Bronx, NY- Carl Pavano starting a game in new Yankee stadium wasn’t even the most controversial moment in the Yankees 7-3 win over Cleveland Sunday.
That distinction went to Jorge Posada, who lifted reliever Jensen Lewis’ seventh-inning offering just over the rightfield-center wall. Or did he? Like the old ballpark one block south, the $1.5 billion stadium makes it possible for fans to reach over the fence into play, causing controversy when a ball hit a fan in the arms
while outfielder Trevor Crowe tried to make a leaping catch.
The ball fell back into play, though the umpires singled home run as Posada neared second base. Indians manager Eric Wedge argued the call and the crew consulted replay before affirming Posada’s pinch-hit, two-home homer that put the Yankees up, 4-3, and finished as the game-winning hit.
Posada, who nearly lapped Cody Ransom running on the base paths when the third baseman was jogging around the diamond thinking it was a home run, said he was running out of the box and didn’t get a good look at the play.
“Not all the way,” he said. “I soon as I got to first, he [Crowe] was right at contact with where the ball was going to land and I saw it drop in on the warning
track. As soon as you see the ball drop, you keep running.”
Manager Joe Girardi said his initial impression was home run, a feeling he said was confirmed when he consulted a high definition television set located near the dugout. There was some trepidation among the 43,068 listed fans in attendance when Girardi and Wedge were called out of the dugout upon the umpires returneing to the field, though only Wedge walked back disappointed when the ruling was explained.
But don’t count Girardi as someone who thought the play was a byproduct of a supportive home-field crowd.
“If he doesn’t reach, it’s clearly a home run and there is no discussion,” Girardi said. “There’s a situation that without replay it could possible work against you.”
One day after giving up 22 runs and a 14-run second inning that was the worst in franchise history, A.J. Burnett responded by providing his third quality start in three tries. The first-year Yankee allowed just three hits in 6 1/3 innings, though two of those were home runs that had him on the hook for the loss before Posada’s third homer of the season and Ransom’s three-run double in the eighth.
Shin-Soo Choo took Brunett’s 1-1 pitch over the wall in right for a solo shot, breaking open a scoreless tie in the second. Ryan Garko extended that edge to 3-0, lacing a two-out bullet down the leftfield line that stayed fair for a fourth-inning two-run shot. The Yankees escaped the four-game series with a 2-2 split despite being outscored, 40-19.
Down 3-1 in the seventh, Burnett struggled with his pitch count exceeding triple digits. The hard-throwing right-hander seemed to tire, tossing two wild pitches and walking three batters sandwiched around a groundout.
Girardi turned to Jonathan Albaladejo to escape the bases-loaded jam and the reliever responded by forcing a groundout at home and another softly hit grounder that ended the ending without further damage.
The inning took on greater importance minutes later when Posada hit his third home run of the season and first pinch-hit long ball since 2004 to make Albaladejo (1-0) the winner. Ransom’s fly ball down the left field line in the eighth looked to be an easy out before Choo lost the ball, allowing it to fall in and clear the bases to put the Bombers up, 7-3. Mariano Rivera pitched the ninth in a non-save situation.
“Albaladejo coming in there with the bases loaded, that’s unbelievable. That’s huge,” said Burnett, who was the first to greet the reliever in the dugout when the inning was over.
Despite the boos in pregame introductions and cat-calls asking about various injuries, Pavano stuck it to his ex-team by logging his best outing of the season, holding the Yankees to just one run on four hits in six innings.
After signing a four-year contract worth almost $40 million before the 2005 season, Pavano made only 26 starts for the Yankees and was 9-8 with a 5.01 ERA following a series of injuries and accidents that ranged from Tommy John surgery to a bruised buttock.
But Pavano’s only mistake came in the fourth when Derek Jeter doubled and Mark Teixeira lined a single to right to plate the shortstop and cut the lead to 3-1. The Yankees threatened to get back in the game against the maligned right-hander in the sixth, loading the bases.
Jose Molina and Brett Gardner recorded back-to-back singles to start the frame, doubling the Yankees hit total through the previous five innings and forcing action in the Indians bullpen. Pavano responded by forcing Jeter to ground into a double play before walking Teixeira to load the bases for the hot-hitting Nick Swisher.
Pavano got Swisher to swing on top of a breaking pitch, striking him out to end the threat and cap his outing on a high note.
“I thought he pitched great, especially in this environment,” Wedge said. “He really commanded the baseball game and showed good stuff. He proved that he had thick skin and demonstrated some good focus out there.”
Girardi said Pavano’s quality start was not surprising.
“He pitched pretty well for us last year when he came back,” Girardi said. “I know he’s had some serious injury problems that he’s had to deal with. But he won some games for us in September last year.”
Notes: The Yankees struggled against Cleveland’s starting pitchers, scoring just nine runs in 23 innings. Yet the Bombers feasted on the bullpen, scoring nine runs in just 11 innings to help pick up the two wins…Leftfielder Johnny Damon batted third…Before the game, the team optioned RHP Anthony Claggett to Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre and recalled righty Stephen Jackson…Girardi and the trainer went to the mound to see Burnett after he walked the game’s first batter. Burnett appeared to be fine and stayed in the game without incident…Teixeira came to the Yankees with two gold gloves and treated the fans to a highlight-reel worthy play with his backhand scoop off Victor Martinez’s hard-hit grounder, snaring the hop and racing to the bag to end the top of the third.