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Bullpen gets game under control in Yanks' win

Bullpen gets game under control in Yanks' win

Bullpen gets game under control in Yanks' win
NEW YORK -- One week into September, you wouldn't know it by the humidity at Yankee Stadium on Monday. Nevertheless, when Yankees starter Freddy Garcia struggled, Orioles manager Buck Showalter never saw Joe Girardi sweat.

The Yankees' manager certainly had some extra options in his bullpen, thanks to a roster expanded by September callups even more than Mariano Rivera expanded the strike zone to get J.J. Hardy to chase a 3-2 cutter to end the Yankees' 11-10 victory, earning his 597th career save.

Rivera -- who gave up an RBI single to Ryan Adams, hit Nolan Reimold with what would have been ball four, and had to retire Hardy with the tying and go-ahead runs in scoring position -- actually proved the least effective of six Yankee relievers in the series opener.

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Leading, 8-7, in the third inning, and with the tying run at first, Girardi didn't worry about wearing anybody out, only about winning one game, when he replaced Garcia with Scott Proctor.

"Yeah, if you are in a long streak of games and you have only 12 pitchers and six in the bullpen, it might be a little bit different," said the manager. "I felt we had a shot to win this game, [since we] had the lead and the September callups.

"Proctor and Aaron Laffey did a good job. And we should get some more help [Tuesday]."

Hector Noesi, who was becoming a mainstay of what has been the American League's best bullpen (ERA-wise) until he was optioned to Scranton/Wilkes-Barre to allow room for Alex Rodriguez's activation, will be back Tuesday, and the Yankees probably are going to call up George Kontos, too.

The more the merrier in the final month of a long season. Proctor and Laffey, who got the win, passed the baton to Luis Ayala, Boone Logan, Cory Wade and Rivera, and the two relievers earned more of Girardi's trust.

Proctor got Hardy to ground out to end the third, then used a double play to get through a three-batter fourth. After giving up a game-tying solo home to Robert Andino, Proctor struck out Adams before yielding to Laffey, who got two big outs before handing the ball to Ayala.

Wade picked up Logan after he surrendered an eighth-inning run on a Nick Markakis single. And Rivera ultimately nailed down the win, not necessarily in all-time form.

"He threw some good pitches," said Girardi, then laughed. "They put up on the [scoreboard] that Mo had given up two hits in [his last] eight innings, that's what happened."

Meanwhile, Rivera's inexorable march to 601 has not yet turned into a happening, partly because he practically refuses to talk about it.

"I don't care," he said.

"It's a great number, don't get me wrong. But if it's going to happen, it's going to happen."

It will happen, and sooner rather than later, as long as the middle-inning guys continue to do the job. Two homers by rookie Jesus Montero provided the margin of victory Monday, but the early bullpen work got the game under control.

Proctor was pitching in his 300th game for the Yankees, four years after his last one. The Braves -- the third of Proctor's three NL stops (Los Angeles and Florida) -- released the righty Aug. 10, and three days later the Yankees re-signed one of Joe Torre's all-time workhorses (the 299 appearances were over four seasons) and sent him to Triple-A for exactly the depth he provided Monday.

"I was trying not to trip on the way in," Proctor said. "I was definitely nervous trying to go in and set the tone, show people what you still got."

And it was enough to turn the game around.

Jay Greenberg is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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