|Brett Gardner hit his first career grand slam during the Yankees’ explosive third inning. (Frank Franklin II/ Associated Press)|
Yankees rout Jays behind 11-run inning
NEW YORK — Andy Pettitte kept ducking down the dugout tunnel between innings yesterday, trying to find some air conditioning on a steamy summer afternoon.
When he headed inside during the third inning, he might as well have taken a nap.
Brett Gardner hit his first career grand slam and Alex Rodriguez drove in four more runs during the Yankees’ biggest offensive outburst in five years, which took 37 minutes and carried New York to an 11-3 rout of the Toronto Blue Jays.
“You want your guys to keep scoring,’’ Pettitte said, “but it was a long inning.’’
Pettitte had to get up a couple of times to play catch and keep warm while the scoring merry go-round was in full spin. The Yankees sent 15 batters to the plate and scored all their runs during the third inning, their most prolific punch since getting 13 runs in the eighth against Tampa Bay on June 21, 2005.
“It’s baseball. It’s the only way to describe it,’’ Yankees manager Joe Girardi said, shaking his head. “Sometimes it doesn’t make sense.’’
Gardner’s slam knocked Blue Jays ace Ricky Romero from the game after 2 2/3 innings, the shortest start of his career. He allowed eight of the 11 runs, the most given up by Toronto in an inning since Kansas City also scored 11 times in the seventh on Aug. 6, 1979.
“It was just a bad inning,’’ Romero said. “In fact, a bad day for me.’’
Pettitte (10-2) limited the Blue Jays to Jose Bautista’s two-run homer in the first and Alex Gonzalez’s solo shot in the sixth. The 38-year-old lefthander went six innings to match CC Sabathia and Phil Hughes with 10 wins, marking the fourth time in the past 50 years that a trio of Yankees have reached double digits before the All-Star break.
It was also Pettitte’s first home win over the Blue Jays since Aug. 2, 1999, and it should give Girardi a lasting impression as he helps finalize selections for the American League All-Star roster, which will be announced today. Pettitte hasn’t been an All-Star since 2001.
“In years past, I thought I might have had a chance to go and I didn’t,’’ Pettitte said. “There’s a lot of guys deserving of it, and it’s out of my hands.’’
The Yankees had been scuffling at the plate while losing three of their last four, managing just nine runs while Rodriguez, Robinson Cano, and Derek Jeter went a combined 7 for 45.
That futility ended when Gardner led off the third with a single to left field. Jeter drew his second straight walk and Nick Swisher singled to load the bases for Mark Teixeira, who hit a tying, two-run double down the left-field line.
The boys in pinstripes were off and running.
Rodriguez followed with an RBI fielder’s choice, a grounder that Romero (6-5) misplayed, and Cano hit a run-scoring single into the right-field corner.
The Blue Jays looked as though they might escape any more damage when Jorge Posada flied out and Curtis Granderson nubbed a grounder, but he hustled down the line to beat the throw to first base. Then everything unraveled: Romero plunked Chad Huffman to load the bases again and Gardner hit a full-count pitch into the stands in right field to make it 8-2.
“I told somebody that I’ve never hit a grand slam before — Little League, high school, college,’’ Gardner said. “I don’t hit a lot of home runs.’’
This one forced Romero into the clubhouse and Brian Tallet in from the bullpen, and he promptly walked the bases loaded for the third time in the inning.
Rodriguez followed with a high pop fly that left fielder John McDonald lost in the sun. When the ball landed softly on the outfield grass, Rodriguez was standing on second base with a double, New York led, 11-3, and the crowd of 46,364 was on its feet in a roar.
“I saw it the whole way, until the very end,’’ McDonald said. “It was frustrating because I stayed with it the whole way and then lost it.’’