Strange weekend for me, for a few reasons. You only care about the sports reasons.
Adam Henrique scored the biggest goal in New Jersey Devils history. Well, maybe not the biggest, but the most satisfying.
It was Game 6 of the Eastern Conference Finals, at the Prudential Center -- easily the biggest sporting event in that building's 4 1/2-year history. It was May 25, 2012, 18 years to the day after a Game 6 at the Meadowlands that New York Ranger captain Mark Messier guaranteed would be won, and was.
Needless to say, given the Devils' history with The Scum, they did not want to go back to Madison Square Garden for a Game 7.
The game was tight, and it went to overtime. A Game 7 overtime. There may not be anything as tense in North American sports. The only thing that can match it in the world is a penalty shootout in a cup tie in soccer.
A minute and 3 seconds into the overtime period, Adam Henrique put the puck past "King" Henrik Lundqvist, and Mike Emrick yelled on NBC, "Pumped at by Kovalchuk, they score! Henrique! It's over!"
Henrique was born on February 6, 1990, meaning he shares a birthday with Babe Ruth. He was born in Brantford, Ontario, hometown of Wayne Gretzky, but Gretzky never scored a goal this important.
The Devils will now play the Los Angeles Kings in the Stanley Cup Finals. It's the 5th for New Jersey, looking for its 4th Stanley Cup. It's the 2nd for Los Angeles, looking for its 1st -- its 2nd, if you count the 2007 Anaheim Ducks as having won it for "Los Angeles."
As for the Yankees: They went out to the Pacific Coast, and took 3 straight from the Oakland Athletics, extending their winning streak to 5 games.
On Friday night, the Yankee bats, so quiet these 1st 2 months of the season, got the runs we needed: 3 in the 3rd, including the 6th home run of the year by Mark Teixeira, who has broken out of his awful start in a big way; and 3 in the 5th, due to Robinson Cano's 6th homer and Nick Swisher's 8th. Ivan Nova took this cushion and threw 7 strong, showing once again that he is ready to be a Number 2 starter behind CC Sabathia.
Yankees 6, A's 3. WP: Nova (5-2). SV: Rafael Soriano (4). LP: Trevor Ross (2-5).
On Saturday afternoon, the Yankees unloaded the lumber again, at the expense of one of last year's key Yankee cogs, Bartolo Colon. (GM Brian Cashman kept Freddie Garcia and let Colon go. Maybe it should have been the other way around.) They chipped away with single runs in the 2nd, 3rd and 4th, before scoring 3 in the 5th. The run in the 2nd was Cano's 7th homer, the one in the 4th was Teixeira's 7th.
The 5th began with a Chris Stewart single, then another by Derek Jeter. Curtis Granderson flew out to left, but that moved Stewart over to 3rd, and Alex Rodriguez got him home with a sacrifice fly. Then Cano doubled Jeter over, and Teix singled home Jeter and Cano. Teix added his 8th "Teix Message" of the season in the 9th.
Yankees 9, A's 9. WP: CC (6-2). LP: Colon (4-5).
On Sunday afternoon, the Yankees didn't hit much -- but it was enough, as Hiroki Kuroda was fantastic, winning on the road for the first time as a Yankee. He pitched 8 innings, allowing 4 hits, 1 walk, and no runs, earned or otherwise.
Andruw Jones hit his 5th homer of the season in the 2nd inning, and a Granderson single and a Teix double in the 7th provided a small cushion that held up.
Yankees 2, A's 0. Sounds like an old-time battle between Catfish Hunter of the A's and Fritz Peterson of the Yankees. Or maybe Catfish Hunter of the Yankees and Vida Blue of the A's. No, more like: WP: Kuroda (4-6). SV: Soriano (5). LP: Tommy Milone (6-4).
So the Yankees score 2 runs when 1 will suffice. So what happened last night, when they scored 8? It wasn't enough.
They moved on to Anaheim to play the Angels. (I'm too pissed off about the result to go through the full name, real or perceived, of the club.) The score was 4-3 Angels... after the 1st inning. Granderson tied it in the 2nd with his 15th homer. The Angels retook the lead, and were up 8-5 going into the top of the 7th.
Cano led off that inning with a double. Teix drew a walk, and Angel manager Mike Scioscia brought in Jason Isringhausen, the former "Generation K" starter with the Mets who got hurt, then revitalized his career as an A's and Cardinals reliever. Raul Ibanez greeted him with a short single that loaded the bases with nobody out.
Recent Yankee games would suggest that we'd blow this, with no runs being scored.
Not this time: Swish hit a sac fly to score Cano. Eric Chavez grounded out, moving the runners over to 2nd and 3rd. And Russell Martin, who needed a big hit and needed it badly, doubled home Teix and Ibanez. The game was tied, 8-8. And the go-ahead run was at 2nd, with the team's best hitter so far this season, Jeter, coming up.
But Jeter grounded out, stranding Martin. The Yanks went out 1-2-3 in the 8th. Teix singled to lead off the 9th, but Ibanez and Swish flew out. Chavez drew a walk, so it was men on 1st and 2nd -- the potential winning run on 2nd. Martin needed another big hit, and got one -- but it was only a single, and not one that was deep enough to score Teix. Jeter grounded into a forceout to end another threat.
Incredibly, Boone Logan had held the Angels off in relief of Phil Hughes (who didn't have it at all, after 3 good starts), Cody Eppley and David Phelps. But for the bottom of the 9th, Joe Girardi brought in Cory Wade, who pitched to Mark Trumbo.
And only Trumbo, who hit one out to end it. Angels 9, Yankees 8. WP: Jordan Walden (2-1). LP: Wade (0-1).
So much for coasting on the Coast.
So here's how things currently stand with the Bronx Bombers:
* The Yankees are 26-22, 2 1/2 games (2 in the loss column) behind the Baltimore Orioles and Tampa Bay Rays in the American League Eastern Division. Not bad at all, considering we're missing our sparkplug (Brett Gardner) and our top 2 closers (Mariano Rivera and David Robertson). The Toronto Blue Jays are 4 back, and the Boston Red Sox are 4 1/2 back (4 in the loss column).
* Jeter now has 3,156 career hits. He's now 15th on the all-time list, having passed Paul Waner and George Brett while in Oakland. He's 29 short of passing Cal Ripken for 14th. Having been close to .400 for a while, his batting average is now down to .335.
* A-Rod now has 2,824 career hits, 176 short of 3,000. He has 636 home runs, 24 short of Willie Mays at 660, 64 short of 700, 82 short of Babe Ruth at 714, 119 short of Hank Aaron at 755, and 128 short of Barry Bonds at 762.
* Robertson will probably be back on June 5, for the start of a home series against the Rays.
* The best-case scenario for Gardner's return appears to be June 7, the end of that series against the Rays.
The returns of both Robertson and Gardner will be big boosts. It's easy to believe the return of the closer would help, but hard to believe "the closer" is Robertson, not Mariano Rivera. And also hard to believe that Gardner, so often cited as the weak link in the Yankee lineup, was such a sparkplug and so badly missed. But they'll be back soon.
And the American League (and those unfortunate teams from the other league that got stuck with us in the Interleague schedule) will not like it at all.
Well, you know what? To hell with them. As we'd sing if the Yankees were an English soccer team, We are the Yankees and we are the best, we are the Yankees so fuck all the rest! Fuck 'em all!