through, we just went first-pitch fastball, two-seamers in and out and just got some ground balls.”
• Girardi said he never seriously considered sending Sabathia out for the ninth. “We’re in a stretch here where he’s going to go every fifth day,” Girardi said. “So we just said the inning was kind of long the inning before, you’re going to let him go 5-10 more pitches, then bring someone in with his runners on. Give whoever is coming in a clean inning.”
• Buddy Carlyle came in and pitched a scoreless ninth in his Yankees debut.
• Rodriguez hit the 22nd grand slam of his career, moving past Manny Ramirez for sole possession of second place on the all-time grand slam list. He’s one behind Lou Gehrig. He also moved into sole possession of 12th place on baseball’s all-time RBI list, passing Carl Yastrzemski. “I’ve grown and matured to the level now where I can appreciate it some, not just brush it off like I would have in the past, perhaps,” Rodriguez said. I initially wrote sixth on the RBI list. Not sure if I read it wrong or the postgame notes had it wrong. It was probably my fault, not theirs.
• Speaking of success against Baltimore, Sabathia has a .882 winning percentage against the Orioles. That’s the highest of all time for a pitcher with at least 20 starts against Baltimore.
• The last time Baltimore allowed five home runs in a game was September 1, 2009 also against the Yankees.
• Jorge Posada has nine hits this season. Six have been home runs. He was 2-for-20 before his home run in the eighth. When he and Martin went back-to-back in the eighth, it was the first time the Yankees hit back-to-back homers this season, that’s according to the postgame notes from the Orioles.
• Girardi said he wasn’t sure whether Martin would play tomorrow. My guess would be no — strictly a guess — but Girardi said he was going to sleep on it.
• The Yankees scored 15 runs for the first time since August 21, 2009 when they beat Boston 20-11.
• I’ll give Mark Teixeira the last word on the pitch that hit Martin: “That’s a heck of a coincidence if it wasn’t intentional. I’ve never understood it. I’ve never understood why guys choose to hit someone when they hit two home runs. It’s happened to me plenty of times in my career and every time it happens, it doesn’t make any sense. All it takes is one stray pitch to hit you in the head, the wrist, the elbow, and ruin your season. That’s not baseball. There’s no place for it.”
Associated Press photos