For the second straight week the Yankees had an opportunity at sweeping a key series that would catapult them back into a playoff spot. Last week they swept the M’s to give them a much better shot at the second AL wild-card, and this week they had a chance to sweep the Jays and inch closer to first place in the AL East.
The Yankees went into this game with an odd matchup, as David Phelps has struggled versus righties this season, but has always done well versus Jose Bautista, and Edwin Encarnacion. Overall I would say he did a good job versus a very good hitting team. He certainly got himself into some tough jams, but he was able to get of most them with relative ease. It wasn’t a stress free start, but then again it’s hard to have a relaxing start versus a team that is so good at hitting homers.
He started the game by getting Jose Reyes out on an easy popup, but then allowed Melky to hammer a single, and Joey Bats to reach base on a walk. With two on and one out, the power hitting Edwin Encarnacion came to the plate. At this point it seemed like this might be one of Phelp’s bad days, but Melky got picked-off at second-base and Edwin struck out looking.
Phelps had a much better second inning as he had a 1-2-3 inning. Dioner Navarro flew out, Juan Francisco struck out swinging, and Erik Kratz grounded out. All of a sudden it looked like he might have a good start again, he got two quick outs; Colby Rasmus struck out swinging, and Steve Tolleson flew-out. But then Phelps allowed Reyes to reach on a single, and Melky Cabrera hammered a bad changeup for a game tying two run homer. Fortunately Phelps brushed off the homer, and got Joey Bats to fly-out to center.
Phelps rebounded in the 4th, Encarnacion singled, but was erased on an interference play. It was a complicated play, but essentially what happened was that Navarro hit an easy popup, and by accident Edwin knocked into Mark Teixeira. This didn’t affect the play but since it did happen Edwin was ruled out and the ball was considered dead. This meant that Navarro went to first, and Edwin went back to the dugout. After this 4 minute play/discussion, Phelps struck-out Francisco and Kratz.
He was back to scaring fans in the 5th as he allowed Rasmus to hit a leadoff double. Tolleson sacrificed Rasmus over to third and the Jays had a runner at third with just one out, in a one run game. Phelps was able to get out of this jam by getting Reyes and Cabrera to ground out.
He had another semi-shaky inning in the 6th. Jose and Encarnacion were both retired quickly, but the Jays attempted a two-out rally. Navarro had a single, Francisco then walked. Kratz was then pinch-hit for by Adam Lind. Lind has great numbers this season, and has always hit Phelps well. Matt Thornton wasn’t ready for Lind, so Phelps had to pitch versus him, and this was a crucial point of the game. Phelps really came through big, by getting Lind to hit into the shift.
Phelps rebounded in the 7th, and had a very easy inning. Rasmus fouled out to Brett Garnder who made a very nice play, and Phelps was able to get Tolleson and Reyes to strikeout to end his night. Phelps left the game with a 5-2 lead, and really earned his win. It wasn’t as dominant of a start as he had in his last appearance but he did very well.
Shawn Kelley relieved Phelps in the 8th, and had to face the heart of the Jays order. He got Melky to hit a popup to third, but nibbled with Buatista and walked him. He then preceded to allow Encarnacion to hit a massive homer to leftfield. It bounced around the Poland Spring sign in left-field.
He responded by getting Navarro to ground out. It wasn’t really an easy out, as Roberts had to make up a lot of ground to get the ball, and rushed his throw. Teix had to make a really nice stretch to record the out. The call was challenged by the Jays, but it wasn’t overturned.
The Yankees then went back to the pen and called on Matt Thornton. Thornton got Francisco to popup to third. He has really done well recently, not that I fully trust him, but he kind of deserves some trust. Lefties aren’t really hitting him all that well.
Thornton came back out in the 9th, and got a quick out before giving up a single to Rasmus. This brought Warren into the game. Munenori Kawasaki came on the pinch hit for Tolleson, and hit a fly-ball to Jacoby Ellsbury. Jose Reyes was the next batter, and he got him to ground-out on a 3-2 count.
The Yankees offense was steady all game, though it couldn’t get that one big hit. The first 3 runs of the game came off of sac-flies by: Jacoby Ellsbury in the first (scored Gardner, made score 1-0), Kelley Johnson in the second (scored Carlos Beltran, made score 2-0), and Beltran (scored Ellsbury, made score 3-2), in the third.
The Yankees biggest hit of the game came in the fifth. The inning started with a Derek Jeter groundout. Ellsbury then singled, and stole second for his 20th steal of the year. Teix then walked. This led to a pitching change, as Aaron Loup came into the game. The lefty got Mccann out on a line-drive to second. He really crushed the ball, but I’m sure people were frustrated that he swung at the first pitch. Of course the next batter, Beltran, swung at that first pitch and hit a hard ground rule double to left-center. The Jays were lucky that it bounced over the wall as it cost the Yankees a run. Ichiro ended up ending the inning on a weak grounder, so the Yankees didn’t get that run back. The score was 4-2 at that point.
The Yankees ended up scoring one more run in each of the next two innings. One was the result of a Derek Jeter ground-out, which would’ve been a double-play if Gardner wasn’t stealing second. The other run came in the 7th, as Solarte had a bases loaded RBI walk.
Overall the Yankees offense had a very good game. Everyone had a hit except for Mccann, Johnson and Solarte. But Johnson had to leave the game after hurting his fingers on a bunt attempt. It turns out he only bruised them. Both Solarte and and Mccann had a walk, Mccann actually had 2. Mccann also hit a couple of really hard hits including one to center, where Rasmus made a nice play on.
The Yankees swept this series with good pitching and timely hitting. You expect Masahiro Tanaka to do well, but Chase Whitley, and David Phelps really showed what they were capable of versus a really good offense. It’s amazing what this rotation and pen has been able to do this series. Obviously the Yankees still need to fix Kelly, and Jose Ramirez needs to improve, but overall this is a good staff. Mccann and Beltran both showed signs of coming out of their season long slump, and even Jeter and Johnson are starting to hit better. Overall this series showed that the Yankees are starting to wake up and play to their capabilities.