By Howard Goldin
BRONX, NEW YORK, JULY 6- An oppressive heat with temperatures above 90 degrees hovered over Yankee Stadium on Saturday afternoon. The heat adversely affected those in the stands and those on the playing field, but did not prevent the Yankees from coming from behind to earn their sixth consecutive win. Interestingly, five of the six were comeback victories.
The 5-4 victory over the Orioles allowed the Yanks to move into sole possession of second place in the American League East, .5 games ahead of Baltimore.
A two run homer by Chris Davis off Yankees starter Andy Pettitte in the first scored the first two runs of the contest. The pitch, according to the veteran lefthander, “was exactly where I wanted it.” Yankees skipper Joe Girardi remarked about the young superstar, “He’s so strong his popups are going to go out.”
Davis is currently a strong candidate for the 2013 MVP award in the American League. He ranks 1st in home runs (33), 1st in slugging percentage (.721), 2nd in batting average (.324), 2nd in runs (63), 2nd in runs batted in (85), 2nd in doubles (26) and 4th in on base percentage (.399). His current totals of 33 homers and 85 RBIs are equal to what he achieved in the 2012 season during which he played 139 games.
Pettitte gave up a run on two hits in the second and fourth innings. Seven of the nine hits and all four runs he yielded came during the first four frames. Girardi commented regarding Pettite’s adjustment, “He kind of figured it out in the third.”
Pettitte spoke in greater length and more discouragement about his pitching difficulties, especially early in a game, “Same old story, they got runs early. It’s frustrating. It would be nice to throw up some zeros early and pitch with a lead. Right now, my pitch selection is not the right one.” The veteran expressed no doubt that he will be able to overcome any current pitching problems, “I’ll just continue to battle through this.”
Pettitte lasted 6.2 innings. Thanks to his bullpen mates, who did not yield a run, Pettitte earned his sixth win of the year. The win, his 251st tied him with Bob Gibson for 42nd place in MLB history. Mariano Rivera earned his 29th save of the season in 30 save opportunities. The duo of Pettitte and Rivera combined for the 4th win/save combination of this season and the 72nd career combo.
The Yankees won the game using small ball. They got 10 hits, everyone was a single. Hits by Zoilo Almonte, Lyle Overbay, Luis Cruz and a sacrifice fly by Eduardo Nuñez in his first game since May 5 led to two runs in the second. Singles by Nuñez, Chris Stewart, Ichiro Suzuki and Robinson Cano added two runs in the fifth. The winning run was driven in by Nuñez in the sixth.
The Yanks hope to sweep the three game set on Sunday afternoon with Huroki Kuroda (7-6) facing Jason Hammel (7-5).