Thursday, September 13, 2012

Pennant Races Hurt

Under normal circumstances, you need a crowbar to get Derek Jeter out of the lineup.  Unlike the man he has succeeded as the greatest shortstop in American League history, Cal Ripken, he doesn't have a monumentally, or even exceedingly, long streak of games played.  But from 1996 to 2010, he played in at least 148 of the 162 games every season except 2003, when he hurt his shoulder on Opening Day, March 31, and didn't reutrn to the lineup until May 13. He has played in 93.3 percent of the games available to him since Opening Day 1996.

Last night, playing on an already bruised ankle, he had to leave the game after running out a grounder, just like Mark Teixeira did in reaggravating his calf in last Saturday's debacle in Baltimore.  At a time when the Yankees are in a dogfight with not one but two teams for the AL East title -- and neither of those teams being the Boston Red Sox, the team they hate the most and have dueled with for the last 15 years and were playing this week -- the last thing the Yankees needed was another injury.

Mariano Rivera: Out most of this season.
Michael Pineda: Out all this season and probably the first quarter of next season.
Andy Pettitte: Out a big chunk of this season, although close to returning.
Ivan Nova: Out the last few weeks, although close to returning.
Brett Gardner: Out most of this season.
Alex Rodriguez: Out a big chunk of this season, although definitely back.
Mark Teixeira: Out for much of this stretch drive.

Nobody wants to hear the team with far and away the biggest payroll complain about injuries.  But the fact that the Yankees are still tied for first place with only 20 games to go speaks volumes: It's not how much money you spend, but how wisely you spend it.

*

Since this was a Yanks-Sox game at Fenway Park, the Yankees used 7 pitchers and the Sox used 6.  The Yankees started David Phelps, and the idea of going into the little green pinball machine in Kenmore Square left me feeling queasy.  You might say Mr. Phelps had a "Mission: Impossible." Nope, he pitched fairly well, getting into the 6th having allowed just 1 run on 5 hits and 1 walk.

Curtis Granderson seems to have broken out of one of the nastiest slumps in recent Yankee memory, leading off the top of the 4th with his 36th home run.  A-Rod singled, and then Robinson Cano hit his 30th.  Grandy added his 37th in the top of the 7th, driving in Jeter ahead of him.  That made it 5-1 Yankees.  Grandy and Robbie are both lefty hitters, and Fenway is usually not kind to lefties.

Clay Rapada finished the 6th without further damage.  But in the 7th, both Cody Eppley and Boone Logan allowed a run, and the Sox were within striking distance at 5-3.  But Joe Girardi rolled the dice with Joba Chamberlain, and Joba finished off the 7th to keep the lead at 2 runs.

David Robertson was shaky again, and couldn't get out of the 8th.  Rafael Soriano was called on for a 4-out save.  Wherever they were last night, Luis Arroyo, Sparky Lyle, Goose Gossage and Dave Righetti didn't know whether to laugh or cry.

Soriano ended the threat in the 8th, but in the 9th, Jarrod Saltalamacchia led off with a home run.  5-4.

Now, "Yankees 5, Red Sox 4 at Fenway Park" is one of the great scorelines of baseball history.  But a glorious win in 1978 doesn't help us much now.  What would have was Soriano getting the last 3 outs.  Could he?

He got Daniel Nava to fly to left.  That's one.

He got Mauro Gomez to ground to 2nd.  That's two.

He got Mike Aviles to ground back to him... and he threw it away!

Oh no, tying run on 1st, winning run at the plate, and you just KNOW that David Ortiz, Big Papi, the biggest Yankee Killer of all time, the big fat lying cheating steroid-using bastard, is going to come up for the Sox in this situation!

No, he's not.  He's injured, probably out for the season -- and, at the rate Sox management has been making deals and giving this team a makeover, he may never play for the Red Sox again.  Not quite justice on the level of the release of the Hillsborough Report (with its tangential connection to the Red Sox as their owners also now own Liverpool Football Club), but a relief nonetheless.

Still, the batter was Jacoby Ellsbury, and he is a pain in the ass.  But Soriano got him to ground weakly to 1st.  Nick Swisher was practically standing on the bag when the ball got to him.

Ballgame over.  Yankees win.  Theeeeeeee Yankees win!

5-4! We beat The Scum, 5-4! We beat The Scum, 5-4! We beat The Scum, 5-4!

The Baltimore Orioles and the Tampa Bay Rays, the 2 teams chasing the Yankees for the Division title, played each other in Baltimore, and the O's won, 3-2.

So with 20 games to go, the Yanks and O's are tied for first, 80-62.  The Rays are 3 games back.

The Yanks-Sox series concludes tonight, with Phil Hughes and Felix Doubront the opposing starters.

Beat the Red Sox is still a necessity.  But it doesn't kill two Birds with one stone anymore.

Pun intended.

*

I "completed the circuit" last night.  All 3 baseball teams that are local to my Central Jersey location in the same season: The Yankees, the Mets and the Phillies.

Unlike my visits to Yankee Stadium II and Citizens Bank Park, which were rammed with geezers (as they would say in English soccer, "geezer" meaning "true fan" and not "old man" as it does here), Citi Field was sparse.  Attendance was officially announced at 21,205.  Really.

The USS New York, built partly with steel salvaged from the World Trade Center, was in town for the 9/11 commemorations, as it was when the Yankees won the World Series in 2009, and the entire crew seemed to be at Pity Field.  I was thinking that those sailors, by themselves, doubled the actual attendance.

Actually, no: It has an officially listed complement of 28 officers and 332 enlisted personnel.  But there looked like a lot more than 400 Navy men and women in the stands.

Anyway, in my first 3 visits to "New Shea," the Mets won all 3.  This time, they lost, 2-0 to the Washington Nationals.  Solo home runs by Ryan Zimmerman and Ian Desmond were the extent of the scoring.  The Mets did have plenty of chances, including loading the bases in the bottom of the 7th when it was still 1-0, but they blew it.

In the 7th inning, after Mr. Met led everyone in singing "Take Me Out to the Ballgame" and "Lazy Mary," there was a commercial for the New York Lottery.

Could the Mets have won the game? "Hey, ya never know." Then again, considering the Mets' home form this season, they need a lot more than "a little bit of luck."

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