Yankees righty pushes Mariners two back with 7 1/3 innings
NEW YORK -- There's no denying how much the Yankees need strong pitching performances every night, and there's no cheapening how valuable an ace like Chien-Ming Wang can be.
But when the offense is clicking, it's hard to imagine that any of that might matter.
Wang allowed one run in 7 1/3 innings against the Mariners, guiding the Yankees to a 12-3 win and pushing their American League Wild Card edge back to two games on Tuesday. And while the Yankees needed that dominance early, they weren't quite as dependent on it later, after the offense awoke for three runs in the sixth inning and seven more in the seventh to blast open the game.
"The final score really didn't indicate what kind of game it was," Yankees manager Joe Torre said.
That's because it's hard for one number to describe an offensive circus. The Yankees drilled four home runs in all -- two from Jorge Posada, and one each from Alex Rodriguez and Bobby Abreu -- and tallied up 20 hits. Eight of those came in the seventh, when they sent 12 batters to the plate and scored more than half of them. By the time that rally was complete, every Yankees starter other than Hideki Matsui had collected at least one hit and one RBI, and Matsui reached base twice himself.
Abreu, Posada and Robinson Cano had four hits apiece, while A-Rod and Wilson Betemit also chipped in with multi-hit games. By the time Wang left the mound with one out in the eighth, the Yankees had already taken a 10-run lead and replaced a third of their regulars with reserves.
And those are just numbers. The details behind them were even more electric -- highlighted by A-Rod's homer, which landed a half-dozen rows up the left-field upper deck.
"The thing is, it doesn't matter where it lands," A-Rod said. "It only counts for one run."
That's the type of math that might minimize a night like this, and there was nothing minimal about it. Yet Rodriguez's statement isn't without worth. Before all the offense came raining down, the Yankees still had the game in hand. Sure, it was a pitchers' duel, even a bit of a nail-biter as the middle innings wore on. But even if the offense never came -- and in the Bronx, fans never say never -- the Yankees might have been just fine.
"It feels good," Posada said of the Yankees' offense. "This is all about pitching, though."
It started with pitching, at least, and ended with a scare. Wang needed only 86 pitches to cruise through 7 1/3 innings, allowing just five hits and an isolated Adrian Beltre home run. He struck out only one but recorded 17 outs on grounders, leaving to a standing ovation -- and with a bit of a stiff back.
Turns out the same offense that helped Wang also found a way to hurt him, forcing him to sit in the dugout while his support came pouring in.
Wang was fine, and he should make his next start. A-Rod was in slightly worse shape after rolling his ankle on a headfirst slide into third base. And while both are critical to the Yankees' success -- perhaps the most important pitcher and hitter to don pinstripes this season -- Tuesday night proved how deep their roster really is.
The offense was, in a way, a distraction. There were so many good vibes floating in from every corner of the stadium, yet all those crooked numbers made many proud moments obsolete.
The biggest moment in the game -- back when it was a game -- came in the fifth, when Wang ran into about the only trouble he would find. Two walks put the first two batters on, and when Kenji Johjima laced a single to left, Beltre tried to score.
Key word: tried. Matsui scooped the ball and fired a strike home, where Posada whirled around to complete the play.
Rally snuffed. Crisis averted. Emotions run high.
"That was big," Torre said. "That was a huge momentum booster for us."
Seems trite that one little play in a nine-run game could mean so much, but it did. When every game is this important, every run becomes important as well. All the Yankees knew at the time was that Matsui's play may have preserved them a win. It may have preserved their hold on the Wild Card and kept a clubhouse full of nerves intact for a little while longer.
At the very least, it helped them avoid losing three in a row at a time when even two in a row seems sketchy.
"Two-game losing streaks are a luxury," Torre said. "It's certainly something that we're not satisfied with or assume that we can allow that to happen. We certainly don't want to have any bad streaks, for sure."
Of course, the offense made all of that moot in a hurry, and that's another luxury -- one that an extraordinary offense can provide. The Yankees would love see enough of that offense that their worries will disappear over the season's final month.
But if they don't, it's nice to know that they've found other ways to win.