Perfect timing for Yanks to collect timely hits
Technically, it was not a save situation for Rafael Soriano in the ninth inning of Sunday’s game at Toronto’s Rogers Centre. The closer was summoned to pitch with the Yankees up by four runs, one more than the qualifying total in one inning for a save. Yet in ways other than technicalities, it was a save situation because the Yankees needed to save their season.
After a debilitating 3-2 loss to the Blue Jays Saturday, the Yankees’ season was on a precipice. With the Orioles having already defeated the Red Sox, the Yankees needed to maintain that lead to remain tied with Baltimore for first place in the American League East. It was a shaky outing for Soriano as the Jays loaded the bases with none out, but a couple of ground balls, one a big double play, later, the Yanks had what they needed, a hard-fought, 9-6 victory to salvage a split of the four-game set against one of the division’s also-rans.
The Yankees showed an abundance of resiliency in coming back from the 5-1 deficit Phil Hughes put them in over a struggling 4 2/3-inning performance. Derek Lowe brought order to the pitching side for the Yankees, who one day after being shut out for six innings by the Toronto bullpen came back to score seven runs with eight hits and three walks in three innings against seven relievers.
And the Yankees did all that damage without a home run. Their lone homer was a solo shot by Eric Chavez (No. 16) in the third inning off starter Henderson Alvarez, who limited the Yankees to two runs over the first six innings. The Yanks got some help with two runs coming on wild pitches, but for the most part they kept the line moving with timely hitting.
Robinson Cano, who got hot on this trip, had three hits – two of them doubles, including a gapper to right-center in the seventh to drive in one of the three runs the Yankees scored that inning to tie the game. Eduardo Nunez, who began that rally with a pinch-hit single, drove in the go-ahead run in the eighth with a sacrifice fly. Derek Jeter added an insurance run with a single, one of his three hits that raised his major-league-leading season hit total to 213.
Cano contributed a well-placed bunt single to a two-run ninth inning. The Blue Jays were employing an over-shift on Cano, who was batting with none out and Alex Rodriguez on first base after a leadoff single. It was a good idea by Cano. I have often wondered why more hitters don’t do this. Take what the defense will give you. The rally-fueling bunt hit preceded a walk to Nick Swisher that loaded the bases and a two-run single by Curtis Granderson, who pushed his season RBI total to 100, which is pretty impressive for a guy hitting .226 (of course, 40 home runs helped him get there).
With six straight multi-hit games, Cano is batting .625 with five doubles and five RBI in 24 at-bats. He hit .343 with 18 doubles and 11 home runs in day games this season. The Yanks’ remaining three games of the season will be at night, at Yankee Stadium against the Red Sox. Meanwhile, the Orioles will finish up at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Fla., against the Rays, who have won 10 of their past 11 games and are still in the wild-card hunt.
So after 159 games, the Yankees’ season comes down to the final series. A Yankees-Red Sox series usually has dramatic implications, but it will be decidedly one-sided this time.