Yankees rally, top Red Sox in 12 inningsIbanez plays hero with game-tying and game-winning hits
NEW YORK -- The New York Yankees had an opportunity to clinch their 13th division title in the last 17 years on Tuesday night. The Red Sox, who had Dustin Pedroia in the lineup despite a broken finger, wanted to play spoiler.
Right off the bat, the addition of both Jacoby Ellsbury and Pedroia to the Red Sox’s batting order paid dividends against Yankees rookie starter David Phelps. They got Boston off to a quick 2-0, first-inning lead.
Phelps, however, would settle in and hold the Red Sox scoreless for the rest of his impressive 5 1/3-inning performance.
The Yankees countered off Jon Lester in the bottom of the second as Eduardo Nunez singled in Curtis Granderson, cutting the deficit to one run. From there, both teams engaged in a battle of stellar pitching almost the rest of the way.
As all of this was going on, the Yankees, whose magic number to clinch the division was two, had to be scoreboard-watching to keep tabs on the Baltimore Orioles and Tampa Bay Rays. “Big game” James Shields struck out 15 batters and allowed just one run, but it wasn’t enough for the Rays. The Orioles kept pace in the AL East, winning 1-0.
The Yankees knew they controlled their own destiny, but they were unable to capitalize on opportunities, leaving an army of men on base.
Rafael Soriano allowed a solo home run to James Loney in the top of the ninth, putting the Yankees in a bigger hole – they trailed by two runs entering the bottom of the ninth.
Boston brought in its closer, Andrew Bailey, to seal the victory. But Curtis Granderson led off the inning with a single to right. Yankees manager Joe Girardi then played the matchup game as he brought in the left-handed hitting Raul Ibanez to face the right-handed Bailey. Ibanez, who has had several clutch moments in 2012, did not disappoint. He tied the game with one swing, depositing Bailey’s 1-2 pitch way over the right field wall.
Girardi left Soriano out for the 10th, allowing him to throw a season-high 43 pitches. After Soriano got through his second inning of work, the Yankees continued to have chances on the offensive side, but to no avail.
Derek Lowe, who has gained the trust of the Yankees’ coaching staff with his recent success, came through again. He threw two of the most important scoreless innings of his Yankees career, doing what he does best in the top of the 12th. After he allowed a Pedroia single, he threw his sinker on the first pitch to Daniel Nava, who chopped it into the ground for an inning-ending double play.
“He's got such a good sinker, and he's got a slider for the right-handers, too,” Girardi said. “He can get a lot of ground balls and you get in those tight games, those ground balls are important. He gets the big double play. You know, keeping the ball in the ballpark, that's something that he's able to do because of the big sinker. “
“As the season was going on, you were going to earn the innings,” Lowe said. “It's a great feeling to know you are going to be a part of it.”
Lowe has big game experience throughout his career, and Tuesday night, he proved that he can be a very valuable asset to the Yankees during their postseason run.
Mark Teixeira led off the bottom of the 12th by grounding out against left-hander Andrew Miller. Teixeira went 0-for-6 and left nine men on base; he was primed to play the role of goat if the Yankees were to lose. The hotter-than-hot Robinson Cano then proceeded to strike out. That gave Francisco Cervelli an opportunity for his first plate appearance of the season.
Cervelli, who has not played since being a September call-up, stood in against the 6'7” Miller and immediately went down 0-2 in the count. Patience paid off for Cervelli, though, as Miller lost control and walked him on the next four pitches.
“To be able to walk in that situation, with a guy throwing 95, 96, with a nasty slider, it's extremely impressive,” Girardi said of Cervelli's at-bat.
Miller then faced the left-handed hitting Granderson for an optimal matchup. Once again, the big lefty had command issues, walking Granderson on four straight pitches. The game was left in the hands of the earlier hero, Ibanez, who Girardi left in for the lefty-lefty matchup.
Ibanez took a first-pitch strike from Miller. The second pitch, a 94-mph, two-seam fastball, got just enough of Ibanez’s bat. It squibbed to the left side, past shortstop Jose Iglesias. Cervelli scored, giving the Yankees a huge victory and lowering their magic number to one.
The victory keeps the Yankees in control of their own destiny heading into game No. 162 on Wednesday night.
“A lot of important hits,” Girardi said of Ibanez after the game. “You think about the last homestand and the important two-run home run he had to tie the game, and to have the two-run homer tonight in the ninth and then the game-winner. Raul is a professional hitter and he knows how to hit.”
From Ibanez to Lowe (9-11), who earned his first victory as a Yankee, to Cervelli finally getting his opportunity, the Yankees got big performances from their role players in what may turn out to be the most important win of their postseason push over the last month.
“This made my season,” Cervelli said. “Because it's just one game left and to have that chance, I'm really happy today.”
The Yankees can clinch both the division and home-field advantage with a win over the Red Sox on the season’s final day. The bottom line: The Yankees control their own destiny.
“I think it's extremely important, because you want to be able to do that,” Girardi said. “If you win, you win the division and that's the bottom line. We have a chance to have the best record and that's the bottom line. That's a good feeling that you can control that.”