Yanks finish 2-1 vs. Cy Young pitchers
Those of us in the press box had to be on the alert Wednesday night. I cannot recall a time when so many foul balls were hit in our direction. That’s usually a sign of hitters being unable to get around with the bat against a pitcher with exceptional stuff.
It came as no surprise because the pitcher was Justin Verlander, the 2011 American League Most Valuable Player and Cy Young Award winner who has had something of a star-crossed season this year. Verlander entered the game with a surprisingly high ERA (4.66), but he seemed the ace of recent vintage this night.
When not fouling pitches back on a regular basis, the Yankees were making out after out against Verlander until Jacoby Ellsbury broke up his no-hit bid with a two-out single to center field in the fourth inning.
Chase Headley, who has been a fine addition to the Yankees, finally got through to Verlander with one out in the fifth with a drive into the second deck in right field for the third baseman’s second home run since joining the Yankees and ninth of the season.
That made the score 1-1. The Tigers had touched Chris Capuano for a gift run in the first inning. Rajai Davis reached first base on an error by Derek Jeter and second on a wild pitch by Capuano before there was an out. Davis crossed to third on an infield out and scored on Miguel Cabrera’s flyout to the warning track in right field.
Capuano got help from Ellsbury to keep the game tied in the sixth. The center fielder leaped high to glove J.D. Martinez’s drive to right-center at the top of the wall in front of the Yankees’ bullpen for the third out of the inning.
Capuano more than held his own against Verlander. The lefthander had eight strikeouts, twice as many as his opponent into the seventh inning, and only one walk. He came out of the game after giving up two-out singles by Andrew Romine and Ezequiel Carrera in the seventh. Adam Warren retired Davis on a grounder to the right side for the third out. Capuano has pitched to a 2.48 ERA in 19 inning since joining the Yankees.
It was a shame he was out of the game when Brian McCann’s 13th home run gave the Yankees a 2-1 lead in the bottom of the seventh. Capuano had pitched well enough to earn a victory, but the run put Warren in place for the winning decision instead.
Warren’s shining moment came in the eighth when the game nearly came unglued for the Yanks after a dual error by second baseman Stephen Drew on a ground ball by Victor Martinez gave the Tigers runners on first and third with one out. Warren fell behind 3-0 in the count to the next two hitters but came back to set down both of them. He used a pair of 96-mph fastballs to strike out J.D. Martinez and finished off Nick Castellanos on a routine fly ball to right field.
Verlander was gone after seven, and the Yankees pushed their lead to 5-1 in the eighth against lefthander Blaine Hardy. Mark Teixeira drove in a run with a single and was the second runner to score on an errant throw to first base by Romine, the shortstop, on a call overturned after a video replay.
Teixeira turned out a casualty. He cut his right pinky on catcher Bryan Holaday’s spikes and required stitches. Tex will not play Thursday’s series finale and could be lost for even more time.
That was the one negative drawback in an otherwise positive night for the Yankees, whose string of games decided by two runs or fewer ended at 16.
The Yankees came out on the plus side (2-1) of their three match-ups against former Cy Young Award winners, and they now have a winning career record (6-5) against Verlander, who has not beaten them in two years.
Yankees pitching has been particularly good in this series against the Tigers, who lead the AL in batting but have scored only six runs in 30 innings the past three games.