Saturday, October 18, 2003

Getting a few things off my back 

Are you tired of hearing people say the Marlins are going to have to run the Yankees to death because they can't slug with them? I sure as $&!# am.

In the first two rounds of the playoffs the Yankees hit 10 homers with a .380 SLG. The Marlins? 12 homers .420 SLG.

Meanwhile, the Marlins stole a total of six bases and were caught three times. The Yankees? Nine, caught once.

Now reread those last two lines. Got it? Good.

Sure, the Yankees have a better chance to beat the tar out of the Marlins starters (Josh Beckett being the exception) than they did against the Twins and Sox. Sure, the Marlins will use their speed to take extra bases on the Yankees weak outfield arms and exploit the shaky defense of Jeter and Soriano, and their team speed also contributes to their defensive edge over the Yankees, particularly in center and the right side of the infield. But to say the Marlins don't have power, or that they're going to run Posada ragged on the bases? I just don't buy it.

It's very possible that this will be a high scoring series, thanks in part to the disarray of both starting staffs after both LCS Games 7. But if it is, it will have as much to do with the Yankees running the bases and the Marlins--particularly Rodriguez, Lowell, Lee and Cabrera--pounding the ball as the other way around. I expect this to be a hard fought series decided by the ability of both teams to take advantage of their opponent's starters with their bats. Sure the Yankees are the favorites going in, but if a Marlins starter other than Beckett comes up big, the series could go long, and the longer it goes, the better the chance that the Marlins, who have Beckett set up for Game 7 and have a 5-0 franchise record in postseason series, will do to the Yankees what they did to the Cubs and the Giants.

One other note. Only one hitter has ever hit a home run into the left field bleachers in Yankee Stadium. That man was Juan Encarnacion. He'll be in the outfield for the Marlins in the Bronx as Jeff Conine becomes the DH.

Lastly, I leave you with one of my favorite images of the past week, taken Thursday afternoon before Game 7 of the ALCS:

Is that Bernie Mac with the paint brush?

posted by Cliff at 6:06 PM

Game 7, part 2 (heroes & goats/onward) 

I had to split my Game 7 summary into two parts because, basically, I'm overwhelmed. The past two weeks of playoffs have ground most other aspects of my daily life to a halt. I spend far too much time writing this blog during (long) lunches at work and at night after games, often until 3:00 am (hey look, it's 1:00 now!) and the rest of my time is spent watching games or at work. Don't get me wrong, it's been great. I certainly picked the right postseason to get so involved, but I'm getting about four hours of sleep a night and if you throw in the emotional toll of the ALCS. I'm just wiped out.

Anyway, having done my recap earlier today, it's time for Heroes and Goats . . .

Yankees Heroes:
Mike Mussina on two days rest, Moose made the first relief appearance of his career, coming in with men on the corners and no outs in the fourth. He retired the side on just six pitches stranding both runners, then pitched two more scoreless innings.
Mariano Rivera hadn't gone three full innings since he was setting up Wetteland in 1996. Who knows how long it's been since he's thrown 48 pitches. In Game 7 he did both of those without allowing a run, giving the Yankees the opportunity to win the game. Stottlemyre said after the game that, if needed, Mariano would have taken the mound for a fourth inning.
Jason Giambi after struggling to get to the Stadium due to a water main break in Washington Heights (Manny Ramirez's old neighborhood--and, twenty years earlier, my dad's), Giambi arrived at the ballpark to find he had been dropped four places in the batting order to the seven-hole. He responded with two solo homers, the only runs scored off of Pedro before the fateful eighth inning.
Jorge Posada exacted his revenge on Pedro with a two-RBI bloop double in the eighth that tied the game and finally knocked Martinez out of the game.
Derek Jeter, Bernie Williams and Hideki Matsui with a double, a single, and another double, these three set up Posada and scored the three runs that tied the game.
Aaron Boone it figures that the guy who would eventually hit the game winning home run would be Boone, who was acquired at the trading deadline in a much maligned trade for bankable left-handed pitching prospect Brandon Larsen and then proceeded to barely hit his weight in his first month with the team. Boone hit .188/.235/.313 in the first two rounds of the playoffs (that's with the home run), collecting just three hits in the ALCS, but the last was the biggest hit he'll ever get. What's more, it came in his only at-bat of the game, on the only pitch he saw. Boone didn't even earn the start in Game 7, but now he's been added to the list of Boston's killer Bs: Babe, Bucky, Buckner . . . Boone. Oh, and "Aaron Boone" has the same distribution of syllables as "Bucky Dent," making his new nickname a perfect fit. His game-winning solo shot to lead off the bottom of the eleventh was one of the biggest home runs in major league history, although, unlike the others, you sort of knew this one was coming, you just didn't know who was going to hit it.

Yankees Goats:
Roger Clemens 3 IP 6 H 4 R 3 ER 1 BB 1 K, 65 pitches. That's not the line you want from your Game 7 starter. Rocket seemed composed, but he just didn't have it.
David Wells his willingness to come in from the pen on one day's rest was heroic, but he allowed the Red Sox to pad their lead in the eighth by giving up a solo homer to David Ortiz on his first pitch, thus he's a goat.
Alfonso Soriano 0 for 5 with four strikeouts, including one as the tying run with two outs in the bottom of the seventh.
Enrique Wilson you want irony? Wilson got the start in place of Boone at third because of his success against Pedro this season. In the second inning, before his first at bat, Wilson made a throwing error on a routine grounder that allowed the Red Sox to score an extra run. Wilson then went 1 for 3 with an infield single in his last at-bat. Aaron Boone eventually replaced him after the Yankees had tied the game in the eighth. Boone hit the game-winning home run in the eleventh, but, had Wilson not made that error, the Yankees would have won in regulation. Instead, Aaron Boone will go down in history because he didn't get the start in the game for which he will always be remembered.

Red Sox Heroes:
Trot Nixon the man owns Roger Clemens, and proved it again with a two-run homer put the Red Sox on the board first.
Jason Varitek 2 for 4 with a run scored.
Kevin Millar 2 for 5 with a solo homer and two runs scored
David Ortiz 2 for 5 with a solo homer in the top of the eighth that gave the Red Sox the extra run they needed to keep the game tied after the Yankees outburst in the bottom of the eighth
Todd Walker 1 for 5, but it was his two spectacular plays in the field late in the game that kept the Yankees from scoring--particularly his play on Soriano's grounder off the pitchers mound in the eighth with Posada representing the go-ahead run on second--that earned him hero status.
Alan Embree retired a suddenly hot Jason Giambi with a man on second and one out in the eighth to keep the game tied
Mike Timlin pitched 1 1/3 innings of scoreless baseball to keep the game tied

Red Sox Goats:
Tim Wakefield if the Sox won, he would have been series MVP. Instead he becomes the man who gave up Aaron Boone's home run.
Pedro Martinez outpitched Clemens by a long shot and, with the exception of Giambi, dominated the Yankees into the seventh. But he failed to recognize or admit that he was gassed in the eighth, telling his manager to leave him in only to surrender a three run lead with his team just five outs from the World Series. When he was cruising in the middle innings, many expected this to be the game that defined him, and in a way, it turned out to be just that as his pride got the better of him. His line: 7 1/3 IP 10 H 5 ER 1 BB 8 K.
Grady Little Sox fans are calling for Little's head. I think Pedro and Little worked in concert to blow the Red Sox's lead in the eighth inning, Pedro insisting that he had enough left to get Matsui and Posada. The fact remains that Pedro was clearly on the ropes and Little left him in to give up four straight hits as the Yankees tied the game with the Sox just five outs from the World Series. Certainly Sox fans would have had the same reaction if Little had gone to the bullpen and the Yankees had tied the game ("how could he not stick with Pedro, it's Pedro!"), but Embree, Timlin and Williamson had proved themselves in the postseason. A manager playing for the win, rather than playing to the whims and desires of his ace/diva, would have taken Pedro out before the score was tied. It is interesting, however, that Roger Clemens has long been maligned by Sox fans for "begging out" of Game 6 against the Mets, while Pedro brought about a worse result (the Yanks didn't need a Red Sox error to tie or win the game and the Red Sox didn't get another chance after losing this game) by begging to stay in Game 7.

Now for the ALCS Heroes and Goats, losers first:

Red Sox Goats:
Pedro Martinez the man who was supposed to be the difference in the series, the man everybody agreed would be the ideal pitcher to have as your Game 7 starter, lost his first start and gave up a three run lead late in his second, leaving with the game tied and setting up an eventual Yankee win. His series ERA was 5.65. Then there was the beanball fiasco in Game 3, which he initiated and then exacerbated. If you could only choose one goat for this series, it would be Pedro Martinez
Nomar Garciaparra he finally came up big in Game 6 (4 for 5, triple, two runs scored), but he went 3 for 24 in the rest of the series with no extra base hits, no runs scored and just one RBI. Even in his spectacular Game 6 he made an error on a potential third out that gave the Yankees an opportunity to score two more runs.
Johnny Damon you can't blame him for missing the first two games due to the concussion he suffered in Game 5 of the ALDS, but after going 3 for 4 in Game 3 with a run scored he went 1 for 16 with no runs scored and just one RBI in the remaining four games.
Bill Mueller the batting champ hit just .222 with no RBIs and one run scored. He also twice struck out on a hit and run, both times leading to a strike-em-out-throw-em-out double play.
Derek Lowe Lost both of his starts, posting a 6.43 ERA, walking seven and striking out only five. Lowe and Martinez were supposed to be the Red Sox two best starters, but the four games the Yankees won were the four games Lowe and Martinez started.

Red Sox Heroes:
Tim Wakefield sure he gave up the deciding run of the series, Aaron Boone's eleventh-inning walk-off home run. But if not for Wakefield, the Sox never would have made it to Game 7. Wakefield won both of his starts, allowing just eight hits in 14 innings while striking out ten. He posted a 2.57 ERA, a 1.00 WHIP, and held the Yankees to a .163 batting average, and that includes Boone's home run.
Mike Timlin allowed just one hit and two walks while striking out six in 5 1/3 innings over five appearances. He did not allow a run, nor an inherited runner to score.
Alan Embree after allowing two inherited runners to score in the Sox's Game 1 win, Embree allowed just two more hits in 3 2/3 innings over four more appearances. He did not walk a batter, and neither of his baserunners scored.
Scott Williamson outside of an ultimately harmless solo homer by Ruben Sierra in Game 4, Williamson did not allow a baserunner while striking out six in three one-inning saves.
Trot Nixon hit .333/.429/.750 with three home runs, five RBIs and three runs scored.
David Ortiz hit just .269 but made his hits count, smacking two homers, driving in six and scoring four runs.
Todd Walker hit .370/.414/.704 with two homers and five runs scored. He also played well over his head on defense.
Manny Ramirez the only one of Boston's three superstars to have a solid series, Manny hit .310 with two home runs, four RBIs and six runs scored.
Jason Varitek hit .300/.333/.700 with two homers, 3 RBIs and four runs scored. His totals artifically lowered by Little's refusal to let him catch Wakefield's knuckler.

Yankees Goats:
Alfonso Soriano hit .133/.188/.167 with 11 strikeouts and failed to score a run. His series can be summed up by Game 4 in which his weak throw on Jason Varitek's double play ball allowed the eventual winning run to score. Later in the game, he came up with two outs in the ninth and the Yankees down by that one run. He promptly struck out, missing badly on three sliders from Scott Williamson.
Enrique Wilson twice given the start by Joe Torre against Pedro Martinez he went 1 for 7 while making a misplay in each game that wound up costing the Yankees a run (though only one was scored an error).
Aaron Boone, Games 1-6 Boone hit so poorly that Torre's decision to bench him in favor of Wilson in Games 3 and 7 made perfect sense. He was 2 for 16 prior to his series winning home run.
Felix Heredia he walked the only man he faced in Game 3, then walked in the go-ahead run in Game 6 on four pitches. That's how you wind up with a 3.38 ERA despite not giving up a hit.

Yankee Heroes
Mariano Rivera earned his MVP trophy with 8 strong innings including three shut-out innings in Game 7 to pick up the win. The only run he gave up was a harmless one resulting from Todd Walker's lead-off triple in Game 5. His line for the series: 8 IP 5 H 1 ER 0 BB 6 K, one win, two saves.
Jorge Posada hit .296 with a homer, six RBIs, five runs scored, four doubles, three walks and just four strikeouts. He also threw out three runners on botched hit and run plays. But most of all, he got the hit off Pedro that tied Game 7.
Hideki Matsui hit .308 with four RBIs, three runs scored and three doubles, two of them off Pedro in key situations.
Mike Mussina let's face it, while he didn't bomb in his two starts, he didn't do the job either, with his three scoreless innings in Game 7 worked in he had a 4.11 ERA on the series and gave up five home runs. But his performance in the fourth inning of Game 7, which was followed by two more scoreless innings, very well may have saved the game, and thus the series, giving him hero status.
Aaron Boone, Game 7 he didn't hit all series, but he got the biggest hit of the series, a series-winning home run in the bottom of the eleventh in Game 7.

Actually, the majority of the Yankees had series like Boone's, though not to that extreme. Derek Jeter got some key hits (a homer off Pedro in Game 3, a double to start the rally in Game 7) and made some great plays in Game 5, but hit only .233 for the series. Bernie scored five runs, and was involved in the Game 7 rally, but hit just .192 with only one extra base hit. Giambi hit just .231 and made several costly outs with men on base, but then in Game 7 he hit two solo shots and had three homers on the series. Nick Johnson hit just .231 but helped reverse the Yankees fortunes with a two-run dinger in Game 2 to give the Yanks their first lead of the series, he drove in 3 and scored 4 on the series. Karim Garcia also got a huge hit, his coming in Game 5, but hit just .250, and all four of his hits were singles.

Same holds true for the Yankee starters. Clemens and Pettitte both had one hero start and one goat start. Wells pitched great in his one start, but gave up what could have been a crucial home run to David Ortiz in Game 7. Then there's Jose Contreras, who pitched 3 1/3 scoreless innings, allowing just three baserunners in Games 1, 2 and 3, providing a that elusive bridge to Rivera in the Yankees first two wins of the series. Then in Game 6, after striking out the side in the sixth, he blew the lead with a complete meltdown that went triple, double, wild pitch, RBI-single, wild pitch, out, single.

In the playoffs as a whole, the Yankees have spread things around pretty well on offense, statistically third base and right field have produced the worst, but Boone hit that ALCS-winning homer, Karim Garcia got some key hits in Fenway (not counting the ones he got in on that groundskeeper) and Juan Rivera hit .333 in the ALDS. Elsewhere, Jeter leads the seven regulars in OBP and batting average and is second to Giambi in slugging and home runs, but has created the fewest runs of the group (six). Nick Johnson has hit just .179, worse than Boone in the postseason, but has the fourth highest total of runs created (ten). Soriano ranks fifth in runs created (nine) and has hit just .224, but seven of those runs created are ones he drove in himself (he's tied with Matsui for the team lead in RBIs) and he's stolen four bases without being caught. Thus far the Yankees best postseason performers have been Posada (.250, 11 runs created, 5 doubles), Williams (.268, 6 walks, 13 runs created) and Matsui (.293, second to Jeter, 4 doubles, 11 runs created). While the defense hasn't been necessarily good, it has not proved costly since Game 1 of the ALDS, with the possible exception of the failed double play in Game 4.

As for the pitching, every starter has pitched well but also had moments of weakness (Clemens in Game 7, Andy in Game 6, Wells giving up Ortiz's home run, Mussina giving up five ALCS homers). The bullpen has been more hit and miss, with Contreras hitting the biggest extremes. The only sure thing has been Rivera who's playoff line is: 12 IP 5 H 1 ER 0 BB 10 K, one win, four saves, 0.75 ERA, 0.42 WHIP, .122 BAA. Absolutely dominating.


So now the Yankees move on to face the Marlins in the World Series. Strangely, I barely care. Beating the Red Sox was so emotionally draining, dramatic, enthralling, and deeply satisfying that the World Series seems unnecessary. I wonder if the Yankees will suffer from a similar downswing in emotion. Certainly this Marlins' team should not be taken lightly. They were heavy underdogs in both of their National League series and refused to play accordingly. And, for all the attention paid to their speed, have a very balanced (if very righthanded) and powerful lineup.

The pitching situation for both teams is all messed up due to the use of three starters by each club in their respective Games 7. David Wells will face Brad Penny in Game 1 tomo . . . oh, tonight. Wells has pitched extremely well in his two starts this postseason, but is working on three day's rest, not counting his 2/3 inning in Game 7 last night, and will be facing a largely right-handed Marlins lineup that does very well against lefties. Penny, meanwhile, pitched just four innings in the NLCS, working one inning last Saturday and one inning in Game 7 on Wednesday, earning the win. Of course, his light work load is partially due to the fact that he was lit up by the Cubs in Game 3, giving up seven runs in two innings. He didn't perform particularly well in the NLDS either and has a 10.24 postseason ERA.

Jack McKeon has tagged Mark Redman as his Game 2 starter. Redman started Game 7, giving up five runs in three innings, and will thus be pitching on three days rest. That means the Yankees will face the Marlins' ace, Josh Beckett, in Game 3 (and a potential Game 7). Beckett pitched four innings in Game 7, allowing a Troy O'Leary home run, but no other baserunners. In Game 5 of the NLCS, Beckett threw a complete-game two-hitter, walking one and striking out eleven. He'll be on five day's rest for Game 3. McKeon will then choose between rookie sensation Dontrelle Willis and one-time Pedro Martinez trade bait Carl Pavano for Game 4.

The Yankees pitching picture is less clear. Pettitte could pitch on three day's rest in Game 2, unless Mussina rebounds well from the 33 pitches he threw in Game 7. If you think of that as Moose's throw day, he'll be on five day's rest for Game 2. Clemens could pitch Game 3 on full rest. Of course if Moose pitches Game 2, Andy will have had five day's rest by the time Game 3 rolls around. If Andy pitches Game 2, Moose will be on full rest for Game 3. Which means the decision will likely come down to who Torre wants to start a potential Game 7 and who he wants to start just once in the series. I'd be tempted to save Pettitte for Game 4 if only because he's a lefty, and go with the righthanders Mussina in Game 2 (pending his recovery from Game 7) and Clemens in Game 3 on regular rest.

Okay. It's now 4:30 am. Time to go to sleep.

posted by Cliff at 12:49 AM

Friday, October 17, 2003

Game 7, pt. 1 (recap) 

Like I said in a daze last night, Game 7 lived up to the hype. It likely ranks toward the top of three impressive lists: best games in Yankee Stadium (if not Yankee history), biggest home runs (for Aaron F*cking Boone) and best non-World Series games of all-time. I'll take a closer look at those later, but first, for any of you out there who are still fuzzy on the details . . .


As the game starts there seems to be a general feeling of disbelief that this is even happening. Hardly a word is uttered by the FOX announcers during the first two batters. There's an eerie dream-like quality about just about everything. With one out, Todd Walker works a full count and then fouls off four straight pitches. It feels like the game's being going on for an hour. Time itself slows to a crawl.

At last Walker singles to break the tension. Unfortunately he also wakes up Tim McCarver. Walker moves to second on a deep fly to right by Nomar. Clemens gets out of the inning by getting the same from Manny Ramirez.

In the bottom of the first, Pedro strikes out Soriano on four pitches, then walks Nick Johnson on five. Pedro's fastball is topping out at about 89 miles per hour. After Jeter bloops a foul out to first, Bernie singles moving Johnson to second. Clearly this is not going to be a reprise of the spectacular 2-0 Sunday night game between these two pitchers back in May 2000. Pedro retires Matsui to end the inning, pushing his fastball to 91mph.

David Ortiz lines out to center to begin the top of the second. It is the third straight hard-hit ball to the outfield of off Clemens. The next two won't be caught as Kevin Millar singles and Trot Nixon hammers a 2-0 pitch into the rightfield bleachers about five feet from my Game 6 seat. Rocket vs. Pedro, 2-0 on a Trot Nixon homer. That won't be the only familiar thing about this game.

After Clemens strikes out Bill Mueller on four pitches for the second out, Jason Varitek doubles to deep right. Varitek would have been out at second had Karim Garcia's throw been about eight feet lower. Johnny Damon then hits a grounder to third. Enrique Wilson, again starting in place of out machine Aaron Boone due to his past success against Pedro, fires the ball sidearm to first. The ball tails away from Johnson sending Varitek home and Damon to second. Walker grounds out to end the inning.

Pedro, who now has a 3-0 lead, starts his fastball at 91 in the second and adds a couple of miles per hour in the process of retiring the side in order.

Clemens settles down in the third, but his first pitch of the fourth inning is lined over the left field wall by Kevin Millar. Roger then issues a full-count walk to his nemesis, Trot Nixon, and gives up a 2-1 single to Mueller to put runners at the corners. With Boston already up 4-0 and Rocket in another jam, Joe Torre heads to the mound and calls on Game 4 starter Mike Mussina. Leaving the field for what may be the last time in his career, Clemens receives a standing ovation despite his John Burkett-like performance in the biggest game in Yankees vs. Red Sox history.

Mussina, a hard-luck 0-3 in this postseason and 0-5 in his last five postseason starts, made some regrettable, though refreshingly candid comments to the media out of pure frustration after Game 4. Entering the game with no outs and runners on the corners already down 0-4, he is given his opportunity for redemption.

Jason Varitek steps to the plate. Foul, strike one. Foul, strike two. Strike three swinging. Three pitches, one out, runners hold. Next up Johnny Damon. Strike one looking. Strike two looking. Groundball to short. Jeter fields, runs several strides to the bag and fires to first. Double play, inning over. Mussina comes in and with six pitches, all of them strikes, gets three outs to strand Boston runners at first and third. I don't think Jeter's ever thrown a ball harder to first base and I know Mussina's never recorded three bigger outs in his career.

The Yankees waste a two-out Matsui double in the bottom of the fourth. Moose survives a pair of one-out singles in the top of the fifth. In the bottom of the fifth, Jason Giambi--who's struggled throughout the postseason and has been dropped to the seventh spot in the lineup by Joe Torre after a dismal performance in Game 6--blasts Pedro's first pitch over the wall in right center. Not another batter reaches base for either team until the bottom of the seventh when, with two outs, a 2-2 pitch from Pedro is launched to just in front of the black in center field by . . . Jason Giambi. 4-2 Red Sox.

After Clemens left the game, Joe Torre used Mussina for three innings, and Felix Heredia and Jeff Nelson for two outs each. With one out in the eighth and lefty David Ortiz due up, Torre calls on David Wells to take over for Nelson. The first pitch from Wells, who threw 104 pitches on Tuesday on his way to a Game 5 win, is crushed to right by Ortiz. Disgusted with himself, Boomer gets the final two outs of the inning. 5-2 Red Sox.

Before we get to the bottom of the eighth, let's recap Pedro's seventh inning: Matsui ground out to second. Posada line-drive out to center. Giambi homer to right center. Infield single by Enrique Wilson on a ball hit right on the line and gloved by Millar in foul territory. Karim Garcia single. Soriano strike out (Sori's fourth K). [note: my girlfriend displayed a classic bit of girlfriend timing, asking me to help her medicate our hamster with Soriano at bat representing the tying run and two outs--I couldn't do it! Not now!]

Desperate to get something started, Nick Johnson takes Pedro's first five pitches in the eighth to run the count full. He then fouls of the sixth before popping out to short. Next up is Derek Jeter, who quickly falls behind 0-2 but then creams a double to deep right. Bernie Williams, who said after the game that he based his approach in this at bat on the one by Jeter that immediately preceded it, singles to center to score Derek. The Yankees' deficit is back to two.

At this point, Pedro has given up hits to five of his last seven batters. With lefty Hideki Matsui, who already has a double off Pedro tonight, coming to the plate, Grady Little emerges from the Boston dugout. Lefty fireballer Alan Embree, the "one" in Boston's one-two-three postseason bullpen knockout punch, is warm in the pen, but in a decision that will haunt him, and Red Sox fans, Little returns to the dugout without Pedro. In a postgame interview Pedro said that Little asked him if "I had any bullets in my tank." Mixed metaphors aside, Pedro clearly told his manager that he wanted to finish the job himself. In the Greek Tragedy that is the story of the Boston Red Sox, it was Martinez's hubris and Little's cowardice that brought them to their knees in this act.

After looking at a pair of strikes from Pedro, Matsui lines a ground rule double down the line in right to put runners at second and third for Jorge Posada. It's a fitting confrontation in light of the shouting, finger pointing and alleged threatening that occurred between these two in Game 3 and what was later revealed by Don Zimmer to be a two-year campaign of trash talk directed at the Posada from the now vulnerable Red Sox ace. The first pitch from Martinez is a ball. Posada then takes strike one to even the count. Ball two. Strike two swinging. Posada then fights off Pedro's fifth pitch, lifting it just over the infield. The ball drops directly in the center of a triangle formed by Damon, Walker and Garciappara in shallow center. Both runs score. Tie game. Posada takes second on the throw home from Damon and spins to face his teammates with a fully flexed scream of exultation that would make Goldberg proud.

At long last, Little re-emerges from the third base dugout to retrieve Martinez, bringing in Embree to face Giambi. Fans on both sides of this rivalry are surely in shock at this point, but no matter what happens from here, one thing is sure. Pedro has failed. It is the second minor victory for the Yankees in this game. The first being Mussina's six-pitch Houdini act in the fourth. Embree gets Giambi to fly out to center for the second out, holding Posada at second. Grady Little, suddenly fond of the hook, then brings in Mike Timlin and Torre counters by having Ruben Sierra hit for Enrique Wilson, who went 1 for 3 today and 1 for 7 with an error (really two) in his role as Torre's secret weapon against Pedro in the ALCS. Timlin intentionally walks Sierra to face Karim Garcia. Torre pinch runs for Sierra, who did the work of a statue, with out machine Aaron Boone. Timlin then unintentionally walks Garcia on four pitches to load the bases, but gets Soriano, now 0 for 5, to ground out to second to end the inning.

With the game now tied entering the ninth at home, Torre brings in Mariano Rivera. With one out Jason Varitek singles against Mo and is pinch run for by Damian Jackson. Rivera retires the next two hitters and Little puts Doug Mirabelli in to catch. After a 1-2-3 inning by Timlin in the bottom of the ninth, Mo comes back out in the tenth. With two outs he gives up a double to David Ortiz who is pinch run for by Gabe Kapler. Mo retires Millar on a pop to short to end the inning.

As the game moves into the bottom of the tenth things begin to look bleak for the Yankees. Rivera's already pitched two innings, leaving just Contreras, Gabe White--both of whom played huge roles in the Yankees' loss in Game 6--and the broken shell of Jeff Weaver in the pen. Wakefield, meanwhile, has not only shut down the Yankees twice already in this series, but is a knuckleballer working on two day's rest. He could pitch all night.

Wakefield mows down Matsui, Posada and Giambi in the tenth. The Yanks need to pull another inning out of Mo and hope they can get something started with . . . Aaron Boone, Karim Garcia and Alfonso "Golden Sombrero" Soriano. Just when you thought things couldn't get any more tense. I've been quivering and fidgeting for so long at this point I'm starting to cramp.

Rivera, who hasn't worked three full innings since he was John Wetteland's setup man in 1996, gets through the top of the eleventh on eleven pitches, his best inning of the game. Torre gets Contreras up in the bullpen and Andy Pettitte, who threw 92 pitches yesterday goes to get his arm rubbed down and make his way to the bullpen.

In the bottom of the eleventh, out machine Aaron Boone steps to the plate for his first at-bat of the game. Tim Wakefield's first pitch is a 69-mile-per-hour knuckleball up in the zone.

Bone swings.

He hits it hard . . . he hits it deep . . .

It's a home run!

The Yankees WIN! The Boston Red Sox, who were five outs from the World Series are going home and the Yankees are moving on to face the Marlins in the World Series on Saturday!

And Aaron Boone has a new nickname.

posted by Cliff at 2:06 PM

Believe the hype 

You knew it had to end that way.

Red Sox vs. Yankees boiled down to it's purest essence.

Pedro's pride got the better of him. Mariano's didn't.

And Aaron F*cking Boone connects with Wakefield's first pitch in the bottom of the eleventh . . . "deep to left . . it's gonna be, it's a home run!"

All is right with the world. Details tomorrow.

posted by Cliff at 2:20 AM

Thursday, October 16, 2003

Double Elimination 

Over the course of their current nine-season playoff run, the Yankees have played in five double elimination games. Their record in those games is 2-3.

Four of them occurred in the best of five ALDS. Their record in those games is 2-2.

The two wins came over the A's in 2000 and 2001. In the 2000 ALDS Game 5 started by Andy Pettitte in Oakland, the Yanks scored six in the first off Gil Heredia and never looked back. In 2001, a game started by Mark Mulder and Roger Clemens in New York, they overcame Oakland runs in the first and second to win 5-3. Both starters lasted just 4 1/3, though Clemens out pitched Mulder, who was victimized by three Oakland errors.

The first of the two loses came in the 1995 ALDS in Seattle. The Yanks led by two going into the bottom of the eighth, but David Cone, starting against Andy Benes, got in trouble and wound up walking in the tying run. They then took a one run lead in the eleventh, but Buck Showalter refused to bring in John Wetteland, who gave up a decisive grand slam to Edgar Martinez in Game 4. Instead, he gave the ball to Jack McDowell (career postseason: 0-4, 8.71 ERA), who promptly gave up the tying and winning runs.

The other came in 1997 in Cleveland. Pettitte started against Jaret Wright. The Yanks came up one run short, stranding Paul O'Neill on second in the ninth against Jose Mesa and losing 4-3. In Game 4 of that series, Mariano Rivera entered the eighth with a one run lead only to give up a game-tying homer to Sandy Alomar, Jr. Ramiro Mendoza then lost the game in the bottom of the ninth.

Thus in nine consecutive postseasons the Yankees have only played one Game 7. You might remember it. 2001 World Series, Schilling vs. Clemens (not a bad pitching matchup itself) in Arizona. The game was scoreless until the Diamondbacks finally eked one out against Clemens in the sixth. Rocket pitched a great game (7 IP 3 H 1 ERA 3 BB 9 K) but was matched almost exactly by Schilling (7 IP 3 H 1 ER 1 BB 9 K)--man, that's creepy! In the eighth the Yanks took the lead off Miguel Batista. Rivera then came on, getting three outs in the ninth before giving up the tying and winning runs on one of the flukiest bottom nines you'll ever see (an error, a hit-by-pitch, the tying run scoring on a broken bat bloop just over the infield).

All three of the double elimination games that the Yankees have lost in their current run came on the road and were decided by one run, two of them in their opponent's last at bat.

Of the five double elimination games they've played in this span, two of them were started by Roger Clemens, both in 2001. He left the A's game with a lead and the D-backs game with the score tied.

For their part, the Red Sox have played five games seven in their history. Their four game seven loses in the World Series are part of their legend. The fifth game seven they actually won. That was an 8-1 victory in Game 7 of the 1986 ALCS against the California Angels. The starting pitcher? Roger Clemens.

Extending the definition to double elimination games, the Red Sox lost one-game playoffs in 1948 and 1978 (of course). They did, however, win Game 5 of the 1999 ALDS against the Indians, in Cleveland no less. Bret Saberhagen started that game against Charles Nagy. Saberhagen didn't make it out of the second and was replaced by Derek Lowe. The Sox tied the game up at 8-8 in the top of the fourth (!), at which point Pedro Martinez entered and pitched six perfect innings as the Sox took the lead and the series.

There was one other double elimination game in Boston Red Sox history. It happened exactly 89 years ago today in 1912 at Fenway Park, but it wasn't a Game 7. It was a Game 8. The Sox were playing John McGraw's New York Giants in the ninth World's Series and the series was tied at 3-3-1. Game 2 ended in a 6-6 tie after eleven innings. The game was delayed by a fight that ensued after the Giants' thirdbaseman interfered with Tris Speaker attempting to score (interference at third and a brawl, shades of the 2003 Sox?). It was eventually was called due to darkness.

The Sox found themselves up 3-1-1 after Game 5 with an opportunity to win the series in the Polo Grounds in Game 6 and their best pitcher, Smokey Joe Wood--who had defeated Walter Johnson in an epic head-to-head matchup during the regular season--set to start. But the Red Sox owner, eager for another game's receipts back at Fenway, forced manager Jake Stahl to start Buck O'Brien instead, hoping that with Giants' ace Rube Marquard on the mound his team would lose to send the series back to Boston (legend has it the Sox owner also placed a hearty wager on the Giants in Game 6). O'Brien gave up five in the first and the Giants cruised behind a Marquard complete game to win 5-2.

The owner's interference, along with the fact that they weren't paid for the tied Game 2--no result, no pay was the owners' logic--so infuriated the Red Sox players that they threw Game 7, with Wood giving up six in the top of the first (legend has it the players themselves wagered heavily on the Giants this time out, to help compensate themselves for their loses resulting from Game 2). Thus after leading 3-1-1, the Red Sox were faced with a decisive Game 8 at home and Christy Mathewson going for the Giants. The Giants took a 1-0 lead in the third, but the Sox tied it up in the seventh. With the game tied, Stahl brought in Wood, who had pitched just one inning the previous day. Wood worked a scoreless eighth and ninth but surrendered a run in the top of the tenth to put the Giants three outs from the Championship.

Boston pinch hitter Clyde Engle led off the bottom of the tenth with a pop fly to center that Giants centerfielder Fred Snodgrass dropped (paging Jose Cruz, Jr.) allowing Engle to reach second base (pay attention Jeff Conine). Snodgrass then redeemed himself by making a spectacular catch of a ball off the bat of Harry Hooper. Engle moved to third. The next batter walked, bringing Tris Speaker to the plate. Speaker hit a foul pop off first base which dropped between firstbaseman Fred "Boner" Merkle and catcher Cheif Meyers who appeared to simply freeze on the play (missed out on a foul ball . . . nope, doesn't ring any bells). Speaker then singled home the tying run, pushing the winning run to third. After an intentional walk to load the bases, Josh Devore lifted a fly to deep right, which scored the tying run and won the Series for the Red Sox.

Ruth joined the Sox three years later, leading them to three more Championships. Five years after that he was a Yankee. Fifty-eight years later there was Bucky Dent. Twenty-five years later there's Game 7.

posted by Cliff at 2:57 PM

Rocket vs. Pedro 

Let's flesh out the history of this matchup a bit more.

Pedro Martinez has started 24 games against the Yankees while wearing a Red Sox uniform. The Red Sox are 9-15 in those games.

Clemens and Martinez have faced each other five times while with their current teams. The Yankees have won two, the Red Sox three.

In two of those Red Sox wins, Clemens was gone early. In Game 3 of the 1999 playoffs in Boston, the first of the five matchups, Clemens was rocked, failing to make it out of the third inning (2 IP 5 H 5 ER 2 BB 2 K). In their third meeting on June 14, 2000, less than a month after their epic Sunday night rematch, Clemens left after one inning with a strained groin. Pedro lasted six and both bullpens performed well. The Sox won 2-1.

In the three other starts in which both pitchers went deep into the game, Pedro won one, Clemens won one, and the third was a Yankee win decided by the bullpens.

The first of these was that Sunday night matchup in the Bronx on May 20, 2000, by far the best of the five games these two have pitched against one another. Both pitchers went the distance and the game was scoreless in the top of the ninth with two outs when Trot Nixon hit a two-run homer to right. The Yankees loaded the bases in the bottom of the inning (thanks to a pair of hit batsmen, natch) but failed to score.

The bullpen game occurred in New York on April 14, 2001. Clemens: 6 IP 5 H 2 ER 4 BB 5 K; Martinez: 7 IP 6 H 2 ER 2 BB 9 K. Yanks won 3-2.

The fifth matchup was Game 3 of this ALCS (read my game recap in this blog), a 4-3 Yankee win at Fenway. Rocket: 6 IP 5 H 2 ER 1 BB 7 K; Pedro: 7 IP 6 H 4 ER 1 BB 6 K.

Again, but quicker:

ALCS 1999: 13-1 Red Sox, Rocket rocked, Irabu rocked harder
5/20/2000: 2-0 Red Sox, two complete games, Trot Nixon homer
6/14/2000: 2-1 Red Sox, Rocket out after one with a strained groin
4/14/2001: 3-2 Yankees, duel to a 2-2 tie, decided by the bullpens
ALCS 2003: 4-3 Yankees, Clemens rises above the beanbrawl

Four of these games were decided by a total of five runs.

While a Red Sox win would tie the season series at 13 games, a Yankee win would tie the Pedro/Clemens series at 3. If only these teams were more evenly matched. (heh)

I'm beginning to think that tonight's game is so perfectly set up that they shouldn't even play it. They should just continue to let it linger in it's perfection, the ultimate game, unreachable, unplayable.

posted by Cliff at 11:25 AM


Yesterday at about 8:00 I came up with this grand scheme:

Cubs win Game 6.
ALCS Game 6 is thus moved to 8:00 preventing me from having to skip out on work to honor my ticket.
Yanks win Game 6.
That gives me two days to write a Game 6/ALCS wrap up and do some preview work on the Cubs/Yanks series I've been pulling for. It also allows me to attend my softball game on Thursday.

Then the Cubs blow Game 6. The Yanks/Sox game remains at 4:00.

Consolation prize: I can make it to band practice.

Then the Yankees blow Game 6.
Then I find out no one else can make band practice and it's called off.
Then the Cubs blow Game 7.

Consolation prize: The horror of a Cubs/Red Sox World Series is averted (a huge relief).

Of course, I was pulling for the Cubs through most of the postseason.

And now the Marlins are in the World Series.

Ignoring for a second that they're a young, thrilling, never-say-die team that is hard not to root for . . . the Marlins? Yeeek.


I was smack dab in the middle of the bleacher creatures for Game 6. It was cold, it was insanely windy, there were some great moments when I was convinced the Yanks would be moving on, and then there was a painful collapse and a stinging defeat.


Things start off well. Andy surrounds a two-out single with three groundball outs in the top of the first. Giambi hits a two-out solo homer just over the wall in right center in the bottom of the inning, his first postseason homer as a Yankee. Andy follows up with two strikeouts and another groundball around a two-out double that gets blown over Matsui's head in left.

Then the top of the third. Jason Varitek leads off by crushing a ball into the upper deck in left. As I said before, the wind was insane. Gusts reached 30 miles per hour. Two Red Sox players--one of the pitchers, I forget which, in his followthrough and Damon when leaning back slightly to make a catch in center--were blown over during the game. There were plastic shopping bags and wax paper and napkins and peanut bags swirling all over the field through most of the game. Despite being buried among the bleacher creatures, I nearly lost my hat several times (as you might imagine, Matsui lost his just about every time you turned around). Apparently the swirling winds created a jet stream to left and later centerfield, which turned a routine fly ball by Mueller in the second into a double and sent Varitek's homer all the way into the left field upper deck. I can't remember the last time I saw a ball hit up there. It's quite possible that I've never witnessed it in the fifteen-odd years I've been attending games at the stadium.

Varitek's homer ties the game at one. Andy then walks Johnny Damon on a full count and gives up a single to Todd Walker, moving Damon to second. Nomar replaces Damon on the bases via a fielder's choice at third. One out, first and second. Pettitte walks Manny on four pitches to load the bases. His very next pitch is looped in to right by Ortiz for a two-run single. Again it's first and second, one out. Kevin Millar singles to center scoring Manny. Still first and second, one out. Mercifully, Bill Mueller grounds into an around-the-horn double play, but the Sox have scored four to take a 4-1 lead.

Andy settles back down in the fourth--allowing just one baserunner on a 'tween-the-wickets error by Aaron Boone--and the Yankees storm back in the bottom of the inning. Bernie leads of with a shot down the first base line than Millar smothers, flipping to Burkett for the out. Posada and Matsui follow with singles to put runners on the corners. On a 3-1 count, Nick Johnson tattoos a ball into the gap in right, which bounds over the wall for a ground rule double that scores Posada and puts Matsui on third. Out machine Aaron Boone grounds the first pitch he sees to short, driving in Matsui. Two outs, man on second. Yanks have closed it to 4-3. Karim Garcia swings at the first pitch he sees, knocking a weak grounder up the middle. Nomar ranges over and sets up in front of it but boots the ball allowing Garcia to reach safely and Nick to move to third. Having been given an extra out, the Yanks then send Alfonso Soriano to the plate. Like Boone and Garcia, he too swings at the first pitch he sees. Unlike his immediate predecessors, Sori creams the ball for a bases-clearing double. Yanks lead 5-4.

As Grady Little emerges from the Sox dugout to retrieve Burkett, I begin to relish the idea of Nomar, with his miniscule postseason batting average and one RBI (recorded on a groundout), going from hero to zero in New England by booting Garcia's ball and giving the Yankees the opportunity they needed to take the lead.

Much to my surprise, Little give the ball to Bronson Arroyo (!) who proceeds to walk Derek Jeter on five pitches. With two men on and the Red Sox reeling, Jason Giambi steps to the plate works the count full over seven pitches but then strikes out to end the inning. Yanks lead 5-4 and the way too talkative kid next to me (who I do everything in my power not to slug later in the game) begins counting outs at fifteen (gee, kid, why not start at 24 when they were up 1-0 in the first?).

Andy splits a pair of singles amid the outs in the fifth and Posada creams a 3-1 Arroyo pitch in the bottom of the inning to give the Yankees a crucial insurance run. Contreras comes on in the sixth (Andy hadn't gotten a ground ball out since the inning-ending double play in the Sox 4-run third, Contreras had been aces thus far in the postseason, I can't say that I disagreed with Joe on this one) striking out the side despite issuing Damon a full count walk with two outs.

The Yanks have another opportunity to pad their lead in the bottom of the sixth when, with one out, Soriano singles, moves to second on a passed ball, and Jeter walks. With that, Little brings in Alan Embree to face Giambi. On Embree's first pitch, Jeter and Soriano double steel, putting runners at second and third with one out and an 0-1 count on Giambi. Embree's next two pitches are balls, but after a called strike two and a foul, he gets Giambi swinging. Bernie grounds out to third to end the inning.

And then all hell breaks loose.

Contreras's first pitch of the seventh is lifted into the jet stream in left center by Nomar for a triple. After fielding the ball, Matsui wheels to fire the ball back in to third, but the wind blows his throw (which was surely off line to begin with) into the stands, sending Garciaparra home. 6-5 Yankees.

Manny does the same thing with Contreras's next pitch, though, as is Manny, he only works a double out of it.

Contreras's next pitch is wild, sending Manny to third. Three pitches and the Sox have gone from down by two to having the tying run on third with no outs.

Contreras recovers slightly with two strikes to Ortiz, who then works the count full before singling deep in the hole at first to tie the game. The kid next to me stops counting outs at nine.

Contreras gets Millar to fly to right on another full count before falling behind 3-1 to Mueller, who singles to put Ortiz, the go-ahead run, in scoring position with just one out. Having seen enough, Torre brings in Felix Heredia to face lefty Trot Nixon. With the count 2-2, Heredia uncorks a wild pitch that puts both runners in scoring position and the go-ahead run on third, still one out. Thankfully, Heredia strikes out Nixon on the next pitch. With first base open, Torre elects to intentionally walk Jason Varitek (who, of all the Red Sox bats, is the one I would least like to see at the plate in a key situation, again I fail to disagree with the move) to set up the force at all bases. Heredia then proceeds to toss four straight balls to lefty Johnny Damon, walking in the tying run. Awful. Having handed the Red Sox the lead, Heredia then finds his stuff and strikes out Todd Walker on four pitches. Delightful.

Matsui singles just over the outstretched glove of Garciaparra with one out in the bottom of the inning, but Nick Johnson follows by grounding into a double play. In the eighth, Torre lets Aaron Boone bat against righty Mike Timlin. Boone strikes out. Garcia then singles. Soriano replaces him on the bases via a fielder's choice, but makes up for it by stealing second on Timlin's first pitch to Jeter. With the tying run in scoring position Jeter grounds out to third to end the inning.

Looking ahead, the Yankees, who are trailing by just one run at home, have Giambi, Williams and Posada, three power-hitting lefties (I'm being nice to Bernie here, but go with it) due up against what's sure to be Boston's new-found closer, righty Scott Williamson in the bottom of the ninth. There are worse situations to be in when losing a ball game. Say for example, trailing by three runs with just three outs left.

After working a scoreless eighth on just ten pitches and striking out his first man in the ninth, Jeff Nelson gives up a double, again in that jet stream to center, to Mueller. Torre immediately brings in Gabe White, the forgotten man in the Yankee bullpen, to face the lefty Trot Nixon. Strike one, looking. Foul ball, strike two. White's quickly ahead 0-2 despite not pitching since Game 4 of the ALDS, ten days ago. Ball one. Nixon then launches White's next pitch into the upper deck in right to give the Red Sox a three-run lead. What was that I was saying before? Oh yeah. After striking out Varitek on four pitches, White gives up a ground rule double to Damon (a normal one down the line that bounds into the stands in foul territory). When White finally gets Todd Walker to ground out to him for the last out he fires a fastball to first, clearly furious at himself.

Things look bleak, but at least the Yanks have some big guns due up. Little brings in Williamson as expected. Giambi quickly falls behind 0-2 but proceeds to work the count full. The 3-2 pitch . . . strike three. Giambi gets the hat trick in his final three at bats. Bernie then flies out to center on Williamson's second pitch, cleverly looping the ball over the jet stream which knocks Damon on his rump upon making the catch. On a 1-1 count Posada follows suit. Game over, Red Sox win 9-6 (oddly enough, the same score as the Marlins victory over the Cubs which begins before I make it out of the stands).

Heroes and Goats:

Red Sox Heroes:
Nomar Garciaparra Oh burn! I had Nomar pegged as the series goat and he turns around a goes 4 for 5 with that crucial triple to start the Red Sox barrage in the seventh. The one time Nomar made an out it was a fielder's choice and he came around to score.
David Ortiz 2 for 5 with three RBIs, his RBI singles in the third and seventh initiated the scoring in each of the Red Sox two big rallies.
Trot Nixon his two-run homer in the ninth put the nail in the Yankee coffin, rescuing him from an 0 for 4 day with three Ks.
Alan Embree, Mike Timlin and Scott Williamson the Red Sox bullpen trio does it again: 3 2/3 IP 2 H 0 ER 0 BB 3 K

Red Sox Goats:
John Burkett the Sox would have taken four or five strong innings from Burkett, but Burkett failed to get out of the fourth, allowing seven hits and five runs (three earned) in 3 2/3 IP. If not for a great play by Miller to lead off the fourth, things could have been even worse.
Bronson Arroyo despite walking the first man he faced, he managed to end the Yankee rally in the third without allowing his inherited runner to score. But then he allowed Posada to add a run to the Yankee lead with a homer in the fifth.

Yankees Heroes:
Alfonso Soriano went 2 for 4 with a two-RBI double to cap the Yanks third-inning rally and give them the lead. He was robbed of a hit by Johnny Damon on a sliding catch in the third. In the sixth, he singled, moved to second and stole third, all with one out, giving the Yanks another scoring opportunity that they wasted. In the eighth he made the second out on a fielder's choice, but immediately stole second to get in scoring position with the Yankees down by one.

Yankees Goats:
Jason Giambi both he and Trot Nixon went 1 for 5 with a homer and three strike outs. Nixon, however, gets hero status for extending the Red Sox lead and putting the nail in the Yankee coffin with his homer. Giambi gets goat status because, after hitting a solo shot in the first, he twice struck out with in a runner in scoring position--once with a man on third and one out--and then, with the Yankees down to their final three outs, led off the ninth with another K. By contrast, two of Nixon's Ks came leading off middle innings, one with his team in the lead. Giambi's K in the sixth with a man on third and one out was the most costly Yankee out of the game.
Jose Contreras go back and reread my recap of the top of the seventh, if that doesn't explain it, check his line: 1.1 IP 4 H 3 ER 1 BB 3 K, two wild pitches.
Felix Heredia can you walk in the go-ahead run and not be a goat?
Gabe White he came in with one out and a man on second, hardly a jam. Just get two outs and let the heart of the order try to scratch out the tying run. Nope. Two-run homer to Trot Nixon. Game over.
Andy Pettitte maybe Torre pulled him early. Sure he pitched four strong innings. But he was on the mound for five. He gave up four runs on four hits and two walks in the third, putting the Yankees in a hole that they were able to crawl out of, but not escape.

Other game notes:

This game was divided into two halves, the first half belonging to the Yankees, the second to the Red Sox. Sure the Sox got four off Andy in the third, but after 5 1/2 the Yanks had a 6-4 lead and hadn't allowed a man to reach third base in five of the six innings that they were in the field. Over the final 3 1/2, the score was 5-0 Red Sox and the Yankees couldn't get anything started.

Check the split Red Sox pitching line:

1st half: 5 IP 9 H 6 R 1 BB 3 K
2nd half: 4 IP 3 H 0 R 1 BB 4 K

Changing the subject, notice that there are just two walks there. The Red Sox made one error and walked two batters. The Yankees made two errors and walked five. More telling than the Red Sox's +4 advantage in hits is their +8 advantage in base runners.

Lastly, for those of you who argue that a strike out is just another kind of out (Steve Goldman, I'm looking at you here), hold your heads up high as the Yankees struck out just seven times (three by Giambi) while the Sox struck out a whopping thirteen but won the game. Half of the Sox's outs were strikeouts while just one quarter of the Yankees outs were strikeouts. Taking a closer look, eleven of the Sox's thirteen Ks came with the bases empty or with two outs, when a productive out was an impossibility. Six of the Yankees seven came in such situations. That means there were just three out of twenty strikeouts in this game that occurred in productive-out situations (men on, fewer than two outs). In the Red Sox's two such situations, a double play (the greater evil) was a possibility. That leaves Giambi's K with men on second and third and one out (yes, that again) as the only costly strikeout in a game in which twenty batters struck out.


Tomorrow night's Game 7 is the biggest game in the history of the greatest rivalry in American professional sports. The Yankees and Red Sox have only once played a double elimination game. That was the Bucky Dent game in 1978. That was to decide which team made the ALCS. This decides which team makes the World Series. No bigger game is possible between two teams in the same league. Add to that the pitching match-up of Clemens and Martinez. Even without Clemens' history in Boston and his imminent retirement, this game pits two certain first-ballot Hall of Famers against each other in a double elimination game. Throw in the rivalry dating back to . . . hell, to Chesbro's wild pitch in 1904. Add Clemens' history and lack of future into the mix. Toss in that ESPN Sunday night game in the Bronx from a few years back that pitted the two against each other and went scoreless until Trot Nixon's 9th inning homer. Add in two ALCS Games 3 and the corresponding meltdowns of each pitcher (Clemens physically 1999, Pedro mentally this year). Could this be the greatest non World Series game in baseball history?

Tomorrow will be the 26th meeting of these two teams this year. That's the most games played between two opponents in a given season, ever. The Yankees currently hold a 13-12 lead in the season series. Tomorrow the Red Sox could tie the season series and take their first step toward breaking a mythical curse 85 years in the making, or the Yankees could nail down their lead and reach their sixth World Series in Joe Torre's eight years as Yankee manager.

I can't even begin to imagine what's going to happen.

posted by Cliff at 12:36 AM

Wednesday, October 15, 2003

I believe in curses 

Game 6. Curse. It's happened again.

For all of the times that an unusual play--be it a physical error, a mental error, a freak occurrence, or an all-out choke job--has swung the momentum away from a supposedly cursed ballclub on the verge of a historic win, none of them have unfolded before my eyes. But tonight, I've seen things I've only heard about.

For those who missed it, and the rest of you who still can't believe it, here's what happened in the top of the eighth inning in Chicago tonight.

The situation: The Cubs, with a 3-2 series lead, are six outs away from their first World Series in 58 years. Ready to put an end to the fourth-longest active drought in major league baseball (Red Sox, White Sox and Cubs World Championships are the other three), Chicago's young ace Mark Prior takes the hill in the top of the eighth. Prior has thus far given up just three hits, two walks and no runs, absolutely dominating the Marlins with the help of some spectacular defensive play from his teammates.

Having come in as part of a double switch in the prior inning, Mike Mordecai flies out to left on a 2-1 pitch. Five more outs. Top of the order due up for the Fish.

Juan Pierre fouls of a 2-2 pitch from Prior and then laces a double down the leftfield line. It's just the fourth hit Prior has allowed. Still five outs to go.

Desperate for baserunners, the Marlins' Luis Castillo takes Prior's first five pitches to run the count full. Castillo fouls off Priors next three pitches, one of which comes down directly over the railing on the left field wall. Left fielder Moises Alou tracks the ball to the wall and reaches over the railing, setting his glove directly beneath the falling ball, but a fan in a black sweater, green turtleneck, Cubs cap and big black headphones fails to notice Alou and grabs for the ball, knocking it away just inches above Alou's glove. Still five outs to go.

Castillo eventually draws ball four, which skips past catcher Paul Bako for a wild pitch, sending Juan Pierre to third and bringing Ivan Rodriguez to the plate as the tying run.

Rodriguez swings at every pitch he sees from Prior. The first two put him down 0-2 in the count. The third is pounded into left for an RBI single. 3-1 Cubs with runners on first and second. The go-ahead run coming to the plate. Still five outs to go.

The next batter, Miguel Cabrera, grounds the very first pitch he sees to shortstop, but the ball kicks off the heel of Alex Gonzalez's glove for an error. Everyone is safe. Bases loaded. Go-ahead run in scoring position. Still five outs to go.

The next batter is Derek Lee, who is 0 for 4 and has looked horrible against Prior thus far. Lee also swings at the first pitch he sees, scorching it into deep left for a two-RBI double. Tie game.

Tie Game.

No more outs to count. The Cubs aren't winning any more and the go-ahead run is now on third with just one out.

Dusty Baker brings Kyle Farnsworth in to intentionally walk Mike Lowell and pitch to Jeff Conine.

Bases loaded, one out, go-ahead run ninety feet from home. Conine lifts the first pitch he sees into deep right. Sosa makes the catch as Cabrera tags and scores ahead of the throw. The Marlins have taken the lead 4-3. The other runners also move up. Second and third, two outs.

Todd Hollandsworth pinch hits for the pitcher, Chad Fox, and is intentionally walked by Farnsworth to load the bases with two outs.

Mike Mordecai, who lead off the inning with a fly-out to left steps in. Mordecai is a dead fastball hitter and Farnsworth is a pitcher famous for his 100-mile-per-hour heater. Farnsworth throws three breaking balls to send the count to 2-1. The next pitch is a fastball and Mordecai creams it off the wall in the gap in left, clearing the bases. Three more runs score for the Marlins, who now lead 7-3. Wrigley Field goes from quite to silent.

Baker brings in Mike Remlinger, the third pitcher of the inning, to pitch to Juan Pierre, who doubled to start what is now a seven-run rally for the Fish. Remlinger's first pitch is smacked to right for a single scoring Mordecai. 8-3 Marlins.

At long last, Luis Castillo, who hit the foul ball that was knocked out of Alou's glove by a fan, pops out to right on a 2-2 count, but even more than the Marlins rally, the Cubs are done.

The lingering image from all of this is the fan knocking the ball away from Alou, but, while that may have signaled to the baseball gods that the curse was on, the crucial mistake of the inning was the error by Gonazalez. Not only was it a routine play, but it very well could have been an inning-ending double play, despite the missed out on the foul ball. On the other hand, even if Alou catches Castillo's foul, if Gonzalez still makes his error, chances are the Marlins still tie the game.

Fan interference was not called on the Castillo foul because the umpire judged that the ball would have come down outside of the field of play, thus making it fair game for the fans. Had the fan reached into the field of play, the umpire could have called Castillo out. The unfortunate Cubs fan who attempted to catch the ball was quickly drenched in beer and pelted with other items by his fellow Cub fans (some of whom also reached for the ball but didn't touch it). He left the stadium with a security escort. While what he did may have been foolish, it did not cost the Cubs the game. That rests on the shoulders of the Cubs pitchers and Gonzalez. It's one thing for a professional athlete to become a lifelong goat along the lines of Fred Merkle or Bill Buckner, it's an occupational hazard, but this poor fan technically did nothing wrong and very well may have to move if he maintains a residence in the area. It's a painful thing to see. Alex Gonzalez, who is making $4.5 million this season and who seems to have been saved from legendary goat status by this fan, should make it a point to take care of his needs in light of these events. Of course, all may be forgotten if the Cubs win Game 7.

On "Baseball Tonight," Bobby Valentine pulled a Gardenhire, blaming Prior's meltdown on length of the seventh-inning stretch (during which Bernie Mac surely angered the baseball gods by saying "lets hear it for the Champs" and singing "root root root for the Champs, Champs!") and the Cubs run-scoring bottom of the seventh. Prior's a young pitcher who sat too long after throwing seven innings, claimed Valentine. It's possible that that had something to do with his performance in the eighth, but it's the job of the Cubs coaching staff and Prior's catcher to detect that sort of thing and nip it in the bud by going to the pen. Otherwise, it's Prior's job to keep warm during those long layovers late in the game. That still doesn't explain Farnsworth giving up a three-run double to Mordecai, or Remlinger giving up an RBI single on his first pitch. And it doesn't explain Gonzalez's error.

No, I think the only thing that could satisfactorily explain the events of the eighth inning of tonight's Game 6 in Chicago is that the team is cursed by a long-dead man and his long-dead billy goat. I'm not sure I'm kidding.

What remains to be seen is whether or not this is one of those devastating Game 6 losses that decides Game 7 before it's even played. One imagines it very well could be. When the Marlins recorded the last out, Wrigley was so quiet that all you could hear were the jubilant shouts of the Marlins players. I've never witnessed something like that. In the postgame press conference, Dusty Baker appeared visibly shaken, stumbling all over his words while trying to downplay the roll of curses and history in deciding this series. Interestingly enough, Dusty's San Francisco Giants were leading in the eight inning of Game 6 of the World Series last year when the pesky, no-quit Angels rallied to win the game. The Giants--who haven't won a World Series in San Francisco, their last coming in New York in 1954--never challenged in Game 7, losing the series. In that Game 6, Baker let Russ Ortiz keep a game ball when he took him out in the seventh. Tonight, the Cubs locker room had been fully prepped for the postgame celebration. The plastic was over the lockers, the podium was up, the National League Championship trophy was present and the NL Champion t-shirts were at the team store. All will have to wait another day.

The Cubs have one advantage left. Kerry Wood. He'll face Mark Redman tomorrow at 8:00. Hopefully by then I'll be able to shut my jaw.

posted by Cliff at 12:32 AM

Tuesday, October 14, 2003

One win away. 

So, unlike with Game 3 of the ALDS, my attempt to tape today's game and watch it after it had concluded failed. Apparently I pulled the ol' AM/PM switcheroo and have now taped over an ALDS game with a bunch of daytime FOX shows. Killer. Even better, the torture I put myself through while desperately trying to avoid any word of the game at work and on my commute home over the course of two and three quarters hours was for naught.

It's just as well, while I had warned everyone I know in New York and Boston to avoid telling me anything about the game and arranged for my mom to call me when the game ended so I could rewind the tape and watch it, I failed to notify my girlfriend, who is on a business trip in Atlantic City. Somewhere around the bottom of the eighth my phone rang and the first words spoken on the other end are "So the Yankees are winning, huh?" D'oh! Fortunately (for her) I had already realized that I blew the taping thing and was watching the game at the time.

Big win for the Yanks today. Here's a quick RECAP based more on the box score and game log than on my own experience of watching the game (grrrrr):

The Yanks got to Derek Lowe early. In second inning, Posada drew a five-pitch walk with one out. Matsui grounded him over to second. After Lowe fell behind Nick 3-0, he completed the walk with an intentional ball to bring righty/out machine Aaron Boone to the plate. After falling behind 0-2, Boone scorched a shot to third which Mueller was unable to corral. Infield single, bases loaded. Next up was Karim Garcia. Garcia was a late addition to the line-up (Torre had originally written Dellucci into the nine-spot). Garcia had talked to Reggie Jackson before the game about how to tune out a hostile crowd as he knew he would get taunted. Whatever Jackson told him seemed to work as with two-outs and the bases loaded Garcia took an outside 2-1 pitch up the middle for a 2 RBI single. With runners on first and second, Soriano, swinging at Lowe's first pitch for the second time in two at-bats, drove a single the other way to plate Boone. Jeter then grounded out to end it on his way to an uncharacteristic postseason 0-fer.

Boston got one back when Manny Ramirez hit Wells first pitch of the fourth inning into the front row of the monster seats. But that's about all there was until I got home in the eighth.

Wells first pitch of the third hit Nixon, but little seemed to come of it. The Yankees had first and second with one out in the fourth but Garcia flied out and Sori struck out on four pitches to end the threat. In the fifth, the Yanks had men on the corners with one out, but Posada hit into an inning-ending double play. In the fifth, the Red Sox got the bases loaded but needed two outs and a Soriano error to do it. Manny Ramirez hit the second pitch he saw at Boone, who got the last out on the force at third. All three of those rallies involved defensive errors, which proves how well Lowe and Wells were pitching.

I flipped on the TV just as the Yanks were coming to the plate in the top of the eighth. The score was 3-1, which was stunning because a coworker had emailed me at about 4:30 pretending to give me the score as a joke. He told me it was 3-1 Yankees. Good guess, Dave!

Giambi leads off the inning by working a 1-2 count into a walk by fouling off three pitches from Lowe. He is immediately pinch-run for by David Dellucci. Bernie then grounds the second pitch he sees to Millar who gets Dellucci at second for the first out. Next up is Posada, who singles on a 3-1 count sending Bernie to third and sending Grady Little to his bullpen for Alan Embree. Embree's first pitch is rocketed back to the box by Matsui. The ball deflects off Embree toward Mueller at third. Mueller looks home, but Bernie got a great jump, eliminating the play at home. Mueller takes the second out at first, and Nick Johnson flies out to end the inning. 4-1 Yanks.

Despite Wells going 1-2-3 in the sixth and seventh, Torre brings in Rivera for the ninth, underlining the importance of getting a 3-2 lead in the series. Rivera's second pitch of the inning is skied to right by Todd Walker. Despite looking like a round-tripper through most of its flight, the ball stays in the park, pounding of the base of the furthest (rounded) corner of the right field wall and ricocheting back into right field past the charging Karim Garcia. Walker never hesitates, making it to third without a throw for a lead-off triple. Mo then gets Nomar to ground out to first. Walker scores. It is Nomar's first RBI of the postseason, not the ALCS, the entire postseason. And he gets in on a weak ground out to first. Wow. Mo then strikes out Manny Ramirez, who looks hopeless against him, gives up a single to center by Ortiz and gets the last out on a grounder to short by Millar. In the ninth, Rivera needs just nine pitches to retire the side, getting the last out on a bloop to shallow left center that is caught by Derek Jeter on the run with his back to the infield. Yankees win 4-2 and take a 3-2 series lead back home to the Bronx.

Heroes and Goats:

Yankees Heroes:
David Wells outside of Manny's first-pitch blast in the fourth, Wells gave the Sox nothing. 7 IP 4 H 1 ER 2 BB 5 K. The two walks are surprising, but his hit total was lower than usual. Simple matter is, again with the exception of Manny's homer, only one Red Sox player reached third against him and it took a Soriano error to get him there. Great big game pitching once again.
Karim Garcia he was taunted mercilessly (most notably with "Jail-bird"), but got the key hit, a two-out, bases loaded knock to drive in two in the second, probably no more than 20 minutes after he learned he would be starting. That was the game right there.
Alfonso Soriano his two-out RBI single to follow Garcia in the second was the only other productive hit the Yankees got all game. What's more, he went opposite way on the pitch, which is always good to see from a pull/power-conscious player like Soriano.

Yankees Goats:
Derek Jeter was the only Yankee to neither get a hit or score a run, but he made some great plays in the field. Bernie went hitless and only scored by replacing a runner on a fielder's choice. Jorge came up with men on the corners and one out and promptly hit into a double play. I can't bring myself to bold any of their names, however.

Red Sox Heroes:
Todd Walker the man got a triple of Mo. That's gotta count for something. He was also scored the Red Sox second run and was one of just two Red Sox to get two hits.
Manny Ramirez his solo shot was the only run Wells allowed.
David Ortiz got one hit of Wells and one of Rivera. The only other Red Sox hitter with a multi-hit game.

Red Sox Goats:
The six Red Sox hitters not listed above went 1 for 21 with two walks and five Ks.
Derek Lowe pitched another solid game in defeat, but like Mussina last night, it wasn't good enough. In situations like this you can't just pitch well, you have to win. 7 1/3 IP 7 H 4 ER 4 BB 3 K.


The Yankees go back to the Bronx with two chances to win one and put the Red Sox away. Andy will go against Burkett tomorrow at 4:00 (Little has confirmed that he will stay with Burkett as his Game 6 starter, though look for Wakefield if he falters early). Andy's already come up huge in must-win games twice in this postseason. Tomorrow is not a must-win, but anytime you have a chance to finish off your opponent, you should take advantage of it. I will be in the stands (right now I have a ticket for Section 37 in the right field bleachers, a few rows behind my Sunday season ticket, though I have a lead for a possible upgrade to the Main Boxes) and hope to have some pics of the Yanks clinching to post on Thursday.

If the Red Sox should take it, the hotly anticipate rematch of Rocket and Pedro will take place on Thursday in Game 7.

One win from the World Series. The Yankees have never blown a pennant when they were just one win away. The closest they've ever come was in 1904 when Jack Chesbro's wild pitch cost them the second to last game of the season against the eventual league champion Boston club.

posted by Cliff at 9:37 PM

Monday, October 13, 2003

Slider outside 

I guess I wasn't that yelling loud enough at the T.V.

Anyway, the Red Sox played a must win game today against the Yankees. A loss would have dropped them to 1-3 on the series, but Tim Wakefield again came up huge for them to bring the series even at two games a piece.


With the game-time temperature a good ten degrees cooler than it was for Game 1, Tim Wakefield's knuckler looks vulnerable early on. After walking Soriano to lead off the game on five pitches, Jeter singles to center on the sixth pitch of the game. Giambi creams the 1-1 pitch from Wakefield, but the ball is directly at Kevin Millar at first, who doubles up Jeter and holds Soriano at second. Bad break. Bernie takes a five-pitch walk himself, but Posada takes a close 2-2 pitch on the inside corner for strike three. Inning over.

From that point on, Wakefield's knuckler begins dancing. After a one-two-three second, Dave Dellucci leads off the third by allowing Wakefield's second pitch to float into his elbow. Despite the events of Game 3, the hit-by-pitch fails to produce much crowd reaction, nor should it. On an 0-1 count to Soriano, Dellucci steals second, taking full advantage of the slow floating knuckler and Mirabelli's oversized catcher's mitt. After Soriano and Jeter fly out to center, Dellucci moves to third on a passed ball in the dirt, but with a 2-2 count, Giambi lifts a harmless fly to Ramirez in left. Inning over, still no score.

In the bottom of the third the Red Sox get their first hit of Mike Mussina when Trot Nixon loops one into right. Then, with a full count on Mueller, Nixon takes off for second. Mueller waves at Mussina's pitch for strike three and Nixon is gunned out by a good three feet at second. This is the third straight game in which the Red Sox have run themselves into a strike-em-out-throw-em-out double play on a full count in the early innings. The second time with AL Batting Leader Bill Mueller at the plate. To his credit, FOX's Joe Buck points out this trend exactly one pitch before Mueller's strikeout in this inning. Much like Game 2 against Pettitte, this move clearly costs the Sox as Mirabelli follows with a single to center. Damon follows with the third out.

Todd Walker leads off the Boston half of the fourth by fouling off strike one, taking two balls, looking at strike two, and fouling of another pitch. Mussina's 2-2 fastball is right over the plate and Walker jumps all over it, sending it deep into the right field stands. Home run. Despite an error on a bad hop by third baseman Aaron Boone, Mussina finishes the inning on just four more pitches. 1-0 Boston.

The Yankees get their big chance in the top of the fifth. After Boone strikes out, Dellucci singles on a rare Wakefield fastball. Soriano then singles to left. With runners on first and second, Jeter lines a 1-1 pitch up the third baseline. The ball slams into the bag, popping over Bill Mueller and rolling into left field. Dellucci scores and Soriano makes it to third on what turns out to be a double by Jeter. It's possible that the Red Sox caught a break here. Had the ball not hit the bag, it very well may have gone down into the corner in left, allowing Soriano to score and giving the Yankees the lead. With just one out and runners on first and second, Giambi flies out to shallow center, forcing the runners to hold. Bernie draws another five-pitch walk to load the bases, but Posada, who was taunted throughout the game by the Fenway crowd's chants of "Jor-ge," lines out to left. Inning over. Tie game.

Kevin Millar is set down on three straight pitches to begin the bottom of the fifth, but Mussina's fourth pitch of the inning is rocketed over the center field wall by Trot Nixon, the very spot to which Nixon hit his eleventh-inning, game-winning homer in Game 3 of the ALDS against the A's. Just as in Game 3, Nixon breaks a 1-1 tie to put the Sox ahead. Mussina then proceeds to strike out Mueller on three pitches before getting Mirabelli to ground out to end the inning.

Despite outscoring the Yankees, the Red Sox have thus far failed to get any sort of rally going against Mussina who does indeed look much sharper tonight than he was in Game 1, with more snap on his fastball and a remarkable break on his knuckle curve. That changes in the bottom of the second. After David Ortiz strikes out to lead of the inning, Kevin Millar walks on five pitches. Trot Nixon then doubles of the monster. Hideki Matsui makes a terrific play on Nixon's ball, holding Millar to third by deeking him into thinking the ball is going to be caught and then, at the last second, turning and playing the ricochet in such a manner that he is charging the infield as he grabs the ball and makes the throw. Matsui's play nearly saves the Yankees a run. Bill Mueller is intentionally walked to load the bases and set up the double play. With Mirabelli due to hit, Jason Varitek is called in from the Boston bullpen. Making a dramatic entrance as he jogs across the field with his shin guards on, a bat in one hand, and his equipment bag on the other arm, Varitek steps to the plate in what will turn out to be the key at bat of the game.

After looking at ball one from Mussina, Varitek tops a grounder to Jeter's right at short. Jeter does a great job to make a play on the ball and feed Soriano for the double play, but Varitek busts it down the line and beats Soriano's throw by an almost imperceptible margin. FOX replays show the call by first base umpire Joe West to be at the very least not wrong as the tips of Varitek's spikes make first contact with the bag as the ball enters, but does not touch the webbing of Nick Johnson's glove. It is an outstanding call by West and a tremendous bit of hustle from the Red Sox catcher. While both Jeter and Soriano may have taken an extra millisecond or two to get a solid grip on the ball when turning the play, one can hardly blame either of them for the eventual result. Jeter should be commended just for getting the play started, and Soriano can hardly be blamed for worrying the very slightest bit more about making a good throw than about the catcher barreling down the line.

The safe call at first allows Millar to score from third and causes blood to squirt out of my eyes.

With runners on the corners, Joe Torre calls on Felix Heredia to face lefty Johnny Damon. A questionable call at best, Torre is bailed out when, with a 2-2 count, Varitek wanders off of first, drawing a throw from Posada. It's very possible that Varitek meant to draw the throw to get Nixon home with a two-out, two-strike count on Damon. Fortunately, the Yankees play it perfectly. Posada throws to Soriano in front of Varitek. Soriano runs Varitek back toward first threatening a throw to Johnson. Once Nixon breaks for home, Posada calls for the ball and quickly charges Nixon with it, firing to Boone who tags Nixon out for the final out of the inning. 3-1 Sox.

Now down two, the Yankees lead of the eighth with a full-count walk drawn by Jason Giambi. Much like he did in Game 1, Little surprisingly yanks Wakefield following the walk to bring in Mike Timlin, who has yet to allow a baserunner this postseason. Timlin's first pitch to Bernie Williams is slammed to the deepest part of center, but tracked down by Johnny Damon for the first out. Posada grounds Giambi over to second for the second out and Matsui flails at a 2-2 pitch to end the inning.

In the Red Sox's eighth, Heredia hits Todd Walker in the back with an 1-0 pitch and one out. Walker does not react, and the crowd stirs but is more wary than inflamed. During the first two batters Jeff Nelson had been warming up in the Yankee bullpen. In a reply to the Yankee Stadium chants of "we want Pedro" toward the end of Game 2, the Fenway crowd chants "we want Nelson" during Heredia's two batters. With the hit-by-pitch they are given their wish. With the crowd taunting "Nel-son," Jeff throws his first pitch for a ball way inside around the legs of Nomar Garciaparra. Almost immediately, Grady Little pops out of the Sox dugout to speak with home plate umpire Derryl Cousins. Cousins then confers with the first and third base umpires before the three of them approach Nelson. The topic of conversation appears to be Nellie's belt buckle. Nelson undoes his belt and allows the umps to inspect both it and his glove. Satisfied, Little returns to the dugout and the umpires to their positions. One assumes that Little suspected Nelson of doctoring the ball. Though one also wonders if Little was simply returning the favor to Torre, who had the umpires inspect Mike Timlin's cap in Game 1. In both situations, the pitchers managed to work a laugh out of the situation. After throwing his second pitch for a strike, Nelson gets Garciaparra to ground into an inning-ending double play.

With three outs left to work with, the Yankees are greeted in the ninth by new Red Sox closer Scott Williamson. The right-handed Williamson, who saved Game 1 and picked up a pair of wins on five scoreless innings against the A's, sports a 95-mile-per-hour fastball, a nasty slider that dives down and away from right-handers (in to lefties), and an even a nastier looking sore on his bottom lip. Nick Johnson looks at strike one, ball one and strike two before looking foolish on a 1-2 slider below his knees. Torre then goes to his bench to have Ruben Sierra bat lefty against Williamson in place of the out machine that is Aaron Boone. Sierra takes ball one before swinging late at a pair of fastballs. On 1-2 Williamson muscles up for another fast ball, but Sierra gets around on it and sends it into the Boston bullpen in right. 3-2 Yankees. Two outs left. David Dellucci takes Williamson's first three pitches to go ahead 2-1 on the count, but barely manages to foul off a fastball to bring the count even before missing badly on a slider at his shins. One out left. One run down. Soriano, fastball hitter, against Williamson and his 95-MPH heater. At this point I'm trying to communicate telepathically with Soriano whilst attempting to yell all the way to Boston (in case the telepathy doesn't work). "Work the count, Sori! Watch the pitch away! Don't swing at the slider!"

1st pitch: slider outside, Sori swings and misses 0-1.
2nd pitch: slider outside, Sori swings and misses 0-2.

I think I just broke my hand on the coffee table. I wonder if it will be more colorful than the bruise I made by punching my leg after the first pitch?

Williamson's next pitch is a fastball that sails high on the inside corner. Ball one.

"Wow, he over threw that one," I think. Then it dawns on me . . .

"Sori! Don't swing! He was just showing you the fastball to put it back in your mind! He'll never throw that for a strike! Sori, do - not - swing! It's gonna be a . . ."

Slider outside, Sori swings and misses by a good foot. Strike three. Game over. Series even at 2-2.

Heroes and Goats:

Red Sox Heroes:
Tim Wakefield you'd be hard pressed not to give him the MVP if the Sox win this thing. He's now out-duelled Mike Mussina twice. His line from this game: 7 IP 5 H 1 ER 4 BB 8 K. The only reason the Yankees had anything going in the first and fifth was because his knuckler was dancing so much he walked four men and hit a fifth. Much like Game 1 the only hard hit balls off him we either foul or close to it. This time out there were only two that stayed fair, Giambi's double play ball at Millar in the first, and Jeter's double that hit third base. That was it. The Yankees biggest fear right now should be that Wakefield may not be done with them yet.
Trot Nixon went 3 for 3 including a tie-breaking solo homer to dead center and a key double in the seventh.
Mike Timlin and Scott Williamson are doing their best to show up Rivera and Contreras. Timlin pitched another perfect inning and Williamson struck out the side in the ninth despite Sierra's homer.
Jason Varitek by virtue of pure hustle and the superhuman umpiring skills of Joe West, Varitek got the game-winning run home in his lone at-bat of the game.
Todd Walker went 2 for 3 with a solo homer that gave the Sox the first lead of the game.

Red Sox Goats:
The rest of the Red Sox offense went 1 for 20 with two walks and 10 Ks.

Yankees Heroes:
Derek Jeter went 2 for 4 with an RBI-double off the dominating Wakefield and started the near double play in the seventh.
Ruben Sierra pinch-hit homer in the ninth. Can't mess with that.
Dave Dellucci reached base twice against Wakefield, reaching third his first time--thanks in part to his steal of second--and scoring the second. Quite simply, he gave the Yankees the opportunities they needed.
Jeff Nelson kept his composure despite the taunts and Little's mind games, getting Garciaparra to hit into a double play and avoiding any unnecessarily demonstrative behavior after the play.

Yankees Goats:
It's a harsh judgment, but Mike Mussina is a goat today. I'll forgive the trouble he got into in the seventh, but the two longballs Moose gave up, one just four pitches after the Yanks had tied the game, were killers. Moose's tendency to give up the long ball is both troubling and perplexing. He doesn't give up more homers than the other Yankee starters (21 in 214.2 innings compared to 24 in 211.2 for Clemens, 24 in 213 for Wells, and 21 in 208.1 for Pettitte). Is the problem that a higher percentage of the hits he gives up are homers? That theory holds next to Wells and Pettitte, who give up many more hits, but Clemens gave up more homers per hit than Moose did this year. Perhaps the problem is that the other starters get taken deep when they're tiring or off their game, while Moose can have a game like today in which he strikes out 10 in 6 2/3, walks just two, looks sharp overall but one third of the hits he gives up leave the park. Early on in the existence of this blog I theorized (without any statistical support) that Moose's propensity for giving up taters is what has prevented him from having that 20-win, Cy Young season everyone's always expected from him. I've since dismissed that idea, but today's game makes me think I should reopen the investigation.
Jorge Posada, Hideki Matsui, Nick Johnson and Aaron Boone the Yankees 5, 6, 7 and 8 hitters went 0 for 15 with 10 Ks and no walks leaving nine men on base. Credit is due to Posada for gunning out another runner, Matsui for his fine play on Nixon's double, and Boone for a great pick at third. But not enough to forgive the black hole they created in the lineup.
Alfonso Soriano for his Casey at-bat to end the game. The classic goat scenario.


Remember when I said not to count your Game 4 chickens before they'd hatched? Well, a little rain and a 68-mile-an-hour knuckler have fried those eggs pretty good. The Series that the Yankees looked to have in hand after breaking Boston's serve by defeating the self-defeating Pedro is now even at 2-2.

If the Yanks are more or less guaranteed to see Burkett in this series, as there's no way that Little would risk having Pedro pitch and lose Game 6 on short rest leaving Burkett to pitch Game 7. Thus a win at Fenway tomorrow would put them in a great position heading back home to face Burkett.

Derek Lowe, whose home/road splits you're surely sick to death of by now, will go for the Sox tomorrow at home against David Wells, who claims not to have injured his groin leaving the dugout in the fourth inning of Game 3 as was reported in Newsday. Torre supports Wells' claim. The Yanks will look for Wells to repeat his performance in the final game of the regular season series between these two teams when he went 7 1/3 innings allowing just one run on five hits and a walk to break the series tie. The Yanks got six runs (two thanks to Scott Sauerbeck) on seven hits and three walks off Lowe in Game 2 despite making fifteen of their seventeen outs against him on the ground.

With the game scheduled for 4:00 due to Game 6 in Chicago, I'll probably tape it and watch it at 8-ish. Thus my game wrap will come in the early morning as per usual. Don't tell me what happens!

posted by Cliff at 11:09 PM

Bill Madden on Zimmer 

I promise, no more Zimmer v. Pedro after this . . .

Alex Belth linked to this Bill Madden story from this morning's Daily News over at Bronx Banter. Normally I try to avoid repeating links that my fellow Yankee bloggers have posted, but this article deserves to be read in full as there are numerous interesting details which I've not heard anywhere else. Among these are the fact that the Yankee team bus was pelted by bottles when leaving Fenway after Saturday's Game 3 (the perpetrators in that incident were immediately arrested) and by rocks when arriving at the Ritz-Carlton. Then there's Don Zimmer's confession about his intentions concerning Pedro in the bottom of the fourth: "Put it this way, I didn't run out there to kiss him."

posted by Cliff at 7:24 PM

Don Zimmer vs. The Beanball: A History 

While much time has been spent discussing the intimate details of Don Zimmer's physical confrontation with Pedro Martinez on Saturday, far less has been said about Zimmer's own experience with the beanball. Most everyone knows that he has artificial parts in his skull as the result of a beaning, but here are the full details:

As a minor leaguer playing for St. Paul in the Brooklyn Dodgers' system in 1953, Zimmer--who's nickname "Popeye" had as much to do with powerful arms as his oddly-shaped head and quick temper--was leading the American Association in homers (23) and RBI (63) when on July 7 he was struck in the head by a curveball from Columbus pitcher Jim Kirk. Zimmer's beaning was one of the worst in professional baseball next to the pitch that killed Ray Chapman in 1920. The pitch put the 22-year-old Zimmer into a coma for thirteen days. It was a month before he learned how to walk again and it took him an additional four weeks to regain his speech after he awoke. Zimmer, whose playing weight was 177 lbs., lost 44 pounds over the course of his hospitalization.

Contrary to popular belief, Zimmer did not have a steel plate installed in his head as a result of the incident. Rather he had four "bone-substance buttons" that are, per his description, "like tapered corkscrews in a bottle," drilled into his skull, three on one side and one on the other.

After coming off the bench to play second and short on Brooklyn's lone World Champion squad in 1955, Zim was again with the big club in 1956 when the Reds' Hal Jeffcoat fired a pitch that fractured Zimmer's cheekbone and ended his season. Unlike the first incident, which was largely agreed to have been accidental, this one was likely a purpose pitch, as Zimmer came to the plate immediately following a Gil Hodges homer. In Zimmer's words, "Jeffcoat was known to be kind of a nasty guy . . . He made a comment that he hit me with a slider, but he didn't hit me with no slider. I laid in the hospital for weeks, totally blindfolded, and I never got a postcard or a telephone call or anything from him."

As a result of these two incidents Zimmer, a very emotional man to begin with, often has deeply felt reactions to beanball incidents. When Clemens hit Piazza in the forehead in 2000 Zimmer said that it gave him a "sick feeling." While it does not excuse his behavior on Saturday, for which he made a tearful apology today, it should not have surprised anyone that Zimmer was among the most irate members of the Yankee bench during Saturday's incidents in the fourth inning. The word "flashback" comes to mind.

That being said, Zimmer is on the record as understanding the usefulness of pitching high and tight. Zim again: "If I ever told a pitcher to throw at a batter's head, somebody ought to shoot me. But I'll be honest. If I was a pitcher and I threw a ball up under a guy's chin--not to hurt anybody--and I knew it disturbed him, I'd probably throw him another one about every third time he comes up. Certain hitters in the league, you better pitch inside, or they'll kill you. It's the pitcher's living, too."

(sources: Player Profiles and Baseball Library)

posted by Cliff at 1:24 AM

A fin and a prayer 

I haven't said much of anything about the NLCS since Game 1, largely because the ALCS has given me more than enough to write about, and occupied nearly all of my attention. Tonight's rain out, however, allows me some time to say a few words about the Cubs and Marlins.

Before the series started I said that it was a no-brainer to say that the Marlins had to win every game not started by Prior or Wood and hope they can take one of the four started by the Cubs' two aces. None of them happened the way I would have expected, but the first three games fell according to plan. Then in Game 4 on Saturday night Dontrelle Willis lost to Matt Clement.

As feisty as the Fish have been this postseason, and as unpredictable as baseball is, I cannot envision the Marlins beating both Prior and Wood in the final two games at Wrigley. If Josh Beckett's magnificent performance today served any purpose, it was to give the Cubs an opportunity to clinch their first World Series in 48 years in their own ballpark. Certainly it would have been a shame for the Cubs to win both of their postseason series on the road (they won the NLDS in Atlanta), so Cubs fans should thank Beckett for dominating their team today.

posted by Cliff at 12:24 AM

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