Yanks accept gift-wrapped victory from Orioles
The Yankees did what they needed to do by winning three of four games at Baltimore, which was to leap-frog over the Orioles in the American League wild-card chase. The Yanks remain one game behind (two in the loss column) to the Rays but put the Orioles in their rearview mirror by 1 ½ games.
Thursday night’s 6-5 victory was an out-and-out gift, but they’ll take it. It was gift-wrapped by Baltimore’s closer, Jim Johnson, who was not in a save situation as the score was 5-5 when he took the mound in the top of the ninth. Johnson got off to a rocky start by giving up a single to .189-hitting Brendan Ryan, who had not been able to buy a hit in his first two games with the Yankees.
Johnson next threw away a sure out when Chris Stewart sacrificing bunted the ball directly back to the reliever, who had a clear shot at forcing Ryan at second base – until he threw the ball into center field. Curtis Granderson bunted successfully to advance the runners with Alex Rodriguez coming up. Johnson then uncorked a wild pitch that scored Ryan to break the tie.
Rodriguez was eventually walked intentionally and Alfonso Soriano grounded into an inning-ending double play. But the damage was done, and Mariano Rivera with a scoreless ninth made sure that the Orioles paid for it.
This game was on the verge of being a major downer for the Yankees when the O’s came back from being down 5-2 in the eighth to tie the score on Danny Valencia’s three-run home run off David Robertson, who pitched so poorly that inning that the official scorer in his discretion did not credit him with the winning decision after the Yankees went ahead in the ninth.
That decision, which I did not agree with by the way, cost Rivera his 44th save since he was awarded the victory instead. Call it a victory or call it a save, it was the third straight rescue effort by Mo in the series.
Soriano might get partial credit for saving the game as well. His fence-climbing, one-handed grab of a drive by Manny Machado at the start of the eighth robbed the third baseman of what appeared a sure home run. Things just got worse for D-Rob as he gave up singles to Adam Jones and Nick Markakis and the homer to Valencia on a first-pitch fastball. J.J. Hardy followed with a double that put the potential go-ahead run in scoring position, but Robertson ended the inning by striking out Matt Wieters.
Official scorer Mark Jacobson used the rule that a pitcher can be denied a victory if his performance is “brief and ineffective.” No one could argue that Robertson was effective, however, there was nothing about his relief outing that could be considered brief. He pitched to seven batters and got three outs, including a crucial third out with a runner in scoring position. As shabby as the inning was for Robertson, I am not sure the official scorer’s ruling was fair.
But all of that is mere paperwork as far as the Yankees are concerned. No matter what pitcher was credited with the victory, it belonged to the whole team and was a nice springboard for the trip to Boston.