Rapid Reaction: Yankees 9, Blue Jays 6
September, 30, 2012
By Wallace Matthews | ESPNNewYork.com
TORONTO -- There's life in this aging bunch yet. The Yankees, who after six innings looked for all the world as if they were about to fall into second place in the AL East for the first time since June, rally to win this one, 9-6, to stay even with the Baltimore Orioles atop the division heading into the final three games of the season.
What it means: That the Yankees are now one step from assuring themselves at least one post-season game this October, and if the Texas Rangers can beat the L.A. Angels in the second game of a doubleheader tonight -- the Halos rallied to win the first game to stave off elimination -- the Yankees will be guaranteed a least a spot in the wild-card play-in game.
High Nunie: Eduardo Nunez, embarrassingly yanked from Saturday's game because Joe Girardi was terrified of his glove, starred with his bat today, singling as a pinch-hitter and scoring the first run of the Yankees' three-run game-tying rally, and knocking in the go-ahead run in the eighth with a sacrifice fly that nearly got over the head of RF Moises Sierra.
Captain Clutch: Derek Jeter delivered a typically-Jeterian hit, on an inside-out swing that produced a flare that just eluded the glove of 2B Adeiny Hechavarria to drive in the Yankees' seventh run of the game in the bottom of the eighth. An inning earlier, Jeter's ground-rule double was a key hit in the Yankees' three-run seventh.
Small bites: Alex Rodriguez, who lately has been advocating the small-ball style of play his career was most certainly not built upon, is to be commended for working out an eight-pitch walk during the seventh-inning rally, especially since he fell behind 0-2. So, too, is Russell Martin, who laid down a perfect sacrifice bunt in the eighth to move the runners to second and third, both of whom eventually scored. And how about that Robbie Cano pushing a bunt up the uncovered third-base line for a ninth-inning single?
Rough start: The Blue Jays roughed up Phil Hughes in the first inning, taking a 2-0 first inning lead and tacking on three more in the fifth on Brett Lawrie's two-run homer and Moises Sierra's RBI single. In his last two appearances at Rogers Centre, Hughes has allowed 12 runs in 8 1/3 innings pitched for an ERA of 11.76.
Sweaty seventh: An incredibly tense half-inning saw the Yankees pull even, 5-5, on a bunch of tough at-bats, and get robbed of a chance to take the lead on an eye-popping catch by Yunel Escobar that became an inning-ending double play. Considering what was at stake, the Yankees' best inning of the season.
You know the story: But I'll tell it again anyway. The Yankees got runners on first and third with none out in the sixth, after a leadoff double by Robinson Cano and a single by Nick Swisher -- and came away with only one run. And that scored not on a hit, but a wild pitch. With a golden opportunity to delvier the timely hit that has been missing all season, Curtis Granderson (comebacker), Raul Ibanez (groundout) and Russell Martin (strikeout) all failed in the clutch.
Sweet 16: Eric Chavez hit the first pitch of the third inning deep into the right-field seats to cut the Jays lead to 2-1. It was Chavez' 16th of the season, the most home runs he has hit since 2006, when he hit 22 for the Oakland Athletics.
Ichi-WOW!: Watching Ichiro Suzuki's elaborate stretching routine in the clubhouse the other day, Derek Jeter wryly observed, "He has no bones.'' In the third inning today, Suzuki demonstrated the Jeter might be right. After making an unbelievable running snag of Encarnacion's sinking liner to the right-field corner, he continued running full speed into the side wall beyond the foul line, and bounced off, seemingly without injury. Incredible play for an outfielder of any age; Ichiro will turn 39 on Oct. 22.
What's next: Short hop home, followed by the final three games of the season in which Bobby Valentine and the Boston Red Sox try to create mischief one more time. Probable pitching matchups: CC Sabathia (14-6, 3.42) vs. RHP Clay Buchholz (11-7, 4.22) on Monday, Ivan Nova (12-8, 5.02) vs. LHP Jon Lester (9-14, 4.94) on Tuesday and Hiroki Kuroda (15-11, 3.34) vs. RHP Daisuke Matsuzaka (1-6, 7.68) in the regular season finale on Wednesday. All games at 7:05 p.m.