In a game that the Yankees had to win to stay alive for a playoff spot in October, the Bronx Bombers completed a three-game sweep of the Baltimore Orioles yesterday on a big solo homerun by Robinson Cano in the top of the 7th inning, that broke a 7-7 tie, giving the Yanks the 8-7 lead at the time.
The Cano homer, which is one of the biggest hits in his Yankees career, turned out to be the winning run in the Yankees 8-7 win. This victory added much needed momentum as the Bombers head home to the Bronx in hopes of also sweeping the Boston Red Sox in the very important upcoming three-game series against their long-time rivals at Yankee Stadium this week.
The game today was a long drawn-out affair that lasted four hours and one minute.
The Orioles only lead came in the first inning, when Nick Markakis and Aubrey Huff hit back-to-back homeruns off Yankees starter, Darrell Rasner, that put the O’s up on the board first, 2-0.
The O’s lead would not last long, though. as the Yankes battled right back scoring four runs in the top of the second inning, on a RBI double by Robinson Cano, the first of four hits for Cano on the day, that scored Nady; and, a three-run homer by Johnny Damon, that drove home Matsui and Cano, as Damon circled the bases before also crossing the plate to move the Bombers ahead 4-2.
The Yankees continued to rough-up Orioles starting pitcher, Daniel Cabrera, scoring three more runs in the 4th inning, to take what looked like was a commanding, 7-2, lead.
A RBI sac-fly by Jason Giambi; and, a two RBI double by Xavier Nady, knocked Daniel Cabrera out of the game after only 3 2/3 innings of work, in which he allowed, seven runs, on nine hits, three strikeouts, and no walks.
Darrell Rasner was not having a great outing, but after giving up the two first inning homers, he did manage to get out of a bases loaded situation in the second inning without allowing a run; and, struck-out Quiroz to strand two Baltimore runners in the bottom of a scoreless third inning to hold the Yankees lead.
But, Rasner’s luck would run out in the bottom of the 4th, when after getting one out, Derek Jeter made an error on a bad hop grounder by Brian Roberts, that opened the flood gates allowing the Orioles to score three runs, reducing the Yankees lead to 7-5.
The error was a bad break for Darrell Rasner, as his start would end after only three and a third innings, with him allowing five runs [three earned], on 8 hits, 2 walks, and 2 strikeouts.
After the error, Rasner gave up a double to Markakis, and then walked Melvin Mora, to load the bases, which resulted in Joe Girardi bringing in David Robertson to pitch.
Robertson, who has been very solid out of the Yankees bullpen since being called-up from AAA-SWB, did not do his job in this game. He gave up a RBI double to Huff, and a sac-fly to Kevin Millar before ending the 4th inning on a fly ball to center.
In the bottom of the 5th, David Robertson gave up a lead off single to Jay Payton, but then retired the next two batters. At this point, Girardi decided to replace Robertson with Edwar Ramirez, to pitch to Brian Roberts.
Roberts greeted Ramirez by hitting a two-run homerun, that tied the score 7-7.
After Robinson Cano (4-for-5) hit the go-ahead homerun in the top of the 7th, giving the Yanks the 8-7 lead, it looked like the Yankees bullpen was going to lose this game, as Jose Veras was next in from the pen.
Veras, after getting one out in the bottom of the 7th, gave up back to back singles to, Juan Castro, and Brian Roberts, (3-for-5), that set-up a key moment in this game.
Damaso Marte was called-in to put out the fire.
Marte did what the Yankees expected from him, when he was brought to New York, from Pittsburg, in their deal with the Pirates. With the tying, and go-ahead runs on base, Damaso struck-out, both, Nick Markakis and Melvin Mora, to get out of this very tough situation, holding the Yankees lead at 8-7.
The game was not over yet, as there were still two innings to play.
The Yankees had an opportunity to score again in the 8th, as Bobby Abreu (3-for-4) stroked a one out double, which was followed by an Alex Rodriguez single. But, Jason Giambi ended the rally by hitting into a 4-6-3 double play; and, the Bombers also left two runners on base in the 9th, without scoring another run.
So, once again, it would come down to the performance of the Yankees bullpen to close out the victory.
Marte stayed in the game to pitch the bottom of the 8th, and retired the first two batters, before giving up a walk to Luke Scott. It was now “Mariano Time”, as the Hall of Fame Yankees closer was brought in to record the four-out save.
The “Great Mariano” delivered, striking out the batter for the final out of the 8th.
The Orioles had one more chance to tie, or win, this game in the bottom of th 9th inning.
After quickly recording two outs in the 9th, Rivera walked Brian Roberts, who stole second base, and advanced to third on a bad throw by Ivan Rodriguez. An error could have again cost the Yankees a run, and maybe the game; but, Mariano Rivera struck-out the next batter, Nick Markakis, on a called strike three pitch, for his 31st save, preserving the Yankees 8-7 victory.
The sweep of the Orioles is now complete. Next up, on to New York, to make it a “back-to-back” sweep, by sweeping the three-game series against the Boston Red Sox this week at Yankee Stadium.