Monday, July 27, 2009

Yanks continue strong post-break play, take three of four from struggling A's

The Yankees finally lost a game since the All-Star Break when Gio Gonzalez outdueled Andy Pettitte on Saturday, but that loss was sandwiched in between three victories where New York put up 21 runs against the young Athletics rotation.

A's starter Vin Mazzaro lost his seventh straight start in the series opener after striking out six Yankees through three scoreless innings, while C.C. Sabathia allowed three runs during the same span. Sabathia would settle down, but Mazzaro struggled the second time through the New York lineup.

After a Johnny Damon infield single, Mazzaro allowed a mammoth two-run home run to Mark Teixeira after running the count 3-0. Alex Rodriguez walked and stole second, Jorge Posada drove a double into the gap to score Rodriguez and Eric Hinske continued to contribute, scoring Posada with a single to put the Yanks up 4-3. Two more runs in the fifth led to the end for Mazzaro, who was admittedly awe-struck by the Yankees, a team he grew up rooting for.

"It was cool facing those guys after watching them when I was growing up," said Mazzaro afterwards.

Sabathia allowed three runs on nine hits over seven innings and didn't walk a batter, striking out four. Phil Hughes continued his great work out of the bullpen and picked up a two-inning save, the first of his career.

In game two, Joba Chamberlain took advantage of a further-weakened Athletics lineup after Matt Holliday was traded to the Cardinals, allowed just two hits and one earned run to pick up his sixth win of the season. Chamberlain has allowed just five hits and two earned runs in his two starts since the All-Star Break.

The Yankees scored four runs against starting pitcher Brett Anderson, who came into the game with a 21-inning scoreless streak. They added four more in the eighth against the Oakland bullpen to put the game out of reach. Derek Jeter went 3-5 with two RBI and Johnny Damon drove in three to improve New York to 8-0 since the break.

The winning streak had to come to an end eventually, and it did on Saturday. Gonzalez and Pettitte dueled for six innings, with the Yankees holding onto a 1-0 lead. But Oakland blew it open in the seventh, as Pettitte allowed four of the inning's first five batters to reach base, tying the game and loading the bases. Alfredo Aceves replaced Pettitte but didn't provide much relief, allowing three hits that scored five runs, three of which were charged to Pettitte. Jeter and Teixeira homered in the eighth to cut the lead to 6-4, but Andrew Bailey closed it out in the ninth after walking the first two batters for his 11th save.

The Yankees would bounce back in the fourth and final game of the series however, even after Sergio Mitre allowed two first-inning runs. A based-loaded two-out double in the bottom of the inning by Robinson Cano scored three runs and put the Yankees on top 4-2 after one inning.

Cano would also turn on the better double plays I've ever seen with men on first and third and one out in the fourth, taking the feed from Derek Jeter and getting rid of the ball almost instantly, throwing a perfect strike to Teixeira to double up Adam Kennedy and save a run. Mitre was helped by three Yankee double plays in the game.

Oakland would retake the lead in the sixth when Mark Ellis hit a two-run homer off of Phil Coke, who relieved Mitre earlier in the inning. But the Yankees fought back again in the bottom of the inning, with a two-run single by Jeter putting them up for good, 6-5. Teixeira added an insurance run with an RBI single, and Mariano Rivera closed out the game in the ninth, retiring the A's 1-2-3 for his 29th save.

The Yankees will begin a three-game set with the Rays tonight, who they lead by 6.5 games in the AL East. They remain 2.5 games ahead of Boston, who will play four games of their own against the Athletics.

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