Yankees rally to beat Mariners and get CC Sabathia off the hook
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Before this season began, the Yankees were a hastily assembled roster of retreads and replacements. Six weeks later, they're a first-place team that can't lose.
Take Tuesday night, for example. The Yankees faced their nemesis Felix Hernandez, trailed 3-0 in the sixth inning and looked as if they had little chance to bail out their own fading ace, CC Sabathia.
So what happens? Hernandez left with an aching back, Robinson Cano tied the score with a two-run double in the seventh inning and Lyle Overbay followed with a sacrifice fly -- his second RBI of the night -- to deliver the Yankees' 4-3 win over the Mariners.
The rest, well, that's the predictable part. Another Houdini-like escape in the eighth inning for David Robertson, who slipped free of a jam with two runners on and none out. Then, of course, Mariano Rivera's 16th save in 16 chances.
It also helps that the Yankees bullpen has not allowed a run in the last nine games, a span of 23 2/3 innings, and has a 0.77 ERA in the month of May with 36 strikeouts and seven walks in 35 innings.
"The fact that we were able to come back," Joe Girardi said, "it was an outstanding job by our guys again."
Many of those "guys" are not the typical Yankees. And on the night Curtis Granderson returned to Yankee Stadium after healing from a fractured forearm, it was Overbay who reminded everyone just who has been responsible for keeping this team in first place.
It was an eventful night for Overbay. In the third inning, his fielding error on a routine ground ball led to an unearned run when Kyle Seager followed with a two-out double. In the fourth, he collided with Hernandez on a forceout at first that was later reversed when the pitcher was called for obstruction.
And in the sixth inning, after Hernandez was checked on for what looked like an aching back -- the pitcher later said he was injured on a throw to second on the previous Granderson groundout -- Overbay delivered a run-scoring double.
"You kind of dream about it," Overbay said of his impact so far. "I don't know how realistic you can be."
Girardi said, "It seems to be a different guy every night getting the job done for us."
The dream matchup of Sabathia and Hernandez turned out to be something much less. Sabathia had the unusual line of 10 hits and 10 strikeouts in only 6 1/3 innings, but left trailing 3-1, after giving up Raul Ibañez's two-run homer in the sixth.
Hernandez allowed five hits and one run in six innings and struck out eight. If not for the back injury, this night might have had a much different result.
Granderson, who went 0-for-3 with a walk and a run scored, wasn't much for drama when he arrived in the Bronx. Despite all the talk about losing his position to Brett Gardner, and how Girardi would juggle four outfielders, Granderson tried to sound unaffected by it all upon his return from a fractured forearm.
"I'm ready to play," Granderson said. "It doesn't matter where it happens to be."
Tuesday night, it happened to be leftfield, and the only other change for Granderson was the extra padding he intended to wear on his right arm. As for the rest of the lineup, Girardi simply slid Vernon Wells to DH.
"I don't think it hurts to give a guy a day off here and there, spread it around a little bit," Girardi said. "They're all going to play a lot, that's the bottom line."
Granderson was hitless in his first three at-bats, but after reaching on a fielder's choice in the sixth inning, he trimmed the Yankees' deficit to 3-1 on Overbay's two-out double. Once Hernandez followed up with a walk of Jayson Nix, that figured to be another red flag, but he still got Ichiro Suzuki on a deep fly to center to end the inning.
That was the end of Hernandez, and the start of yet another late-inning comeback for the Yankees, their 11th of the season and fourth by at least three runs.