LOS ANGELES -- If this is the team the New York Yankees are going to field the rest of the way, these are the kinds of games they are going to have to play if they want to stay in contention for a playoff spot. They held Los Angeles Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw even for eight innings and dented their bullpen in the ninth, using just one hit, a pair of walks and a costly error to scratch out a 3-0 win and salvage a split of this abbreviated two-game series.
What it means: That while the lineup is still weak, it can manage to win a National League style game, especially when the Yankees get the kind of pitching they got from Hiroki Kuroda on Wednesday night.
Lyle, love it: Lyle Overbay's pinch-hit single off reliever Paco Rodriguez with two out in the ninth inning finally broke a scoreless tie. It was Overbay's team-leading 11th game-winning RBI of the season.
Managing to win: Yankees manager Joe Girardi threw The Binder at the Dodgers in the ninth, pulling Derek Jeter for a pinch runner and using both Ichiro Suzuki and Overbay as pinch hitters, both of whom delivered productive at-bats. He was helped enormously by his Dodgers counterpart, Don Mattingly, who despite allowing Kershaw (eight shutout innings, five hits) to bunt for himself in the eighth, pulled him from the game before the ninth despite having thrown a reasonable 97 pitches (he had thrown more than 100 in 18 starts and as many as 132 back in May).
Sublime to ridiculous: This compelling pitcher's duel degenerated into farce in the ninth when Dodgers second baseman Mark Ellis, who had just come into the game, backed into the onrushing Yasiel Puig under what should have been an inning-ending pop fly by Jayson Nix. The ball popped loose in the collision, two runs scored and, instead of heading into the bottom of the ninth trailing by one run, the Dodgers were down by three.
A first for No. 2? Jeter led off the ninth with a walk and Girardi promptly pulled him for a pinch runner, Eduardo Nunez, in an obvious concession to Jeter's age (39) and the fact that he is still not running full speed after suffering two fractures in his left ankle. It was the first time anyone could remember Jeter being run for in his 19-year career.
New York Yankees
Dueling aces: The matchup of Kuroda and Kershaw lived up to its advance billing, each matching zeroes for seven innings (Kershaw also pitched the eighth) and each held the opposing side to five hits. And like Andy Pettitte and Zack Greinke on Tuesday night, neither came away with a decision.
Close shave: Girardi sent out the erratic Boone Logan to pitch the eighth, and Logan allowed a leadoff single to Juan Uribe. And after Kershaw laid down a perfect sac bunt, it looked like the Dodgers were about to score the one run that would win the game. But Logan got Carl Crawford to fly out, intentionally walked the dangerous Puig, and survived when Adrian Gonzalez lined out hard to Brett Gardner in center.
Seventh hell: The Yankees got runners to first and second with two out in the eighth off Kershaw as Chris Stewart and Melky Mesa, hitting for Kuroda, singled. But Gardner, who had a tough night -- 0-for-4 with two Ks versus Kershaw -- popped out to shallow left to end the Yankees' second threat of the night.
Second chance: The Yankees had a great opportunity to do some damage to Kershaw in the second inning, when Vernon Wells dropped a single in front of Puig (Puig made a great diving stop to keep the ball from going past him) and Brent Lillibridge smacked a hanging curve into center to give the Yankees first and third with one out. But Nix popped out weakly to short and Stewart grounded into a force out to kill the threat.
Hiro's turn: Kuroda worked out of his own jam in the third inning, walking leadoff hitter Skip Schumaker, who went to second on a ground out. But given two chances to get the run home, the Dodgers stalled when Kershaw fouled out to left and Crawford went down hacking at a nasty 3-2 splitter that dove to his shoe tops.
Playin' the angles: The Yankees got a huge break in the seventh when Gonzalez's liner past Lillibridge at first, which looked like a sure leadoff double off the bat, caromed off the side wall and directly to Wells, who gunned down A-Gone going into second after he broke leisurely out of the box. It was just the third hit of the game off Kuroda to that point. Gonzalez's blunder loomed even larger when, with one out, Andre Ethier dropped a liner in front of Gardner in center that probably would have scored the first run of the game, and A.J. Ellis followed with a lined single to right. But Kuroda rendered the point moot by battling back to strike out Schumaker with a splitter, his go-to pitch of the night, to end the inning and preserve the scoreless tie. Even the normally impassive Kuroda was impressed; he pumped his fist and roared as he strode off the mound.
For Mariano, A Rod: A fishing rod, that is. The Dodgers presented Mo with a fishing rod as his retirement gift on the latest stop of his season-long retirement tour. In return, Mo hooked the Dodgers in the ninth, striking out two of the three batters he faced in his final Dodger Stadium appearance to earn his 34th save of the season.
What's next: A two-hour bus ride down the coast to San Diego, the middle stop of this three-city road trip, followed by an off-day Thursday. On Friday, the Yankees start a three-game series against the Padres. Pitching matchups: CC Sabathia (9-9, 4.65) vs. RHP Andrew Cashner (7-5, 3.88) on Friday night; Ivan Nova (4-4, 3.41) vs. RHP Tyson Ross (2-4, 2.90) on Saturday and Phil Hughes (4-9, 4.58), still a Yankee, vs. TBA in Sunday afternoon's finale.