The Yankees continue to fight for dominance among the AL East, and today’s win in extra innings was no exception. Starting pitcher Hiroki Kuroda once again showed how “experience” can set the stage for a win. In his 108 pitches thrown over 7 1/3 innings, Kuroda allowed only 3 hits (1 would become an earned run), walked 1 batter, and struck out 7 Blue Jays.
The Yankees offense provided an early lead for Kuroda, who managed to keep it scoreless against Toronto into the 8th inning with a score of 3-0. The pitchers (Robertson, Chamberlain, Logan, and Kelley) following Kuroda weren’t as fortunate with their outings, each working for 2 outs over the next 4 innings; Robertson, however, allowing for an RBI single and a 2-RBI single to tie up the game and take it into extra innings. I should note it was Shawn Kelley who was awarded the win because he was the last pitcher to preserve the lead, which is a shame because Kuroda really pitched an excellent game once again.
At the top of the 11th inning, the Yankees offense once again charge up the mountain that was the sloppiness of Toronto’s fielding to score 2 runs on an Ichiro Suzuki bunt and a throwing error. Ichiro landed at 2nd and baserunners Wells and Cervelli ended up tagging home to put the score at 5-3 Yankees in the 11th. And once again, it was good old #42 Mariano Rivera called in to close the door on the heated Blue Jays, which included 2 back-to-back strikeouts and another save to add to his growing career numbers.
I’ve never been a big fan of domed stadiums or turf diamonds, even though I used to live near the Tropicana Dome in Florida (where the Rays play). To me, I’ve always preferred the outdoor look, smell, and feel to a game that’s been played in sandlots around the world by kids in the hot days of summer. Of course, with the weather patterns constantly changing and snow pouring into Coors Field in Colorado and Target Field in Minnesota recently and the bitter cold rains that drenched and cancelled two Yankee-Indians games last week, I can understand why there is always chatter of making a domed stadium or adding some such device to a current complex. But that’s always been the risk of an outdoor game. Heck, there were only day games for decades until stadiums installed field lights, and now most games during the season are night games. But is converting stadiums to domes (or even the retractable roofs like at Rogers Centre in Toronto) worth the investment?
Players usually prefer playing on real grass because of its natural sponginess, which allows for better (and more injury-free) base running and fielding. And for a place with a retractable roof like Toronto, I don’t understand why real grass isn’t an option. And honestly, it rather limits some of the fun parts of baseball. Fielding is limited because you don’t want your outfielders especially running down every ball with such force because it’s basically like running full-on on carpet-covered linoleum — after a while it starts the wear and tear on your knees, shins, and hips which increases the injury. Base running is also drastically affected. Without the natural give of grass, stealing bases isn’t as common because it isn’t as safe to go barreling head first or even sliding on your “upper thigh” into a base. Again that image of doing so on carpet-covered linoleum should suffice for any reasons.
From the turf in Toronto, the Yankees head down on Monday to my home state to play on turf at the Trop for a series. And while I’m glad they’re getting this back-to-back “turf war” (if you will) out of the way early in the season, it’s also a little dangerous to be using a consistent set of players on day-to-day with the surface. I think we’ll see some regular players rotated out for a rest to save some legs and prevent any overuse or potential injury. And it was easy to figure out that Toronto and Tampa are the only two teams with artificial turf and the only teams with a domed roof. Every other stadium is a) primarily set outdoors and b) converted to real grass if they didn’t have it already.
Okay, I do have another reason I like outdoor parks, and perhaps it’s because I’m a Yankee fan. When the player hits that amazing home run, it’s always fun to see it sail clear out of the park and not hit some steel wall on one side of the dome. Those that catch some air and land in the parking lot or on the sidewalk outside the stadium (like stories of Mickey Mantle’s homers) are the ones you remember and talk about for years to come. Those are the ones that kids dream of hitting on those sandlots all across the world. There is a simplicity, an innocence, something purely Americana about the outdoor field and all of its potential greatness. It’s one of the many things I love about baseball.