There were many positives during this game, however, the one that stands out is that A.J. Burnett actually pitched the Yankees to victory, only allowing two runs.
I still think he should be taken out of the rotation, as he allowed 16 runs in two starts before this one, and his ERA is still 5.25, but now Girardi at least as a legitimate decision to make after Phil Hughes struggled so much in his last start.
Not many had confidence in Burnett coming into this game, but something was able to click in his brain allowing him to pitch like he was still a member of the Toronto Blue Jays. What he was a starter for the Blue Jays he was consistently effective (2.56 ERA in eight starts) instead of consistently ineffective in eight starts before this one for the Yankees (8.71 ERA and zero wins).
Jon Lester had struggled in his three previous starts against the Yankees this season, but he will likely be somewhere in the top 10 in the CY Young with his 3.09 ERA, so it is not surprising that he only gave up one run in five innings.
Lester likely would have been able to pitch deeper into the contest if it was not for his very eventful top of the first.
David Ortiz hit a hard single to right, in the second inning, which gave him a 15 game hitting streak.
In the top of the third Andruw Jones missed a double by inches as his towering line drive just missed hitting the foul line on the Green Monster. However, unfortunately he would go on to strike out looking on a 2-2 count.
Jones would go 0-1 with three walks but more importantly he has hit more like the hitter he was with the Braves for much of the second half of the season because of an advice from a somewhat unlikely source. Jones would receive a call during the All-Star break from his mother who said that she didn’t like the way he was setting his legs in his batting stance.
Amazingly, during what was Burnett’s best start since June 29th, he only gave up Dustin Pedroia’s two run blast in the bottom of the fourth. This would score MVP candidate Adrian Gonzalez, and would prove that Burnett is actually capable of adjusting to adversity.
With one out in the fifth inning Robinson Cano hit a long double into the triangle in center-field on Lester’s 100th pitch. That double was Cano’s 39th of the season. Swisher bunted with one out which is very puzzling because he is one of the better RBI men on the team. They were down by a run and he could have driven in Cano with a single.
Jesus Montero would bat in top of the fifth with a chance to be the savior, but the nerves of playing in his first big league game and facing Lester got to him as he grounded out to shortstop.
Mark Teixiera got hit right on the knee to load the bases after Derek Jeter singled off of the Green Monster and Curtis Granderson walked. At least that was not a fastball or he would have been badly hurt. However, the Yankees failed again with men on base as Cano grounded out to third.
In the sixth inning, with david Ortiz batting, Burnett threw a pitch with a 3-2 count that appeared to be strike three on the outside corner but the umpire called it a ball. Joe Girardi made the correct decision taking him out of the game at that point. Burnett had allowed a single to Pedroia before that walk, and it was smart not to take any risks with AJ pitching.
To end the sixth inning Curtis Granderson made an outstanding diving catch to prevent two runs from scoring. This also kept Burnett’s line at two runs, which is impressive.
One of the Yankees best prospects, Jesus Montero, who is known for his hitting, left a total of six runners on base in his first three at bats. He would not do any damage in his fourth at bat but at least he was able to get himself to first via getting hit on his jersey.
With runners on first and second, Russell Martin decided to come through in the clutch, after so many had not earlier in the game. Chris Dickerson, who had pinch run and Montero, scored giving the Yankees a 3-2 lead. Eric Chavez would hit a single to send Martin home, while would set the Yankees up for victory as their dominating bullpen options were on deck.
In the bottom of the ninth, Mariano Rivera surprisingly walked two hitters and give up a single before Adrian Gonzalez came to the plate. He just wanted to make the game bottom of the ninth interesting as Gonzalez would be called out on a checked swing to give the Yankees the victory and with the win they are now tied in the loss column with Boston.
The Yankees stranded nine base runners in the first five innings which would be a theme that luckily did not cost them the win. They would go on to leave 13 men on base and would leave runners in scoring position with two outs six times, with Montero being the culprit three times in his debut. On the other hand, Boston would be equally hurt by leaving 10 runners on base.
Another major reason that the Yankees got the upper hand in this game was that their bullpen vastly outperformed the Red Sox’ relievers.
Former Yankee pitcher Alfred Aceves, who can do a little of everything (and who choose number 91 after Dennis Rodman) gave up Martin’s double and in the process surrendering his teams lead. Daniel Bard would allow the Yankees to have a two-run cushion as the Yankees best three relievers were set to enter the game. Eric Chavez would close out the scoring off of Daniel Bard, with an RBI single, and he has improved his average 21 points since August 28 (this drastic increase is partly because he is a part-time player).
However, for the Yankees, their relievers only gave up one hit in 3.2 innings. Corey Wade (2.17), who would get the team out of the fifth inning and pick up the win, was signed on June 13th and has proven to be one of the better mid-season, under the radar, acquisitions by GM Brian Cashman.
The impressive back of the bullpen trio of Rafael Soriano, David Robertson and Mariano Rivera imposed their will like normal, but they just had to work around four walks between them.
Rivera got Gonzalez out on his patented cutter which has to be one of the best single pitches of all-time. The best closer in baseball history will soon be official as he is now five saves away from 600 and seven away from Trevor Hoffman’s all-time saves record. He could accomplish this feat in late September.
They now begin six game home-stand against division foes Toronto and Baltimore (with one on the road because of Hurricane Irene) who are in fourth and fifth place, respectively. Boston will now face Texas and Toronto in their next six games as the neck-and-neck division race is bound to continue until the last few days of September.