NEW YORK — There were no pocket protectors. No secret pitch code derived from the enigmatic order of the Skull and Bones. When Craig Breslow and Ryan Lavarnway became what is believed to be the first all-Yale battery in the modern baseball era, the only multi-syllabic phrases on anyone’s mind were “curveball” and “double play.”
Placed in the context of a 4-1 win against the Yankees Saturday afternoon, those words spoke volumes.
With Nick Swisher on first base after his third single and the Red Sox clinging to a 3-1 lead, manager Bobby Valentine summoned Breslow to replace Andrew Bailey, preferring the lefty-on-lefty matchup with a slumping Robinson Cano due up.
On the second pitch, Cano rolled over on an outside cutter to Adrian Gonzalez at first base for the inning-ending double play.
“He’s pretty aggressive, probably looking to tie the game in that situation,” Breslow said. “Pretty powerful offensive weapon. Keeping the ball on the ground and getting a double play was a bonus at that point. Just trying to make an out and figured we’d take our chances with a righty-righty matchup after that.”
The comparative magnitude between Breslow and Lavarnway’s Ivy League milestone and the importance of getting one of the league’s most dangerous hitters out with the tying run at the plate is up for debate.
“I guess it’s probably up to you guys to make a big deal out of it,” Breslow said with a smile. “For me, it was just another outing. I guess if we could have had [Padres rightfielder and Princeton alumnus] Will Venable at the plate, put the finishing touches on the matchup. There’s probably a baseball coach in New Haven who’s probably pretty proud too.”
In fact, Yale coach John Stuper texted both players after the game.
Certainly, the postgame questions for both focused more on the former.
“Yes, some of you guys have brought it to my attention,” Lavarnway deadpanned.
While at Yale, Lavarnway became the all-time Ivy League leader in home runs. He played from 2006-2008, matriculating four years after Breslow graduated with a bachelors in molecular biophysics and biochemistry and himself eschewed a career in medicine for professional baseball.
Lavarnway was a philosophy major.
“I definitely look at him first as a baseball player, second as a friend, third as a Yale alumni,” Lavarnway said. “He’s been great to me since before I got drafted, coming back and talking to me, making the transition into pro ball.”
Bailey was Breslow’s former teammate in Oakland, and has played a large role in Breslow’s charity, the Strike 3 Foundation. But as the Athletics’ closer, he usually replaced Breslow in games. Not the other way around.
“He was just joking, saying, ‘Atta boy for picking me up’ ,” Breslow said. “Usually it’s the other way around. Now that he’s got three outings under his belt, he’s starting to look like the Bailey of old, challenge guys and go right after them. I don’t think it’ll be too long until he’s able to finish his own innings.”