Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Forcing Game 5

The Yankees did what they had to do if they wanted to keep playing in these playoffs. They forced Game 5 back in the Bronx on Thursday night.

A.J. Burnett is a big reason why they are still playing. He pitched arguably the biggest game of his Yankees' career tonight, maybe his career period. That's right, perhaps even bigger than Game 2 of the 2009 World Series. It's close. That was a bigger stage, this was an elimination game. Either way, his performance tonight was absolutely massive. 5.2 innings of 1 run (4 hit, 4 walk, 3 strikeout) baseball was everything Yankees fans were hoping for and then some.

But they say baseball is a game of inches, and that was certainly on display tonight. Of those 4 walks, 3 came in the first inning. Jackson walked to lead off the game, after Burnett got two outs they smartly walked Cabrera intentionally after Burnett fell behind 2-0, and Martinez walked to load the bases. Don Kelly crushed a 1-0 fastball to center. One of the toughest defensive plays in the game, a screaming liner right at the center fielder. Tough to read. Granderson first took a step in, then went back and made an incredible diving play. If that ball gets over his head, it's an easy 3 runs since the runners were off on contact with 2 outs, and with Kelly running it may have been an inside the park Grand Slam.

Either way, needless to say, that would have changed the complexion of the game. Girardi admitted after the game that Burnett may have been out right then and there (the bullpen was ready) in the first inning. The Yankees would have been in an immediate hole and who knows how it plays out. Instead Burnett stayed in and largely cruised and the Yankees took a 2-0 lead two innings later that they would not relinquish. Truly a game of inches.

Can't say enough about Curtis Granderson. In addition to the aformentioned catch, he had another highlight reel catch to end the 6th and a big RBI double to stretch the lead to 3-1 in the 6th after the offense had stalled a bit since the 2 runs in the 3rd. Speaking of the two runs in the 3rd, can't say enough about Derek Jeter. That 2 run double to get the scoring started is what truly great players do in the biggest spot. That, as much as anything, set the tone for this game and swung the momentum in the Yankees' favor.

The Yankees have gotten a lot of contributions from a lot of places in this series offensively - Cano, Gardner, Martin - but how about Jorge Posada? He was 4-8 with 4 walks in the first 3 games. He went 0-2 before Montero pinch hit for him tonight (and he picked up 2 hits in his first two playoff at bats), but was hit by a pitch and scored the Yankees first run of the game. He's been everywhere in this series, and good for him considering the ups and downs of this regular season for him. Performing the way he is after all of that is true mental toughness as an athlete.

Now the Yankees just need to find a way to win one game. At home. All hands on deck. Hopefully the game of inches will go their way again like it did tonight, and they'll get more step-up performances like they did tonight. Those are two of the most important factors in winning big games, as we saw tonight. Go Yankees.


Ross Kaplan said...

Normally pitching 5.2 innings isn't a great performance, but it sure was for the guy who almost no Yankees fan wanted to see on the playoff roster to begin with especially when you consider it happened on the road and after the 1st inning he had. I'm convinced there's absolutely no way we win that game if Granderson doesn't make that catch in the 1st. Also thanks to the insurance runs they added on in the 8th they didn't need to pitch Robertson or Mo so they're available to shutdown the last 3 innings.

the gm at work said...

Three things to say about this one:

1. Curtis Granderson should be the MVP. The 6th inning catch was unbelievable.

2. At no point did I think the Yankees would lose this game. I texted it to Pat before the game that there was no way the Yankees would have allowed it to happen. If it were the Red Sox, when they started to get to Burnett in I think the fifth inning, he would have allowed it to melt down completely. Not to say Burnett doesn't do that regularly already, but to his credit he showed up in the big one - again.

3. I can't believe the stat Pat had me chew on yesterday regarding Girardi. He wrote:

In the last six October games Girardi has managed for the Yankees, dating back to Game 4 of the 2010 ALCS, the Yankees' starter that day has surrendered at least one run in his final inning of work in all six games. In fact, last night was the only occasion where it was limited to a lone run; in the previous five games the starter was charged with a multi-run inning.

If Burnett had imploded in the fifth as it was looking like he would, Girardi would have taken a lot of flack. Good for him for taking him out in the sixth, when he did not surrender any runs.