Colon Back On Track As Yanks Escape A’s’ Rally

GAME 99

YANKEES 7, ATHLETICS 5

A victory is a victory. But there are some victories that expose what a team is missing.

Though New York defeated Oakland on Sunday, the mood at Yankee Stadium was relief the pesky A’s were leaving town.

Bartolo Colon (7-6) pitched seven solid innings and Curtis Granderson, Andruw Jones and Eduardo Nunez drove in two runs apiece as the Yankees staked their vaunted bullpen to a 6-2 lead to start the eighth inning. However, the usually reliable David Robertson and Mariano Rivera were tagged for three runs on seven hits and a walk to barely hold on to defeat the Athletics.

Robertson was pressed into service despite the fact he threw 25 pitches in an inning of work on Saturday. Robertson has been filling in the eighth inning role since the Yankees lost Rafael Soriano on May 14 with right elbow inflammation and Joba Chamberlain on June 6 for the season with Tommy John surgery on his right elbow. On Sunday, the heavy workload on the All-Star reliever Robertson showed.

The A’s battered Robertson for two runs on three doubles and a walk in 30 more pitches over two-thirds of an inning, prompting manager Joe Girardi to summon Rivera from the bullpen for a very rare four-out save. Rivera escaped the two-out, two on jam by inducing Cliff Pennington to ground out on his second pitch.

However, the A’s — trailing 7-4 after Derek Jeter drove in an insurance run in the bottom of the eighth on an infield groundout — refused to go gently in the ninth.

With one out, the A’s strung together four straight singles — the last an RBI single by Josh Willingham — off Rivera to score a run to draw them within two runs with the bases loaded. Rivera and the Yankees escaped disaster when David DeJesus’ line drive headed into the right-field corner was stopped by first baseman Mark Teixeira, who trotted to first to double up Willingham for a game-ending unassisted double play.

What little was left of the crowd of 45,596 seemed to all exhale with a collective sigh of relief just before the P.A. system struck up Frank Sinatra singing his familiar “New York, New York.” Perhaps, in this case, it would have been more appropriate to play Sinatra’s “Luck Be A Lady Tonight.”

The Yankees had trailed 2-0 early to the A’s and their talented lefty starter Gio Gonzalez before the Yankees began chipping away in the bottom of the second inning. Jones followed a two-out single and a stolen base by Russell Martin with his first RBI single of the day to draw the Yankees to within a run.

Two innings later, Nunez laced a line-drive two-out double to the gap in left-center to score Martin and Jones, who Gonzalez had hit with a pitch and walked on four pitches, respectively. The Yankees took the lead at 3-2 and never did surrender it the rest of the way.

Granderson padded the lead to 5-2 in the fifth when he followed a leadoff walk to Derek Jeter with his 27th home run of the season and his 11th off a left-hander this season, which leads the major leagues. Later in the inning, Jones delivered a bases-loaded single to score Teixeira and chase Gonzalez (9-7) from the game. Gonzalez left having given up six runs on seven hits and three walks and struck out five in 4 2/3 innings of work.

Colon meanwhile, relied a bit more on his slider than his fastball in holding the A’s to just two runs on eight hits and a walk and he struck out four to win his first start since July 2 against the Mets. It also was his first post-All-Star break victory since the 2005 season.

Colon and the Yankees were able to hold on that victory for him despite the rocky eighth and ninth innings. Rivera got credit for his 25th save in 29 chances and extended his major-league record of consecutive seasons of 25 or more saves to 15.

With the victory the Yankees remain three games behind the Boston Red Sox in the American League East. The A’s dropped to 44-57 on the season.

PINSTRIPE POSITIVES

  • Colon was not as sharp as he has been, but he was good enough to limit the opposition to two earned runs or fewer for the ninth time in 15 starts. The A’s only got to Colon in the second inning. With two out, Kurt Suzuki stroked a double to left. Cliff Pennington followed with a single to right that scored Suzuki when Nick Swisher’s throw from right-field skipped past Martin at the plate. Rookie Eric Sogard then doubled to right-center to score Pennington to give the A’s a 2-0 lead. Colon shut out the A’s from there thanks to a great defensive play by Granderson and Robinson Cano.
  • Granderson and Cano teamed up to deny the A’s what might have been a key run in the fifth. With Sogard at first and two out, Hideki Matsui, who was 5-for-5 in the game, stroked his first of two doubles on the day to center. Granderson retrieved the ball and, as Sogard headed for home, Cano relayed the ball high but right on the plate to Martin. Martin caught it over his head and brought his glove down to tag Sogard out as he blocked the plate. Despite an inconsequential error charged to Cano in the sixth, the Yankees played exceptional defense led by a spectacular play earlier by Cano, three excellent stops by Teixeira and Martin threw out a base-stealer in the seventh.
  • Granderson’s great season continues despite the fact he has been slumping of late and he has been striking out at an alarming rate. Granderson’s blast to right reached the second deck and was the key blow of the game. Granderson now has has 27 home runs, 74 RBIs and is hitting .265. Of course, he also leads the team in strikeouts with 107 and he fanned three times on Sunday, all on breaking pitches in the dirt.
  • Nunez filled in nicely for Jeter when he was on the disabled list and now he is doing the same with Alex Rodriguez on the DL. Nunez was 2-for-4 with a double and a single, he drove in two runs, stole a base and scored a run on Sunday. From June 14 through Sunday, Nunez is 31-for-105 (.295) with two home runs and 15 RBIs. He also has eight stolen bases.

NAGGING NEGATIVES

  • Robertson entered Sunday’s game with a 3-0 record and 1.14 ERA and he had only allowed one earned run since June 9, a stretch of 15 appearances. So it is hard to fault Robertson for his poor showing on Sunday. But in this instance you have to blame Girardi for choosing to use Robertson after he threw so many pitches on Saturday when he loaded the bases on walks and struck out the final batter to escape without a run scoring.  In these situations Girardi will have to trust Cory Wade or Luis Ayala more. Of course, if the Yankees get a healthy Soriano back as expected this week, Robertson’s heavy workload can be lessened some.
  • Swisher entered the game as the hottest hitter on the team. But on Sunday he was 0-for-4 with a strikeout. After pushing his average over .261 for the first time this season, Swisher’s average has dipped back to .258.
  • When Rivera struggles to get outs it is news. Rivera escaped the eighth on two pitches but ran into trouble with out in the ninth. Jemile Weeks singled sharply to center. Coco Crisp then rolled a single just off Cano’s glove and Matsui lined a single to right to load the bases. Willingham singled to left to score Weeks and suddenly the Yankees were faced with the tying run at second, one out and the bases loaded. DeJesus’ line drive could have easily doomed the Yankees to either a tie or a one-run deficit in the bottom of the ninth. Luckily, Teixeira bailed out Rivera and the Yankees by being at the right place at the right time.

ON DECK

The Yankees held on to win the rubber game their three-game home series with the A’s. They now will open a three-game series with the Seattle Mariners, who have lost 14 games in a row.

The Yankees will start the series with veteran right-hander Freddy Garcia (8-7, 3.21 ERA). Garcia pitched 6 2/3 innings of shutout baseball against the Rays for his 12th quality start of the season. Garcia fanned seven and walked none and looked dominant with his off-speed assortment. He is 4-3 with a 5.46 ERA in his career against the Mariners.

Seattle will counter with left-hander Jason Vargas (6-8, 3.94 ERA). Vargas was blasted by the Blue Jays for five runs on six hits over just three innings. Vargas, 28, has given up 10 earned runs in his last two starts. He is 0-2 with a 7.66 ERA lifetime against the Yankees.

Game-time will be 7:05 p.m. EDT and the game will be telecast by the YES Network.

 

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