YANKEES 11, ORIOLES 10
Some rookies arrive in the major leagues with so much hype they can never seem to be great enough to measure up to it. In just four games, Jesus Montero is writing a whole new chapter of his own greatness and nothing appears overhyped.
Montero, 21, hit his first and second major-league home runs and they proved to be the margin of victory as New York edged Baltimore in a Labor Day slugfest in front of 45,069 fans at Yankee Stadium on Monday.
With the game tied at 8-8 in the bottom of the fifth inning, Montero greeted Orioles reliever Jim Johnson by swatting an 0-1 fastball to the opposite field in right for his his first major-league home run. Yankee fans got on their feet and demanded a curtain call from their rookie power-hitting designated hitter. Montero complied and the Yankees had a 9-8 lead.
Before facing Montero in the fifth, Johnson had allowed only three home runs in 76 2/3 innings this season.
Two innings later, Johnson faced Montero again with one out and Russell Martin on first with a single. Johnson tried to pitch in to the rookie but on a 2-2 fastball, he missed over the plate and Montero hit an even longer blast into the right-field seats.
Yankee fans got on their feet and requested an encore curtain call from their new hero and Montero obliged. After four games, Montero is hitting .385 with two home runs and three RBIs.
Meanwhile, a fellow rookie Brett Lawrie of the Blue Jays made his impact on the 2010 division title race by cracking a walk-off solo home run with two out in the bottom of the 11th inning off Red Sox reliever Dan Wheeler as Toronto blanked Boston 1-0. The Yankees, who have won eight of their last nine games, have extended their lead in the American League East to 2 1/2 games over the Red Sox, who have dropped five of their last seven games.
The Yankees received a rare poor start from 34-year-old right-hander Freddy Garcia, who lasted only 2 2/3 innings and he gave up seven runs on nine hits. Garcia entered the game having thrown 15 quality starts in the 22 games he started this season. But he was victimized by four-run second inning and Mark Reynolds added a two-run home run in the third inning that drew the Orioles back to a one-run game at 8-7.
The Yankees pretty much did the same damage to the O’s’ young lefty Brian Matusz by scoring two runs in the first and adding six runs in the second inning.
Curtis Granderson chased Matusz in the second inning with a one-out, two-run double that drew the Yankees back to a one-run deficit at 5-4. However, Orioles reliever Chris Jakubauskas threw gasoline on the fire when he entered the game and walked Mark Teixeira, who hit his 36th home run of the season in his first at-bat, and hit Alex Rodriguez in the left arm on an 0-2 pitch to load the bases.
Jakubauskas paid dearly for his lack of control by giving up a grand slam home run to Robinson Cano, which landed well into the bleachers in right-center and gave the Yankees an 8-5 lead in an inning in which the Yankees sent 11 batters to the plate.
Matusz was touched up for five runs on five hits and two walks and he fanned three in 1 1/3 innings. Jakubauskas was charged with three runs on two hits and two walks in two-thirds of an inning.
However, Garcia could not keep Baltimore from scoring. Reynolds’ home run drew the Orioles back to within 8-7 and Garcia was removed after giving up a single to Ryan Adams with two outs in the third inning.
Newly signed and recently called up lefty Aaron Laffey surrendered a one-out solo home run to Robert Andino in the fifth inning that drew both teams even on the day.
But Montero’s two home runs provided the Yankees with a margin they actually really needed badly because their bullpen continued to crack.
Luis Ayala was touched for a run in the eighth on a one-out double by J.J. Hardy and a single to right by Nick Markakis that scored Hardy. Markakis took second on an error by Chris Dickerson, who was inserted into right as a defensive replacement for Andruw Jones when the inning started. However, Markakis was thrown out on a relay from Dickerson to Derek Jeter to Rodriguez, who applied the tag on Markakis at third base.
The Orioles added another run in the ninth off future Hall-of-Fame closer Mariano Rivera.
Reynolds stroked a one-out single and reached second on a stolen base. One out later, Ryan Adams delivered a single to center to score Reynolds to make it an 11-10 game.
Rivera then hit pinch-hitter Nolan Reimold on a 3-2 pitch. Reynolds and pinch-runner Matt Angle then moved up a base on a double steal. However, Rivera ended the rally right there by striking out Hardy looking on a 2-2 pitch on the outside corner. For Rivera it was a very shaky 38th save in 43 opportunities this season.
Rivera now has 597 saves in his career and he soon could pass all-time saves leader Trevor Hoffman, who has 601.
Laffey (2-1) got credit for the victory in relief. Johnson (5-5) took the loss.
With the victory the Yankees’ season record stands at 86-53. The Orioles fell to 55-84 and they 31 games out of first in last place in the division.
- When the Montero legend grows to epic proportions over the years you can say you were there to see the first two home runs and three RBis. When Montero was recalled on Sept. 1, manager Joe Girardi made it clear that Montero would start as the right-hand DH against left-handers. After this Labor Day exhibition, teams may revise their rotations to make sure they throw just right-handers. Montero easily blasted two long home runs to the opposite field in two at-bats. That is some major-league skills for just a 21-year-old rookie. General manager Brian Cashman better not trade this guy. It will be over my dead body. He is a keeper.
- Cano extended his hitting streak to nine games with a single in the first inning. In the second inning he launched his third grand slam of the season. Before his nine-game hitting streak started, Cano had a 17-game hitting streak snapped at Baltimore on Aug. 28. Over his last 27 games, Cano is 39-for-112 (.348) with six home runs and 30 RBIs. With Cano’s four RBIs he passed Adrian Gonzalez for second place in the A.L. with 105 RBIs. Cano trails teammate Curtis Granderson by four RBIs.
- Granderson took over the major-league lead in RBIs with his two-run double in the second inning. Granderson leads the Brewers’ Cecil Fielder by two and the Phillies’ Ryan Howard by three. A few weeks ago it seemed Granderson’s competition for MVP would come from Adrian Gonzalez and Jacoby Ellsbury of the Red Sox. It appears that Cano is entering the discussion now.
- Brett Gardner was the only Yankee starter without a hit. He was o-for-4 with two strikeouts looking and two routine infield grounders. To show how bad Gardner’s day at the plate was he made two of the three outs of the second inning. He started the inning out by striking out looking and ended the inning with a groundout. Gardner’s season average is down to .266
- Garcia was unable to keep his pitches down and it cost him dearly in this game. Of the 18 batters he faced, 10 of them reached base. This also refuels the discussion from so-called”experts” who say that the Yankees will regret using Garcia and Bartolo Colon in the playoffs because they will not pitch as well as they did during the regular season against inferior offenses. Garcia entered the game with the second-lowest ERA of the Yankee starters at 3.09. After this game it is now up to 3.50.
- Rivera did not look sharp in his inning of work. After giving up two hits, he hit Reimold on a 3-2 pitch to load the bases. In the 27 pitches Rivera threw, 12 were balls. That is not the usual Rivera. Let’s hope it is a hiccup and not a trend going forward.
The Yankees continue their three-game series with the Orioles on Tuesday.
The Yankees will start or audition, if you prefer, Phil Hughes (4-5, 6.75 ERA). Hughes allowed six runs on eight hits and two walks in 5 2/3 innings against the Red Sox in a 9-5 loss last Wednesday. However, Girardi saw enough positives in the effort to give Hughes another shot to stay in the rotation. Hughes is 4-2 with 5.51 ERA in his career against the Orioles.
The Orioles will throw right-hander Tommy Hunter (2-1, 6.21 ERA). Hunter has gone at least six innings in his last six starts for the Orioles. He is 1-1 with a 6.06 ERA in his career against the Bronx Bombers.
Game-time will be 7:05 p.m. EDT and the game will be telecast by the YES Network.