Thursday, July 27, 2006

Yanks 8, Rangers 7 -- We Own This Town

I don't think I've ever punished my couch like I did last night. Down 4-2, I figured that the boys could come back. What I didn't figure was that Farnsworth would abruptly become unavailable, for what he says were cramps. Hopefully that is the case, because the Yanks just can't afford to lose Farny for any period of time.

(Aside: I know a lot of you are down on the guy, and with good reason. But he's looked more solid of late, and I'm not ready to throw in the towel on him yet.)

Crunch time came in the top of the eighth. Down 4-2 and with the 4-5-6 hitters due up, the Yanks had to get something done. Go down 1-2-3, and not only have you wasted three of your best hitters, but you've set up the ninth inning with 7-8-9, which translated to Melky, Fasano, and Cairo. True, Posada and Guiel likely would have pinch-hit, but that's still not an intimidating force for closer Akinori Otsuka.

Five pitches sailed past Alex Rodriguez, and not once did he take his bat off his shoulders. He worked the count to 3-2 on a close pitch, but it was certainly off the plate. Locked in, you could notice he was leaning out over the plate ever so slightly. This, of course, was to protect against the low and away pitch that tails further away, a pitch he has been susceptible to all season. When you see Alex whiffing, it's usually on a pitch that's out of his reach. He hasn't learned lay off or make an adjustment to this type of pitch, hence the slumping and striking out. But he was ready this time, and just hammered one over the center field wall. The only sensation greater than a crowd going nuts for such a home run at Yankee Stadium is the dead silence of an opposing stadium. Alex had brought us closer.

Bernie Williams did something of which I didn't think he was still capable: he walked for the second time in the game. For Bernie circa 1996-2002, this is no feat. He was always known for his impeccable plate discipline and the resulting high OBP. But lately, he's been hacking away. This, I think, is attributed directly to his declining skills. Back in his prime, he knew he could wait on pitches because when he got one, he could hit the shit out of it. But now he's not so wont to demolish pitches, and he's trying to overcompensate by swinging at everything in an attempt to show everyone he can still hit. That's not fact, just speculation on my part.

Then came the man who initially put the Yanks up 2-0. I was surprised by Phillips's two RBI in the first inning, because it looked like he got under the pitch and was going to fly out to Gary Matthews in center. But from the replay, it looked like the ball was moving away and ended up hitting the end of the bat, hence the lesser contact. Anyway, he put the ball in center field, moving Bernie, the tying run, to second.

Melk man then proceeded to give us all a collective migraine. Sent up to bunt, he looked like a man who has never laid one down. This is no surprise, because it has been established that he doesn't have a clue how to bunt. Yet, Torre sends him up to do just that in an important at bat. The risk-reward factor just wasn't worth it here, and thankfully Melky was able to knock two bunts foul. He lifted one to deeeeep left-center, a ball that might have been a home run if this was 2008. But it's 2006, and the Yankees had no problem with his two-run double, putting the Yanks up 5-4.

You can thank Francisco Cordero for the sixth run, because without that wild pitch, it is doubtful that Melky would have scored.

Rolling into the eighth, everyone would have expected Farnsworth had YES not panned to the Yankees bullpen the previous half-inning, showing no signs of Farny. He had been warming up, but once the eighth rolled around he was nowhere in sight. Enter T.J. Beam, recently recalled from Columbus. I was a little nervous, but Beam can handle himself. Or, at least he usually can. Opening the inning with a walk to Gary Matthews was a colossal mistake, as was allowing Ian Kinsler to get to a 3-1 count. I know Guidry gave Beam a list of things to work on in Columbus, but apparently he forgot the first bullet point:


A reliever will never be successful unless he can get the ball over the plate; walks are detrimental late in games. So after two hitters, Joe Torre decided that Scott Proctor hadn't been used enough lately and gave him the call. And after one pitch, the Rangers had tied the game. I want to yell at Proctor for letting that one get through the five-hole, but you really can't expect a pitcher to make that kind of play. It's sad, but true. So Proctor gives up four straight singles, and exits the game without recording an out.

The cupboard was bare, so Torre was left with no recourse but to go with Shawn Chacon. And, amazingly, he struck out the first batter he faced. That's a valuable lesson, Shawn, that you could have learned from Guidry's missing memo: THROW STRIKES! Thankfully, Brad Wilkerson had a belated birthday present for Chac, sending a line drive right into his mitt and transforming him into a deer in headlights. That second of hesitation nearly cost the Yanks the double play, but in the end it all worked out.

To the ninth. Derek Jeter led of with a single, bringing the struggling Jason Giambi to the plate. The two through six hitters had all done their jobs tonight, driving in and scoring runs. Giambi, however, had not done much, getting a little under a few pitches and putting them into the mitt of Gary Matthews. But when Giambi made contact, there was no doubt about it. I must have done 40 fist pumps in celebration, as the Yanks had taken an 8-7 lead, with Mo eagerly warming in the bullpen.

And, as he is wont to do, Mo quickly disposed of the Rangers in the ninth, surrendering just one hit. Ironically, it was to the guy who he struck out to end Wednesday night's game. And, through all that emotion, we pulled through and finished the sweep.

A much deserved rest today, followed by three games against the Rays – sans Kazmir – and another rest day Monday. I know I'm just getting cocky, but I can taste another sweep.

NOTE: Apologies for the un-updated standings. That should be back into full swing tomorrowish.