By Howard Goldin
BRONX, NEW YORK, JULY 6- The Yanks returned to the Bronx on Friday to begin a 10-game homestand. They started their recently completed road trip by losing three straight to Baltimore, an outcome they hope to reverse in the Bronx, but terminated it in a positive manner by sweeping a four game series in Minnesota.
The Orioles and Yanks, currently battling for second place in the American League East, began a meaningful three-game set on Friday night.
Runs were scarce to accumulate in the exciting pitching duel. The Birds reached the scoreboard first as Chris Davis, their slugger supreme, was hit by a pitch to lead-off the second. Catcher Matt Wieters followed with a home run that just passed beyond the outstretched glove of leftfielder Vernon Wells. The homer did not unnerve Ivan Nova as the 26-year-old starter retired the next 12 batters.
The Orioles starter Miguel Gonzalez only surrendered one run in his six innings on the mound. The run was manufactured in the fifth after two were out. Wells singled to left. Lyle Overbay walked and shortstop Luis Cruz, signed as a free agent only two days earlier, drove in the first run of the Yankees with a single to left.
Gonzalez, a sophomore in the majors, only gave up four hits, but walked five. The native of Mexico was able to make pitches when necessary as he left the sacks full in the fourth and fifth. Yankees batters failed in the clutch against the 28 year-old as they were only 1 for 7 with runners in scoring position against him.
Two Yankees runs in the ninth that led to the walk-off victory that was as skipper Joe Girardi described it, “A great team win.”
Rookie David Adams led off with a single. Brett Gardner was safe on an error by closer Joe Johnson. The veteran Wells later spoke about this moment. “When he misplays it, you see this [game] could be special.”
Ichiro Suzuki sacrificed the runners to second and third. Slugger Robinson Cano was intentionally walked. Travis Hafner drew a walk, which knocked in the tying run. After the game, Girardi expressed his faith in Hafner batting at that crucial time in the game, “He’s been in that situation a ton of times. You just feel he’s going to get the job done.” Wells then singled in the winning run to successfully end the contest.
After the contest, Wells told reporters, “It’s rare when you have a second chance and come through.” He was referring to him and Hafner making out with bases loaded in the fifth.
Nova pitched the best game of his short career. It was his first complete game in the majors. He yielded three hits, but only one in the final seven frames. Chris Stewart, his catcher for the first eight inning commented, “That’s the best that I’ve seen him. He threw a lot of two seamers, getting a lot of ground balls and missed swings.”
In a Saturday matinee when Andy Pettitte figurines will be given to the fans in attendance, the figurines’ namesake (5-6), hoping to continue his undefeated mark in his last 10 starts against the Orioles, will be on the mound against Chris Tillman (10-2) for the Birds.