Why couldn’t we have played this way against the Yankees? We did during that first game, our crowning achievement of the series. And, as I said, it all went down hill from there. I would have loved to have snuck at least one more win in there. Then again, if we snuck in one more win every single time we wanted to sneak in one more win, we would not be in our current situation, which is fighting just to get out of the basement with the team we’re currently playing.
Dice-K got the nod and, not surprisingly at all, didn’t pitch well. He gave up four runs on three hits while walking three and striking out five over five and one-third innings. It was the third inning that did him in. He began the inning by hitting a batter and walking another. After getting a strikeout, he walked another batter. And then two consecutive wild pitches resulted in two runs plus another walk, and a groundout brought in the final run of the inning. So if you think about it, he allowed those three runs without allowing a single hit. It’s the first time one of our pitchers has done that since the 1970s.
He began the sixth with a groundout and then allowed a triple. Mortensen came on and allowed his inherited runner to score on a single. During all of Dice-K’s other innings, though, he was basically solid. He was great. In fact, there were times when he looked dialed-in and on cruise control. But we’ve seen this kind of thing before where his real downfall is not being able to sustain that across all of his innings equally, and you have the one or two or three or more bad innings that determine the fate of his start.
Fortunately, he was taken out before he could allow further damage. And it turns out that, between the third and the sixth, we’d been doing some scoring ourselves. Ross led off the fourth with a four-pitch walk, Gomez singled, Lavarnway fouled off a slow fastball for a strike, and then he received almost the exact same pitch in terms of type and speed. But he got of it the second time around. He launched it to left, and it exited the park with ease. One swing. Three runs. Tie game.
Then we had the bases loaded with two out in the fifth, and Nava came up. Obviously that situation your default hope is a grand slam, and if not a grand slam then at least some sort of extra-base hit. Nava singled. But it still brought in two more runs, which gave us a two-run lead at the time. Which, by the way, would not have been possible without some fine baserunning by Aviles. Aviles had singled and was the first runner to get on base. He moved to second on a groundout by Ross before Gomez reached on a fielder’s choice. Brett Lawrie thought he could tag Aviles for the out, but in a fine display of athleticism and acumen, Aviles neatly avoided the tag and slid back to the bag. Nice.
Then, of course, they scored their run in the sixth, which reduced our lead to one, a lead that Tazawa preserved in the seventh. But Padilla, who came on for the eighth, began the inning with a single-double combination that tied the game at five.
It turned out that that run would be the last that the Jays would score. Carpenter replaced Padilla, and all was well in the rest of the eighth. Not so for the Jays in the ninth. Ellsbury led it off with a single, after which the Jays made a pitching change that was not helpful. Aviles flied out, which probably provided some measure of false hope, but then Ross singled, Gomez smacked a bases-clearing triple, and Lavarnway brought him home on a sac fly.
Which means, of course, that for once, we won! The final score was 8-5. It feels good to win and to win by a respectable margin at that. So, as I said, Dice-K received a no-decision, Mortensen and Tazawa each got holds, Padilla got a blown save, Carpenter got the win, and Baily got the save for pitching the bottom of the ninth. And let’s not forget Nava’s spectacular, Ellsbury-esque diving catch for the first out of the eighth! Adam Lind thought he was about to put his team ahead for good, but Nava read the ball all the way, stayed on it, ran exactly the right distance, dove exactly the right time, and hauled it in. It was an inspired piece of fielding. Between all of that and the fact that we won, it was a great game full of gems.