Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Yanks 1, Indians Nothing -- Oh So Sweet


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Right after Mariano hit the outside corner to clinch victory, my first inclination was to peek at the clock. 9:40. And while it’s highly uncommon for a Yankees game to end at that early hour, I was actually thinking it would be earlier.

To me, there is nothing greater than a 1-0 game. Pitching duels are mesmerizing, with each hurler crafting the game ever so precisely. One mistake, however, becomes the difference. Wang nearly made the first mistake in the top of the sixth, surrendering a leadoff double to Grady Sizemore. Casey Blake looked to have followed suit, but Kevin Thompson showed exactly why he should be trotted out there daily, snagging the shot and firing a strike to Cano. If that’s Bernie, we’re down 1-0.

[MORE]So you’ve got a runner on third with one out, and Travis Hafner is staring at you from home plate. What do you do? Exactly what the Yankees did. Hafner is a model of patience at the plate, so Wang would have had to make a egregious mistake to remove the bat from his shoulders. Two pitches in, the Yanks made the right call and gave Hafner first base for free, setting up Victor Martinez in quite a tight spot: don’t put the ball on the ground. One might be able to accomplish this against a normal pitcher, but it becomes quite the task against a guy who induces three ground balls for every fly ball. And, as the script called for, Martinez hit it to Cano, who flipped to Jeter, who fired to Phillips, inning over.

The bottom of the frame nearly caused me to plow into the adjacent Hummer on I-78 (my poor Jeep didn’t stand a chance). Sterling began the call subtly, quietly murmuring, “a swing…” and pausing for about a second before launching into his signature, “and a drive to deep right field! It is high! It is far! It is….GONE!” Robinson Cano, after pissing us all off by failing with the bases loaded in the first, redeems himself with a solo shot. Three more frames until completion…

Wang’s removal in the eighth wasn’t a move I particularly enjoyed, but I’ll take it. If it’s Sizemore up with the bases empty and two down, there’s no excuse. But with the tying run on second and only one down, bringing in Myers was an acceptable substitution. I’d have left Wang in – and I might have been bashed in the papers the next day.

As expected, Myers retired Sizemore with relative ease. For the final out, Kyle Farnsworth was commissioned to put away Casey Blake. We shouldn’t be sweating over these situations, but I definitely felt some moisture build up in my palms as I watched Farny head in from left-center. Apparently, he was much calmer than I, not even visibly straining to send Blake to the dugout and the Indians back out into the filed empty handed.

The top of the ninth went quickly, and I really wasn’t disappointed. The faster the Yanks go down, the faster Mo goes to work. And work he did. In fact, he did such a stellar job that he got a .100 Win Expectancy gift from Andy Phillips to start off the inning.

It was smooth sailing after the error, and the Yankees had won their first 1-0 game of the year. Mo hit 96 on the gun, and while I know that’s not a completely accurate number, it gains some merit when you compare it to the other guys tossing. Kyle Farnsworth, he of the supposed 98-101 m.p.h. fastball, routinely hits 98 on the YES radar gun, making Mo’s 96 rather impressive. Man, I can’t wait until he unleashes that changeup that he’s been working on with Gator.

Great win, yes. Great game for A-Rod, no. He’s slumping again, and boy is he hearing it from the Yankee Stadium crowd. If I was at the game, I’d be booing, too. Sure, he’s played fairly well this season, and his expectations are higher than anyone else in the game, which should grant him some reprieve. However, I don’t think he gets paid $25 million a year to go through two prolonged slumps before the first half of the season is over, and I’m damn sure he doesn’t get paid to look like he’s lost at the plate.

Maybe it’s just me, but I think it would be awful nice if our supposed best player, the supposed best player in the American League, would step up when our Nos. 3 and 6 hitters hit the DL for a prolonged period of time. Yes, he stepped up in May, earning AL Player of the Month honors. However, that does not give him a pass to suck again in June.

I don’t expect a .320/.420/.600 season from Alex every year. I just expect that he doesn’t turn into Miguel Cairo for weeks at a time.