It was weird at first. I turned on the game because some baseball is better than no baseball. Well, and because I’ve jumped on the Giants’ bandwagon for this series, as I’ve said. But there were reminders of the Yankees everywhere, and I found myself grief-stricken all over again.
* Seeing Dave “Rags” Righetti made me remember his no-hitter. Why can’t he be our new pitching coach?
* Seeing Roberto Kelly made me remember when he was traded for Paul O’Neill. Why wasn’t I watching Paulie on the YES Network instead of Joe Buck on Fox?
* Seeing Tony Bennett sing “God Bless America” reminded me of Frank Sinatra singing “New York, New York.” Why wasn’t this game at the Stadium instead of AT&T Park?
* Seeing Cliff Lee walk a guy, hit a guy and give up seven runs made me wonder if Brian Cashman will offer him less money now. Maybe we can get a discount for damaged goods?
* Seeing Vlad Guerrero fumble around in right field gave me fond memories of Marcus Thames. Will the Yankees bring Thames back?
* Seeing Tim Lincecum settle down after a tricky first few innings made me think of how CC does that. Did the big man’s bum knee affect his postseason performance?
* Seeing Josh Hamilton made me wonder why the media insists on comparing him to Mickey Mantle. Doesn’t it take a few years to become a legend?
* Seeing Elvis Andrus made me think of how Derek Jeter was his idol growing up. Will the Yankees and Jeter come to terms on a new contract quickly or will it be more complicated?
I could go on, but how about the game itself? Raise your hand if you predicted that the team that manhandled us would get manhandled. Baseball is a cool sport, even when your guys aren’t playing it.
First, a little good news on the medical front. Michael must have heard everybody wishing him well, because his fever was down today and he felt a little bit better. The bad news is he’s still on a diet of clear liquids, which means chicken broth, tea and lots of this.
Also, his Yankee fan nurse, Rachel, wasn’t on duty today. Bummer. Maybe we’ll see her in a few days. In other bad news, it looks like Michael will have to stay in the hospital for the rest of the week at least. The doctor wouldn’t commit to when he’ll come off the DL.
Back to good news, the Yankees finally signed a left fielder. The bad news is that it wasn’t Johnny Damon. It was Randy Winn, most recently of the Giants. When I read about the deal, I was like, “Excuuuuse me?” Sure, Winn fits within Cashman’s $2 million budget, but he’s 35 years old and coming off a miserable 2009 season.
But looking at the good news, the switch-hitting Winn was terrific with the Giants in ’07 and ’08 and could have a bounce back year with the Yankees in 2010, the way Swisher did last season after his dismal stint with the White Sox. Here’s more good news: Winn’s real first name is Dwight and his middle name is Randolph. Maybe he’ll perform like these two did as Yankees.
Continuing to look on the good news side of this signing, I’m hoping Winn will follow in the tradition of Paul O’Neill, who was hitting a mere .246 with the Reds in ’92, then came over to the Yanks and hit .311. Well, it could happen, couldn’t it? Or have I been spending too much time in a hospital room to think clearly?
The above photo is of Ryan Howard after AJ struck him out three times tonight. OK, no it isn’t, but I’m sure that’s how Howard felt – especially after Mo struck him out too, making him eligible for this.
Everybody was so nervous (including me) about AJ and whether he’d be able to control his emotions, avoid the wildness that’s plagued him in the past and perform on the big stage.
Obviously, he performed so well that the Yankees beat the Phillies 3-1.
He wasn’t just good. He was masterful, working seven innings and only giving up a run on four hits. After the game, he told the media: “It’s the funnest I’ve ever had on a baseball field.” So what if “funnest” is not an actual word. It was AJ’s night and if he wanted to say “funnest,” then “funnest” it was!
Pedro was keeping the Yanks off balance in the early innings, and when the Phillies jumped out to a 1-0 lead I thought, Please don’t let this be a repeat of Game 1. But Tex came to the rescue with a solo shot in the fourth to tie the score and break out of his slumber.
After Matsui put the Yanks ahead with his own blast into the seats, I decided it was safe to eat dinner. The “lucky” turkey club sandwich had lost its effectiveness during the ALCS, so I turned to the only food that was deliverable to my house at that hour.
The pizza was delicious, but then – after Posada knocked in Gardner in the seventh for 3-1 – the umps made that questionable ruling on Damon’s “double play ball” and I needed some of these.
Not to beat a dead horse, but is the umpiring bad or what? Seriously. These guys….
…were reminding me of these guys.
With AJ done after seven, Girardi went right to Mo for the six-out save and got it – Mo’s 38th career postseason save. It’s staggering how many times Yankee fans have witnessed this scene over the years.
Other plays of note:
Molina’s pickoff of Werth in the fourth.
Singles by Hairston and Melky in the seventh.
Jeter getting the Clemente award and Fox not showing it.
Ditto for Paul O’Neill’s first pitch.
Alicia Keys’ purple boots.
Oh, and Pedro’s post-game press conference during which he wore a dark pinstriped version of this.
“If I was on the Yankees, I’d probably be like a king over here,” he told the media.
The man is never dull. And he can still pitch. But AJ was better, and the Yanks evened the series at 1-1. Now they’re off to Philly by train. All aboard, boys.
Maybe if those two had pinch hit for Posada and Cano in the ninth, the Yankees would have come back to beat the Marlins. Anybody would have been better than Jorge, who popped up with Tex on first, and Cano, who grounded into a double play (which he also did in the ninth against the Nationals on Wednesday).
Instead, the Yanks went down 2-1. It was a pitcher’s duel between the Marlins’ hard-throwing young giant, who was actually good as opposed to lucky,
and AJ, who was very good but very unlucky.
Not only were his teammates’ bats silent, but his three outfielders had adventurous interactions with fly balls due, supposedly, to Land Shark Stadium’s bright lights.
Swisher caught Coghlan’s line drive in the first but was clearly blinded.
In the fourth, Melky let Ramirez’s ball drop in front of him for a single, which made him look awfully clumsy.
And Damon was charged with an error after failing to catch Cantu’s liner in the sixth, turning a routine out into an interesting slide.
The game did have its positives:
Posada nailed Ramirez and Bonifacio trying to steal second.
AJ went six-plus, striking out eight.
Coke and Hughes threw perfect innings in relief.
I’m really beginning to appreciate Phil Hughes in the pen. He seems much freer, less of a nibbler, as a reliever. What an asset he could be down the stretch.
I’m not sure why A-Rod was pinch-hitting in the eighth. I thought he was resting, which means not picking up a bat or going in to play third base. Is it really that hard to follow doctor’s orders?
And what was up with those cowbells the Marlins handed out to fans at the game? Aren’t they a Rays thing?
The funniest line of the game came from YES’s Paul O’Neill: “I love sports. They’re so much better than reading a book because you never know what’s going to happen.”
I love sports myself, Paulie, but memo to you: books have surprising plot twists too. Have you ever heard of Ludlum? Grisham? Jane Heller?
At least it felt that way. To me.
Andy Pettitte slogged through five innings, walking six during the Yankees’ anemic 4-2 loss. It was as if he’d never held a baseball before.
The Yankees offense didn’t do much, either. Every time they looked as if they might pull themselves out of the muck, they sank deeper.
Posada belted a solo shot after getting belted in the kidney by the bat of Marlon Byrd. (It was an accident, but still. It pained me to watch the replays.) Otherwise, the game was an exercise in futility, especially for A-Rod.
In the third:
In the sixth:
Damon reached on an error.
A-Rod? Struck out swinging.
In the eighth:
A-Rod? K-ed again.
Not that Jeter was much better. He went 0-for-4 and ended his hitting streak at 16, talk about looking as soggy as the 12-minute rain delay. In fact, there were entirely too many ground ball outs in what was supposed to be The Home Run Palace. Where was the much-heralded jet stream?
Clearly, the Yanks missed Tex in the lineup. It turns out that he injured his ankle Tuesday night while performing his death-defying take-out slide.
He’s day to day, so I hope he’ll be back in the #3 spot tomorrow for the series finale. With Wang making his first start in ages, we’ll need some serious scoring. We’ll also need Aceves as a backup, since Bombko pitched three very impressive innings tonight.
I’ve made fun of the Rangers’ announcers, so I must give equal time to Kay and O’Neill, tonight’s YES team. When Kay wasn’t going on about his large head, he was engaging O’Neill in idiotic conversations. Like the one about which Yankees wear mouth guards.
“Pettitte wears one now,” said Kay. “It’s the kind that prevents grinding during a game.”
“My wife wears one too,” said O’Neill. “She sleeps with it.”
And how about when they were talking about the respective talents of Cano and Kinsler.
O’Neill: “There are a lot of good second basemens in the league.”
I know. Paulie was a great ballplayer and I adore him. So what if his grammar needs work? Nobody’s perfect.
We won the Grapefruit League. We won Florida. And now we’ve won the Dress Rehearsal, mauling the Cubs 10-1 in a quaint, old-fashioned, Bronx Bombers-style display of brute force.
Sure, it was windy and the balls were flying out. But they weren’t flying out for the Cubs, were they?
Up stepped Jeter: three-run shot.
Up stepped Teixeira: solo blast, followed by a three-run jack. (So much for his slow start.)
Up stepped Shelley: one-run dinger.
Not that the pitching wasn’t impressive. Pettitte labored but escaped damage. AJ was brilliant over four scoreless innings. And Bruney and Coke looked downright nasty.
There were things that bothered me.
* MLB.TV’s feed kept “stuttering,” which forced me to lower the quality of the video.
* YES showed clips of the perfect games by Wells/Cone over and over. I love a memorable Yankees moment as much as the next fan, but how about a breather?
* I don’t need to see any more images of people roaming around “the great hall” looking dazed and confused.
* If there are so many empty seats at the Stadium, why not lower the prices or give them away to aspiring she-fans?
On the plus side…
* I was grateful that MLB.TV broadcast the game at all, since my Extra Innings cable package doesn’t kick in until tomorrow.
* I enjoy watching Brett Gardner play small ball, but I almost forgot how much I like big ball.
* I admit I derive a certain satisfaction when the opposition makes errors. So I laughed when that routine pop-up dropped between the Cubs players. I did. Forgive me.
* I roared when Michael Kay asked Paul O’Neill if he ever got under the covers with his wife on cold nights in Cincinnati and showed her his Yankeeography.
Since the Yankees won again, I’ll be eating chicken for dinner again. And again – until the Yankees lose or I grow feathers. Whichever comes first.
The game tonight was like a dress rehearsal.
The full cast was there.
So was the stage manager.
And, of course, the theater was ushering in paying customers.
How did it go?
Without a hitch, despite occasional raindrops. The Yankees held back the Cubs 7-4, and a supporting player became a star. Yes, Cody Ransom, the understudy for A-Rod, belted a three-run homer off the left field foul pole and was instantly dubbed “C-Ran” by the adoring crowd.
Maybe it’s just me, but doesn’t he look a little like Clay Aiken?
Anyhow, there were a number of “firsts” during the inaugural performance at the new Stadium, even though the game itself didn’t count. Here are some that stood out for me.
* First Yankees hit: Derek Jeter (leadoff double).
* First Yankees unproductive at-bat: Mark Teixeira (stuck out swinging with Jeter on third).
* First Yankees homer: Robinson Cano (two-run jack in the second).
* First Yankees display of superhuman speed (Brett Gardner’s double).
* First bullpen by committee to hold the opposition scoreless (Mo, Veras, Ramirez, Albaledejo).
* First Yankees player-photographer: Johnny Damon (took pictures of himself in the dugout).
* First mention of Michael Kay’s large head (Paul O’Neill during the YES intro).
* First semi-joke (Michael Kay: “Having the old Stadium right there is like getting re-married and having your ex-wife living across the street”).
* First camera shot of empty field boxes due to economic downturn (two minutes into the broadcast).
* First shout out to attending celebrity (Paul Simon with unidentified companion).
* First use of new kitchen appliance (I roasted a chicken in my brand new oven).
I’m looking forward to another dress rehearsal against the Cubs tomorrow. Luckily, I have leftover chicken. If the Yankees win again, I’ll be eating it every day until they lose.