Tuesday, August 25, 2015
Yanks Walk Off vs. Astros In Old-Fashioned Pitching Duel
The site of last night's game between the Yankees and the Houston Astros was a stadium built during the Obama Administration, blasting recent hit songs from its loudspeakers. It was broadcast on a classic baseball station (WPIX-Channel 11), rather than on the YES Network, but was also available on the Internet.
The Astros are in the American League, something that wasn't true just 2 years ago, and are leading their Division, something that would have been ridiculous as recently as 8 years ago. Someone who'd forgotten that the Astros had been bumped out of the National League would have seen this game on the schedule, and presumed that it was an Interleague game, something that would never have happened in the regular season as little as 19 years ago.
The starting pitchers were born in the Administrations of the elder George Bush and Ronald Reagan. Players from all over the world participated. Neither starter entered this season as anything resembling a star, and neither went the distance. Both, however, were paid enormously by the standards of the reserve clause era -- or even the 1st few years of free agency.
In spite of all this, the game was an old-fashioned pitching duel.
Nathan Eovaldi started for the Yankees. He's 25, and a native of the Houston area. In fact, he's from Alvin, Texas, hometown of another fireballer who actually did pitch for the Astros: Nolan Ryan.
Eovaldi hovered around 100 miles per hour all night. He seems to have 3 speeds: Fast, faster, and, "You wanna see it again? Oh, that's right, you didn't see it the first time." Nasty Nate, he's being called, although by all appearances he's a decent guy if you don't have to bat against him. Nor does he specialize in brushbacks or purpose pitches.
Pitching the way he did last night, he didn't have to. He went 8 innings, throwing 109 pitches, allowed 4 hits and 3 walks, and no runs. He struck out 7 -- a bit short of another Ryan parallel, but effective. Three Astros got as far as 2nd base, none as far as 3rd.
Scott Feldman started for the Astros. He's a 32-year-old 6-foot-7 native of Hawaii, but grew up in the Bay Area, in Burlingame, which some of you will recognize as California wine country, and others as the hometown of football coaching legend Dick Vermeil.
Perhaps "not anything resembling a star" is a little unfair in Feldman's case. In 2009, he went 17-9 for the Texas Rangers, although he didn't do so well in 2010, as he wasn't included on their postseason roster. He was injured much of 2011, but did appear in the postseason, including the World Series. He's only topped 8 wins once since 2009, and was 5-5 with a 3.75 ERA coming into last night's game.
But last night, Feldman was, effectively, Eovaldi's equal. He stranded Brian McCann after a leadoff single in the bottom of the 2nd inning. He allowed opening singles to Didi Gregorius and Stephen Drew in the 3rd, but allowed no run. He got a double play to erase McCann's leadoff single in the 4th. He got a strikeout and a double play to erase leadoff singles by McCann and Carlos Beltran in the 7th. That's right: McCann led off 3 innings with hits, and didn't score. Feldman allowed 6 hits, but no walks, and no runs.
It began to look like one of those games for the Yankees, where their lack of hitting would come back to bite them. Especially after Joe Girardi looked in his binder, and saw, "If your starter crosses 100 pitches, never, ever, EVER let him pitch the next inning." So he brought in Andrew Miller, the closer, to start the 9th, and he immediately allowed a single to Evan Gattis. But he then induced a double play on Luis Valbuena, and struck out Chris Carter, to send the game to the bottom of the 9th scoreless.
Astros manager A.J. Hinch also went to his bullpen, bringing in Oliver Perez. Yes, the same Oliver Perez who first thrilled, then appalled, fans of that small club in Flushing. Admit it: You didn't know he was still in the major leagues.
Brett Gardner led off with a walk. Met fans would probably consider that typical of Perez, to walk a leadoff batter. Then he threw a wild pitch, to get Gardner to 2nd. Then, with Alex Rodriguez up, Hinch ordered an intentional walk to set up the double play. After all, in this instance, the lead baserunner was all that mattered, so a 2nd baserunner did the Yankees little good, but could have helped the Astros.
But Perez issued a very unintentional walk to McCann (his 4th time reaching base in the game), and now the bases were loaded with nobody out in a tie game in the bottom of the 9th.
Oliver Perez, ladies and gentlemen. He faced 3 batters and walked them all. Feldman faced 28 batters and walked exactly none.
Hinch had seen enough, and he pulled Perez for Chad Qualls.
The batter was Carlos Beltran. In 2004, he was a trade-deadlin steal and a postseason hero for the Astros. Last night, he was a hero for the Yankees, sending a fly ball to center field. Carlos Gomez caught it, but knew he had no chance to catch the speedy Gardner, and didn't even throw. Gardner tagged up, and ballgame over.
Yankees 1, Astros 0. WP: Miller (2-2). No save. LP: Perez (2-2).
The Yankees celebrated by dumping bottles of water on Beltran's head. It looked like Poland Spring brand.
Water? I guess A.J. Burnett took the pie franchise with him when he left.
The series continues tonight. Ivan Nova starts against Dallas Keuchel, who started the All-Star Game for the American League. Yes, his name is Dallas, and he pitches for Houston.
Days until the Red Bulls play again: 1, tomorrow night, at 8:30 PM Eastern Time, away to the Chicago Fire.
Days until Arsenal play again: 4, this coming Saturday, 7:45 in the morning our time, away to North-East club Newcastle United. Yesterday, in a driving rain, Arsenal and once-mighty Liverpool played to an atrocious 0-0 tie, perhaps the sloppiest game I've ever seen 2 "big clubs" play. Arsenal got robbed, as an Aaron Ramsey goal was incorrectly ruled offside.
Days until the Red Bulls next play a "derby": 5, this Sunday night at 7:00, home to arch-rival D.C. United, at Red Bull Arena. The next game against the New England Revolution will be on Wednesday night, September 16, at Gillette Stadium in Foxboro, Massachusetts. The next game against the Philadelphia Union will be on Sunday night, October 18, at Red Bull Arena, the regular season finale. They've already played their 3 regular-season games against expansion New York City F.C., the team playing its "home" games in Yankee Stadium until they can get a new stadium built, and won them all. Small club in Da Bronx. The teams could, theoretically, meet in the Playoffs. The Red Bulls currently hold the 2nd seed in the Eastern Conference, 5 points behind DC with 4 games in hand. But NYCFC are in 7th, level on points with the Montreal Impact, yet with inferior goal difference, and Montreal have a whopping 6 games in hand. So the chances of "Man City NYC" are not good.
Days until the next Yankees-Red Sox series begins: 6, next Monday night, at 7:00 PM, at Fenway Park.
Days until the U.S. national soccer team plays again: 10, on Friday night, September 4, in a friendly with Peru at Robert F. Kennedy Stadium in Washington.
Days until Rutgers plays football again: 11, on Saturday afternoon, September 5, home to Norfolk State.
Days until East Brunswick High School plays football again: 17, on Friday night, September 11, home to Piscataway. (I previously had that listed as Thursday, September 3, away to Woodbridge. Apparently, that's a preseason scrimmage. We've played Woodbridge in most regular seasons since 1963, but not, apparently, in this one.)
Days until the Devils play again: 45, on Friday, October 9, home to the Winnipeg Jets. Under 7 weeks.
Days until the Islanders' first home game at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn: 45, also on Friday, October 9, against the defending Stanley Cup Champion Chicago Blackhawks. Or, to put it another way, "61 Sleeps Till Brooklyn." Until then, despite having definitively played their last competitive game in the Nassau Coliseum, even with their 4 straight long-ago Stanley Cups, they're just a Small Club In Hempstead.
Days until the Devils play another local rival: 54, on Sunday, October 18, away to the Rangers.
Days until the next North London Derby between Arsenal and Tottenham: 90, on Saturday, November 7, at the Emirates Stadium. Just 3 months. (Most likely, at least the time -- currently 10 AM U.S. Eastern -- and possibly the date of this game could be moved to accommodate television. It could be moved to the next day, Sunday.)
Days until the next East Brunswick vs. Old Bridge Thanksgiving game: 93, on Thursday morning, November 26, at 11:00 AM, at Jay Doyle Field in East Brunswick. About 3 months. (I previously had it starting at 10 AM, but it's going to start at 11. Knowing EB, and knowing OB -- and you can't spell "SLOB" without "OB" -- it'll be over quickly, as they always seem to humiliate us.)
Days until the Copa América Centenario begins on U.S. soil: 283, on June 3, 2016. A little under 10 months. The tournament will be between teams from the North American, Central American and Caribbean region (CONCACAF) and South America (CONMEBOL, which is celebrating its 100th Anniversary). Although it's a member of CONCACAF rather than CONMEBOL, the U.S. is the host nation, and thus qualifies automatically, as it does for the 2015 CONCACAF Gold Cup.
Days until Euro 2016 begins in France: 290, on Friday, June 10.
Days until the next Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil: 346, on Friday, August 5, 2016. Under 1 year.
Days until the next World Cup begins in Russia: 1,028, on Friday June 8, 2018. Under 3 years.