Ugly Yankees Start Turns Into Pleasant Finish

Freddy Garcia throws five wild pitches, but Yankees come back to win in extra innings

For much of the game, it looked like a game that the YES Network would have shown as part of a series on how Yankee hitters crumble when faced with a pitcher they've never seen before.

Wei-Yin Chen allowed three of the first four batters he faced to reach base in his first major league start, including a leadoff homer by Derek Jeter, but he quickly settled down and retired 12 straight batters in easy enough fashion that you had to ask if the Yankees were aware that you can actually get video of games from the Japanese leagues.

Bad as the Yankee hitters looked over those at-bats, they still looked better than Freddy Garcia.

Garcia had absolutely no command of his pitches and he looked like he was simply flinging the ball in the area of the plate without much confidence that it would actually make it there. It was almost as if A.J. Burnett was back with the team.

Burnett never threw five wild pitches in one game, however. That's what Garcia did in his 4.2 innings of work on Tuesday night, a total that was more than he threw over the course of the entire season in 2011 and the most anyone has thrown since April of 1989 when Ken Howell of the Phillies did it against the Cubs in Joe Girardi's second major league game.

So you had a cold night from the offense and a wild one from the pitcher and that must add up to a 1-4 record, right? Actually, we've got ourselves a two-game winning streak.

The Yankees found a way to get to Chen in the sixth inning and scored three times to tie the score at four and the bullpen, notably David Phelps and Cory Wade, didn't give Baltimore a thing over the final seven innings to allow Raul Ibanez to win the game with a double in the bottom of the 12th for a 5-4 win.

Not perfect, but it was a win and it gives CC Sabathia a chance to get the team back to .500 on Wednesday with a strong start. That would ease any lingering bad feelings about the way the season started in Tampa and even Garcia's flop felt less painful when you remembered Andy Pettitte's still in the organization.

Pettitte threw three innings in his first minor league start on Monday and looked good doing it. He'll build up his pitch count over the next couple of weeks, but the prospect of his return makes it a little easier to watch Garcia throw the ball all over the stadium like some real life version of Nuke LaLoosh.

The lesson of Tuesday night and of Pettitte's promising season debut? It's not how you start a long baseball season (or game), but how you finish.

Josh Alper is a writer living in New York City. You can follow him on Twitter and he is also a contributor to Pro Football Talk.

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