It's been a week of great worry for the Yankees. Andy Pettitte's rehab has stalled, leaving the team short in the rotation, and Alex Rodriguez has missed the last couple of games with a calf injury. The offense went to sleep for a couple of days and the Rays have been playing terrific baseball. We haven't seen Joe Girardi's metallic smile much recently.
For a brief moment on Wednesday night, it looked like things might be getting even worse. The Tigers, trailing 7-4, had the bases loaded with one out in the top of the seventh. Miguel Cabrera, with two homers already on the night, would be coming to the plate if either Ramon Santiago or Ryan Raburn could get on base. A tough situation for Kerry Wood but one he handled with aplomb.
Wood struck out both Tigers hitters with cutters, leaving Cabrera in the on-deck circle and continuing his own splendid run since joining the Yankees. Wood has allowed just one run in nine innings with the Bombers while striking out 13 batters as part of a bullpen that's been much improved since he arrived at the start of this month. Wood, Joba Chamberlain and David Robertson give the team a lot of options when they need to get big outs and those options can make shabby starts by Dustin Moseley a lot easier to swallow.
An offense capable of scoring some runs makes life easier as well. Yankee bats have returned to life over the last couple of nights and the two runs they added after Wood's strikeouts made the final couple of innings much easier on Wednesday night. There's no reason to be surprised that such a talented lineup has found a way to post 15 runs over two nights just as there's no reason to get too panicked when they score just one run over two other nights yet we wind up falling victim to both emotions.
Speaking of falling victim to emotions, things almost got out of hand on Wednesday night as the two teams exchanged hostilities via inside pitches and beanballs. Tigers starter Jeremy Bonderman plunked Brett Gardner in the first, presumably in retaliation for his hard slide that sent Tigers infielder Carlos Guillen to the disabled list. Both benches were warned but no ejections came when Chad Gaudin hit Cabrera in the eighth nor when Enrique Gonzalez threw a pitch behind Derek Jeter.
The whole thing was silly. Gardner's slide wasn't a dirty play, despite what Johnny Damon had to say after the game. His words smack of sour feelings about being exiled from the Bronx, but he's still more respectable than the umpiring crew that allowed Gaudin and Gonzalez to get away with throwing pitches at hitters.
It would be surprising to see the unpleasantries resume on Thursday. The Yankees have enough other stuff to worry about and, thanks to Wood and the offense, better things to do when they're on the field.