Like the famed magician and escape artist of the 1920’s, Harry Houdini, Yankee reliever David Robertson reappeared and brought his escape act back to the Bronx last night.
In game two of the 2009 American League Divisional Series against Minnesota, Robertson escaped a bases loaded, none out jam in the top of the eleventh, without giving up a run, to keep the game tied. Mark Teixeira homered to lead off the bottom of the 11th and the Yankees went on to win that game and eventually, their last World Championship.
Last night, Robertson entered the game in the third inning with the bases loaded and one out and the Yankees leading 4-3. The slick right hander from Alabama nearly escaped unscathed once again, but Byron Buxton beat out a potential double play grounder as a run scored from third to even the game at 4-4. Robertson put the inning away by striking out Twins’ catcher Jason Castro and once again, he kept the game tied.
Robertson, who has to be one of the most underrated relievers in baseball, went on to toss a career high 52 pitches in 3 and a 1/3 scoreless innings with five strikeouts. He kept the game in check and was credited with the win as the Yankees advanced to the American League Divisional Series for the first time in five years with a come from behind 8-4 win over the Twins. “Nobody wanted the season to end tonight,” Robertson said.
The Yankee bullpen became the story when starter Luis Severino could only last 1/3 of an inning. Twins second-baseman Brian Dozier led off the game with a home run just over the wall in left center field. Three batters later, Eddie Rosario hit a two run homer and the Yankees were in a 3-0 hole.
After Severino gave up a single and a double, he was lifted in favor of Chad Green who pulled the first trick of the night. Green struck out Byron Buxton and Jason Castro to end the threat and provide the offense a chance to get back in the game which they did immediately on Didi Gregorius’ huge, game tying three run honer off of Twins starter Ervin Santana. Brett Gardner’s first career post season home run gave the Yankees a 4-3 lead in the second before the Twins loaded the bases against Green in the third.
Yankee manager Joe Girardi (who managed a very good game and admittedly I am not his biggest fan) went to his “Houdini” in the veteran right hand reliever who did the job and more.
Robertson is fearless and in this era of relievers having a need to start an inning, it’s even more impressive that he gets out of jams, whether they’re inherited or of us own making. “When Joe (Girardi) calls on me to go out there and pitch, I’m going to go pitch,” said Robertson. “If it’s the second or third inning and that’s when I’m needed to help us win a ballgame, that’s when I’ll pitch.”
Tommy Kahnle was next and he retired all seven batters he faced in his 2 1/3 innings of work. Aroldis Chapman closed it out with three strikeouts.
It was a remarkable performance by the Yankee relief corps as they got the final 26 outs to not only preserve but earn the win. “Our bullpen was remarkable tonight,” said Girardi after the game. “The innings that they gave us, the innings that David Robertson gave us.”
Greg Bird had an enormous, two out, RBI single in the third that gave the Yankees a 5-4 lead. Aaron Judge made his playoff debut a successful one as he had two hits including his first post season home run, a two run laser in the fourth that made it 7-4 and the final run scored on a bases loaded walk to Aaron Hicks in the seventh. The first four batters in the Yankee lineup scored all eight runs.
Robertson’s grit and desire to win was one of the reasons the Yankees re-acquired him before the deadline. He’s won here before and he brings back a little of that swagger from the “core four era,” not to mention his impact in the clubhouse.
Kahnle, who was acquired in the same trade with Robertson from the White Sox, was not surprised at what he saw from his teammate. “I’ve been watching him for the last two years. Nothing surprises with him, he’s been really good,” he said.
Hard to believe but Robertson, who was Mariano Rivera’s teammate for six seasons, is like the “old man” in the pen. “Yeah, I feel like the roles have been reversed”, he said. “I’m one of the older guys in the clubhouse.”
Robertson is one of three players who remain (C.C. Sabathia and Gardner) from the last championship team so they know what winning tastes like. This is a young, Yankee team that is learning how to win and looking to the veteran leadership to help guide them.
One thing remains the same, the mantra. “We’re all committed to winning a World Series,” said Robertson.
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