By Howard Goldin
BRONX, NEW YORK, SEPTEMBER 7- Despite announced threats of rain for later in the afternoon, the Yanks and Royals each took batting practice before Saturday’s contest. Each team only hit safely three times during the previous night’s game. The lack of hitting by the Yankee batters has made their attempt to secure a Wild Card position a very difficult task.
Yankee skipper Joe Girardi set up a starting lineup geared to face a left-handed starter on Saturday. To the dismay of both managers, the lefty for Kansas City, Danny Duffy, was removed from the game after throwing one pitch to Yankee lead-off batter Jacoby Ellsbury. It was later announced he was taken out of the game because of left shoulder soreness.
The right-handed replacement for Duffy could not prevent the Yankees from scoring. Seven Yankee batters hit safely during the game paced by Martin Prado with three hits. The recent Yankee acquisition doubled with two out in the first and scored the game’s first run on a single by Mark Teixeira.
The versatile Venezuelan singled two innings later. In the fifth, he again doubled and was brought home by a double off the bat of Carlos Beltrán. Prado has been red-hot at the plate in the past few weeks. In his last 17 games he is batting .403 with 14 runs scored and 11 runs batted in. The veteran Beltrán stated, “He’s [Prado] a good hitter. I liked him in the National League.”
Girardi explained the importance of Prado to the team, “I thought he did a really outstanding job swinging the bat. He’s a big part [of the lineup.]” It’s uplifting. The last 20 games, he’s been unbelievable.”
Another effective batter and marvelous fielder in the outfield is Ellsbury. He drove in a run with a triple in the third. In his most recent 17 games, he is batting .359 with 11 runs scored and 13 runs driven in.
Of the centerfielder, Girardi commented, “He covers a lot of ground. He’s the best there is.”
Catcher John Ryan Murphy, recalled from the minors four days earlier, got two hits and called a good game behind the plate. Yankee closer David Robertson, who pitched a perfect ninth frame said of the catcher, “He’s young, but he has a lot of talent.”
The ageless Ichiro Suzuki, who entered the game in the fifth, had a multi-hit game in only two at bats.
Yankee starter Brandon McCarthy took advantage of the Yankee hitting by pitching a fine game. In 6.2 innings, he yielded six hits and two earned runs to record his eighth win in his last 13 starts. The Yankees only scored a total of five runs in the four games he lost in that period.
Girardi was impressed by his performance, “He had a lot of groundball outs, good sinker and good curveball.”
Although no one can predict the future performances of any individual with any exactitude, pitcher Brandon Finnegan experienced a very exciting MLB debut. The 21 year-old was a student at TCU three months ago. He was drafted by Kansas City in June and on Saturday pitched two perfect innings against the Yankees.
The day before the game and two days before Derek Jeter day, he commented on the forthcoming experience, “Every person my age grew up watching Derek Jeter. He’s a legend. He’s one of the best that ever played, so it’s cool. Being here is definitely awesome.”
After the very successful two inning stint, Finnegan looked back upon the event with awe, “Getting to face him [Jeter] was an honor. But striking him out made the day a little sweeter.”
Ned Yost, the manager of the Royals, talked of the newcomer, “His stuff was good. He threw strikes. He wasn’t overwhelmed.”
Sunday is Derek Jeter day, a game between the Yanks and Royals will be played after the ceremony.