- Wallace Matthews, ESPN Staff Writer
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NEW YORK -- This could have been one of the most damaging losses of the season, coming at the hands of one of the worst teams in the AL at a point when the Yankees really can't afford to lose to anyone.
Instead, after seven sleepy innings, it became one of the Yankees' most rousing victories, a come-from-behind 6-4 win over the White Sox that moved them back into third place in the AL East, nudging them ahead of the Baltimore Orioles, who lost to the Indians, and pulling them to within two games of the second wild-card spot pending the outcome of the Rays-Angels game later tonight.
It was only the seventh time all season the Yankees came back to win when trailing after seven innings.
Five spot: The Yankees pulled this one out with a five-run eighth inning off a tiring Chris Sale and a raged White Sox bullpen, getting five straight hits, including a two-RBI single by Alfonso Soriano, a clutch single by Alex Rodriguez to keep the inning going, a pinch-hit RBI single by Curtis Granderson and, after Mark Reynolds struck out, a two-run double by Eduardo Nunez that broke a 4-4 tie. It was the kind of late-inning rally the Yankees have lacked for most of the season, and it could not have come at a more opportune time.
Everyday Ivan?: To the growing chorus of voices urging the Yankees to skip Phil Hughes and, yes, CC Sabathia in the rotation, add now the name of Hiroki Kuroda. The pitcher who was the ace of this staff from April 1 to Aug. 1 turned in his fourth straight poor outing, allowing four runs in 6 1/3 innings, including a long home run by Alejandro De Aza that chased him with one out in the seventh inning. Over his past four starts, Kuroda is 0-4 with a whopping 7.43 ERA. Right now, the only reliable starter on the staff is Ivan Nova, who unfortunately will not go again until Thursday.
No Sale: Perhaps it was to be expected, because the Yankees never do much with Chris Sale, but for the first seven innings tonight they did next to nothing, managing just three hits and scoring their only run on the unlikeliest of plays: a steal of home by Vernon Wells (details below). But the Yankees got to Sale in the eighth, chasing him after Derek Jeter singled and Robinson Cano doubled off the left-field wall with one out in the eighth.
Follow the bouncing ball: The White Sox scored two runs off Kuroda in the fifth on a shot down the third-base line by Alexei Ramirez that turned into a two-run triple when Alfonso Soriano let the ball get past him and wind all the way around the inner edge of the left-field seats. In truth, it would have been an RBI double anyway, but Sori's delay in picking up the ball allowed the third run to score.
Narrow escape: Kuroda has been especially generous in the first inning this year -- his ERA is 4.33 in the opening frame this season -- and he allowed a run in the first tonight, but it could have been much worse. After allowing having runners on first and second with one out on a double by Gordon Beckham and an error at shortstop by Eduardo Nunez, Kuroda gave up an RBI single to Adam Dunn, but after walking Paul Konerko to load the bases, escaped further damage by striking out Avisail Garcia and Conor Gillaspie. And Kuroda got plenty of help from Gillaspie, who chased a 3-2 pitch that was clearly up and out of the strike zone.
Stolen run: Literally. The Yankees got on the board in the second when Vernon Wells (single and E-4) scored from third on a double steal started by Eduardo Nunez (reached on E-5), who stopped halfway between first and second, prompting shortstop Alexi Ramirez to fire home. The throw sailed wide of the plate, however, and Wells, who was credited with a steal of home, got in easily.
Too close for comfort: Derek Jeter got hit by a pitch perilously close to his twice-broken left ankle in the first inning, although luckily it was on an 84 mph Chris Sale changeup and not his 96 mph heater. Unluckily, the ball managed to find an area of Jeter's calf that was not protected by the shin guard he always wears to the plate. But happily, although he hopped around for a while, Jeter waved off trainer Steve Donohue and remained in the game.
40 for 42: Mariano Rivera pitched a perfect ninth to notch his 40th save, the eighth time in his career he has reached the mark.
What's next: Series finale with the White Sox matches CC Sabathia (12-11, 4.91) and RHP Erik Johnson, a highly touted prospect making his major league debut, first pitch at 7:05 p.m.
1hRandy Jennings, Special to ESPN.com
3hRandy Jennings, Special to ESPN.com
5hRandy Jennings, Special to ESPN.com
11hESPN Stats & Information