YANKEES 2, ATHLETICS 1 (10 INNINGS)
If you took a poll on New York sports talk shows on what Yankees has had the most disappointing season the result would come back Russell Martin. Of course, if you took a poll on who the most popular Yankee is on Friday you would come out with the same result.
Martin, suffering through a season in which he has been struggling with a batting average that is 32 points below his career low of last season’s .237, hit the second pitch he saw from left-handed reliever Sean Doolittle and parked it well into the bleachers in left-field as New York took a walk-off victory in 10 innings over a stunned young Oakland squad.
Martin’s home run, his 16th of the season, allowed the Yankees to maintain their one-game lead over the second-place Baltimore Orioles in the American League East. It also gave the Yankees a bit of payback on an Oakland team that swept the Yankees in four games in Oakland and the all the games were one-run games.
The Yankees actually thought they had the game won after CC Sabathia shut down the A’s on four hits and two walks and he struck out 11 over eight innings. However, Rafael Soriano gave up a one-out home run in the ninth to pinch-hitter Brandon Moss to tie the game at 1-1.
It was only Soriano’s fourth blown save if the season but two have them have come against the A’s.
The Yankees had forged that slim margin in the fourth inning off starter Jarrod Parker.
Nick Swisher opened the frame with a single to right and one out later Alex Rodriguez slapped a single to left-center to advance Swisher to third. Curtis Granderson then scored Swisher with a sacrifice fly.
Parker then shut down the Yankees, giving up one run on six hits and no walks and he struck out seven.
Doolittle (1-1) relieved Parker in the ninth and he threw a scoreless inning to push the game into extra innings.
David Robertson (2-7) came on for the Yankees in the tenth and retired the side in order to earn the victory in relief.
Martin then strolled to the plate and he picked out a fat 0-1 fastball up in the strike zone and blasted into the seats to bring most of the paid crowd of 40,759 at Yankee Stadium to its feet and the Yankees’ players racing out of the dugout to celebrate with their beleaguered catcher.
Doolittle is a very aptly named gentleman because the pitch he threw to Martin did do very little except hang up in the sights of the veteran Martin.
It was only the Yankees’ third walk-off victory of the season. One came against the Mets in June and the other came in April against Tigers.
Even with the walk-off heroics of Martin, the actual story of the night was the return to dominance of Sabathia.
The 31-year-old left-hander has not won a game since Aug. 24 and he had to be placed on the disabled list on two occasions this season. In his last two starts, Sabathia had given up nine earned runs on 14 hits and two walks over a span of 13 innings. There was concern that Sabathia was concealing an injury because his velocity had dropped.
But from the opening pitch on Friday, Sabathia was crisp and clean with his pitches.
He walked the second batter of the game in Jonny Gomes but did not allow a hit until Stephen Drew’s single up the middle in the sixth inning. His 11 strikeouts were the most he has recorded since he fanned 12 Tampa Bay Rays in a loss at Yankee Stadium on June 7.
So with the playoffs just on the horizon, the opposition might want to think again about discounting the health of Sabathia.
The victory gives the Yankees a record of 87-63 on the season. They have now won six straight games and eight of their last nine contests. The A’s, on the other hand, fell to 85-65.
- Sabathia did tire a bit in the eighth. He gave up a one-out single to Drew, a two-out single to Collin Cowgill and he hit Gomes with a pitch to load the bases. But he got out of the jam by inducing Josh Reddick to hit a weak fly ball to left. He had struck out Reddick in his three previous at-bats. This was vintage Sabathia and it should give manager Joe Girardi more confidence in his ace as he looks toward the playoffs.
- There is now visual proof Ichiro Suzuki is not just red hot with the bat. He is lucky, too. Suzuki was 2-for-3 in the game and one of his hits was a tapped comebacker to Parker on the mound in the third inning. But the ball rolled up Parker’s right arm and fell into his A’s jersey, preventing him from making a play on Suzuki. Since Sept. 6, Suzuki is 20-for-38 (.526) with eight RBIs and eight runs scored.
- After kind of stinking up the joint in his three games against the Blue Jays, Rodriguez came through with two hits against the A’s. His hit in the fourth inning to advance Swisher to third was huge because it set up Granderson’s scoring fly ball that gave the Yankees’ their 1-0 lead. The power may not be there but Rodriguez is getting key hits.
- It is real easy to get down on Soriano because he blew the save. However, Soriano has been overused of late and it showed in his work on Friday. In addition to giving up the home run to Moss, Soriano gave up two-out walks to Derek Norris and Drew before striking out pinch-hitter Seth Smith swinging. Soriano actually warmed up on Thursday but could not go because he had pitched in six games in the previous seven days, including both games of a doubleheader on Wednesday.
- Robinson Cano is back to hitting like a rockhead. He was o-for-4 in the game with two strikeouts and he also hit into an inning-ending double play in the sixth inning. Cano is fouling off pitches he normally crushes and he is starting to swing at some pitches out of the strike zone again. It pains me to see him getting himself out by not having the discipline to hit only the pitches he can hit squarely. His season average has dipped to .297.
- Despite his sac fly RBI, Granderson struck out in all three of his other at-bats. His 179 strikeouts are a new career high and he has earned every one. Every time you see the change-up heading for the dirt at home plate you just know Curtis is going to swing and miss it.
Girardi chose to play Eduardo Nunez at shortstop and allow Derek Jeter to rest his bone bruise on his left ankle as the designated hitter on Friday. . . . Jeter laughed when ESPN’s Rick Reilly blew up a national story that said Jeter would consider playing for another team. Reilly twisted what Jeter was saying to him about Peyton Manning having to leave the Indianapolis Colts to play for the Denver Broncos. Jeter said that if the Yankees decided they did not want him anymore and he still wanted to play he would have to look elsewhere. Reilly made it seem if Jeter wanted to leave, which is not the case.
The Yankees will continue their three-game “Payback The Punks” series with Oakland on Saturday.
Right-hander Ivan Nova (12-7, 4.85 ERA) will get the start for the Yankees. If Nova is anything like he was in his last start, the A’s are in trouble. Nova came off the disabled list to throw six innings of two-run baseball and he struck out eight Rays in one of his best outings of the year. Nova is 1-0 with a 3.29 ERA lifetime against the Athletics.
Nova will be opposed by left-hander Travis Blackley (5-3, 3.36 ERA). Blackley is taking the place of Brett Anderson in the rotation and this will be his first start since Aug. 29. He is 4-3 with a 3.97 ERA as a starter. Blackley has never faced the Yankees.
Game-time will be 1:05 p.m. EDT and the game will be telecast by the YES Network.