Commentary

No pie, just sky-high joy for Yankees

Team will surely pass Cloud 9 on way home after shot in 10th caps comeback in LA

Updated: June 28, 2010, 8:03 AM ET
By Wallace Matthews | ESPNNewYork.com

LOS ANGELES -- It was the kind of night that called for pies or, at the very least, the A.J. Burnett special, a handful of whipped cream piled up in a towel.

But Burnett wasn't at Dodger Stadium on Sunday night, having left to attend the funeral of his grandfather, and the bakeries close up early in this town anyway.

Besides, the Yankees will gladly settle for a beverage or two and a big reclining seat on a plane headed due East.

An overnight cross-country plane ride that looked as if it would be miserable after four innings instead will probably be an eight-miles-high party, at least until everyone drifts off to sleep.

That is because an afternoon that began with a conciliatory handshake between antagonists Joe Torre and Alex Rodriguez ended as a night in which Mariano Rivera, one of Torre's favorites, stuck a dagger into the old man's heart for the second time in three days.

And one of the players Torre barely had a chance to manage, Robinson Cano, set it all up by doing something history told us he probably couldn't do, although his 2010 season should have warned that, oh yes, he would.

[+] EnlargeCurtis Granderson
Jeff Gross/Getty ImagesCurtis Granderson's tying run in the ninth was the game's pivotal moment.

Cano's two-run home run in the top of the 10th off George Sherrill -- a left-handed reliever who has been death on left-handed hitters and murder on Cano -- capped the kind of comeback the Yankees made a habit of last season, wiping out a 5-0 deficit and turning it into a rousing 8-6 win.

"It seems like it's our first real come-from-behind win we've had all year long," manager Joe Girardi said. "It's a big win for us, and something that maybe can give us a little momentum."

Andy Pettitte, who has been brilliant all year, was something less than good in the first five innings and positively awful in the third, when he somehow threw away two sacrifice bunts that set up a three-run Dodgers inning.

"For a guy who's been throwing strikes all year long," Girardi joked, "he sure didn't hit his spots."

Pettitte, typically, was a lot tougher on himself than his manager was. "I felt like I gave them those three runs," he said. "I felt like I gave away the game."

It certainly looked that way when the Yankees came up in the ninth inning, trailing 6-2 and facing Dodgers closer Jonathan Broxton, who had allowed all of two earned runs all season and came in with an ERA of .083 in 33 games.

But Broxton, who had finished off Saturday's 9-4 Dodgers victory, couldn't finish the game on Sunday. He got one quick out, then allowed a single to A-Rod and an RBI double to Cano.

Then things got really tough. Jorge Posada fought Broxton for 10 pitches before singling Cano to third. Curtis Granderson worked an eight-pitch walk. And Chad Huffman -- hurriedly inserted into the game when Brett Gardner, hit in the right wrist by a Clayton Kershaw fastball in the third, had to leave the game in the fourth -- lined a fastball into right for two more runs.

Suddenly it was 6-5, the tying run was at third, and Colin Curtis -- with just four major league at-bats but all of them good -- fell behind 0-2 but fought back to 3-2 and then fouled off four straight pitches before grounding one up the first-base line, where James Loney made the decision that turned the game.

Instead of firing home, because Granderson had broken for the plate on contact, or trying to turn a 3-6-3 double play that would have ended the game, Loney stepped on first and then threw home. That momentary hesitation was enough to allow Granderson to score the tying run.

"When he threw home it kind of shocked me," Girardi said. "He took a chance and it didn't work."

From there, the game took on a different feeling. Rivera, who had worked two innings in getting the win in Arizona on Wednesday night and nailed down Friday's victory with three devastating strikeouts, shut the Dodgers down in the ninth.

Then, after the Yankees got a runner on with one out in the 10th, Torre played the percentages and brought in Sherrill to face Cano, the majors' leading hitter who had never gotten a hit off Sherrill in 11 career at-bats, with four strikeouts.

Luckily, Cano did not know about his futility against Sherrill. In fact, he could barely remember facing him. "I asked [hitting coach Kevin Long], what's he got?" Cano said. "He told me he throws 89, 90 miles an hour."

Cano swung through the first pitch, a slider. "After that, I wanted to stay back and wait for a pitch I could drive the other way," he said. "All series long, every fastball, I was late."

This time, Cano was right on time, driving Sherrill's 88 mph meatball, slightly away but about waist-high, on an arc toward the left-center-field seats. According to Long, the flight of the ball indicated that Cano had done everything mechanically perfect on the swing. And considering Sherrill had not allowed a home run to the last 160 left-handed batters he had faced in regular-season games, Cano had done something highly improbable, too.

As Rodriguez said, "That looked like a right-handed power hitter hit it. It was quite awesome."

"He has an amazing knack for getting the barrel of the bat on the baseball," Girardi said.

And the Yankees once again showed their own amazing knack to refuse to give up on a game, an inning, an at-bat or even a pitch. "It reminded me of the way we played last year," said Rivera. "Outstanding."

Pie, anyone?

GAME NOTES: Gardner left the park with his right wrist and hand tightly wrapped in an Ace bandage and said he would have an X-ray when the team returned to New York. "Hopefully, I'll be able to play Tuesday," he said. "But I'm sure the long plane flight won't do it any good." ... Rodriguez's two-run homer in the sixth got the Yankees on the board. It was his 11th of the season and 594th of his career. ... The Dodgers announced a third straight night of 56,000 people in the park, the official capacity of Dodger Stadium, but there were a significant number of empty seats, especially in the outfield sections. Still, the Yankees were impressed by the atmosphere of their first games in L.A. since 2004, and only the franchise's second trip here since the 1981 World Series. "It was more fun than I expected," Cano said. "It's a nice field. They got a great team and great fans." ... After Pettitte's worst outing since May 20, the Yankees' bullpen worked five innings of four-hit, one-run ball, the only run coming off Joba Chamberlain in the eighth. ... Rivera picked up his second win in four days. ... Derek Jeter had his sixth three-hit game of the year.

Wallace Matthews is a columnist for ESPNNewYork.com. Follow him on Twitter.

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Wallace Matthews has covered New York sports since 1983 as a reporter, columnist, radio host and TV commentator. He covers the Yankees for ESPNNewYork.com after working for Newsday, the New York Post, the New York Sun and ESPN New York 98.7 FM.
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