Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Hooray Jorge!


The Yankees played the role of the White Sox defiant little brother last night. After the Pale Hose triumphed Sunday despite Mark Beuhrle’s vain attempt to sabotage them in the first inning, the Yankees said, “we can do that, too! Only we’ll do it without three of our best hitters!” To which the Sox said, “shyeah right, little man.” So, utterly determined to one-up the World Series champs, the Yanks commissioned Shawn Chacon to put them in a terrible hole just so they could perform the feat of coming all the way back.

This is the kind of win you only get once a year. Last year, it was the 13-run eighth inning that overcame a 7-run Randy start against the D-Rays. This year’s version, however, was a more theatrical performance. Down 9-0 and 10-1 and absent three of their top hitters, the Yanks looked cooked in the second inning. The message of the night came after Aaron Small finally managed to down the last Rangers batter of the frame:

“Let’s watch this and see who pukes first.”

[MORE]Nauseated I was, watching Chacon self-destruct in the second. The worst part of it all is that he looked to be on in the first frame. He may have given up a pair of runs, but 1) he retired the first two batters on three pitches, 2) a Hank Blalock single that scores a run is excusable, so long as it’s only one, and 3) we all know that Chacon is wont to give up a run here and there due to his propensity to put men on base. So while putting this Yankees lineup in an early hole can be fatal, I still thought Chacon was going to be fine after the first.

Down nine, I figured watching the Nets lose to the Heat would be at least a bit satisfying. But I was still curious as to the Yanks game, especially after I was informed that, moments after bashing Phillips for being worthless, he had doubled off the wall. Next thing I know, it’s 10-5, and I’m thinking that this isn’t so bad; you can’t really fault the offense when they put up a five-spot. So blame Chacon, praise the hitters, and move on to the next game.

But then I got fired up. Down five runs in the sixth inning, Joe Torre deems it appropriate to use his fourth best bullpen arm to retire one lefty batter. I was so livid that I didn’t even bother to question why he didn’t call on Mike Myers instead, a man commissioned solely to GET OUT LEFTIES. Villone, a former starter, isn’t necessarily a lefty specialist, and as such surrendered a single to Blalock – which, as I said, is forgivable. Thanks to a Melky blunder and some fortitude on the part of Jorge, the Yanks were able to get out of it without any further bleeding (though you may want to check with Jorge on that statement).

The bottom of the sixth left all of us awestruck. In the car on a humid night, I was left listening to an oft breaking up Sterling and Waldman. Cabrera’s at bat had me a bit confident, and I wiped my brow after he blooped a single to center. Damon’s at bat is where I began thinking, “hey, this thing just might be within reach.” Five pitches later, and we’ve got El Capitan waving his bat at Scott Feldman with two runners ripe for scoring. This, of course, is the point where I hit a dead spot and hear nothing but static for three minutes. However, within that span, 880 AM managed to penetrate the humidity for a fraction of a second, in which I heard Sterling flipping out about, “gargle gargle gargle 3-run home runs! gargle gargle gargle.”

Three run home run? Three run home run?!? THREE RUN HOME RUN!! Derek Jeter had done it again, bringing the Yanks within two and forcing Joaquin “Frenchy Wild Thing” Benoit into the game. This is where the confidence began to soar. The Yanks were rolling, and with Benoit in, there was just no way they weren’t tacking on at least one more run. Oh, and did they.

After Cano pissed off every Yankees fan on the face of the earth by fouling out on the first pitch following two straight walks, Bernie came through. Now, his .239/.280/.330 batting line has been completely inexcusable, but he has come through in a few key situations. I was once again bemoaning him batting from the left side, but I guess when you’ve done it for your whole career, it’s tough to turn around and face a righty from the right side. But man, was that ever a rip shot that got me screamin. 10-9, still just one out.

Phillips didn’t look half bad in his at-bat, taking the obviously bad pitches and working the count 3-2. I was back home at this point, and was asked if I would re-open my Phillips strikeout bet from the night before. I didn’t, citing his two doubles, but I underestimated the power of an inexperienced player in a big situation. A foul tip into Rod Barajas’s glove meant I had left $20 on the table.

Enter Miguel Cairo, in whom I had exactly no faith. In my mind, I conjured up images of 2004 and how he would rip the ball over the head of the shortstop or second baseman, plating two more runs. But I realized that those days are in the past, and since then Cairo has returned to his human form. And then it came. It was almost as if his swing was in slow-motion; the perfect stride, bat slicing in a straight line through the strike zone, ball colliding with bat out in front of the plate…ball soars over shortstop’s head. 11-10. They had done it. Back from being nine down…twice.

My first thought was that Villone would be back out for the seventh, pumped and ready to shut down the Rangers and cap this marvelous comeback. But when YES came back from the commercial break, it was Proctor on the mound, leaving images of Quantrill in my head. Eight more games in a row in this streak, and Torre uses Proctor AGAIN. I need to place a few phone calls and find out what Torre has against Villone.

Anyway, Scotty wasted no time in blowing the lead, surrendering a no doubt about it homer to Brad Wilkerson. 12-11. After a Mark DeRosa (Jersey native, by the way) single, Gator got out there and said something right, because Proctor got the next three in order. It’s situations like this where I wish Gator was wearing a mic, and we could hear their conversation after the game.

I know I’m getting a little long-winded here, but these last few innings were just so packed with drama that it would be a disservice to graze over any of it. So we’re in the bottom of the seventh, and Damon leads off with a screamer towards Teixeira, which takes a terrible bounce right in front of him, raps him in the shoulder and caroms off into right field. It was scored an error, which I think is complete and utter BS. This is especially so in the wake of Jeter’s at bat, a bunt attempt that was overthrown by Barajas, allowing Damon to advance to third. Had the throw been on target, Jeter was clearly out, yet was awarded a bunt single. Just ridiculous.

After A-Rod advanced Jeter on a check-swing, Posada knotted it up with a sac fly. Cano followed this with a rare walk, but Bernie just couldn’t come up with one more clutch hit. It’s okay, though. We’ll forgive him on this one.

I was kind of surprised to see Farny in the bottom of the eighth, but it all worked out in the end. Three up, three down, and it looks like Farny has learned a bit from his mistakes from a night prior.

The bottom of the frame featured the bottom three of a depleted order, but that was okay. Mo was warming, meaning that we’d have top of the order in the ninth inning of a tie game. The first part of the plan went off without a hitch – Phillips, Cairo, and Crosby all fell victim to Ron Mahay, leaving the game in Mo’s hands.

But a double by Rod Barajas? The guy who couldn’t handle Small or Proctor rocks Mo for a go-ahead double? The fates were certainly against the Yankees, temping them and laughing in their faces as the fool-proof weapon failed once again. 13-12, bottom of the ninth…but the top of the order are waiting in the wings.

After Damon made like Speed Racer down the first base line, the game was left to Captain Clutch. And while he might not have come up with ideal contact, he advanced Damon to scoring position with one out. We all know that the sacrifice is questionable baseball strategy, but down one in the bottom of the ninth I’m actually surprised Jeter didn’t bunt.

Up strolls A-Rod, and all I can pray for is a hit, just to say, “look, he came through with the Yanks down a run in the bottom of the ninth.” And when he made contact with that pitch, I half knew it was a fly out, half wanted to believe it would drop in the gap. Hits like that are subject to a ton of luck, and as the lady would have it, A-Rod’s stroke landed right in the glove of Gary Matthews. A few feet either way, and it drops in. But hey, at least it wasn’t a dinky grounder or a strikeout. That would have really pissed me off.

The rest, as they say, is history. Two outs, bottom of the ninth, man in scoring position, down by one. Players dream of this moment for their entire careers (though the implications are usually greater than a non-division game in mid-May). And Jorge lived the dream. My eyes lit up when I saw the delivery, and I was out of my seat before the ball landed in the bleachers. Jorge had come through, and the Yankees overcame adversity thrice to defeat the Rangers, 14-13.

Now, let’s ride this crazyy little thing called momentum and snag a couple of wins while three of our best hitters rest their injured bodies.

Hey, at least Randy isn’t pitching today.