Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Yanks 2, Sox 1 -- It's Been A While


PlayerWEPitcherWE
Posada.112Wang.268
Giambi.107Rivera.162
Damon.070Farnsworth.095
Cairo.035
Williams.025
Cano-.012
Cabrera-.044
A-Rod-.136
Phillips-.155

(What's this?)

Games of this ilk aren’t commonplace between the Yanks and the Sox. In their last 28 meetings (2005 and 2006), they have combined for four runs or fewer just twice – last night and the infamous Giambi homer/Randy shutout game last September.

From the beginning, though, it didn’t look to be a pitcher’s duel. After 48 pitches through the first two innings, Wang’s start was in jeopardy. The Red Sox, ever patient at the plate, looked poised to strike, either against Wang or his eventual bullpen replacement.

Ortiz took the first swipe, tagging Wang’s 52nd pitch for a 1-0 Red Sox lead in the 3rd. The floodgates were weak, primed for storming. Thankfully, Andy Phillips was there for reinforcement, using his catlike reflexes to snag a hot shot off the bat of Trot Nixon, effectively doubling up Manny and ending the third inning. The 1-0 Red Sox lead hurt bad, almost as bad as Wang’s 64 pitches.

[MORE]It was still 1-0 entering the bottom of the fourth, and Wang still had logged 64 pitches in the previous innings. However, he didn’t look like the guy who required a defensive gem to escape a potential jam an inning prior. Seven pitches, three outs. And then more of the same in the fifth. Eight pitches, nine if you count the pitchout, and all the sudden Wang is at 79 pitches through five, 15.8 pitches per inning, which is certainly serviceable.

Unfortunately, the Yanks were still down 1-0 with the bottom of the order coming up. Plenty of time left, but you don’t want to go scoreless against the Red Sox for a prolonged period of time. They have this guy, I think his name is Papelbon, and I hear he devours teams that fail to score runs against the Sox. Up comes Bernie, and – to borrow from John Sterling – he went boom. Solo shot, tie game.

I’d just like to take a second to address those in Yankeeland who believe Bernie has no business playing regularly. It’s obvious that he’s not the Bernie of old, or even the Bernie of 2002. Since May 15, in 64 at bats, Bernie is hitting .297/.361/.375. Of course, there are plenty of faults with that statement, including a small sample size and the fact that it proves he has little to no power left. But, just so we’re clear, he’s not the automatic out that he was in April.

Wang was rolling, which was great. But so was his counterpart, Dave Pauley. It was one of those things where you expect to tag someone so much that it makes sense when you don’t. But the seventh inning was not friendly to Pauley. After recording two straight outs, his demonstrated propensity to give up scattered singles caught up to him. Cairo and Damon strung them together, followed by Melky drawing a four pitch walk from the tired/flustered rookie. Then they subbed Rudy Saenez, and there was much rejoicing (yay!).

Saenez wasted no time falling behind 2-0 on Giambi, but redeemed himself somewhat by throwing THE perfect pitch – letter high with a little something taken off. Giambi, looking dead red for that pitch – but with a bit more oomph – swung right through it. Saenez looked poised to take control, but then he remembered that he is, in fact, a shitty pitcher and walked Giambi to plate the go ahead run.

And now we get to the play of the night. You all saw it. If you didn’t, well, it’s bound to be posted on various websites by now. Manny, already 2 for 2 with a walk, took a 1-0, 2 out Kyle Farnsworth pitch over the wall…and Melky pulled it back. He now finds himself nominated for the Pantheon of guys who make Red Sox fans cry.

Enter Mo. 1…2…3, and we’re 1 ½ games up in the AL East.

The past two games haven’t exactly been ripe for analysis; everything was cut pretty clear. Last night was in more of a celebratory vein, and tonight was a storytelling kind of game. And you know what? I’m ecstatic. And the only thing that can bring me down is…

Scratch that. I don’t even wanna talk about it.

P.S. There’s been plenty of talk about the MLB draft, more than I’ve seen in any year of my baseball fandom. I’d check out The Baseball Analysts for a general overview, and In George We Trust for Yankees specific coverage.