Teams with good lineup depth can run up the pitch count of a really good starting pitcher, get him out of the game and take their best shots against the bullpen of a bad team.
That’s exactly what the Yankees did last night.
After being unable to touch Chris Sale for most of the night, the Yankees eventually scored five times in the bottom of the eighth inning for a 6-4 victory over the White Sox.
Sale was mostly untouchable for the first seven innings but he was at 102 pitches when he took the mound for the eighth. It seemed that he might get through it with his 4-1 lead in place after striking out Brett Gardner. But in a flash the game turned in favor of the Yankees with the winning runs coming courtesy of a two-run, two-out double by Eduardo Nunez.
Derek Jeter ripped a changeup up the middle and Robinson Cano doubled off the top of the left-field wall on Sale’s 114th and last pitch. Three pitches later, the Yankees were within a run on Alfonso Soriano’s single up the middle against Nate Jones and two batters later they tied it on Curtis Granderson’s base hit up the middle against left-handed reliever Donnie Veal.
“[Sale] was so nasty tonight,” Soriano said. “So when we see the bullpen, we try to put a big inning together and that’s how we did it. We put [together] a big inning and we win the game, so it’s a very important win tonight.”
“Sale was pitching great all night long and he continued to show his dominance again against us for a second time this season,” Granderson said. “You follow up with Soriano’s hit and Alex getting a hit and things slowly started to trickle and we were able to chip into the lead and finally get Nunez up there to get the big hit to put us on top.”
Chipping away is what the Yankees have done recently. They were one game over .500 less than a month ago and by following Joe Torre’s former “small bites” saying, they are right on the heels of Tampa Bay.
“It’s a great win for us,” Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. “You think about what we’re fighting for. It was just one good at-bat after another.”
Tampa Bay has yet to win a game on its West Coast trip and the first pitch of its game with the Angels was thrown shortly after Nunez laced a two-run double down the left-field line, scoring Granderson and Rodriguez.
“He’s a power guy, so I went to the plate looking for a sinker in[side],” Nunez said.
The Yankees won for the 16th time in 23 games and moved within two games of the Rays for the second wild-card spot.
“Once it starts going and the crowd gets into it, the team feeds off it and it has happened for years,” Chicago manager Robin Ventura said. “It’s hard to slow that down and be able to make pitches and get the stuff that you need. It’s a tough place.”
Sale allowed three runs (two earned) and five hits in 7 1/3 innings. The Yankees scored their only run off him in the first seven innings on a double steal that saw Wells steal home in the second.
Before the Yankees came back with their sixth win in 55 games when trailing through seven, the theme was going to be about Hiroki Kuroda dropping a fourth straight start. Kuroda did not pitch as poorly as his previous three starts but did allow four runs and seven hits in 6 1/3 innings.
The Yankees never led while he was in the game as he gave up Adam Dunn’s RBI single in the first, a two-run triple by Alexei Ramirez in the fifth and a solo home run by Alejandro De Aza in the seventh.
Follow Yankees beat writer Larry Fleisher on Twitter @LarryFleisher.