By Howard Goldin
Bronx, NY---The Yankees are moving upward in the standings during their current homestand. They have won seven of the last eight games. The 6-4 win over the Toronto Blue Jays on Friday night put them in second place in the American League East, one game in front of Toronto. The Yankees have come from behind in their last five wins.
Many in the ballpark expected to witness a pitchers’ duel with Mark Buehrle starting for Toronto and Hiroki Kuroda for New York. Those expectations were not met by the starters as the Yankees were leading 6-4 at the end of three innings. Both teams’ relief staffs were outstanding. Not a run was scored against any of the relievers.
In six innings of relief, the Toronto pen gave up only two hits, no walks and fanned six. The Yankee relievers, in 3.1 innings, also yielded only two hits, no walks and struck out three. David Robertson earned his 26th save.
Veteran Carlos Beltran praised both the starter and the relievers, “He’s [Kuroda] a veteran. Even when he doesn’t have his stuff, he’s able to compete. I attribute where we are to Betances and guys like that.”
Buehrle has been one of the best pitchers in MLB during the past 15 seasons. He has 19 victories, 10 in 2014. He entered the game on Friday with an ERA of 2.86, 8th best in the league. He set a MLB record by retiring 45 consecutive batters in 2009.
He has been a very different pitcher when facing the Yankees. He has compiled a 1-12 mark in 19 starts against New York. He has yet to win a game in Yankee Stadium, but lost his sixth game there on Friday. His three inning stint was the only one of his 21 starts this year in which he pitched less than five innings.
Derek Jeter, to the delight of the large crowd of 44,237, got the first Yankee hit of the game in the first frame.
Two Yankee runners crossed the plate in the second. Brian McCann led off with a single. Chase Headley followed with a single. A walk to Ichiro Suzuki loaded the sacks. The first Yankee run scored on an infield single by Brian Roberts and the second on a sacrifice fly by Brett Gardner.
Two long balls drove in four Yankee runs in the third. With one out, Carlos Beltran hit his 11th home run of the season on a 2-1 pitch. McCann and Headley each singled again and Ichiro followed with a home run to right. It was his first of the season and followed 294 homerless at bats.
Ichiro was greeted in the dugout by a silent Jeter. After the game, the Japanese native joked, “He always does something special. I thought he would do something like that.”
Of the two homers, Yankee skipper Joe Gorardi remarked, “They just got good pitches to hit, right there in the zone.” When told that Ichiro has a .431 batting average against Buerhle, he stated, “He sees him well.”
Headley, only a Yankee since July22, had three hits on Friday. He again remarked of his joy being a member of the Yankees, “It’s a privilege putting on the pinstripes. When you walk in this stadium there’s energy.”
Toronto’s four runs were all driven in by Jose Bautista with two home runs, his 19th and 20th of this season. Interestingly, all four of Bautista’s hits off Kuroda have been home runs.