Houdini got himself out of another jam.
David Robertson, who earned the nickname “Dave Houdini” from teammates following his bases-loaded performance in Game 2 of the 2009 American League Division Series against the Twins, lived up to the moniker again last night against the Royals. The Yankees' reliever survived the seventh inning and preserved a 3-1 win over Kansas City.
"I wouldn't say I get used to them, but it's not un-normal for me to go into those," Robertson said. "But I can't say I'm used to it. I'm still nervous when I'm out there."
Before lowering his ERA to 1.35, Robertson loaded the bases by issuing a walk to Matt Treanor. Then he saw Alcides Escobar and Chris Getz foul off four pitches apiece before each at-bat resulted in strikeouts.
"Maybe because I do it so often to him," manager Joe Girardi
said. "But the kid's got good stuff. He’s got late movement on his
fastball and a very good curveball He's just had the ability to do that
because he's a strikeout guy. He’s been a strikeout guy since he came up
and he just continues to do it.”
Escobar originally got ahead in the count on two cut fastballs, then fouled the same pitch off four more times. Then Robertson went to the pitch he is best known for - a curveball - and that pitch became a strike out when Escobar was way in front of a pitch that dove at the last second.
“When you get an out, it takes a little bit of relief because you know you have one down and you have to keep going to get the next one,” Robertson said. “You can’t lose any focus.”
Getz did not have the same advantage as Escobar, falling behind 1-2 on three cutters. Robertson then went to the curveball and Getz fouled two off. After fouling off two fastballs, Robertson went back to the curve and struck out Getz on a check swing in the dirt that the Kansas City leadoff hitter expressed disagreement with plate umpire Ed Hickox’s ruling.
When it was over, it marked the 20th time in the regular season Robertson pitched with the bases loaded and in those outings he has yet to allow a run while striking out 14 hitters.
“He's Houdini, out of all of us," Joba Chamberlain said. "He is a strikeout guy; he gets himself in and out of jams with the best of them. It's fun to watch."
As impressive as those numbers have been during his 149 career relief appearances, Robertson would much rather prefer the alternative.
“It could have come back to haunt me,” Robertson said. “I’ve got to come in and be focused. I’ve got to be able to get strike one and then go from there to get that out. I don’t have time to mess around and get into long counts. I need to be a lot quicker
The alternative would be the showing turned in by Chamberlain during an eighth inning that can be described as electrifying. Chamberlain needed nine pitches to record two strikeouts (including Alex Gordon on a 98 mph fastball) and a groundout.
Chamberlain’s performance turned out to be the easiest of the final three innings, although Mariano Rivera picked up his league-leading 13th save and 25th straight over the Royals.
Neither performance though likely does not happen without the events of the first six innings, especially in the fifth when Alex Rodriguez fought through a tough at-bat with Kyle Davies and followed three foul balls with a two-run single on a curveball to center field that eluded Escobar’s glove and scored Brett Gardner and Derek Jeter.
“When we really needed to get a hit, he got a hit is what I saw,” Girardi said. “He’s still not perfect but RBI guys find a way to drive in runs and that’s what he did it tonight. We really needed it and that’s the difference in the ballgame.”
Just like run producers find a way, so do pitchers and that was what Freddy Garcia did, allowing Robertson to perform his latest escape act.
Garcia allowed just a fourth-inning home run to Melky Cabrera among six hits in six-plus innings featuring his usual assortment of off-speed stuff and changing speeds. His night ended after 85 pitches following a walk to Hosmer but before that, Garcia was aided by Nick Swisher’s belly-flop in right field of a Getz liner for the final out of the fifth.
“That's what I've got," Garcia said. "That's why I go out there and do my thing. I don't have the power any more. I've got to go out there and make it happen."
And make it happen is what the pitching staff achieved for the Yankees’ 20th win in 33 games.
Rafael Soriano normally would have pitched the eighth but Girardi said he was unavailable due to discomfort in his right elbow. Soriano asked to see team physician Dr. Chris Ahmad before first pitch and will go for a precautionary MRI today.
“We're going to do the MRI," Soriano said. "I want to make sure everything's fine. I told them, maybe one or two days, I'll be back."
Despite Soriano’s optimism, he also said that he felt discomfort pitching on consecutive days against Toronto April 30-May 1. He also said though that when he did his long toss, everything was fine.
Phil Hughes is hopeful that he can begin a throwing program Thursday that will eventually result in a return to normal fastball.
Houdini got himself out of another jam.