Phelps, Yanks take rain-shortened win over Rangers
Play halted in bottom of fifth inning; called after nearly two-hour delay
NEW YORK -- The victory may have officially been credited to David Phelps, who also can now count a complete game on his career ledger, but the Yankees' MVP on Wednesday night was definitely Mother Nature.
Backed by a Brett Gardner home run that proved to be the difference in the game, Phelps hurled five strong innings before heavy downpours rendered the field unplayable. The Yankees defeated the Rangers, 2-1, in a weather-shortened game at Yankee Stadium.
"A complete game," Phelps said, with a shrug. "That's what we needed. Things went our way tonight."
With the imposing Yu Darvish on the mound for Texas, the Yankees couldn't be picky about how they caught a break. The skies beyond center field started to flicker with lightning as New York was batting in the fifth inning, followed by thundercracks and then heavy rain.
Hindered by strong winds, the grounds crew struggled to roll the tarpaulin through a soggy mess. It took 14 minutes to cover the infield, and though Dan Cunningham's staff worked feverishly to repair the damage, the game was called after a delay of 1 hour and 49 minutes.
"The rain came too fast," said Yankees catcher Francisco Cervelli, who was standing on second base when play halted. "Everybody was surprised. The [grounds crew] guys did a good job. I think they're the ones that deserve rest now."
Play nearly resumed at 10:05 p.m. ET, with Darvish warming up in the bullpen and then lingering near the third-base line, but Yankees manager Joe Girardi and Rangers manager Ron Washington walked the field and agreed that the infield presented dangerous conditions.
"I just said, 'It's still pretty soft, especially the baselines,'" Girardi said. "And then you start to walk the infield, it was soft. Ron Washington came over and said, 'This is a hamstring just waiting to be pulled.'"
Describing the dirt as "squishy" underneath the top surface of drying agent, umpire crew chief Dale Scott concurred that the field was not playable, noting that both managers expressed concern about knee or hamstring injuries.
"They did a heck of a job trying to get it back, and I praise them for that, but it just wasn't going to happen," Scott said. "There was just too much water and too much of a downpour before they could get that tarp on to overcome it."
The Yankees lost a 4 1/2-inning game under similar conditions to the Orioles on July 13, when play halted at Camden Yards with New York trailing, 3-1.
"I guess we kind of were owed this one after what happened in Baltimore right before the break, I feel like," Gardner said. "It's good. We'll take a win any way we can get it."
After that game, Girardi said that his preference would have been to finish the game on a return trip to Baltimore. Similarly, Washington said that he complained that the game should have been suspended, something that rules do not presently allow for.
"My major complaint was that because of them not being able to get the tarp on the field, this game shouldn't come to losing it," Washington said.
New York scored a pair of third-inning runs against Darvish, who scattered four hits over his 4 1/3 innings of work. Cervelli doubled, advanced on a groundout and scored the Yanks' first run when Darvish flinched on the mound for a balk.
After being unable to push a run across for 17 straight innings against Texas pitching earlier in this series, the Yankees were happy to grab an unorthodox gift.
"It's been tough for us lately to score runs, so we've got to find a way to do it," Cervelli said. "We believe everything is going to change."
Gardner then produced a more conventional run, lifting a deep fly ball over the wall in right-center field for his 10th home run. That ties Gardner with Jacoby Ellsbury and Brian McCann for second-most on the roster, behind Mark Teixeira (17).
"You know the later you get in the at-bat, the tougher it's going to be," Gardner said. "He's got some pitches he's able to locate, and he strikes out a lot of guys. I was fortunate to be able to get ahead in the count and get a pitch to hit."
Phelps worked five innings of one-run ball, permitting five hits and running his unbeaten streak to eight starts.
Texas' lone run was created in the third inning as Leonys Martin singled, advanced to third on a textbook Chris Gimenez hit-and-run, then came home as Rougned Odor bounced into a 4-6-3 double play.
Phelps said that he was unaware of the threatening forecast as he came back to the mound for the fifth, but in retrospect, the game was on the line as Martin stroked a one-out triple into the right-field corner.
Flashing his grit, Phelps recovered by getting Gimenez to foul out and then struck out Odor swinging on a 92-mph fastball, pumping his fist in celebration as he came off the mound.
"It's a big moment," Phelps said. "We were up 2-1 against Darvish, who doesn't give up two runs very often. It was just one of those times when you really want to keep the lead."