It’s amazing the things that matter in the course of a 162-game season. Tonight the Yankees had their very best relievers available. The Rays were down to a 23-year-old kid who’d never pitched in a Major League game.
“You know he’s going to be nervous out there,” Russell Martin said. “But you’re going up there, and you’re not facing a rookie. You’re facing the guy who’s throwing the ball at you. Just trying to pick up the ball out of his hand, it doesn’t matter if he’s a rookie or a 20-year guy in that situation.”
Torres showed a big fastball tonight, and he had two outs with only a runner at third base. The inning was in his hands, but the Rays elected to intentionally walk Nick Swisher, then Torres walked Andruw Jones unintentionally. Martin’s at-bat lasted seven pitches, and he fouled off one 3-2 pitch before taking the ball four that decided the game.
“It’s not an easy thing to do, but (Martin) has shown patience in his career,” Joe Girardi said. “A lot easier for him than it would have been for me… Russell had a chance to see what he was doing to guys. You give the kid a lot of credit, he had some guts, 3-2 changeups, and we got fortunate that we got a run by walks, but for his first outing, that’s a tough situation.”
The Yankees didn’t have to worry about a similar situation. After A.J. Burnett struggled with walk issues of his own, the Yankees rolled out Hector Noesi (who stranded the bases loaded), Dave Robertson (who struck out his first two hitters on changeups) and Mariano Rivera (who closed out the win with a perfect ninth).
“We just got some guys on base,” Brett Gardner said. “We had some long at-bats, and some guys did a really good job of getting us started there in the eighth inning when we were down two, and I can’t say enough about the at-bat Russell had. That was the at-bat of the game. I don’t know how many pitches he saw, but a full count walk, and we had Dave and Mariano in there the last couple of innings. And that’s a pretty good combination.”
The Rays didn’t have that kind of combination, and that made all the difference tonight.
And here’s Burnett.
• If you listen to the Burnett audio you’ll pick up the fact that he certainly wasn’t happy with his outing, but he thought he got better as the game continued. Girardi gave him credit for getting big outs when he needed them. “I had better stuff than the numbers said,” Burnett said. “Let’s not get too carried away with the six walks. There were some pretty good pitches in there. Overall, to be able to find a way to throw some zeroes after the four in the first two, I’m going to take some positives from that.”
• Burnett had a brief exchange with a fan as he walked off the field. From up here, I honestly couldn’t tell if he was yelling or just talking. Nothing too over-the-top, not that I could tell anyway. “I forgot it as soon as it happened,” Burnett said. “I couldn’t even tell you what I said or what he said. As soon as it happened, I just went in the dugout and started rooting for Hector.”
• Martin on Burnett: “He just didn’t have fastball command and it seemed like he was getting a little frustrated with that. He was able to calm down and keep us in the game. He ended up having a pretty solid start: Three earned runs, not too bad.”
• Brandon Laird showed up around 8:15 after having a flight delayed in Detroit. He said Kevin Long asked if he’d ever seen Torres, but Laird said he’d never seen him in Scranton/Wilkes-Bare, so he couldn’t give any sort of scouting report.
• Another big game from Brett Gardner who was 1-for-3 with two walks, a stolen base, an RBI and a game-changing takeout slide that broke up a double play and let the tying run score in the eighth. “I didn’t think I went in high or anything,” Gardner said. “I just went in pretty late and tried to get enough of him to affect his throw.”
• What made rookie Alex Cobb so good early? “He had an outstanding, I guess you’d call it a splitchange or a split,” Girardi said. “I thought he did a great job of throwing that at any time in the count.”
• No one seemed too sure what was happening when the lightning struck. It knocked out half of a bank of lights on the first-base side. “They asked me if we wanted to continue play through it or not,” Girardi said. “I said, ‘No, I don’t.’ I thought it was a big time in the game, and I want the lights all on in that situation. They said, ‘It will take 15 minutes.’ I said, ‘We’ve got to wait, then,’ knowing that it could mess up our pitcher too. I thought it was a big time and situation with Robbie Cano up and a runner in scoring position. I felt we needed to wait.”
• How’s this for a bad ending to a rough day? Torre was optioned to Triple-A immediately after the game. Joe Maddon said the Rays have to add a fresh arm and Torres wouldn’t be available for a few days.
Associated Press photos