Beating an NL team at its own game

With a starting lineup Monday that was minus Alfonso Soriano, Mark Teixeira and Carlos Beltran, the Yankees did not appear all that powerful. They were in a National League park in St. Louis and were going to need some NL-style small ball to get runs.

And that is just what they did in pulling off a 6-4, 12-inning victory over the Cardinals in what has been a turnaround trip for them. After losing three of the first four games on the swing through the Midwest, the Yankees have won three in a row to keep pace with the red-hot Blue Jays, who have a two-game lead in the American League East.

The Yankees got a run in the first inning on a walk and two singles, the same combination plus a sacrifice fly that gave them two runs in the fifth.

Not surprisingly considering Monday’s batting order, all seven of the Yankees’ hits were singles. They went one six-inning stretch with just one hit. They got another decent start from Triple A call-up Chase Whitley, who wilted in the sixth inning, however, and loaded the bases with none out. The Cardinals pushed two runs across to make the score 3-3, which it remained until the 12th.

Strong relief work by Preston Claiborne, Matt Thornton, Dellin Betances and Alfredo Aceves accounted for six shutout innings. Aceves was saved from possible disaster in the 11th on Brett Gardner’s leaping catch at the top of the left field wall to haul down a drive by Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina.

The St. Louis bullpen did a nice job as well after Michael Wacha left after a sturdy seven-inning stint until Randy Choate took the mound. The former Yankees lefthander gave up a leadoff walk to Jacoby Ellsbury, who stole second base, and hit Brian McCann with a 1-2 pitch.

The Yankees played some NL ball with Yangervis Solarte dropping his first major-league sacrifice bunt down to advance the runners. Cardinals manager Mike Matheny decided to put Ichiro Suzuki on with an intentional walk to load the bases, a strategy that backfired when Brian Roberts singled to left to break the tie. A sacrifice fly by Soriano pinch hitting and a clutch, two-out single by Brendan Ryan brought in two more runs, a nice cushion for David Robertson, who was touched for an unearned run due to an errant throw by Derek Jeter and earned his 11th save.

It marked the 12th straight game that Yankees starters have given up three runs or fewer. The rotation has a 2.52 ERA during that stretch. Whitley still does not have a decision, but in three starts the righthander has allowed only four earned runs in 14 innings (2.57 ERA).

Until Teixeira can swing freely with that tricky right wrist of his and Beltran gets back from the disabled list, this is the kind of offense the Yankees will have, needing to scratch for runs one at a time. It worked on Memorial Day.

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