The stands were already emptying out at the new Yankee Stadium by the time David Aardsma began working the ninth. And for good reason, given the scoreboard, though things got a little nervy after the first two hitters notched singles in the ninth and Hideki Matsui ran the count full before popping out on Aardsma’s 22nd pitch of the inning.
But he muddled through.
There were a few keys to tonight’s game for me, one of the biggest being Franklin Gutierrez launching that second inning homer off C.C. Sabathia. The New York Yankees ace never seemed to quite recover and spent much of the night off-balance.
Another key moment was that walk drawn by Russell Branyan off Sabathia in the sixth inning. He had already struck out seven consecutive times, was down 0-2 in the count, but somehow managed to take four balls and draw the walk that forced Sabathia from the game.
That walk had to be important to Branyan’s psyche. At a minimum, not striking out eight times in a row had to help him when he stepped up in the ninth. The pressure somewhat off, he launched a two-run homer, his 20th of the year, to pretty much seal this 8-4 win.
The other huge contributor, to me, was Miguel Batista. The Mariners looked to be very much a team on the ropes when Jason Vargas left the game after four innings. It was only 6-4 at that point and the Yanks had just scored two.
But Batista shut them down from there, allowing only one walk in two scoreless innings. He took some of New York’s momentum away and the M’s hung on from there.
What a huge win this was. The Mariners are now 3-3. They’ve survived two third of this trip knowing they will be no worse than 3 1/2 games out of first place. Time to exhale — for the next 24 hours, at least.