For the last few years, the Yankees have had a habit of making fringe pitchers look like Cy Young winners when they haven't seen them before. Last night, the Yankees did one better and made Nationals starter Shairon Martis look like Cy Young himself for six innings.
Alright, that's not fair to Young, who didn't run too many five walk, one strikeout games up the flagpole, but the Yankees continually bailed Martis out of innings with bad at-bats. One of their runs was thanks to a Ryan Zimmerman throwing error, and when CC Sabathia got taken deep by Anderson Hernandez it felt like an embarrassing loss and backpage headline was right around the corner.
Sabathia otherwise did everything he could to give his offensive teammates a chance to make good on their lofty reputations. He only struck out two batters, which will add to the debate about Jorge Posada's ability to call a game, but made sure that the Yankees would keep getting chances to win the game. By going 3-for-13 with runners in scoring position, they did their best to squander those chances.
Happily, the Nationals specialize in snatching defeat from the jaws of victory. Martis gave way to ex-Yankee Ron Villone, just the kind of fringe veteran that doesn't give the Bombers much trouble, and he quickly gave up the tying run. Then the Nationals' sub-AAA level defense reared its head again when Elijah Dukes treated a Robinson Cano line drive like it was radioactive to give up the go-ahead run.
It was Cano's fourth hit of the night, which went a long way toward helping the Yankees avoid a bad loss. He still appears miscast as a number five hitter behind Alex Rodriguez, but he's one of the few guys hitting right now so he'll get a pass on that. He also made several nice plays in the field to keep the Nats from stumbling into another run or two.
Despite what they tell you as a kid, playing with fire can be fun. Eventually, though, you will get burnt even with a team as slow to catch fire as the Nats.