Sunday, April 19, 2015

That's More Like It! Big Mike, Miller Impressive In Crazy Comeback Win

Originally published 4/19/15

By Barry Millman

What I saw: Call it ugly. Call it a gift. But call it the end of what felt like the longest one-game losing streak in recent memory for Yankee Universe. 

Two days after a dismal Opening Day loss that sent the fan base spiraling into a funk and pundits with imaginary medical degrees declaring both Yankees ace Masahiro Tanaka and the team dead on arrival, Michael Pineda provided a shot of  adrenalin to the corpse with six innings of gritty two-run pitching and the Yankees scored three runs in the 8th inning for a 4-3 comeback win.

Jays starter R.A. Dickey's knuckleball largely iced the Bomber bats for 6.1 innings and the home team trailed 3-1 heading into the bottom of the 8th.  

Then it got crazy. Manager Joe Girardi pulled out his binder and sent in righty Chris Young to pinch hit for DiDi Gregorius to face LHP Aaron Loup. Young lofted a bloop toward right field that looked like a can of corn off the bat, but then caught the wind, drifted toward the line and dropped in. Young, running full bore out of the box and not even pausing as he rounded first, turned it into a double. Jacoby Ellsbury followed with sharp single to centerfield that advanced Young to third base. Then Loup drilled Brett Gardner on the wrist and was replaced by Brett Cecil, who promptly three a wild pitch to score Young to make it 3-2.  He struck out Carlos Beltran and intentionally walked Mark Teixeira to load the bases (how crazy was that?) and then drilled Brian McCann to make it 3-3. Chase Headley singled in the go-ahead run and newly acquired co-closer Andrew Miller sealed the win with a 1-2-3 9th. 

What I liked: 

  • ·      Big Mike recorded six strikeouts, scattered six hits and surrendered one walk on a chilly evening that saw his fastball sitting between 92 and 93 mph and his change at 90 mph. He wasn't at his best and he struggled at times behind the count. But he kept the mistakes to a minimum; spun the ball to great effect and flashed filth at times; and when he needed big pitches and outs, he got them. His confidence and swagger grew with each out and inning, and his command of batters and situations had the look and feel of a young gun looking to add notches to his belt. His swagger was a reassuring sight on a night when so many questions remain about this team. When the weather gets warmer, his stuff should be electrifying. If he can add one more inning of length  to his outings, he'll make a formidable #2 in the in the rotation this season.
  • ·      Whodini? Andrew Miller struck out one, didn't come close to allowing a baserunner and made quick work of the Jays for the second save of his career and first as a Yankee. Formerly one of the league's best setup men, the Jays didn't come close to squaring up his stuff. On a night when Dellin Betances rediscovered most of his velocity but still searched for his control, Miller made GM Brian Cashman look brilliant for acquiring him.
  • ·      Jacoby Ellsbury and Chase Headley each had two hits, including the essential ones during the 8th inning comeback rally.

What I didn't like:  

  • ·      The defense and baserunning was still an enemy instead of an ally. Ellsbury got picked in his first time on base, misreading Dickey's move to the plate and heading to second base early. To his credit, he stole second successfully later in his second attempt. The aggressive approach is a welcome change from last season, but the technique still needs work. 
  •        In the 5th inning, with the Blue Jays' Devon Travis on second base, Stephen Drew fielded a single by Jose Reyes and short-armed an easy throw to Chase Headley at third that Headley had to field on a hop, allowing Jose Reyes to take second base. Russell Martin Travis brought Travis home with a sacrifice fly and Reyes moved to third. Pineda bailed out Drew by striking out the next batter, but putting the speedy Reyes in scoring position needlessly could have been a backbreaker.
  • ·   The lineup went 2-11 with runners in scoring position, with Beltran, Drew and Rodriguez each going 0-2.

1-1. 160 to go.

What's next: Game #3: Thursday, April 9, 7:05 pm at Yankee Stadium vs. Toronto Blue Jays