Game 103: TB vs. NYY — Last minute rally can’t save CC, even with Soriano again

CC Sabathia really didn’t have a very good night. In fact, this quickly became his 3rd game this season to give up 7 runs, a career high. Something just got him in the 2nd inning tonight, something that was just too much for the Yankees’ offense was too much to overcome. Sabathia threw 102 pitches in just 5 innings, allowing 9 hits, 7 runs, 3 walks, and 6 strikeouts.

But again it was the 2nd inning that the Rays just jumped ahead and never looked back — a double; a fly out advancing the runner to 3rd; a double scoring the runner; a pop up; a walk; a single scoring the lead runner; a bunt that should have been a 3rd out became a single, loaded the bases and scored another runner; another double scored 2 more runs; and a single scored a 6th run of the inning before they got that elusive 3rd out of the inning on the batter’s attempt to make his single a double. Needless to say, that wasn’t exactly the most encouraging inning for the Yankees. Sabathia allowed an RBI single in the 5th inning to add to the Rays’ lead at 7.

Adam Warren came into the game in the 6th inning for long-term relief, and did an excellent job with a minor exception. In the 7th inning, a single and walk set the stage for a 3-run home run to skyrocket the Rays to a 10 run score total.

But you can’t fault the Yankees for their efforts in the batter’s box. In the 3rd inning, Brent Lillibridge singled, advanced to 2nd on a wild pitch, and promptly scored (using some really amazing, and dare I say unexpected speed) on Austin Romine’s single. And there the Yankees sat, with their sole run until the 8th inning. Oh, they threatened quite a bit, prompting Tampa to exhaust their bullpen, using 6 pitchers through the entire game. But in the 8th inning, a 2-inning rally certainly made an effort to chip away at the Rays’ double-digits lead. Melky Mesa doubled, David Adams singled home Mesa, Alfonso Soriano (more on him later) grounded into a force out, and Chris Stewart doubled home Soriano. It was now 10-3 Rays, going into the 9th inning.

With one out, Lillibridge singles, Romine walks, Brett Gardner singles and loads the bases, Mesa singles and scores Lillibridge, Adams singles home Romine, Soriano grounds into another force out but scores Gardner, and a final ground out ends the game. This planted the attempted rally 4 runs shy of the Rays, ending the game at 10-6 Tampa.

I will say that the Rays barely out-hit the Yankees 12-11, those numbers alone explain why the Rays went through so many pitchers tonight. But it’s never how many hits you get, but how many times you cross home plate. And if it makes Yankees fans feel any better, after today’s games, Boston fell to Baltimore so Tampa’s win actually made them 1st place in the AL East. And as any Yankee fan will tell you, anyone’s better than Boston, especially if it can’t be you.

Now, for Soriano… that’s right, old Yankee fans, Sori’s back. The Yankees front office spent some time orchestrating a trade with the Cubs for Soriano to return back to his former team. They traded a pitching prospect for Sori, who waived his “no-trade” clause to be back in the Bronx. Soriano played for the Yankees from 1999-2003, where he was part of the trade with Texas the Yankees made for Alex Rodriguez. That’s right, if you’re following along at home, Rodriguez isn’t playing with the Yankees right now, but the guy he essentially replaced is back in action on the team. Soriano traded his infield position for an outfield/DH role, being as he is now 37 (it’s still the tradition to make a big deal about the age of the players, right?). And though he had a less-than-outstanding outing in his re-debut in pinstripes, he is still being seen as a better choice than some of the other options the club has.

But Soriano is a welcome sight in the Bronx, a reminder of good seasons and a great clubhouse rapport. Veterans certainly welcomed him home, and the great Yankee fan base certainly welcomed Sori home tonight. What makes it even more awesome is that Vernon Wells (who has been sporting #12 since signing with the Yankees this Spring) traded numbers with Soriano, so that Sori could have his old number back. So Sori donned #12, and Wells took #22. If anything at all, Soriano is certainly bringing out the best in his new teammates, and I have to say that a good clubhouse always makes for a better team than almost anything else.

And for those curious, the Yankees sent Thomas Neal to AAA Scranton to make room for Soriano on the 25-man roster, while the 40-man roster now sits at an even 40. The juggling of this roster this year must keep the cell phones and computer keyboards in near-perpetual motion. I certainly don’t envy their jobs in the least, and they’ve certainly been working overtime too many times this year already. And it’s not over yet with Jeter, Granderson, Nix, Phelps, Cervelli, and Rodriguez just itching to get back in the game as soon as humanly possible.

And while tonight’s game certainly wasn’t the most encouraging one to watch as a Yankees fan, the end of it certainly proved many of my previous posts right — “never, never, never give up” (thanks to Churchill for the quote). Even if you fail, you don’t want to feel like you just handed over the win without at least trying to win. I love that this year so many of the major plays and runs are being made by the guys you’ve barely heard of and least expect anything from. Because isn’t that what makes minor league ball or even little league special? Not the names, but the game itself and the players working their hardest and making every effort to just do their best in the hope that their best is something truly spectacular. Those are the guys that play the game right, and those are the guys I want to root for and cheer on and see succeed in life.

Go Yankees!

Game 102: NYY vs. TEX — Split shut out

Hiroki Kuroda is easily becoming one of my favorite current pitchers, and that’s saying a lot. But Kuroda’s ridiculously consistent performances certainly rank him as one of the most underrated pitchers in the league. At least in my opinion. Today’s outing was no exception, throwing an even 100 pitches over 7 full innings, allowing just 6 hits and a walk, keeping the Rangers from doing anything for the hot crowd in Arlington to cheer much about. David Robertson continued the scoreless-ness in the 8th, giving the ball to Mariano Rivera in the 9th to throw 11 pitches, earning his 33rd save of 2013. Texas was very effectively shut out of tonight’s game.

I should clarify. In order to be shut out, you must have some kind of offense to shut out the other team. In what began as a near pitchers’ duel, the Yankees found weakness toward the end of the Texas starter’s outing. First in the 6th inning, Austin Romine (defensively becoming a really reliable catcher) improved his lackluster batting average with a leadoff double, advancing to 3rd on Ichiro Suzuki’s sacrifice bunt. This allowed another unsuspecting Yankee, Brent Lillibridge, to hit a solid double and score Romine for the first run.

In the 8th inning, Robinson Cano’s double brought a pitching change, which Vernon Wells immediately found his pitch and singled, advancing Cano to 3rd. Eduardo Nunez hit into a force out, getting Wells at 2nd, but missing the double play and scoring Cano for the second (and final) run of the evening. The Yankees would split the series with Texas with tonight’s win of 2-0 New York.

In good injury-related news, Derek Jeter took some sprinting drills and fielding practice today, in addition to routine batting practice (something he’s been doing regularly since his return to the DL as part of his rehab). If all things check out medically, he seems to be right on track for a return some time this weekend. I can imagine he would have played today if he could have convinced everyone he was “just fine”.

I’m sitting in the city tonight, reflecting on current events of all sizes and significance, some baseball-related, most not even close. And I guess I’d love to just pronounce some kind of final statement on some of these stories and it would be over with and done. Life just doesn’t work that way. Much like baseball, life is rarely a perfectly orderly game. You get messy and dirty, you advance and retreat (often in the same play), you miss easy opportunities to make a difference, you end up at the wrong end of bad calls, your teammates don’t always do their job or want to work with you, you don’t always succeed, and you don’t always walk home a winner. So why do we keep coming back, day after day, year after year, season after season?

Because there’s always a chance that this year is the year that everything just magically lines up, that things just work right, and that at the end of the day, you’re not just the winners of a game, but the champions of the world. This might just be the year you take home that ring, adding that significance to part of who you are, and those memories of sweet victory to last you a lifetime.

Again, it always comes down to hope. And if we don’t have hope for something amazing, then what’s the point of it all. I mean, certain baseball clubs have been waiting years, decades, entire lifespans to even get close to the World Series, let alone walk away with the victory. But when they don’t get it, year after year, they don’t just close up shop and forget baseball. No, they regroup, develop new guys, re-strategize, and make plans for a trophy case. Because, much like the Red Sox learned in 2004, that day of victory will come, even if it takes 84 years to get to that day. The faithful never give up hope of better days, better seasons, and that magical moment of victory.

That one day…

Go Yankees!

Game 101: NYY vs. TEX — Lackluster Wednesday

Game recap first, then drama recap. And there is so much drama for a Wednesday.

Starter Andy Pettitte went into the 7th inning with his 94 pitches. Only one Texas player seemed to have Pettitte’s number to put any dent in the scoreboard. In the 1st inning, the batter hit an RBI single to put the Rangers on top 1-0 until the 6th inning, when the same batter’s solo home run kept the Texas in the lead. Shawn Kelley came on in the 7th with 2 runners on base and no outs and managed to get out of that inning scott-free. But then he allowed a solo home run in the 8th inning, furthering the Rangers’ lead.

Offensively, the Yankees had some rather lackluster moments. Their lone score came in the fateful 6th inning. Brett Gardner singled and advanced to 3rd on a really bad throwing error and complete mess chasing Gardner around the diamond. This put him in the perfect place to score easily on Robinson Cano’s single. They did hit off the newly acquired Rangers’ pitcher, and there were 2 errors made by the less-than-impressive Texas defense (including the one previously mentioned). But the Yankees just weren’t consistent in their offensive attack. Needless to say, the Rangers take their second game in this four game series with a final score of 3-1.

However, the coolest part about tonight’s game was Andy Pettitte passing the great Sandy Koufax on the all-time strikeout list with 2397 strikeouts, making him securely in 39th place, leading the current active players on the list. Teammate CC Sabathia isn’t that far behind him. But the major difference between the two is that Sabathia is a dominant strikeout pitcher, where as Pettitte tends to get batters to ground/fly out. Both still have plenty of time to cement their permanent numbers in the all-time list. But a big congratulations to Andy tonight, and I know we all look forward to watching those numbers continue to climb.

Luis Cruz was moved to the 15-day DL after spraining his right knee after Monday’s game. In his place, they recalled David Adams for that ever-needed infield support. Both Jayson Nix (hamstring) and Curtis Granderson (hand) report to the Tampa Yankees for their rehab assignments. David Phelps (forearm) is rehabbing with AA Trenton. And the Yankees decided to outright Alberto Gonzalez to AAA Scranton, meaning they released him but wanted to keep him nearby in case they need more infield support in the future.

Alex Rodriguez spent time today at the Tampa minor league complex working on his rehab. And because of his injury, his name was circulating all over the internet, Twitter, and sports shows; but not in a good way. Apparently, Rodriguez sought a second opinion on his recent quad strain, but without the consent of the Yankees organization. This is a violation of the standard agreement all players sign. To make matters worse, the doctor not only said there didn’t seem to be a strain, but he was also involved in recent reprimands due to his prescriptions of steroid-like substances. And with the rumors surrounding Rodriguez with the South Florida clinic, the last thing his name needs to be tied with is another questionable medical instance.

Like I said many times before, I won’t fall into assumptions or presumptions. And I won’t comment until solid facts and sentences have been pronounced or names have been exonerated. But when my Twitter is filled up with more of this medical story than the new royal baby, I have to at least mention the story. It’s days like this that I’m glad I changed my major in college from Journalism to English. So I’m not one of those people stalking stories, but rather reflecting on the application and life lessons you can get from the stories.

So what can we learn from today’s story? When you sign a contract, read it and make sure you’re following it. And make sure you steer clear of people who aren’t 100% above-board, especially when you’re currently mired in your own murky circumstances. Maybe you can learn by example, even if you don’t necessarily agree with how the person got to the point from where you’re drawing the conclusion and life application. Seeing as we are all only ever responsible for our own decisions, learning from another’s bad example is a great way to move forward and not repeat their mistakes. But it’s up to them to also learn from their mistakes and move forward, daring to never repeat their own mistakes.

And perhaps that’s the greatest lesson of all — it’s not if you make mistakes (because you will), but how you move forward from them. History is full of great men who failed spectacularly but figured out how to learn from and excel past those failures. That’s why history isn’t written until that person has lived their life and passed into legend, leaving behind legacy and success in the face of failure. If they wrote history in the middle of someone’s life, you can’t imagine the impact, the good that can come from one person, or to use an old phrase, you “can’t see the forest through the trees”. Biographies are better when there’s an end to the story so you can look back and see how all the pieces fit together.

So we’re still in the middle of the story. There’s still so much that can happen and will happen. So I look forward on reflecting on what did happen and how even the worst parts impacted the world for the better.

Go Yankees!

Game 100: NYY vs. TEX — On the edge of my seat

When games start out exciting, they usually end up that way as well. When games start awful, that’s usually never a good sign. But when games start rather routine and don’t stay routine, it’s that nail-biting, edge-of-your-seat kind of action that gets your adrenaline pumping all the way to the last out. It’s only fitting that today’s game was rather exciting, or at least became that way, being as it’s the 100th game of the Yankees season. So it was nice not only to get a win, but a really exciting win.

I feel bad for starter Phil Hughes tonight. He started out so well, and then because of a fielding error (not his fault), a cascade of events suddenly led to the Yankees early lead crumbling all in the 6th inning. Here’s what happened: with 1 out, a fielding error by 3rd baseman Brent Lillibridge allowed a Ranger to reach 1st; a double scored the runner; a fly out advanced the baserunner to 3rd; and a single scored the runner. At this point, they pulled Hughes for Boone Logan, who promptly allowed a 2-run home run and a double. Bye-bye, Logan. Hello, Preston Claiborne. Claiborne is really stepping up in the bullpen, and tonight was no exception; he got the next 4 batters out. Joba Chamberlain became the set-up man in the 8th and actually set-up 2 rather spectacular plays for the ever-reliable, ever-amazing Brett Gardner. Chamberlain would also get tonight’s win, but let me explain.

It started out pretty good in the 3rd inning. Recent call-up Melky Mesa doubled (nice way to say hello in pinstripes this year) and then scored on Austin Romine’s double. Brett Gardner singled, moving Romine to 3rd. Ichiro Suzuki singles, moving Gardner to 2nd and scoring Romine. This no out inning ends pretty quickly with a double play and fly out. But the damage has begun, albeit rather routinely. In the 4th, Vernon Wells doubles and scored when Lillibridge hit into a fielder’s choice. And so the Yankees sat at 3 runs scored.

By the end of the 6th inning and the Rangers suddenly came alive, the score was 4-3 Texas. And so with their last shot at the game, in the 9th inning and one out, the Rangers walked Wells, advancing him to 2nd on a wild pitch. So when Eduardo Nunez saw a pitch he liked, he plowed it deep out to left-center field, scoring Wells easily, and landing very safely at 3rd for a triple. He’s so speedy that I think he would’ve made it home, but coming around 2nd, Nunez stumbled a bit and probably didn’t want to risk it. But that’s okay because Nunez jogged home on Lillibridge’s single. And the score was suddenly 5-4 Yankees.

So guess who was very quickly up in the visitor’s bullpen in Arlington. With cameras out and clicking, Metallica over the speakers, everyone on their feet and cheering, Mariano Rivera jogged to the mound for a quick 12 pitch bottom of the 9th for his 32nd save and a really fantastic Yankee win.

I know I say it a lot (but in baseball, how could you not?), but Yogi’s a very wise man — “It ain’t over ’til it’s over.” I imagine Yankee fans everywhere kicking themselves for giving up, walking out or changing the channel seeing the Rangers up 4-3 going into the 9th inning. “O, ye of little faith.” I mean, they’re the Yankees. “Anything’s possible.” (Now, enough clichés.)

Kid with glove at game
You just never know…

Sometimes that hope and prayer works out for you in that last second ditch effort, the rally cap time. Sometimes it doesn’t. But does it mean you stop hoping that things will turn your way? Does it mean you can’t believe in the impossible? The problem with reality sometimes is that it makes so many of us cynical. The benefit (if you can call it that) of cynicism is you never have to be as disappointed as you could be because you’ve already set yourself up for the “what if”. But there is a measure of cynicism that still hopes for the better outcome.

Perhaps, instead we need to be a little more like the kids you see at the ballpark with their gloves, hoping and praying for a foul ball or a tossed ball from their favorite ball player on the way back to the dugout. They’re never afraid to wave their hands, glove and all, begging, pleading for a $6 baseball. They’re not afraid to look foolish or greedy or hopeful. It’s why the athletes love signing for kids because they understand that they will cherish the $6 ball because someone took the time to think of them and gift them with a special touch. A ball that may end up in a box in their mom’s attic one day, but for that brief moment, their world was changed for the better. They walked away with their own personal souvenir, and it’s a moment they won’t soon forget. That hope and that memory that one day they pass onto their sons, taking them to the ballpark with a glove, encouraging their sons to get a ball and go for it. Because it’s the hope for good things in life that push us forward, even when the current situation looks bleak or impossible.

Because at the end of the day, if baseball teaches us anything, anything really is possible.

Go Yankees!

Game 99: NYY vs. TEX — Shutout in Texas

Texas’ starting pitcher tonight, Yu Darvish, is very good and ridiculously underrated. His smooth style and humble demeanor is often overshadowed by the larger-than-life pitchers around the league, the ones with flash and speed and stylized victory poses. But much like the Yankees’ Kuroda, the fellow Japanese pitcher is really at the top of his game and without much reward other than some talk and personal achievement.

Okay, so this isn’t a Rangers blog (far from it), but I still believe in giving credit where credit is due. And tonight, clearly belonged to Darvish, as the Yankees couldn’t seem to get much on him and make an effort to get very far offensively. So between Darvish’s strong start and the rest of the Rangers’ bullpen (which is undoubtedly one of the stronger ‘pens in the AL), the Yankees were effectively shut out and limited to 3 hits (2 by Lyle Overbay, 1 by the other Japanese player Ichiro Suzuki), 2 walks, and a hit by pitch to Brett Gardner to lead off the game. None of these, however, advanced the Yankees enough to score any runs.

And Yankees starter Ivan Nova actually had a pretty strong 7 innings in his outing today. An RBI single in the 1st, an RBI double in the 6th, and a solo home run in the 7th were the way the Rangers won the game behind their starter. It’s not that the Rangers’ defense was all that great, but the long fly balls were pretty much hit directly at the outfielders or the grounders were relatively routine for the infielders to get those standard plays. Call it fatigue after last night’s very long game, if you want, but really it just wasn’t working for the Yankees today, despite Nova’s pretty decent outing and some nifty defensive plays. Chris Stewart continued to show off his strong defense, like this out in the 6th inning to catch a runner trying to steal 2nd. (He’s another one of those who gets overlooked for his great ability as a player because he plays well without much flash.)

So the Rangers walked away 3-0, shutting out the Yankees from tonight’s game.

There’s a lot of new talk and development with the Biogenesis PED scandal. And tonight, one of the major players assumed to be involved with the clinic admitted fault and usage and took his punishment with some grace — suspension for the rest of the season without pay. I think this may also encourage others involved to admit their PED usage and take their punishment now. But I’m also wondering the kind of undue pressure it may put on those who aren’t guilty but mistakenly involved somehow (like some players have released statements stating). I think I’m with many in the baseball world that have said that those who are guilty should just ‘fess up and deal with it now because any kind of prosecution where their guilt comes out later just colors their reputation even further as a cheater. But I really do hope that those who are innocent get quickly exonerated and publicly released from any rumors, assumptions, and further tainted messiness.

I guess, even though this isn’t a legal issue, I’m still a big believer of “innocent until proven guilty”. I have some friends who are lawyers, so I’m used to talking legalese with them about current issues. But as this is outside the legal system, it’s hard not to put legalese to this whole case, especially because there’s been so much drawn-out vague discussions and statements from all over MLB and sports reports without much solid confirmed facts backed with strong evidence either way. I don’t like assumptions and rumors and won’t comment on anything more on this subject until a player has been given a confirmed sentence (guilty or innocent).

Throughout it all, the effort on all sides to create a clean, fair game is the goal. And I don’t doubt that even the guilty players realize their mistakes have harmed more than just themselves. I think that’s the thing about our mistakes — they rarely just affect us. Instead, they affect our families, friends, reputations, and further. And like us, the guilty players’ poor choices will affect their own families and friends, in addition to their teams and teammates all the way up to the entire league. I think that’s why it pays to make wise decisions. So when you don’t, own up to it, take the fall if necessary, and move forward. And isn’t that the whole point anyway — to keep moving forward, advancing the good, letting go of the bad, and making your world a better place in the long run?

Go Yankees!

Game 98: NYY vs. BOS — It’s the little things that add up

I can’t really blame tonight’s 11th inning loss entirely on a blown call, but that certainly has a lot to do with the state of the game. Honestly, things started out so great, and then they got really bad, and then it was better, and then it was tied and into extra innings, and then it got bad again, and then it got awful, and then it was over. Four hours and 46 minutes after the first pitch, the Red Sox can enjoy their 1st place standing (the Rays are really threatening) and the Yankees have to catch a flight to Dallas for tomorrow night’s game. Did I mention it’s already tomorrow?

CC Sabathia celebrated his 33rd birthday today, but I’m guessing he won’t really enjoy remembering today so much. He hit his first batter, but kept the Red Sox from scoring or doing much of anything for the first two innings. And then it suddenly wasn’t so great. In the 3rd inning, a lead-off double advanced to 3rd on a sacrifice bunt and scored on a single; another single put 2 men on base for a 3-run home run to put Boston up 4 runs in just that inning. At the bottom of the 4th, Sabathia hit the lead-off batter, then allowed back-to-back singles to load the bases; a single out to left field scored 2 more runs. A solo home run in the 5th inning added another run to the Boston scoreboard (now up to 7). That was it for Sabathia — 102 pitches over just 5 innings, allowing 9 hits, 7 runs (2 homers), and walking 2. It just wasn’t how Sabathia expected to spend his birthday, I’m guessing.

But the Yankees actually started out pretty well. Right in the 1st inning, Brett Gardner leads off with a single, and Ichiro Suzuki reaches on a throwing error, allowing Gardner to 3rd; then when Ichiro steals 2nd, the catcher misses the throw, advancing Ichiro to 3rd and Gardner to score the Yankees first run; Robinson Cano walks; and Ichiro scores on Vernon Wells’ single. In the 2nd inning, Chris Stewart walks, advancing to 3rd on the next two groundouts; Ichiro is plunked on the back by a pitch (he’ll wake up with a nice bruise there tomorrow); and Cano’s single scores Stewart. So in the first two innings, the Yankees are up 3-0. By the 5th inning, the Red Sox have jumped ahead 7-3.

And if we know anything about this rivalry, when one team is winning, the other doesn’t just roll over and take it; they fight it all the way.

And suddenly, it’s the 6th inning. Eduardo Nunez singles and then steals 2nd base; Stewart draws a walk; Nunez scores on Gardner’s single; Ichiro singles to load the bases; and Cano singles home Stewart. And it’s 7-5 Boston. In the 7th, Wells walks Nunez singles; then Stewart bunts the ball, which is then overthrown to 1st base, so Stewart ends up at 2nd, Nunez at 3rd, and Wells scores (7-6); and Luis Cruz hits a sacrifice groundout to score Nunez. The game is tied.

And as Claiborne, Logan, David Robertson (absolute magic getting out of a jam tonight), and Shawn Kelley (really phenomenal job tonight by Kelley) all put in their time on the mound to keep the game rolling into extra innings waiting for the Yankees bats to awake again. But no Yankee ever crossed the plate again as Sunday night became Monday morning in Boston. It was Adam Warren who gave up a really solid home run out into center field to give the Red Sox an 8-7 walk-off home run victory. (Warren also took the loss, which means Sabathia doesn’t earn the loss on his birthday, a rather half-hearted gift.)

Look, there were a lot of moments that made tonight’s game super tight, and really hard/good to watch at times. There was the 15 pitch at-bat for Gardner, which ultimately earned him a walk. There was the dance around the ball to take 2nd base for Ichiro (that throwing error in the 1st inning). There was Gardner tying Mickey Mantle for 9th most stolen bases in Yankee history with his 153rd stolen base of his career (Derek Jeter is the current all-time Yankees leader at 348). There was some really great defensive moments, catches, plays, teamwork, etc.

But the one that got under everyone’s skin was the clearly blown call when Nunez stole 2nd base in the 11th and was called out. Replays, even viewed by Yankee haters, all confirm Nunez was safe. And it ended up costing the Yankees the game. Putting Nunez in scoring position was the one shot they had in the extra innings, and a deep single would have easily scored the quick running Nunez. Unfairness aside, it just further proves the need for confirmation on such calls. This wasn’t calling balls and strikes or nitpicky stuff the anti-technology people always afraid of when talking about bringing technology into the game. This was win or lose time, and this gave Boston the edge they needed to get their victory tonight. Surely, we have advanced enough in technology to improve safety, equipment, broadcasting, even communication between the dugout and bullpen. So why haven’t we transferred that leap into 21st century technology in the confirmation of umpire calls, like football, basketball, hockey, soccer, and all major professional sports.

But baseball has always been a little behind on advancements and change until absolutely necessary. When would that line come for something like this? It’s already affected major play-off games and even World Series games. And I’m not just crying foul against the Yankees. Calls have gone for and against the Yankees, just like they have for every other team. But when is enough enough here? Maybe some accountability with technological confirmation will lessen all that “blue hate” from the cheap seats. But then again, they’ll always find something else to complain about. Complainers and haters always do.

For now, we cheer on our teams, pray for health for all those poor guys looking on from the dugout or at their TV screens just itching to get back in the game, and hope for the best and fairest calls possible. After all, it’s the only thing positive people (and blogs) can do.

Go Yankees!

Game 97: NYY vs. BOS — Teamwork wins games, but Stewart ensures them

There was a determination on every Yankee’s face today that I haven’t seen in a few games, and that determination really rocked the Red Sox’s world and earned a really great Yankee win today.

So much of today’s win was clearly set forth early in the game by a near flawless Hiroki Kuroda. Through 7 full innings, Kuroda threw 104 pitches, allowing just 5 hits and the only 2 run the Red Sox would score today; he also allowed the only walk of the game. Both Boston runs were scored in the bottom of the 7th inning, a single and a double planted runner at 2nd and 3rd with no outs, so a sacrifice fly deep to center field easily scored the first Boston run, advancing the other runner to 3rd. He then scored on a wild pitch, hustling it all the way home to beat out the tag.

Kuroda was aided in his quest for a win by David Robertson in the 8th and Mariano Rivera in the 9th (for his 31st save of 2013), who kept Boston away from threatening the Yankees lead. Also sharing in today’s win was the really great defense (with some minor exceptions). Luis Cruz played the whole game at 3rd, snagging some great foul balls and always ready to make plays in the hot corner. Boston’s usually potent offense kept Brett Gardner on his toes out in center field, often thrown back to the warning track and up against the back wall to make the plays.

Outstanding defensive day for Chris Stewart,
here in mid-double play

But really, the defensive champion is most definitely catcher Chris Stewart. In the 1st inning, a long single to left field had Vernon Wells throwing a really long throw to an awaiting Stewart at home, who easily tagged the sliding runner to keep the Red Sox from making the first dent in the scoreboard. Then in the 5th, on a wild pitch by Kuroda, he rushed to grab the ball up against the back stop and tossed it to a waiting Kuroda who was able to tag out the advancing runner. But I think everyone’s favorite play came in the 8th inning. Robertson got a batter to pop up a foul ball into the stands behind the plate, which Stewart went over the wall and got the out. But he wasn’t done. Upon returning back to his feet, he fires the ball to 2nd base to get the runner trying to steal for an inning-ending double play, leaving the Boston batter just shaking his head in disbelief. And while many analysts seemed very surprised by Stewart’s excellent defense, I don’t think one Yankee fan was surprised after all he’s contributed to the team, especially in this season.

Now, in order to win ball games, you have to score some runs and make some hits. And today, the Yankees scored some runs and made some hits off the Boston bullpen. In the 5th inning, the Yankees strike first as Gardner singles home Cruz, putting the Yankees up 1-0. Then in the 7th inning, Eduardo Nunez doubles (leaving his helmet at 1st base, as usual) and Cruz singles to score Nunez (2-0). Gardner’s single forced Boston to turn to its bullpen, which Ichiro Suzuki grounds into a force out so Cruz is at 3rd, Gardner’s out at 2nd, and Ichiro is at 1st. Then back-to-back singles by Robinson Cano and Lyle Overbay score Cruz and Ichiro, respectively. And the Yankees are up 4-0 by the 7th inning stretch.

When the Red Sox cut their lead in half in the bottom of the inning, the Yankees decided to ensure their lead in the 9th inning. Cruz is hit by a pitch, and Gardner takes advantage of a fielding error to put the runners at 1st and 2nd. Cruz then steals 3rd, though he seemed almost shocked that he did so successfully. And it’s Cano again to earn an RBI via a sacrifice fly to score Cruz.

It should be noted that the Yankees offensively did extraordinarily well overall. Gardner went 3-for-5 with an RBI, Cano earned 2 RBIs (both Cruz), Overbay and Nunez both went 3-for-4 each with an RBI, and Cruz went 1-for-3 with an RBI. It should be noted that Cruz scored 3 of the Yankees 5 total runs today. And if anyone has job security in mind in his play today, it would be him.

Before the game, the Yankees recalled Thomas Neal and Melky Mesa up from AAA Scranton, placed Zolio Almonte on the 15-day DL (with his sprained ankle from yesterday’s game), and designated Alberto Gonzalez for assignment. The next lowest man on the totem pole (so to speak) would be Cruz, who up until today hasn’t been as productive on the field as the Yankees would like. I’m guessing his display today could buy his a few more games with the Yankees.

And while the talking heads seemed surprised at how well the 4th place Yankees were playing against the 1st place Red Sox, I don’t think anyone who’s ever watched a Yankees-Red Sox game before is ever surprised by anything that goes on at the games of the greatest rivals in baseball history. It doesn’t seem to matter the location or the standings, but this rivalry never ceases to surprise and stir up emotions of its fans. Fortunately, today did not disappoint. And today, the Yankees had the game from the first pitch by Kuroda to the last pitch by Rivera. Sometimes, you just know how the game’s going to end up. But with these teams, you just never know. That’s part of what’s fun about being part of this historic rivalry. It keeps you on the edge of your seat, anxiously awaiting the next Stewart double play or Nunez helmet-losing sprint or Ichiro steal or Rivera save. You just never know…

Go Yankees!