Saturday, August 31, 2013

One down

Homers by Soriano and Ichiro Propel Yanks to 8-5 Victory over O’s

By Howard Goldin

BRONX, NEW YORK, AUGUST 31-As September approaches, the battle for the second Wild Card spot in the American League becomes more dramatic. Two of the competitors, the Yanks and the Orioles, for the final slot in the post-season began a three-game series at Yankee Stadium on Friday night.

The weekend set began with the Orioles 1.5 games ahead of the Yankees. Strangely, nothing has changed between the two teams since the All-Star break as both have played .500 ball from July 19 until the start of Friday’s contest.

The early stages on Friday featured a pitching duel between the two starters, C.C. Sabathia and Miguel Gonzalez. Neither yielded a hit nor pitched to more than the requisite nine batters during the first three innings. Of Sabathia, Yankee skipper Joe Girardi remarked, “The first three innings, he was really sharp.”

Things changed rapidly soon after. The offense awakened as there were 17 hits and 12 runs put on the board during the 4th, 5th and 6th innings.

The first hit of the game off Sabathia was a double by Manny Machado with one out in the top of the fourth. A two-out single by Chris Davis knocked in the first Baltimore run.

The Yanks took the lead in the bottom of the frame as Alfonso Soriano blasted a two-run homer on the first pitch he saw, his 11th during the month of August. Girardi offered high praise for the recently reacquired outfielder, “He’s playing like an MVP. He’s been a complete player for us, stealing bases, playing good defense.”

Baltimore took back the lead in the next frame as Nick Markakis led-off with a single and then scored on a two-run home run by the next batter, Danny Valencia. Machado drove in the third run of the inning with a single. The Yankee manager was not surprised by the home run, “He’s (Valencia) swinging well against left-handed pitching.”

Gonzalez was removed from the contest before registering an out in the fifth as all six batters he faced reached base successfully. Five of the six eventually scored later in the inning.

The last four batters in the order began the damage. Curtis Granderson and then Mark Reynolds each doubled. Ichiro followed with a two-run homer to right. Austin Romine also doubled. Brett Gardner followed with a single and Derek Jeter walked to load the bases. Robinson Cano’s single knocked in the final two Yankees runs of the fifth. Girardi understated the five run inning, “We had a huge inning.”

Sabathia departed the contest with two out in the sixth, but was charged with one more run to make five earned runs for the game.

Reynolds and Ichiro each singled in the bottom of the sixth, but the Yanks did not score. Girardi commented on Reynolds, who had three hits on Friday, “He’s a guy that can carry a club.”

The final three innings reverted to the defensive efforts of the first three. Relievers Shawn Kelley, David Robertson and Mariano Rivera held the Birds scoreless with only one hit. Rivera earned his 39th save of the 2013 campaign.

One more comment can be made about the important Yankees win. Yogi Berra bobble heads were given out to the fans upon their arrival. The 88-year-old legend was present and circled the field in a golf cart prior to the game. The very decent human being and baseball great was always looked upon as bringing luck to the Yankees and Friday night was the latest example to those who believe.

Saturday’s matinee will feature Scott Feldman (4-3) and Ivan Nova (7-4) in the starting roles.

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