Back from the brink
New York City-based Yankees super-fan and espnW contributor Amanda Rykoff will be sharing her thoughts on the Yankees' playoff run. Today she provides her thoughts on the Yankees' 10-1 ALDS Game 4 win over the Tigers that forced a decisive Game 5 in the Bronx.
Curtis Granderson is unicorns and rainbows and Skittles
A few months ago, after Granderson hit one of his 41 home runs this season, I tweeted, "Oh Curtis, you are unicorns and rainbows and skittles." The tweet was posted on the YES Network postgame show and has become a catchphrase for how much I love the Yankees' MVP candidate center fielder. In last night's Game 4, the former Tiger was unicorns and rainbows and Skittles and puppy dogs and teddy bears and more, providing Gold Glove-caliber defense and clutch hitting.
With the bases loaded in the bottom of the first inning and Yankees fans cursing and curled up in the fetal position (was that just me?), Don Kelly lined a shot to center field off A.J. Burnett. Granderson appeared to take a step in and I held my breath as the ball took off. It looked momentarily as if it would go over Granderson's head and possibly to the wall for a triple or worse. Somehow, Granderson managed to accelerate and leap just enough to catch the ball in the web of his glove. There is no question this was the most important play of the game. Had he misplayed the ball, the resulting 3-0 deficit would have been too much for Burnett to overcome.
At the plate, the MVP candidate had a key RBI double in the top of the fifth off Tigers starter Rick Porcello, which extended the Yankees' lead to 3-1. And since one huge catch wasn't enough, Granderson made a spectacular diving catch in the bottom of the sixth to preserve the Yankees' 4-1 lead with Kelly on base. He does it all. His teammates rewarded him with a standing ovation in the dugout.
I owe Burnett an apology. Sort of.
If you follow me on Twitter or have talked to me for more than 30 seconds about my beloved Yankees, you know how I feel about Burnett. Let's just say I'm not a fan. So faced with an elimination game with the notoriously erratic and unreliable Burnett on the mound, I was concerned. I may have said something to the effect of, "This is my worst nightmare come to life." I asked him to prove me wrong.
Burnett, you proved me wrong. You came through last night. You pitched effectively. You got Miguel Cabrera out. Sure, you walked three in the first inning (one intentional) and you gave up a monster home run to Victor Martinez (A.J. gonna A.J., as we say), but 5.2 innings of one-run, four-hit ball against the Tigers is very respectable. Thank you. And thank you Larry Rothschild for settling Burnett down between innings. And thank you Russell Martin for containing some of those potential wild pitches.
What a difference a day makes
After Monday night's devastating loss, Yankees Universe (for the record, I hate that phrase), was despondent. The season was on the brink. All hope had been lost. This was the 2006 ALDS all over again. We had scored four runs against the great Justin Verlander and lost. Alex Rodriguez needed to be moved to the No. 8 spot. Burnett was our last hope. The Yankees were a collective 3-for-24 with runners in scoring position and all Yankees not named Brett Gardner were a combined 1-for-20. The Yankees were DOOOOOOOOMED.
Twenty-four hours later, faith has been restored. Ten runs scored. Every starter -- yes, even A-Rod -- had at least one hit (except Jorge Posada, who was hit by a pitch). The team went 6-for-14 with runners in scoring position. Jesus Montero became the second youngest Yankee in history to have a multihit game in the postseason. It was a solid start from Burnett and excellent relief pitching from Rafael Soriano. Even Phil Hughes and Boone Logan had strong outings in garbage time. The Tigers had just four hits. Confidence is high. We have a Game 5 in the Bronx on Thursday with Ivan Nova on the mound. David Robertson and Mariano Rivera are rested and ready.
Let's do this.