YANKEES 4, INDIANS 3
In a very short time Travis Hafner, nicknamed “Pronk” for “Project Donkey,” is making fans in The Bronx forget all about Raul Ibanez and his trademark clutch home runs in 2012.
Hafner carved out his own niche on Wednesday with two out in the eighth inning when the pinch-hitter grabbed a piece of lumber that looked like a maestro’s baton in his beefy hands and swatted the first pitch he saw from David Hernandez (0-1) and sent the ball into a high-arcing orbit into the right-centerfield bleachers to give New York a dramatic 4-3 come-from-behind victory over Arizona at Yankee Stadium.
Hafner’s fourth home run of the season followed a dramatic three-run rally in the seventh inning against Diamondbacks left-hander Wade Miley and reliever Tony Sipp.
CC Sabathia (3-1) was looking like a sure loser trailing 3-0 heading into the bottom of the seventh inning. The Diamondbacks jumped on him in the first inning for two runs on a leadoff single by A.J. Pollock and a two-run opposite-field home run by Paul Goldschmidt.
The D-backs added another run in the fifth on a leadoff triple off the bat of Josh Wilson and a sacrifice fly by Pollock.
Miley, meanwhile, kept the Yankees off-balance all evening with his assortment of tailing fastballs, sliders and change-ups. Through the first six innings, the Yankees had just two hits, a walk and a hit batter to show for an offense. Miley retired 17 of the 20 hitters he faced after Brett Gardner led off the game with a single.
But Miley appeared to run out of gas and lose his control in the seventh.
With one out, Ben Francisco singled down the left-field line and one out later Brennan Boesch hit an opposite-field, excuse-me-swing double into left to advance Francisco to third.
Miley then walked Eduardo Nunez on a 3-2 pitch and he followed that by issuing a bses-loaded walk to Jayson Nix that scored Francisco and put the Yankees on the scoreboard.
Diamondbacks manager Kirk Gibson removed a spent Miley in favor of the left-hander Sipp and Gardner greeted him with a two-run single to left to score Boesch and Nunez and tie the game.
Sabathia pitched a scoreless eighth and he left the game having given up three runs on six hits and one walk while he struck out four.
Miley also yielded three runs on four hits and three walks and struck out three in 6 2/3 innings.
Mariano Rivera pitched a perfect ninth inning and earned his fourth save of the season and his second in two nights against Arizona.
The Yankees have now won eight of their past nine games and they are 8-5 on the season. The D-backs fell to 8-6.
- It was Hafner’s fourth career pinch-hit home run and he became a big hero to the most of the paid crowd of 34,369 at Yankee Stadium. Hafner, who is hitting .342 with four home runs and eight RBIs, was held out of the lineup with the left-handed Miley on the mound. But when the Yankees tied the score on Gardner’s two-run single, the D-backs elected to use the righty Hernandez in the eighth. That gave manager Joe Girardi the perfect opportunity to use Hafner to pinch-hit for Francisco with two out and Hafner delivered a huge hit.
- “The Replacements” did it again. Francisco and Boesch singled in the seventh. Then Nunez, who is subbing for Derek Jeter, and Nix drew walks to score the team’s first run. Gardner drove in Boeasch and Nunez and Hafner won the game with his big home run.
- Sabathia did not look good at all in the first inning. He gave up the single and the two-run home run to Goldschmidt and then gave up a walk and single before retiring the last two hitters. He threw 31 pitches that inning. Yet he settled in and retired 23 of the last 26 batters he faced to earn his third victory. So many times Sabathia has rescued the Yankees but this time the Yankees’ late offense rescued him.
- It is very odd but Robinson Cano and Kevin Youkilis were a combined 0-for-7 with two strikeouts between them on Wednesday. They managed to get only one ball out the infield. Cano and Youkilis have been the heart and soul of the team’s recent run of success and they are human after all.
- Francisco Cervelli also struggled in this game. He was 0-for-4 with two strikeouts. He also committed a throwing error in the sixth inning but it did not cost Sabathia and the Yankees a run. It appears that Cervelli has taken the reins of the catching duties away from Chris Stewart because he is hitting .310.
Injured first baseman Mark Teixeira received clearance on Wednesday to start swinging a bat and he is cautiously optimistic that he will be able to rejoin the team in May. Teixeira is on the 15-day disabled list with a torn sheath in his right wrist, an injury he suffered working out with Team USA before a an exhibition game in March. . . . Cano and Teixeira were presented with trophies before the game for winning Gold Gloves from Rawlings at their respective positions in 2012. Cano won his second award within the past three seasons for his fielding at second while Teixeira collected his fifth award as a first baseman.
The Yankees can earn a sweep of their three-game inter-league series with Arizona on Thursday.
The Yankees will start right-hander Phil Hughes (0-2, 10.29). Hughes has shown signs of obvious rust in his first two starts of the season after missing all of spring training with a bulging disk in his upper back. In his last start the Baltimore Orioles clubbed three home runs off him and he left the game in the fourth inning. Hughes has never faced the D-backs.
The Diamondbacks will start left-hander Steve Corbin (2-0, 1.50 ERA). Corbin outdueled fellow lefty Clayton Kershaw of the Los Angeles Dodgers in his last start, pitching six shutout innings in a 3-0 victory. Corbin has never faced the Yankees.
Game-time will be 7:05 p.m. EDT and the game will be telecast by the YES Network.