Monday, June 24, 2013

Yankees Embarrass Old-Timers

The Yankees needed to break out of their Borg losing streak, 7 of 9, and beat those troublesome Tampa Bay Rays.

On Friday night, they did.  David Phelps pitched well into the 6th, and the bullpen went 4 1/3 innings allowing just 1 baserunner.  But the hitting? Zoilo Almonte got 3 hits, including his 1st major league home run in the 6th, and the Yankees won, 6-2.

WP: Phelps (5-4).  No save.  LP: Roberto Hernandez (4-8).

Saturday's game was a bit wild.  CC Sabathia cruised into the 6th with a 3-1 lead, and then just lost it, allowing 4 runs.  The Yankees went to the bottom of the 7th, trailing 5-3, and the way the Yankees have been hitting lately, their chances seemed grim.

But Robinson Cano led off with a walk.  Travis Hafner flew out, but Lyle Overbay doubled Cano over to 3rd.  Almonte came up, and it was the old "unintentional intentional walk." After a pitching change, Jayson Nix struck out.

Bases loaded, 1 out -- now bases loaded, 2 out.  Another wasted inning.  Another "Yankees RISPfail." Right?

Wrong! David Adams worked a bases-loaded walk.  5-4 Tampa.

And Vernon Wells, in a 9-for-90 slump, ripped a double to right-center field, clearing the bases.  7-5 Yankees, and CC was off the hook.

David Robertson pitched a perfect 8th, and Mariano Rivera slammed the door in the 9th.

WP: Sabathia (8-5).  SV: Rivera (26).  LP: Joel Peralta (1-4).


Yesterday was Old-Timers' Day.  The Yankees did something a little different with the introductions.  Usually, John Sterling and Michael Kay start with the guys who really shouldn't be there, the guys who played for the Yankees in bad seasons (like Brian Dorsett); then the ones who were scrubs on the great teams (like Homer Bush); then the starters on the great teams (it was good to see Lou Piniella in Pinstripes again); then the legends (great hand for Bernie Williams), then the Hall-of-Famers (Reggie! Reggie! Reggie!).  Then the widows (Kay Murcer, Helen Hunter, Diana Munson and Billy Martin's last wife, Jill came).  The ritual farewell to baseball figures who have died since last year's Old-Timers' Day (though, oddly, they only saluted those connected to the Yankees, like Bob Turley -- no mention of greatest from other teams, like Stan Musial and Earl Weaver).  And, finally, playing Robert Merrill's recording of "The Star-Spangled Banner," remembering how the great Brooklyn-born opera singer would wear uniform Number 1½ on Old-Timers' Day.

This time, they introduced Hall-of-Famers Rickey Henderson (who I still find it hard to accept as a Yankee, but he was great elsewhere), Goose Gossage and Reggie Jackson (no sign of Wade Boggs).  Then they announced a tribute to Yankees who had served in the armed forces.

Very few ex-Yankees served in the Vietnam era.  Probably the two most notable were Bobby Murcer, who missed the entire 1967 and '68 seasons in the Army, but died in 2008; and Tony Kubek, who missed most of the 1962 season (but returned for the end and the World Series) because his National Guard unit had been called up, but, disillusioned by the greed of the sport, hasn't even been to a big-league ballgame since the Strike of '94, and has only come to Old-Timers' Day once.  That was in 1986, the 25th Anniversary of the 1961 M&M Boys, and it included a tribute to Roger Maris, who died the previous December.  Kubek also had a book to promote about the 1961 season -- did he say "greed"?

So these veterans of both the Yankees and the armed forces were from World War II and the Korean War -- making them quite old, old enough to need golf carts.  Don Larsen, about to turn 84, Korea, perfect game in 1956 World Series.  Bobby Brown, 88, WWII and Korea, one of two surviving Yankees from the 1947 World Series, former President of the American League.  Jerry Coleman, 88, WWII and Korea, and while a few MLB players have served in 2 wars, he's the only one to serve in combat in 2, as a Marine pilot; drove in the Pennant-winning run as a rookie in 1949, and is in the Hall of Fame for his broadcasting with the San Diego Padres.

And, finally, brought out together, Whitey Ford and Yogi Berra.  Whitey, 84, was a surprise find of the 1950 World Championship season, then missed '51 and '52 serving in Korea, then returned in '53 and became the greatest Yankee pitcher ever.  Yogi, 88, is the only major leaguer to have served in the D-Day invasion in 1944, and, like Brown, goes back to 1947.  Yogi and Bobby were roommates, and legend has it that, one night, Yogi was reading a comic book, and medical student (later cardiologist) Bobby was reading one of his medical textbooks, and they finished at the same time, and Yogi said, "Mine was great, how'd yours turn out?"

Yogi and Whitey, judging by their facial expressions, are still with it.  But Yogi looks so frail now, and Edward Charles Ford, like his contemporary Richie Ashburn known as Whitey because his blond hair was so light even when young, is now so pale that, on a hot day, he didn't dare get out of the shaded golf cart.  It's a wonder anyone in the stands could see them.

The Yankees, of course, were playing the Rays, and I saw somebody on Twitter say, "The Rays had an Old-Timers' Day once.  It featured Jose Canseco and a dead devil ray, and no one showed up."

Actually, every day is Old-Timers' Day at Tropicana Field.  St. Petersburg is known as "Heaven's Waiting Room." It's the geezers who show up, not anybody under 70.  These are guys who still complain about "hippies" and the DH.

Here's some Old-Timers' Day footage.

They should have stopped there.  Alas, there was a regular game to play.  And Ivan Nova had returned from the minors.  Fasten your seatbelts, kids...

Actually, Nova pitched pretty well.  He got into the 7th inning, allowing just 3 runs.  Okay, 7 hits and 3 walks, but he also struck out 7.  Not a bad job, and with Joba Chamberlain and Preston Claiborne pitching solidly out of the pen, it should have been enough to win.

Actually, Nova only allowed 1 run, but 2 more were charged to him.  That's because Shawn Kelley and Boone Logan each pitched to only 1 batter in the top of the 7th.  Nova got the first 2 outs, but hit Desmond Jennings with a pitch, and then hit Ben Zobrist with one.  Clearly, neither was intentional.  Just as clearly, it was time to get him out of there.

But Kelley walked Evan Longoria to load the bases.  The batter was James Loney, a lefty hitter.  Naturally, Joe Girardi consulted his Binder Full of Strategies, and it said, "Lefty batter? Late in the game? Bring in Boone Logan, and watch the hilarity ensue."

Logan gave up a single that scored Jennings and Zobrist.  Time for me to update the post "Logan's Litany of Losing."

Because Nova deserved a better fate, but the Yankees just didn't hit.  Again.  Brett Gardner got 3 hits.  Almonte got 2 to continue his great start in the majors.  The rest of the Yankees combined? 2 hits: Singles by Hafner and Ichiro Suzuki.  RISPfail: 0-for-6.  The only run? A sacrifice fly by Cano in the 1st.

Rays 3, Yankees 1.  WP: Chris Archer (2-3).  SV: Fernando Rodney (15).  LP: Nova (2-2).

The old-timers must have been embarrassed by the Yankees' punchlessness.

But the Boston Red Sox and Baltimore Orioles also lost.  So, with 12 of the season's 26 weeks into the books, the Red Sox lead the AL East by 2 games over the Orioles, 2 1/2 over the Yankees, and 5 over both the Rays and the Toronto Blue Jays, who are surging, 11 straight wins, finally playing like the team everyone predicted they would be at the start of the season.  However, in the loss column, the Sox lead the Yanks & O's by only 1 game, the Jays by 3, and the Rays by 4.

The Yankees have today off.  Tomorrow night, they start a 3-game home series with the Texas Rangers, an all-Japanese starting pitching matchup of Hiroki Kuroda and Yu Darvish.

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