By Howard Goldin
BRONX, NEW YORK, AUGUST 10- After a disappointing road trip in which they lost six of eight games, the Yankees returned to the Bronx on Friday to begin a three game series with the American League Central leading Detroit Tigers.
Going into the series, The Yanks had won only six of their last 20 games, the Yanks are a season worst 11 games out of first place in the A.L. East and seven games behind the Texas Rangers for the second Wild Card spot in the American League. The Tigers brought a 12 game winning streak to Yankee Stadium and were winners of 16 of their last 17 contests.
Although Alex Rodriguez received a 211 game suspension from MLB that began last Thursday, his appeal will probably keep him in the Yankee lineup for the remainder of the season. The arbitrator’s ruling will most likely not be made until public until after the 2013 season concludes.
Rodriguez, as was expected, spoke enthusiastically of his return to his home ballpark, “I’ve been waiting a long time for this day. I’m just privileged to come home on a Friday night against a tough opponent. I’m just really excited.”
When asked his expectations of the reaction of the home fans, he responded, “I haven’t thought about it. I’m not sure.” The decibel level in the stadium rose at each mention of his name on the public address system. The fans reacted strongly, both positively and negatively. Most observers in the park described the reaction as mixed.
According to Yankees skipper Joe Girardi, “I look at it as 50-50, maybe a little more cheers.” Asked if he believed Rodriguez would have too much difficulty dealing with the pressure, the manager responded in an understatement, “Alex has had to deal with stuff before.”
A-Rod did not contribute to any of the four runs scored by the Yanks. He struck out in the first with a runner on third. He again struck out with a runner on third in the third. He fanned a third time and flied to right in his final two trips to the plate.
Rodriguez was replaced by Jayson Nix in the ninth for defensive purposes. That may have been instrumental in the victory for the Yanks as Nix scored the winning tally in the 10th inning.
Nix walked to lead-off the 10th. He moved to second on a single by Curtis Granderson. He moved to third on wild pitch by the losing pitcher, Al Alburquerque. With two out, Brett Gardner singled to left to drive Nix across the plate for the 4-3 walk-off win.
Before the game, Gardner was presented with the MLB Players Association Heart and Hustle Award. The Yankees winner of this prestigious honor lived up to it during the game.
He walked and scored the first Yankee run in the first. He singled and scored the Yankees second run in the third. He singled again to lead-off the fifth. His third single of the contest drove in the winning run. Rather than taking personal credit, he remarked, “We feel like every game now is a must win.”
The win ended the four game losing streak of the Yanks and the 12 game winning streak of Detroit.
Phil Hughes (4-10) and Anibal Sanchez (9-7) will be the starters in the second game of the series on Saturday afternoon.