For me, Brett Gardner’s slide was the turning point of last night’s game. In a larger scope, though, the key might have been the work of the Yankees bullpen. Mariano Rivera got the save, and Hector Noesi got the biggest out with that bases-loaded strikeout, but it’s worth remembering that Dave Robertson found a new way to overwhelm hitters last night.
When he opened the eighth inning with strikeouts against Johnny Damon and Ben Zobrist, Robertson didn’t get the outs with fastballs or curveballs.
“I was facing some of the top hitters in this league,” he said. “With Johnny and Zobrist, I had to make pitches. The changeup was the pitch to go to right there because I felt I could get them out with it. I had to make sure I used it so that I couldn’t get hurt with it.”
Not getting hurt with it meant keeping those strike-three changeups on the outside part of the plate. The element of surprise — especially against a familiar face like Damon — was as important as anything.
“That’s pretty much it,” Robertson said. “I’m hoping to get away with one there and (let) that be it. If it doesn’t work, I’m going to go back to my strengths which is my fastball and curveball.”
The changeup won’t be — and shouldn’t be — a go-to pitch for Robertson. He makes his living with the fastball and the curveball, but the fact he was willing to go changeup in that situation says a lot about his confidence in his third pitch. Robertson said he couldn’t remember whether Russell Martin called for it or if Robertson had to shake to it — he thought Martin called for it from the beginning — but either way, Robertson said he was thinking changeup from the beginning.
“It just gives hitters something else to think about when I’m pitching because I’m not afraid to throw it,” he said. “I’ll throw it pretty much any time. I just don’t use it as much as I probably should.”