Alex Rodriguez finds himself in iconic New York Yankees company this morning after hitting a game-tying grand slam off Atlanta Braves reliever Jonny Venters. The eighth-inning homer keyed a six-run outburst which aided the Bombers to a 6-4 victory. Rodriguez’s line drive blast tied Yankees Hall of Fame legend Lou Gehrig for the most grand-slams in major league history with 23. It couldn’t have come at a better time.
The Yankees had been seemingly put to sleep by Braves starter Mike Minor. Minor who came into the game struggling in every way imaginable, held the Yankees scoreless until the eighth inning when Venters imploded.
Minor got the first out of the eighth inning and gave way to Venters, who has failed to live up to his lofty expectations throughout this season, after Derek Jeter singled. It was only the fifth hit Minor allowed and he was only at 100 pitches on the night. He throws left-handed just like Venters, so the decision to make the change with a 4-0 lead was somewhat suspect.
But Venters, the class of MLB relievers over the last couple seasons, was summoned to squash any potential rally the Yankees tried to muster. Instead, it was possibly the worst 19-pitch stretch of Venters’ career.
Curtis Granderson singled and Jeter moved up a base. Venters walked Mark Teixeira, with multiple pitches well outside the strike zone. The Yankees had the bases loaded, a situation that has plagued them all season, but Rodriguez would not let this chance waste away. Venters threw the first three pitches in the dirt getting behind 3-0. It seemed if anything the Yankees would score on a passed ball or walk. Somehow Venters tossed three straight strikes, but the third was a meatball, that A-Rod tattooed just over the left field wall.
Robinson Cano was next to the plate and he lined a single to center, representing the go-ahead run. Braves manager Freddy Gonzalez had finally seen enough and replaced Venters with Cory Gearrin. It didn’t get any better for the Braves as Nick Swisher took Gearrin deep to right giving the Yankees a 6-4 lead in a game that seemed lost 15 minutes prior.
While, Minor was stellar for the Braves, CC Sabathia was erratic for much of the night. By the end of the fourth inning he had thrown 59 pitches. But, as Sabathia (8-3) often does and is expected of an ace, he figured out a way to prevent the huge inning and gutted out seven frames. He allowed four runs on ten hits with two walks while striking out six. While it kept the Yankees within four of the lead, there was little to think that they would be able to mount such a comeback. Minor finished the night with one run allowed on five hits and one walk. He struck out four, lowering his ERA to 6.01 in the process.
After the Yankees took the lead, Joe Girardi received scoreless innings from Clay Rapada and Rafael Soriano. Soriano did not seem to have any ill effects from the blister he suffered in Sunday’s game against the Mets. He didn’t allow a base runner, striking out two batters in the process. It was Soriano’s 10th save of the season and 100th of his career.
The Yankees (36-25) are alone in first place in the AL East as the Tampa Bay Rays were whipped by the New York Mets. The Yanks now own the best record in the American League. The Braves (34-28) fell four games back of the Washington Nationals in the NL East.
In tonight’s series finale, Hiroki Kuroda is set to face off against Tim Hudson. Kuroda is coming off a brilliant start in which he allowed one hit and zero runs in seven innings against the Mets. He left the game after a line drive hit him in the left ankle. He suffered a bruise and figures to be fine for the start. Hudson experienced some ankle discomfort after his last start which was a complete game shutout of the Miami Marlins. The Braves gave Hudson some extra rest to allow the pain to subside.
Topics: A-Rod, Alex Rodriguez, Atlanta Braves, CC Sabathia, Curtis Granderson, Derek Jeter, Hiroki Kuroda, Jonny Venters, Mark Teixeira, New York Yankees, Nick Swisher, Rafael Soriano, Robinson Cano, Tim Hudson, Yankees