Monday, August 3, 2009

Cabrera's cycle saves Sabathia and Yankees from sweep in Chicago

Coming up with one out in the top of the ninth and the Yankees hanging on to a 7-5 lead, Melky Cabrera knew getting on base could get the Yankees an extra insurance run in the final game of their four-game series with the White Sox. He also knew he was just a triple away from the cycle, a hit that had eluded him all season. Cabrera ripped a shot to right field and Jermaine Dye misplayed it, trying to make the catch and instead letting it sail well over his head. Cabrera and every other Yankee was thinking triple once the ball rolled to the wall and as Melky slid into third just ahead of the relay throw from Chris Getz, he registered the first Yankee cycle since Tony Fernandez in 1995.

Derek Jeter singled him in three batters later, and Cabrera was able to provide that insurance for the Yankees and make history in the process. Since regular center fielder Brett Gardner hit the disabled list on July 26, Cabrera has played great, going 10-for-28 with two home runs, five runs and five RBI. His strong throwing arm has also been a welcome addition to the Yankees outfield.

Cabrera was 4-for-5 in the game, driving in four of the Yankee runs and scoring three more. C.C. Sabathia continued to get hit hard, but didn't walk a batter in seven innings and struck out five, allowing five earned runs on ten hits in the process to get the win. New York roughed up Mark Buehrle, who allowed seven runs on twelve hits in four-plus innings and has struggled since throwing his perfect game and retiring a major-league record 45 consecutive batters.

The Yankees needed a game like this after dropping the first three to Chicago, allowing 27 runs in those games. The first game was a battle which the Yankees dropped 3-2 on a walk-off single by perfect-game hero DeWayne Wise, who made one of the best catches of all-time to rob Gabe Kapler of a home run in the ninth inning of Buehrle's perfect game. Phil Coke gave up the slow-rolling ground ball up the middle to Wise with speedster Scott Podsednik on second and Cabrera had no chance to throw him out. Wise's heroics came just a half-inning after Nick Swisher homered to tie the game at two.

Sergio Mitre and A.J. Burnett couldn't get the job done on the mound in the next two games, as Mitre has struggled to summon the ghost of Aaron Small. After three starts, his ERA stands at 7.90 after allowing five earned runs in just three innings of work. Alfredo Aceves struggled for the second straight outing after entering facing a one-run deficit, allowing four runs in 1.2 innings after David Robertson gave the Yanks a chance with two innings of one-run ball. New York went from being down 6-5 when Aceves entered to being down 10-5, which held as the final.

Burnett didn't have much better luck the next day, ending his string of eight straight quality starts with a horrific outing. It started with a second-inning bases-loaded walk to the ninth batter in the lineup, Jayson Nix, and three straight hits later the Yankees found themselves in a 6-0 hole. The Yankees clawed back for two runs in the third, but Burnett issued his second bases-loaded walk of the game to Nix in the fifth, ending his day.

Things went from bad to worse for the Yankees in the eighth as Phil Coke, pitching for the first time since allowing Wise's walk-off, allowed six earned runs in just one-third of an inning, culminating in a 14-4 blowout for the White Sox.

When you allow 32 runs in a four-game series, it's usually safe to say pitching let you down. But it was a team effort for the Yankees, as the defense committed three errors (two in the opener) and both the starters and the bullpen crumbled away from Yankee Stadium. After losing just once on their ten-game homestand to start the second half, the Yanks have dropped four of seven on their current road trip, which will end after a two-game series with Toronto Tuesday and Wednesday.

Andy Pettitte will go against Blue Jays ace (still) Roy Halladay, who Toronto was unable to unload before the deadline. The Yankees are 3-12 in their 15 games against Toronto that Halladay starts. The struggling Mitre will get the second start of the series before the Yankees welcome the Red Sox to Yankee Stadium for a four-game set.

Boston has climbed to within a half-game of the Yanks and will play two in Tampa in the meantime, with the Jon Lester-Matt Garza first-game matchup looking particularly intriguing. Based on their probable starters, the Yankees could go into that series looking up at Boston in the standings and will need to break their winless streak against the Red Sox, as a four-game sweep would prove devastating to a team that was up 3.5 games on July 29.

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