Tuesday, April 14, 2015

It's About Time -- For Me, and the Yankees


Between my new job, and using my weekends to make up for lost time when I had no income, finally, I'm back to getting this blog going. It's about time.

When last I left you, the Yankees had rebounded from an awful home opener against those pesky Toronto Blue Jays with a win in the 2nd game. The rubber match of the series was played on Thursday night, and it didn't go so well for the Bronx "Bombers."

CC Sabathia made his 1st start of the season, and fell victim to onebadinningitis. He was fine in innings 1, 3, 4 and 5. But the 2nd? The Jays hung 4 runs on him. Despite Alex Rodriguez's 1st home run since September 20, 2013 -- the 655th of his career -- it ended Blue Jays 6, Yankees 3.

WP: Daniel Norris (1-0). SV: Miguel Castro (1). LP: Sabathia (0-1).

*

Out went the Peskies. In came The Scum. Hell of a time for the Boston Red Sox to cross the City Line.

And Friday night's game was the longest, by time, in the history of any Yankee Stadium. As it turned out, it was a 19-inning waste of time.

Nathan Eovaldi started for the Yankees, Dave Miley for the Red Sox. Neither one survived the 6th inning. They were the lucky ones. The Sox used 9 pitchers, the Yanks 8.

It was 3-2 Sox in the bottom of the 9th, and looking grim for the Yankees -- and unremarkable for the neutral fan. Then, with 2 outs, the 3rd baseman hit a last-gasp home run. Good old Chase Headley.

A-Rod doubled with 1 out in the 11th. Mark Teixeira was intentionally walked to set up the double play. Both got stranded. Didi Gregorius singled with 2 out in the 12th. Stranded. Brian McCann was hit with a pitch to lead off the 14th. Stranded. Brett Gardner drew a walk with 2 out in the 15th. Stranded.

In the top of the 16th, David Ortiz, the big fat lying cheating bastard who has not only never been punished for his cheating, and his getting caught, and his lying about it, by Major League Baseball, but has been rewarded for it, hit a home run. Why is he even still allowed to play?

Why is Teix, whose injuries have rendered him a shell of his former self, still allowed to play? This is why: He can still hit the ball out of the park. He did so, leading off the bottom of the 16th.

In the bottom of the 17th, with 1 out, Gardner walked. But the best baserunner the Yankees have had since the Rickey Henderson experiment got picked off. That was crucial: Garrett Jones singled, and that would have put Gardner on 3rd with less than 1 out. Jones was stranded.

The Sox took the lead in the top of the 18th. But doubles by McCann and Carlos Beltran tied it back up. Beltran was on 2nd with 1 out. But he got stranded.

The game moved into the 19th inning. Then, and only then, did Yankee broadcaster John Sterling, who used to broadcast for the Atlanta Braves, cite the 19-inning 4th of July Mets-Braves epic from 1985, which he called "the wackiest, wildest, most improbable game in history."

This game wasn't nearly so bizarre as that one, although there was a 16-minute delay because a bank of lights went out. $2.3 billion spend on the new Stadium, and they didn't pay the electric bill?

Esmil Rogers pitched nobly, effectively a "quality start" in relief, but he ran out of gas, and allowed the Sox to manufacture a run. Jacoby Ellsbury singled to start the bottom of the 19th, but Gardner flew out, and Jones grounded into a double play, to end it after 6 hours and 49 minutes.

Red Sox 6, Yankees 5. WP: Stephen Wright (1-0), who has the same name as the famous "existential comedian" from Boston who's a big Red Sox fan (although he spells it "Steven"). LP: Rogers, who deserved a better fate (0-1).

*

And then, after playing until after 2:00 in the morning, the Yankees had to play a 1:00 PM start. The ultimate "day game after a night game." I knew they wouldn't win this one.

We certainly can't blame Adam Warren: As poor as he was as a reliever most of last season, he gave us a decent start, getting into the 6th inning having allowed just 1 earned run. Unfortunately, there was another run, unearned. And, unlike the night before, when it was brilliant, the bullpen didn't help.

Chris Young hit a home run in the 8th inning, but the Yankees had nearly as many errors (3) as hits (5).

Red Sox 8, Yankees 4. WP: Joe Kelly (1-0). No save. LP: Warren (0-1).

*

The Yankees were now reeling. They were 1-4.

Funny: That was their record after 5 games in 1998. And we all know what happened that season...

Of course, that was when their lineup was Knoblauch, Jeter, O'Neill, Williams, Martinez, Strawberry or Davis as DH, one of those or Ledee as LF, Posada, Brosius; their rotation was Cone, Wells, Pettitte, Hernandez, 5; and their bullpen was Nelson, Stanton, Rivera. Clearly, the current team does not measure up. (Something that people who compare the 2015 Mets to the 1980s Mets also need to consider -- more about that in a later post.)

*

On Sunday, having finally got my first full-week paycheck in a year and a half, I went to my first live Major League Baseball game in nearly a year. Like I said: It's about time.

Cliche alert: It was a beautiful day for baseball, and I was at Citizens Bank Park to see the host Philadelphia Phillies take on the Washington Nationals. Ah, the Phillies, the team of Jimmy Rollins, Ryan Howard, Chase Utley, Pat Burrell, Jayson Werth, Chico Ruiz, Cole Hamels, Roy Halladay, Jamie Moyer, Cliff Lee, Ryan Madson, Brad Lidge...

Where'd everybody go? Age and injuries have seriously caught up with the Fightin' Phils. 2007 to 2011 was their 1961-64 Yankees, but 2012 became their 1965, and 2015 sure looks like their 1968. In their entire 9-man starting lineup for my game, I saw only 3 names I recognized. Only 2 of them as Phillies: Howard and Ben Revere. The 3rd was Jeff Francoeur, who I still think of as an Atlanta Brave. Rollins has been traded. Werth left via free agency. So have Burrell and Lidge, who retired. So has Moyer, who had to mainly because his age had matched his uniform number, 50. Halladay had to retire much too soon because of injury. And with injuries. Howard, Utley and Hamels are shadows of their former selves.

The Nats, meanwhile, had former American League Cy Young Award winner Max Scherzer starting. And Bryce Harper. And Jordan Zimmerman. This could have gotten ugly.

It didn't. The Nats took a 2-0 lead. But the Phils managed to tie it. Did the Phils win? As Harper would say, "That's a clown question, bro." The Nats scored 2 in the top of the 10th, but the Phils tried to come back... and fell just short. Nats 4, Phils 3.

The atmosphere in Philly has gotten bad. September 1964, October 1977, late 1980s, late 1990s bad. The locals now expect the worst. And Ryan Howard, who looked like a sure Hall-of-Famer, now can't hit the ground if he fell off a ladder. Sad to say, he is done. Probably has been since that strikeout that ended the 2011 NLCS injured him.

But I saw a Major League Baseball game for just $20. Yay, me. Okay, the cost of a round-trip visit from my home base to Philly, including a bus, 2 trains and the Broad Street Line subway, is $46.60 -- and that's just transportation! But "The Bank" might be the best of the new ballparks, getting a ticket for $40 or less isn't hard, and they've got the best ballpark food east of Detroit.

Too bad the Phillies, unlike in the ballpark's 1st 8 seasons (2004-11), don't put up much of a fight.

Attendance: Officially, 30,094. I was there, and I'm telling you, in the immortal words of Jim Gosger (as quoted by Jim Bouton in Ball Four), "Yeah, surrrre!" A gorgeous spring Sunday, and if it was over 25,000, I'd be surprised. It might not even have been 20,000.

One more note: I saw a bee land right on the nose of the Harry Kalas statue, in front Harry the K's restaurant behind the left-field pole. A fan saw it, and got rid of it. (The bee, not the statue.) I couldn't resist doing Harry's voice: "And it is... outta here!"

*

Looking at the out-of-town scoreboard at CBP, I saw the Yankees and Red Sox were not yet playing. That next Yankee game was an ESPN Sunday Night Baseball contest. Against the Red Sox. For the Yankees, this is usually a recipe for frustration -- sometimes, a recipe of outright disaster. Usually with unacceptably pro-Red Sox, anti-Yankee broadcasting.

By the time I got back to New Brunswick, I came down the steps of the station, and saw inside Brother Jimmy's Barbecue, and saw a home run from Chase Headley. Good.

Then I saw the score: Yankees 7, Red Sox 0. In the 1st inning! With Masahiro Tanaka as our starter!

My 1st thought was, "Note to self: Have eyes checked." Then I remembered that I had my eyes checked this past November, and got new glasses -- as it turned out, I didn't need a new prescription, just new glasses, since my old ones had some scratches on the lenses.

The much-maligned Stephen Drew had already hit a grand slam in the inning. Brian McCann added a homer in the 8th. A-Rod had a double and 4 RBIs. Headley had 3 hits; McCann, Gardner and Beltran, 2 each. A-Rod and Ellsbury each had a hit and 2 walks, meaning they each reached base 3 times.

Worried about Tanaka's durability, Joe Girardi limited him to 5 innings, and he allowed 4 runs, 3 earned. But, between them, David Carpenter and Kyle Davies pitched 4 innings, allowing no runs, 4 hits, and no walks. The Sox led Clay Buchholz twist in the wind until the 4th inning.

Yankees 14, Red Sox 4. WP: Tanaka (1-1). No save. LP: Buchholz (1-1).

A blowout win over The Scum. On ESPN. It's about time!

*

And then, yesterday, the Yankees began a roadtrip, visiting the Baltimore Orioles. Michael Pineda was not sharp. Going into the top of the 7th, the Yankees trailed 4-2. Solo homers by Young (his 2nd of the season) and Teix (his 3rd). You can't just hit the ball out, you gotta get men on base before you do it.

The Yankees loaded the bases, and Girardi sent the much-maligned Drew up to pinch-hit. Remembering that Camden Yards is a bandbox, and that it's important to hit the ball hard with men on base, Drew hit it out. Grand Slam.

The Orioles pulled a run back in the bottom of the 7th, but the Yankee bullpen got the job done. Yankees 6, Orioles 5. WP: Pineda (1-0). SV: Andrew Miller (2). LP: Tommy Hunter (0-1).

Meanwhile, also yesterday, the Red Sox had their home opener. Throwing out the ceremonial first ball? Tom Brady. Fellow cheater, except he's cheated his way to 1 more title than the Sox have. I wonder if the ball was deflated.

*

And then, tonight, the momentum stopped. As they have many times since their former manager William Nathaniel Showalter III became the Orioles' manager, the Yankees let Adam "Don't Call Me Pacman" Jones beat them with a home run. Orioles 4, Yankees 3. WP:

SV: Zach Britton (2). LP: Sabathia (0-2).

The Yankees are now 3-5. 2-1 since a 1-4 start, but still not good.

154 games to go.

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