Sabathia sharp as Yankees eke out some runs
If one sticks to the boxscore -- in which every hit and run batted in always seems the result of a mighty clout--the Yankees' 6-2 victory over the Detroit Tigers Sunday had the appearance of muscular dominance.
Forty-five Yankees hitters parading to the plate in eight innings. Eleven hits. Fifteen runners left on base. The personal milestones of Curtis Granderson collecting his 500th (and 501st) career runs batted in. Alex Rodriguez surpassing the great Willie Mays in career RBIs with his 1,903rd and 1,904th.
That kind of sock, paired with the pitching power of ace Carsten Charles Sabathia, produced a statistical imbalance along the lines of using a cannonball on a mouse.
Sabathia allowed four hits, walked two and struck out eight in eight innings, allowing an overworked bullpen to catch its breath.
But in real time, and as the 43,084 Yankee Stadium customers witnessed it, the Yankees in fact spent most of the spring afternoon feebly trying to squeeze out some offense. Their left-on-base total was bloated by the nine walks they were issued. Four of their first nine hits didn't leave the infield.
Rodriguez never got a ball to the outfield. He walked. Nudged a bases-loaded dribbler well short of third base for an infield hit and an RBI. Struck out. Grounded out. And, with runners on second and third and one out in the seventh, picked up another RBI when shortstop Ramon Santiago fielded his weak grounder and threw to the plate, where Chris Stewart barely slid under the tag.
Granderson's first RBI came on a bases-loaded walk -- after a walk, a seeing-eye single and a two-out infield single, and before Rodriguez's RBI infield hit.
The Yankees did hit two solo home runs, one by Granderson that slipped out of the leaping Austin Jackson's glove after Jackson nearly made a spectacular over-the-wall catch, and a second-deck blow by Andruw Jones.
But mostly, as Granderson put it, the Yankees "showed we can win in multiple ways.''
He lamented that his groundout in the fifth stranded three more runners with the Yankees clinging to a 3-1 lead that was narrowed to 3-2 a half-inning later on Miguel Cabrera's RBI double.
"But it's April,'' said Granderson, whose home run was his eighth. "You're a little too quick or a little late. You're still getting your rhythm. There's a lot of thinking going on up there at the plate, and in this game, that can get you in trouble.''
Still, with Sabathia (3-0), whose earned run average has begun to shrink (4.58) after a slow start, the Yankees have "a guy we've come to rely on,'' said Derek Jeter, hitting .396 after his two infield singles. "He battles and keeps us in the game.''
Sabathia again worked with backup catcher Stewart and was thoroughly at ease doing so. "This is the second game in a row,'' Sabathia said, "where I didn't check him off at all . I felt really comfortable.''
Manager Joe Girardi insisted that "offense is second; save runs for me. I know that doesn't go on the back of a bubblegum card, but Stewie's job is defense.''
As it turned out, Stewart's sharp leadoff single in the seventh was hit harder than anything Rodriguez could summon all day. But Rodriguez's defense included two nifty stabs of line drives -- the "save runs'' premise at work.
That emphasis could grow with word that Nick Swisher, hitting .284 and leading the team with 23 RBIs, will miss several days because of a strained hamstring. (He left the game after a third-inning walk.) In the end, the Yankees just want to look better in the boxscore.