Monday, June 17, 2013

It Don't Come Easy

In 1978, WPIX-Channel 11 released a highlight film of the season.  As the theme song for that season, in which the Yankees overcame a slew of injuries and a 14-game deficit to beat the Boston Red Sox for the American League Eastern Division title, the Kansas City Royals for the AL Pennant, and the Los Angeles Dodgers for the World Series, they chose Ringo Starr's first post-Beatles hit: "It Don't Come Easy." They made that the title of the film, too.

It wasn't easy for the Yankees in 1978.  Nor is it easy for them in 2013, another year full of injuries in which, for the moment, the hated Red Sox are in first place.

The Yankees began the last segment of their Pacific Coast roadtrip on Friday night in Anaheim, with the odd notion of, "Hey, Andy Pettitte is on the mound, and he's done so much for us, let's not give him enough run support." It was yet another "Yankee RISPfail": 1-for-6 with runners in scoring position.  All they got was a 2-run single from David Adams in the 4th.  That put the Yankees up, 2-1.  But the Angels chipped away and won it, 5-2.

WP: C.J. Wilson (5-5).  SV: Ernesto Frieri (15).  LP: Pettitte (5-4).

Saturday's game was much the same story.  David Phelps didn't pitch great, but it should have been good enough to win.  But the Yankees got only 5 hits, again just 1-for-6 with RISP.  This time it was a Brett Gardner triple and  Jayson Nix single in the 3rd, giving them a 2-1 lead, but the Angels chipped away and won it, 6-2.

WP: Tommy Hanson (4-2).  No save.  LP: Phelps (4-4).

That's 5 losses in a row, 6 out of the last 9.  Not quite a "Borg roadtrip" (7 of 9), but bad enough.

So, on Sunday, the Yankees needed a win.  Very, very badly.

Fortunately, the Big Fella was on the mound.  Carsten Charles Sabathia.  But what if he got the job done, and the Yankees still didn't hit?

In the top of the 3rd, Chris Stewart led off with a walk.  Gardner singled him to 3rd.  Gardner stole 2nd.  Ichiro Suzuki struck out.  Robinson Cano flied out.  Oh no, here we go again...

Travis Hafner woke up: Home run to center field, his 11th of the season.  Vernon Wells woke up: Single to left.  Lyle Overbay woke up: Double to center, scoring Wells.  Nix singled home Overbay.  5-0 Yankees.

Wells added a sacrifice fly to score Cano in the 8th, for what seemed like the icing on the cake.  6-0 Yankees.  Little did we know how important that 6th run would be.

CC was dominant.  8 innings, 4 hits, 2 walks, no runs.  This was exactly the kind of game the Yankees needed.

Joe Girardi trusted CC to finish the game.  But he allowed a leadoff double to Mike Trout.  And he walked Albert Pujols.

Girardi consulted his Binder Full of Strategies, and decided that was enough for CC.  He brought in David Robertson, since this wasn't a save situation.

But Mark Trumbo hit a line drive that hit Robertson and went into right field.  Trout scored.  6-1.

After a check to see if Robertson was injured, it was determined that he was okay.  He must've been, because he struck out Howie Kendrick.  But then he walked J.B. Shuck.  Now the bases were loaded... and, suddenly, a grand slam would make it a one-run game.

Girardi didn't need his Binder: He brought in Mariano Rivera.

Mo got Erick Aybar to ground to 1st.  Exchanging 1 run for 1 out was no big deal, as it was now 6-2.  Men on 2nd and 3rd, but 2 out.  Not the way you want to end the game, but it could be worse.

It got worse.  Alberto Callaspo singled to right.  And now it was 6-4.

Callaspo went to 2nd on defensive indifference.  Brad Hawpe singled to left.  Men on 1st and 3rd.  Now the tying runs are on, and the winning run is at the plate.  Oh no...

Peter Bourjos singled to left.  Callaspo scored.  6-5.

Two out, but tying run on 2nd, winning run on 1st.  The next 2 batters are Mike Trout (who looks like he could become the best hitter of the 2010s) and Albert Pujols (who was the best hitter of the 2000s and I wouldn't put it past him to still come up with a big hit).

No, no, we can't blow a 6-0 lead in the 9th... not with CC, D-Rob and Mo on the mound... If we blow this, then we might as well pack in the season...

Mo walked Trout.  Bases loaded.

Mariano Rivera vs. Albert Pujols, with the tying and winning runs in scoring position and one out ot go.  It was like somebody's computer had drawn up an all-time All-Star Game, with Mo trying to close it down for the AL, and Pujols, still a St. Louis Cardinal, in position to win it for the National League.

The great Rivera threw the great Pujols 3 four-seam fastballs.  94 miles an hour, 94, 93.  Called strike 1, foul ball for strike 2, swing and a miss, strike 3.

Ballgame over, Yankees win, theeee Yankees win.  Whew.

WP: Sabathia (7-5).  SV: Rivera (24).  LP: Jered Weaver (1-3).

So, with 11 of the season's 26 weeks gone, in spite of all their troubles this season, the Yankees are 38-31, 3 games behind the Red Sox in the AL East, 2 in the loss column.  The Baltimore Orioles are a game and a half back, 1 in the loss column.  The Tampa Bay Rays are 5 (4) back, the Toronto Blue Jays 8 1/2 (7).

Today is a travel day for the Yankees, and tomorrow night, they come home and start a 2-game Interleague series with the Los Angeles Dodgers.  Then comes a 4-game series with the Rays, concluding on Sunday with Old-Timers' Day.  It comes a bit earlier than usual, and it's odd that it's on a Sunday.

Announced attendees:

* From the 1947-53 Dynasty: Yogi Berra, Whitey Ford, Bobby Brown, Jerry Coleman (the San Diego Padres have let their legendary broadcaster come home these last few years).

* From the 1955-64 Dynasty: Yogi, Whitey, Don Larsen, Bobby Richardson, Hector Lopez, Luis Arroyo, Al Downing, Joe Pepitone, Mel Stottlemyre,

* From the 1965-75 Dark Age: Horace Clarke, Gene Michael, Ron Blomberg.

* From the 1976-81 Dynasty: Reggie Jackson, Goose Gossage, Ron Guidry, Lou Piniella, Chris Chambliss, Willie Randolph, Bucky Dent, Mickey Rivers, Roy White, Mike Torrez, Brian Doyle, Oscar Gamble, Michael (then a coach), and trainer Gene Monahan.

* From the 1982-95 Dark Age: Rickey Henderson, Steve Balboni, Jesse Barfield, Brian Dorsett, Sterling Hitchcock, Scott Kamieniecki, Pat Kelly, Lee Mazzilli, manager Stump Merrill, Michael (then a coach) and Monahan.

* From the 1996-2003 Dynasty: Paul O'Neill, Bernie Williams, David Cone, David Wells, Joe Girardi, Jeff Nelson, Charlie Hayes, Graeme Lloyd, Brian Boehringer, Homer Bush, Todd Greene, Andy Phillips, Michael (then the "superscout"), Mazzilli (then a coach), Monahan, and, making his first Old-Timers' Day appearance, the one and only El Duque, Orlando Hernandez.

* From the 2004-08 Interregnum: John Flaherty.

* Yankee Widows: Arlene Howard, Kay Murcer, Diana Munson, Helen Hunter, Jill Martin.

Gates open at 10:00 AM, and ceremonies start at 11:00.  The regular game is set for a 2:05 PM first pitch.

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