The Yankees are back home for their final home stand of 2015 — 4 games this weekend against the White Sox, then 4 games next week against the Red Sox. (So lots of Sox this home stand… never mind.) All before a final weekend series in Baltimore. Yes, we’re that close to the postseason, and according to the newly released postseason schedule, it looks like we could be playing November baseball if the World Series isn’t a total sweep.
The Yankees faced the White Sox’s best pitcher, a starter considered by many to be one of the better pitchers in the AL, even Cy Young material. Fortunately for the Yankees, they didn’t let that sit over them and just chipped away at his pitching when they could. In the 3rd, Ellsbury was hit by a pitch and then stole 2nd base.
Okay, so then Headley hit the ball up the middle in what should be a quick single, except it wasn’t and the whole world went crazy. Ellsbury was heading back to 2nd to tag up, thinking a shallow single meant he needed to stay on 2nd or they could catch him in a rundown or something, or induce a double play. But on his way back, he bumped into a middle infielder who was going for the catch, and even though the fielder made the catch, the umpire ruled Ellsbury out for “interfering” with the play. In the end, it was ruled a “fielder’s choice” (sorry about the feed, it’s Chicago’s and it’s leaning toward their bias) with Headley safe at 1st, Ellsbury standing on 2nd confused but out, and Girardi arguing the call (and rightly so!).
Then when Rodriguez was walked, 2 runners were on base so that Carlos Beltran’s 3-run home run pushed the Yankees into the lead, with enough cushion to outlast the White Sox. And a very nice souvenir for the kid who caught that ball in left field. It should be noted the stadium went from booing the umpires and lots of residual grumbling on the whole Ellsbury “interference” to exploding into loud cheers on the home run. Talk about your mood swings in a single inning, though rightly so on both cases in my mind.
Michael Pineda got the start tonight in the opener against the visiting White Sox. And while it wasn’t his greatest outing, it was still rather well-done for this late in the season. Pineda threw 89 pitches over his 6 innings, giving up 8 hits but no walks and just 1 run, striking out 6 Chicago batters. That run came in the 6th inning as a lead-off solo home run. But that was it under Pineda’s watch.
Justin Wilson struggled a bit through his 7th inning after getting 2 quick outs. He then gave up a walk and a single to put runners on the corners. So going to Dellin Betances should have made things easier, but Betances’ flair for the dramatic lately pushed Yankee Universe to the edge of their seats. He promptly gave up a walk to load the bases and then another walk to walk in the White Sox’s 2nd run before getting a strikeout. His 8th inning was more Betances-like, save a single, but he’s got to get that dramatic tension out of his system before the postseason and find his pattern of just plowing them down.
Andrew Miller’s 9th inning was something of a quick end to the game and his 35th save. — 10 pitches, a single, and 2 strikeouts to finish off the White Sox and keep them from tying up the game (or something worse like getting the lead and winning the game).
Final score: 3-2 Yankees.
There’s a lot of talk about the “ghosts of Yankee Stadium” somehow lingering and occasionally helping the current players when they need a little something extra, like the old Angels in the Outfield movies or something. But I don’t really believe all that. I do believe that the energy of Yankee Stadium and its fans and its rich history and legacy is palpable. And when you have a real competitive drive, a real incentive, a real passion, it’s almost tangible. It’s everything they make movies about — all the dreams and the blood, sweat, and tears of Yankees past and present that make it somehow possible when it shouldn’t be. And yet, when you marry all that with a team that actually is pretty good, at home, in front of their home fans, it becomes more than just a possibility — it’s reality.
With the loss of a legend still fresh in the minds of so many in Yankee Universe, the memorials for Yogi Berra continued today. My twitter feed seemed split between the Pope’s visit to the US and tributes to Yogi Berra from all over the sports and entertainment world. A fan tribute outside Gate 4 of Yankee Stadium had flowers splayed out to form the number 8, with a picture and some flowers and other tributes. The Yankees sectioned off the tribute for fans to observe and add to it as they wanted. The Yankees also placed a memorial wreath by Yogi Berra’s plaque in Monument Park.
Before the game, the Yankees honored Berra with a tribute video. Then during a moment of silence 4 Yankee catchers (the catchers being Girardi, McCann, Romine, and Sanchez; Murphy was warming up Pineda in the bullpen) took a memorial display, flowers in the shape of an 8, out to where the catcher plays and leaving it there for all the pre-game ceremonies — the naval color guard, “Taps” on the bugle by a naval officer, and a beautiful rendition of our national anthem by a naval officer. (The naval presence was due to Berra’s service in World War II in the navy, including being part of the D-Day invasion as a gunner — a true hero in every sense of the word.) The Yankees also acknowledged the service of one of Berra’s grandsons, Nicholas, who is currently serving in Turkey with the US Army; his older sister is MLB reporter Lindsay Berra.
Also, today would have been Carmen Berra’s 87th birthday, but I’d like to think she’s having a rather lovely reunion celebration with her husband of 65 years on this earth.
Our thoughts and prayers continue to be with the Berra family and their friends as they continue to heal and miss baseball’s “First Couple”.