Tuesday, June 1, 2010

A-Rod's Memorial Day Salute

Finally, yesterday, a third of the way into the season, on Memorial Day, I got to my 1st live Yankee game of the season.

Boy, did I pick the right one, from maybe the best "Star-Spangled Banner" I've ever heard, by a vocal quartet of Iraq War veterans, to seeing 2 whole sections of really expensive seats going to Navy & Marine personnel, to Andy Pettitte's sparkling performance, to a midgame skybox shot of my man Paul O'Neill (he got a standing ovation), to back-to-back 7th-inning homers from Alex Rodriguez and Robinson Cano. Topped off at the end by, from a magnificent seat (it better have been, for 95 bucks), getting my 1st good look at a final-out "Sterling Shake." (Gee, ya think John knows people are looking at him now?)

It was only 2-1 Yankees in the bottom of the 7th, when a wild pitch put runners on second and third with one out. It was a 3-0 count on Mark Teixeira, so Indians manager Manny Acta (formerly Washington Nationals manager and Mets coach) decided he might as well do what was gonna happen unintentionally anyway, and walk Teix. That brought A-Rod up with the bases loaded.

The center field video board, if not the world's largest HDTV screen, sure made this stat look big: A-Rod was 4-for-4 with 2 grand slams when coming to bat with the bases loaded following an intentional walk to Teix.

Now, I was at the game, not watching on TV, so I don't know if Michael Kay was mentioning the stat. Ordinarily, this would invoke The Curse of Kay, and as a result, A-Rod would have grounded into a double play.

Whether it was a failure to mention it on Kay's part (he had to have mentioned it, it's what he does), or the good vibes from all the servicemen and -women present, or A-Rod just being in the zone, I neither know, nor care.

That stat looked huge on the big board in center field, essentially saying, "If you walk Teixeira to load the bases to pitch to this guy, you are a gigantic fool." It was only after the game, when the highlights were shown on the same board, that I saw the ball's flight against the backdrop of that very board, with the stats in question sticking out like a sore thumb.

It seemed from the fans' reaction as if this guy had never, ever disappointed us. And, since it was only 2-1 Yanks when he hit it, it was, beyond any question, a "clutch hit." And he hit the living snot out of it, 420 feet to straightaway center field, a no-doubt-abouter from the instant it left his bat, into the Monuments, appropriately.

I would've been willing to bring Andy out for the top of the 8th, he was that strong out there. But that bottom of the 7th lasted 40 minutes. Besides, why risk a starter going great with a 10-run lead? Chan Ho Park pitched the last 2 innings, and got to the 26th out before plate umpire Dana DeMuth, whose strike zone was all over the place (I really would've been fuming if the Yanks had lost because of this), called ball 4 on what should have been a strike 3. Otherwise, it would've been a full game with no walks by the Yankee pitchers.

That walk led to an additional Indian run. Andy allowed just 1 run on 4 hits, one of the hits being a line-drive 2nd-inning homer by Jhonny Peralta. (That's not a typo, that's how he spells his name. He says everybody else spells it wrong when they spell it "Johnny.")

Also, nice hand by the Yankee Fans for the Indians' right fielder, Shelley Duncan, who looked like the next big thing in his 2007 callup, then flamed out. Yankee Fans recognize when someone is trying, when someone respects the game and the fans. Duncan didn't pan out, but I'll bet you he gets a nice hand on his first Old-Timers' Day in 7 or 8 years.

David Huff, the Indians pitcher hit by A-Rod's line drive on Saturday, threw his usual bullpen outing yesterday, and is expected to be ready for his next start. Pardon the pun, but seeing him start will be a relief. I can't think of a single player, not even Pedro Martinez, who deserves the kind of scare that Huff got.

Final score, Yankees 11, Indians 2, a 3-out-of-4 series win against a not-very-good, but feisty, Cleveland team.

Good day. And Tampa Bay lost, too. Boston not scheduled... I wonder how the Mets did last night.

(UPDATE: I was being facetious. I knew exactly what had happened: The Mets got bombed, 18-6 by the San Diego Padres, including a grand slam by former Yankee Jerry Hairston Jr., and another homer by future Yankee Chase Headley.)

Tonight, the Yankees begin a 3-game home series against the Baltimore Orioles. Then a 3-game set in Toronto, another in Baltimore, and then we start with this Interleague shit again, 3 against Houston, 3 of a World Series rematch against the Phillies, then 3 against the Other Team.

Fortunately, they're all at home. Then 3 in Arizona, site of our 2001 ulcer, and 3 in L.A., where we've played 4 World Series, winning "only" 2.

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