Like a scene from the great baseball movie “The Natural”, Mark Teixeira walked up to the plate in the bottom of the 7th inning with the Yankees losing to the Detroit Tigers, 3-2, with Derek Jeter on first, Johnny Damon on third, and no outs, and rain pouring from the dark night sky into the new Yankee Stadium, quicker and wetter, second by rainy second.
Teix worked the count to 3-1 off reliever Joel Zumaya, and, then, unloaded a soaring blast that cut through the fast falling rain drops before landing deep in the second deck of the right field seats like a “fictional” shot off Roy Hobbs “Wonderboy” bat.
The Yanks now had a 5-3 lead in this first game after the All-Star break.
After Teixeira’s homer, his 22nd, the Yankees had a chance to open up the lead even further when they loaded the bases with two outs. But, Zumaya got out of the jam by retiring Melky Cabrera, the ninth batter of the inning, on a ground out to second base.
The Tigers had jumped out to a quick 2-1 lead off Yankees starting pitcher A.J. Burnett in the first two innings.
The Yankees scored their first inning run on a RBI single by Hideki Matsui off Tigers starter Luke French.
Curtis Granderson increased Detroit’s lead to 3-1 with a lead-off home run in the top of the 5th inning.
Then, after Granderson’s homer, and one out, a great defensive play by Melky Cabrera, throwing out Miguel Cabrera at second base after he hit a shot off the right centerfield wall, prevented the Tigers from putting together a big rally in the inning. After the big play by Melky, Burnett walked the next two batters, but did get out of trouble by retiring Inge on a pop-up to third for the final out of the inning.
The Yanks closed the gap to 3-2 in the bottom of the 5th, when Johnny Damon reached first on a single, and scored on an error by left-fielder Anderson, on a ball that went through his legs on a Mark Teixeira single.
A.J.Burnett somehow managed to throw 104 pitches throughout six innings of work, and allow only three runs, on a night that he did not full command of his pitches. A.J. gave up six hits, five walks, and hit a batter, while recording only one strikeout.
Phil Hughes (W, 4-2), replaced Burnett, and was brilliant in his two innings of relief, recording all six outs in the seventh and eight innings on “strikeouts”. Hughes did, however, allow two hits in the 7th, and one hit in the 8th inning; but, he was firing pitches in the range of 95-96-97 mph up to the plate, in his finest outing as a reliever so far this season.
Out of the bullpen, Phil Hughes has not allowed a run in his last 12 appearances, covering 15.2 innings; and, has given up just two runs in 20.1 innings as a reliever this year, for an ERA of 0.89.
The game was interrupted by a 57 minute rain delay in the bottom of the 8th inning; but, after the delay, the Yankees carried a 5-3 lead into the 9th inning with Mariano Rivera now on the mound for the Yanks.
Mariano struck-out Granderson leading off the 9th, for out number one.
Polanco then doubled, bringing the tying run up to the plate.
But, “The Great Mariano” retired the Tigers number three hitter, Miguel Cabrera, on a grounder to third, for the second out; and, then, got the clean-up hitter, Thames, to pop-out to Mark Teixeira for the final out, preserving the Yankees 5-3 victory.
Mariano Rivera now has 24 saves this season.
This win moves the Yankees record to 53-37.
But, the Red Sox (56-34); and, the Rays (50-41), also won their games.
So, the Yankees remain in second place in the AL East, three games behind the first place Red Sox; and, three and a half games ahead of the third place Rays.
To view boxscore of this game, click on: Yankees 5, Tigers 3
— Jimmy, “BY&L”