YANKEES 6, ROCKIES 4
On a day the New York Yankees celebrated its living legends on their 65th annual Old-Timers’ Day at hallowed Yankee Stadium, it was 24-year-old Eduardo Nunez — the youngest player on the roster — who delivered the game-winning hit and it was 41-year-old Mariano Rivera — the oldest player on the roster — who closed the game out in the ninth.
Nunez stroked a one-out RBI single off reliever Matt Belisle (5-3) in the seventh inning to score pinch-runner Chris Dickerson from second to break a 4-4 tie as New York downed Colorado on Sunday and won the three-game series from the Rockies.
Colorado actually enjoyed a 3-0 lead in the game on the strength of solo home runs by Ty Wigginton and Chris Ianetta and a sac fly by Todd Helton off Yankee starter Ivan Nova in the first five innings. The Rockies, meanwhile, were cruising behind 24-year-old rookie right-hander Juan Nicasio, who had retired the Yankees in order for the first four innings.
Nicasio eeven opened the fifth by retiring Alex Rodriguez on a flyout to right. But after having thrown 62 pitches and facing a 2-1 count on Robinson Cano, Cano broke up a potential Nicasio no-hit bid with an lined opposite-field single to left. Five pitches later, Swisher broke up Nicasio’s potential shutout bid with a two-run blast into the right-field bleachers for his ninth home run of the season.
Four pitches after that, Jorge Posada erased Nicasio’s lead with his eighth home run of the season, a rope that landed in the Yankees’ bullpen in right-center. So within a span of 10 pitches, the Yankees finally formally introduced themselves to the rookie.
However, the Yankees’ own rookie pitcher Nova was unable to hold on to the tie in the sixth. Wigginton connected on a 3-2 pitch for his second solo home run of the game off Nova and the Rockies reclaimed the lead.
But, the Yankees chased Nicasio from the game in the bottom of the sixth witha bunt single by Brett Gardner, a stolen base by Gardner and a walk to Curtis Granderson. Belisle entered the game and retired Granderson at second on a comebacker to the mound. But Alex Rodriguez tied the game with a ground single into left to score Gardner.
That set up the Yankees’ seventh inning. With one out, Posada drew a walk off Belisle. Then All-Star shortstop Troy Tulowitzki booted a hot smash grounder off the bat of Russell Martin for an error. Dickerson was then sent in to pinch-run for Posada and he scored after Nuuez slipped a bouncer through the hole between third and short to score Dickerson with what would prove to be the winning run.
Mark Teixeira gave the Yankees an insurance run in the eight inning when he led off with a solo shot to left off left-hander Mark Reynolds, Teixeira’s 23rd home run of the season, tying him Blue Jays outfielder Jose Bautista for the major-league lead.
The Yankee bullpen did the rest. Boone Logan got three outs in the seventh and David Robertson pitched a perfect eighth, striking out two batters. But Rivera needed only 14 pitches — nine of them strikes — to strike out Wigginton, Charlie Blackmon and Ianetta in order to pick up his 20th save in 23 chances. Logan (2-2) got credit for the victory in relief.
With the victory the Yankees improved their season ledger to 45-31. They have won 12 of their last 16 games and they remain a half-game ahead of the second-place Boston Red Sox atop the American League East. The Rockies dropped to 38-39.
- Since taking over for an injured Derek Jeter as the starting shortstop on June 14, Nunez is 12-for-41 (.293) with a home run and five RBIs. He has failed to get a hit in only three of the 12 games he has started. Brian Cashman said it best when he said the Yankees have no interest in potential free-agent shortstop Jose Reyes. The Yankees have Jeter signed for four years and Nunez could be starting for half the teams in baseball now. They are set at the position.
- Swisher continues to improve from the left side of the plate. His home run in the fifth inning was his sixth of the season from the left side. Despite hitting a sizzling .342 right-handed, Swisher is only hitting .203 left-handed. But he has raised his average to .245 by hitting .319 in June with six home runs and 18 RBIs.
- Posada ended a 119 at-bat home run drought on June 22 in Cincinnati after he had hit six home runs in his first 16 games this season. His eighth home run on Sunday came only 11 at-bats after his seventh. Posada may be hitting a woeful .100 with no home runs and just one RBI against lefties. But he is hitting .270 with eight homers and 24 RBIs against right-handers this season.
- After Luis Ayala gave up a single to Ianetta to begin the sixth inning, Logan, Robertson and Rivera were perfect the rest of the way. They threw a combined 42 pitches, 32 of them for strikes. They struck out six of those nine batters they faced and only one ball reached the outfield. Is it any wonder that the Yankees bullpen is No. 1 in the majors in ERA?
- It looked as if it was going to be another one of those games that the Yankees looked hopeless against a pitcher they have not seen before. Nicasio was getting the Yankees out even though he was falling behind in the count to just about every batter in the first four innings. Fortunately, Cano’s single made him work from the stretch for the first time in the game and the Yankees took advantage right away.
- Nunez may be a coming star with his bat and his ability to steal bases, but his fielding is a long way from looking major league. In the first inning, Nunez allowed a sure double-play ball off the bat of Jonathan Herrera to roll under his glove for his ninth miscue of the season in limited starts. Nova pitched out of the jam by retiring the next three batters but Nunez is going to have improve his concentration in the field.
- Martin was one of two Yankee starters who did not get a hit in the game. The other was Curtis Granderson. Martin also committed a throwing error on a steal attempt by Ianetta in seventh inning. That was his fourth error of the season. On the bright side he has caught 29% of base-stealers against him this season, which is right around his career average of 30% for his career.
There were loud ovations for Lou Piniella, Joe Torre and Bernie Williams from the sellout crowd of 47,894 during the Old-Timers’ Day celebration before the game. This was the first time the three had participated in an Old-Timers’ Day since they retired from baseball. But the biggest fan favorite is still 86-year-old Yogi Berra, who drew the loudest ovation when he was introduced. Tino Martinez was the hero of the game with a two-run home run off David Cone to give the Yankees a 2-0 victory over the Clippers. The Yankees also honored long-time head trainer Gene Monahan, who is retiring after this season. Monahan threw out the first pitch in the Old-Timers’ game. . . . One player missing from the festivities was Derek Jeter, who is rehabbing a strained right calf in Tampa, FL. On Sunday he took swings off a batting tee and from soft toss but he still has not started a running program. Jeter hopes to begin running this week. There is no set timetable for his return.
The Yankees will have the benefit of another day off on Monday to rest their bullpen, rework their starting rotation and allow Alex Rodriguez to get treatment for his sore right knee. On Monday, the Yankees will play host to the Milwaukee Brewers for the opener of the three-game set.
The Yankees will open the series with 34-year-old right-hander Freddy Garcia (6-6, 3.30 ERA), who threw his third straight quality start and his sixth in his last seven starts. Garcia allowed two unearned runs on three hits over seven innings in a victory against the Reds on Thursday. He is 0-2 with a 3.98 ERA in his career against the Brewers.
The Brewers will start Zack Greinke (7-2, 4.77 ERA). The former Royals right-hander gave up just one earned run over seven innings in his last start. He has fanned 10 in his last two starts. Greinke is 2-3 with a 5.67 ERA against the Yankees. He also spurned a potential trade to the Yankees by stating that he did not think he could pitch in Yankee Stadium with his anxiety disorder.
Game-time will be 7:05 p.m. EDT and the game will be telecast nationally by the MLB Network and locally by the YES Network.