YANKEES 8, ORIOLES 3
When reporters ask Curtis Granderson about his chances to win the home run title this season, he claims he has no chance because he really is not a home run hitter.
Well, on Sunday night all he did was hit a pair of home runs and drive in four runs to take the major-league lead in home runs and RBIs as part of a five homer barrage that gave rookie sensation Ivan Nova and New York the runs they needed to defeat Baltimore.
Granderson flashed his MVP credentials early with the Yankees trailing 2-0 in the third inning and Eric Chavez on second and Brett Gardner on first. Granderson ripped a 1-0 pitch from left-hander Brian Matusz and deposited it into the bleachers in right-centerfield to give the Yankees a 3-2 lead.
The home run was his 37th of the season, which tied him with Toronto’s Jose Bautista for the major-league lead in home runs. The three runs batted in broke a tie with Boston’s Adrian Gonzalez for the major-league lead in RBIs with 106.
Granderson hit a solo home run in the seventh inning off a second left-hander, Mark Hendrickson, for his 38th home run of the season and his 107th RBI. Many of the Yankee fans in the crowd of 37,528 at Oriole Park at Camden Yards erupted into chants of “MVP, MVP, MVP” as Granderson crossed the plate.
Nova (14-4) did not look sharp early in giving up a run in the first on a sacrifice fly by Adam Jones in the first and an RBI double to rookie Ryan Adams in the second. The Orioles then touched him for a tying run in the third inning on another sac fly from Jones to score J.J. Hardy, who led off the inning with a ground-rule double and advanced to third on a groundout before Jones delivered the tying run.
The Yankees then continued to use the longball in the sixth inning against Matusz (1-7).
Mark Teixiera stroked a one-out single and Robinson Cano followed with his 23rd home run of the season to give the Yankees a 5-3 lead. But the Yankees did not stop there.
Nick Swisher chased Matusz from the game with his 20th home run of the season.
Orioles manager Buck Showalter called in Chris Jakubauskas to finish the inning and Andruw Jones greeted him with a tape-measure blast into the left-centerfield bleachers to give the Yankees a comfortable 7-3 lead.
Nova used that run support to pitch into the eighth inning without giving up any more runs to record his rookie-best 14th win and he extended his unbeaten streak to 11 games. Nova is 10-0 with a 3.52 ERA over that span and he has now won his last seven starts.
Nova was touched for seven hits and two walks and he fanned seven batters over seven innings before he landed into a bit of trouble in the eighth. Hardy led off the frame with a single and Nick Markakis drew a walk.
Manager Joe Girardi elected to call on right-hander David Robertson. Robertson has been sensational this season in escaping bases-loaded jams and he must have been chomping at the bit to show talent that off. He immediately gave up a sharp single to right to Adam Jones that loaded the bases with no outs.
But Robertson protected Nova’s 8-3 margin by striking out the next three batters — Vladimir Guerrero, Mark Reynolds and Ryan — swinging. “Houdini” as the Yankees call Robertson did it again. Hector Noesi pitched a perfect ninth and the Yankees had themselves a victory they badly needed.
The Yankees remain two games in back of the Boston Red Sox in the American League East chase with a season mark of 79-52. The Orioles fell to 53-78, 28 games out a first in the basement of the division, again.
- There has been a lot of buzz lately about Granderson pushing his way to the top of the MVP race. In August alone, Granderson is hitting .313 with 10 home runs and 29 RBIs. Voters are also being swayed by his 121 runs scored with 31 games left to play and the fact he is leading the A.L. in triples (10) and he is playing an excellent defensive centerfield. Bautista’s candidacy is slipping because the Jays are not in the pennant chase. So that leaves Granderson and Gonzalez of Boston to battle it out in the last month.
- Cano had his 17-game hitting streak snapped in the opener of the split-admission doubleheader. So he merely started over with two hits in the nightcap, including his 23rd home run. The two-run shot in the sixth also gave him 95 RBIs on the season, which is fourth best in the A.L. In fact, Granderson, Teixeira and Cano own the first, third and fourth spots, respectively.
- Nova is growing into a place where he can be considered the second-best pitcher on the staff behind CC Sabathia. Nova, unhappy about the way he was pitching on Sunday, went down into the clubhouse between innings and noticed he was dropping his arm slot. He made the adjustment and from the fourth through the seventh innings, he gave up only one hit, which was immediately erased by a double play in the fourth, and a two-out walk in the fifth. Nova is making a late run at A.L. Rookie of the Year.
- The three consecutive home runs by Cano, Swisher and Jones in the sixth was the first time the Yankees have accomplished it since May 20, 2009, when the Yankees did it, ironically, against the Orioles. That time Cano and Swisher also went deep along with Melky Cabrera.
- The Yankees can be a vexing team. In the first 20 innings of this truncated five-game series with Baltimore, they had been outscored 16-5 and shutout completely in the Sunday opener before they finally got their offense untracked. The Yankees losing four of their past five games cost them first place and two games to the Red Sox. When you are playing weak teams like Oakland and Baltimore you have to beat them. The Yankees did not do that and it cost them dearly.
The Yankees rested Alex Rodriguez in the second game of the doubleheader as they had planned. However, Derek Jeter also had to be scratched just before the game started because he sustained a bruised right knee in the first game by fouling a ball of his knee in the first game on Sunday. Rodriguez is being bother by a sprained left thumb he sustained in the first game he returned from the disabled list. Both may miss Monday;s finale with the Orioles. . . . The war of words in the wake of the Yankees’ frustration that the Orioles would not schedule a doubleheader on Friday knowing that Hurricane Irene would definitely wipe out Saturday’s game extended into Sunday. The Orioles are a lousy team and have been for some time with waning fan support. They look forward to big gates with a large contingent of Yankee fans when the Yankees come to town. The bottom line is they refused to schedule a Friday doubleheader because very few fans would have attended the Friday day game. So the Orioles are content in knowing they will make a few more bucks by dragging the Yankees back to play a one game on Sept. 8 before the Yankees are scheduled to fly to Los Angeles to begin a series on Sept. 9. So when you are not dealing with adults, it is hard to make logical arguments.
The Yankees complete their weekend babysitting the Orioles in their sandbox on Monday.
The Yankees will activate 34-year-old right-hander Freddy Garcia (10-7, 3.16 ERA) from the disabled list to make this start. Garcia has not pitched since Aug. 7 because he sliced his right index finger in a kitchen accident at his home. He is 5-7 with a 4.07 ERA in his career against the Orioles.
The Orioles will start right-hander Alfredo Simon (4-6, 4.30 ERA). Simon gave up only one run over eight innings in a victory over the Twins in his last start. He is 0-1 with a 5.63 ERA in his career against the Yankees.
Game-time will be 7:05 p.m. EDT and the game will be telecast by the YES Network.