I’m not sure Mark Teixeira has heard the theory that the Yankees big-power, low-batting-average offense will struggle against elite postseason pitching, but he certainly made an argument against it this afternoon. After Teixeira and Eric Chavez homered on back-to-back pitches in the eighth inning — first tying the game, then giving the Yankees the lead — Teixeira admitted that he was trying to go deep in that situation.
“I don’t do it all the time,” he said. “But I know against a guy like (Joaquin) Benoit, he’s not going to give up a lot of hits. So you just try to click him. You try to get a good pitch to hit, and I got a 2-0 pitch to hit. … I can just tell you guys I only hit home runs when I try to hit them, but no. It all depends on the situation. Obviously it’s not every time, but late in the game, when you have a closer out there, somebody that’s really tough to hit, you’ve got one out, chances are you’re not going to get four, five hits in a row. You see me and Eric up there trying to get pitches that we can drive, and we did.”
The end result was a win reminiscent of some of those mid-June, early-July games. The Yankees fought today, scratching out a one-run win that split this four-game series and left the team feeling good heading into Toronto. Before these back-to-back wins, the Yankees had lost 12 of 18, with eight of those losses by one run. Today, they proved they can still win a close one now and then.
“It feels kind of like we’re running uphill right now,” Chavez said. “Even yesterday, we score 10 runs and they mounted a good comeback. Like I said yesterday, wins are wins. You take them. And that was a good, fought, close game today.”
Home runs are exciting and ejections are memorable, but today’s game was just as much about the Yankees bullpen. Clay Rapada got the win, retiring the only two batters he faced, David Phelps stepped in as the setup man and got through the heart of the order, then Rafael Soriano pitched out of big trouble to close out the ninth. Soriano put runners at the corners with no outs before picking up his 27th save.
“They’re speed guys (on base),” Chris Stewart said. “So ground balls don’t really do much good in that situation. We’re trying to jam them, and trying to get them to flare a ball up in the air somewhere, and fortunately they did it all three times for us. Soriano made some huge pitches when he needed to.”
Give credit to Phelps as well. The Yankees didn’t want to use Dave Robertson after last night’s game, so Phelps was the eighth-inning guy. He fell behind 3-0 against Miguel Cabrera and still go the out, Prince Fielder’s single was particularly well hit, and Phelps got Austin Jackson out on a 2-0 slider/cutter (whatever you want to call it).
“Larry came out and just asked, can you throw a cutter on the outer half?” Phelps said. “I said, Yeah, you know, I can make that pitch. I just went out there and threw it, and I was able to get an out with it. That’s a big situation right there. I was just a little more frustrated that I was getting behind 2-0 with a lot of the guys. But I was just staying on the glove and making pitches when I had to.”
• Another nice start by Hiroki Kuroda. He settled for a no decision, but he pitched into the seventh inning and allowed his only runs in that wild fifth inning when Alex Avila homered and Andy Dirks gave the Tigers a lead with his controversial double. “I think the most important thing is for the team to win, and that’s what we did today,” Kuroda said. “No matter what happens out there, my job is to keep the game close, and whatever happens, happens. I’m just glad we got a win.”
• By the way, Ibanez laughed when asked whether he would have held Dirks to a single had Welke not made that initial bad call. “I should have given myself more room,” Ibanez said. “I could have made the play anyway if I would have given myself more room.”
• Chavez came into this game 3-for-15 in his career against Benoit. “My numbers aren’t very good against him,” Chavez said. “In fact, they’re pretty terrible. I was looking for a heater, and I believe he left a changeup kind of up and away and I just saw it out of his hand.”
• Chavez had nine hits this series, including two home runs. He hit .563 during these games in Detroit, but admitted afterward that he won’t be disappointed to take a few days off against lefties this weekend. He knows he needs the break.
• Girardi on the decision to use Phelps and Soriano in the eighth, which was clearly discussed before he left the game: “We were possibly going to ask (Soriano) to get us four outs. I didn’t really want to use Robby today with what he did yesterday. If it’s a night game, maybe it’s a little bit different, but you don’t know what he’s going to have. He said he felt all right, but it’s my job to determine with Larry, physically is it risky and we didn’t want to do it. Phelpsie did a good job and so did Sori.”
• Girardi said he’s expecting a fine but no suspension for today’s ejection. He did make contact with an umpire, but that seemed to be as much because Bob Davidson bumped into Girardi as anything. As he walked off the field, Girardi gave over-the-top “fair” and “foul” signals, but he said he wasn’t playing to the crowd, simply making his point one last time. “I don’t play to the crowd,” he said. “That’s not my personality. I was still very perturbed. … I’m extremely happy for what our guys accomplished today. That doesn’t mean I’m not going to be perturbed when I get a letter.”
• Stewart on the Girardi ejection: “It’s good that he’s sticking up for us, and he wants things to go our way. That’s how it should be. It was good. It fired us up, obviously, to where we got some good swings after that and put the game away. So if he needs to get thrown out of every game in order for us to get a win, he needs to do that.”
• Final word goes to Teixeira: “We ran into a really hot team. That team is a very good team over there. A lot like our team, I think. You have a team that has a very deep lineup, has a good bench, has an ace that can shut you down on any night. So I see a lot of similarities to our team and theirs. We just need it to halt their winning streak a little bit.”
Associated Press photos