Hard to know where to begin after a game like this one. Everything that happened after the rain delay made the difference between a successful road trip and a disappointing one. Robinson Cano had his big at-bat, the Yankees kept expanding their lead and eventually two of the small names in a big-name bullpen locked down the win.
“This is a road trip, when you look at it, you’re saying to yourself you could have been 4-0 and you definitely don’t want to go back 2-2 after we had some leads,” Joe Girardi said. “It was a huge at-bat by Robby. Very heads up play (to take third base).”
The game began to turn with Cano. He had a full count when the tarp came on the field, and when he came back lead off the 11th – for the second time, it felt like – he couldn’t let strike four get past him. He fouled pitch after pitch before doubling, and when the Orioles tried to catch him too far off second, Cano broke for third.
“That was really quick,” he said. “I didn’t plan anything, it was just a reaction right there. I knew if I went back, I would have been out by a mile. The only chance I had was to go to third. Everything went my way, which is why I don’t look that bad.”
Cano said that, with Nick Swisher showing bunt, he wanted to get the biggest lead possible. Depending on your point of view, he took one either too big, or just big enough.
“In that situation a lot of times people freeze because they’re so far off,” Derek Jeter said. “But he was aggressive. That was outstanding. That was the difference in the game.”
Getting Cano to third base opened a pivotal three-run inning. Boone Logan, Buddy Carlyle, Brett Gardner and Russell Martin had their own key moments in this game, but Cano’s at-bat and his dash for third changed the complexion of the game and the road trip.
“You never want to have a trip back home – whether it be from Baltimore or L.A. or Seattle or no matter how long or how short – you never want to go home with a loss,” Gardner said. “Any time you can take two out of two against a team in your division, it’s a big plus.”
“I didn’t (think he would catch it),” Girardi said. “I really didn’t. It’s a game-saving play is what it is. He has a lot of speed and he’s played left field very well for us after making the adjustment last year.”
Gardner was playing in because Mariano Rivera was on the mound facing a left-handed hitter. He was playing where he was supposed to be playing. What the Yankees didn’t count on was Luke Scott actually driving the ball.
“It carried a little bit,” Gardner said. “Usually when Mariano pitches against a left-handed hitter we play in because most of the time he throws a cutter in and a guy gets jammed and bloops it over the third baseman or shortstop’s head. So I was a few steps in, right where I was supposed to be, right where they wanted me, but he got the barrel on it. Just fortunate enough to get back to it. I wasn’t sure if I was going to get to it or not.”
Close second on the game-saving play meter was Cano’s relay throw to the plate, getting Robert Andino trying to score the winning run in the ninth.
“Perfect relay is what it takes,” Girardi said.
As for Cano: “When Swish got the ball, he was stepping on third base,” Cano said. “I was just trying to get it to Martin as fast as I can.”
Rivera’s ninth inning
This Rivera’s second outing in a row with a blown save. He hadn’t pitched since giving up the lead in Toronto on Tuesday, and it was because of that rest – and because Rafael Soriano was out with a tight lower back – that Rivera was called on for four outs.
“I was prepared for that, not pitching in three days,” Rivera said. “I was prepared for that and it happened… There were a couple of close pitches. The umpire called a ball and he thought it was a ball (on the leadoff walk). It was a battle. In the end, Brian (Roberts) put a good ball inside the base. You can’t do nothing against that.”
Of course no one in the Yankees clubhouse is going to express any real concern about Rivera. He’s earned the benefit of the doubt and then some. If anything, Girardi said his cutter might have been moving a little too much in the ninth.
“No. I don’t need to work on anything,” Rivera said. “Just keep pitching and continue fighting. This is not easy, so you have to keep fighting… It’s behind me. You can’t do nothing against that. We won the game and tomorrow is a new day.”
• After a scoreless 10th and a 40-minute rain delay, the Yankees stuck with Logan to face Luke Scott in the 11th. Girardi had elected not to matchup Logan against Scott in the eighth because he didn’t want to burn Logan on just one batter (and he had Rivera). In the end, it was Logan and Buddy Carlyle who got the game saving outs extra innings that the bigger name relievers couldn’t get in regulation. “They’re capable to do that,” Rivera said. “That’s why they’re here. If they weren’t capable, they wouldn’t be in the big leagues. I’m not surprised that they did that.”
• Another six scoreless innings from Freddy Garcia. Bartolo Colon has said several times that he’s surprised himself this season. Has Garcia surprised himself? “Not really,” he said. “That’s my game right now, go out there and throw strikes. If I’m ahead in the count, I won’t get in trouble. I’ve been doing that the last couple games.”
• Garcia hit 90 pitches through six innings, and both he and Girardi said he could have pitched more. Girardi shoes to give him an early break this early in the season. “I would have been fine,” Garcia said. “I hadn’t pitched for a week, which is different. It’s a long season. Six innings, 90 pitches, seven days; they made the decision and that was fine.”
• Soriano said he woke up yesterday with tightness in his lower back. He tried to pitch today, but after a few throws in the bullpen, he knew he was unavailable. He believes he’ll be fine tomorrow. “I played catch like normal,” he said. “When I went to the bullpen, I tried throwing. I called and said I needed one more day.”
• Soriano said he has not had a history of back problems. He’s not worried that this will be a lasting situation. There are no tests scheduled.
• Jeter had four hits and passed Frank Robinson on baseball’s all-time hits list. Fitting that he passed Robinson in Baltimore. “I didn’t know that, I really didn’t,” he said. “But anytime you mention someone like Frank Robinson who you have the utmost respect for what he did in his career. It’s hard to believe.”
• Jeter said there’s no doubt he was out on the play at the plate in the 10th. “I was out,” he said. “It looked like he was going to jump for it so I thought maybe I could get under it, but he blocked the plate.”
• Girardi saw the same thing on both plays at the plate, both Jeter and Andino. “I actually thought they both were out,” Girardi said. “I had a real good view of both of them and I actually thought they both were out.”
• I honestly almost forgot that Curtis Granderson hit another home run in this game. Seems like it happened two days ago. He now has four home runs in his past five games, and five home runs in his past seven games.
• That 11th-inning double extended Cano’s hitting streak to 13 games, and it extended his hitting streak vs. the Orioles to 16 games.
• This was Jeter’s first four-hit game of the year and the 34th four-hit game of his career. He last did it in August of last year.
• Thank goodness for internet on trains. There were a lot of missed flights in that press box today, but a rushed taxi ride to the train station means I’ll get to New York before midnight.
Associated Press photos