Thursday, June 25, 2009

Game 72: Rubberband Man

A key to a successful baseball season is winning series; it's the surest way of having a winning record. The Yankees are 2-0-1 in four game series, 1-2-0 in two game series, and 11-6 in three game series for an overall series mark of 14-8-1, but have dropped three of the last four. Of the 17 three game sets they've completed, 11 have had the third and final game determine who took the set. The Yankees are 8-3 in those rubber games, but have lost two in a row to the lowly Marlins and lowlier Nats. The Yanks look to end that rubber game losing streak tonight and take the series from the Braves.

Andy Pettitte gets the start tonight, and he's a bit of a rubberband man himself. As Joe Girardi likes to say, Andy has a tendency to bend, but not break. Pettitte's had some ugly outings this year, yet his record sits at 7-3 and the team is 10-4 in his starts. On May 18th, he picked up a win against the Twins despite allowing 12 hits over 6.2 IP. On May 29 in Cleveland, his back acted up on him. He allowed 10 baserunners in 5 IP, but he held the Tribe to just one run.

In his last start though, Pettitte had no such troubles. Friday against the Marlins Pettitte threw seven innings of one run ball, allowing just three baserunners and fanning seven. He even helped his cause with an RBI double. He looks to build on that tonight as he returns to the city that saw the greatest perfomance of his impressive career. Lifetime, Pettitte is 5-1 with a 3.13 ERA against the Braves in the regular season and has two big postseason victories in Atlanta.

The Yanks will be opposed by old foe Derek Lowe, who has been tagged with the loss in his last two starts. In his time with the Red Sox, Lowe made 15 starts and 24 relief appearances against the Yanks, going 8-10 with 6.07 ERA and 1.68 WHIP. I'll take more of that please. Lowe and Pettitte went head-to-head twice, both in 2002, with both pitchers taking a win and a loss each.

It was rumored that Alex Rodriguez might get his weekly day off tonight, but he is in the lineup, meaning he'll likely skip Sunday's Subway Series game in order to get back-to-back days off. Cody Ransom is in the lineup however, as Robinson Cano was a late scratch. According to Pete Abe, Cano's claims he's just getting a day off, but his wrist was also taped. Given that he was in the original lineup, it appears that the Yankee Cloak and Dagger game has returned for the second consecutive day.

Oh, and just for good measure, I'll throw this in too.

Hey y'all prepare yourself for the Rubberband Man
You never heard a sound like the Rubberband Man
You're bound to lose control when the Rubberband starts to jam

1999 World Series: Game 4

[With the Yankees squaring off against the Braves this week, we thought it would be appropriate to take a look back at the two World Series during which they faced off in the late 90's]

At 2:30 in the morning on October 27th, not long after the dramatic conclusion of Game 3, Paul O'Neill got the kind of phone call that everyone dreads. When the phone rings at that hour, it rarely brings good news. When he answered, he found out that his father, Chick, who had watched his health decline over the previous months had passed away.

With Game 4 only 18 hours away, there wasn't much time to grieve. O'Neill decided to take the field and not to tell any of his teammates about his father until after the game. However, the organization was already aware of what had transpired and Joe Torre called to extend his condolences to his player. The time from when he received that call until it was time to play must have seemed like an eternity for Paulie.

When Whitey Ford finally threw out the first pitch, he set the stage for two other pitching titans to clash.

Roger Clemens first regular season after being acquired from Toronto proved to be a disappointing one. Coming off of back to back Cy Youngs and twenty win, 230+ inning, 270+ strikeout seasons north of the border, The Rocket turned in only the third best season of the Yankee starters. He had a 4.60 ERA, went 14-10 and actually had a WHIP higher than Hideki Irabu's. John Smoltz had fallen from his peak as well, heading to the DL twice in 1999, but still pitched effectively (3.19 ERA) when he was healthy. He was still regarded as a big game pitcher and the Braves could have done much worse than to have him on the mound.

Clemens and Smoltz matched scoreless frames in the first and second and Roger sat down the Braves in order in the top of the third.

Against Smoltz in the bottom half, Chuck Knoblauch led off with a single and Derek Jeter followed suit with one of his own, putting runners on the corners with no one out. Paul O'Neill struck out, then with Bernie Williams up, Jeter put himself into scoring position by stealing second. Smoltz then intentionally walked Bernie, to create the potential for a double play, a decision which came back to bite the Braves. Tino Martinez singled down the right field line, scoring Jeter and Knoblauch and moving Bernie to third. Darryl Strawberry went down on strikes for the second out of the inning, but Jorge Posada knocked a single to right to put the Yanks up 3-0.

That cushion would be all that Clemens needed. He cruised through the Braves line up, allowing only three baserunners over the next 4 2/3 innings. He retired the first two batters of the eighth inning, his 16th and 17th groundballs of the night, but hit a snag. He allowed two singles to Gerald Williams and Walt Weiss, which prompted Joe Torre to call to the bullpen. Clemens received a rousing ovation and doffed his cap, because barring a bullpen disaster, Clemens had just given the signature Fall Classic performance he had always yearned for. Jeff Nelson did allow one of Clemens' runners to score, but Rivera got Chipper Jones to ground out, lining up Clemens to be the winning pitcher in the clinching game of the World Series.

Jim Leyritz added a solo home run in the bottom of the eighth to give Mo some breathing room, but it wasn't needed. The Braves went down 1-2-3, the final out coming on a fly ball to Chad Curtis in left field.

The Yankees became the first team to sweep back to back World Series since their 1938-39 counterparts and validated their torrid 1998 campaign with another division title and unstoppable postseason run. Joe Torre actually said that he thought the '99 Yanks were better than the '98 version because they had to walk in the shadow of a 114 win juggernaut. After the game, Sojo, O'Neill, Brosius and Clemens, who had lost his father at a young age gathered in a quiet room away from the celebration in a moment of both remembrance and camaraderie.

The Yankees didn't need the late 90's run to secure a place as the best team of the 1900's, but the three championships in 1996, 1998 and 1999 did bring their tally to an unmatched 25 titles.

1999 World Series: Game 3

[With the Yankees squaring off against the Braves this week, we thought it would be appropriate to take a look back at the two World Series during which they faced off in the late 90's]

Just before Game 3, Luis Sojo flew in from Venezuela to rejoin the Yankees. Just before the World series had begun, his father passed away unexpectedly. There was a tragic air around the 1999 Yankees and the World Series in particular. As Matt mentioned during the Game 1 recap, Darryl Strawberry was still recovering from cancer as the season began. Joe Torre was diagnosed with prostate cancer and Scott Brosius lost his father, Marty, after a long bout with colon cancer.

Further adding to the general gloom, on the travel day between Games 2 & 3, golfer Payne Stewart's death made national headlines. On the morning of October 25th, Stewart boarded a private plane flight out of Orlando, bound for Dallas and the season-ending PGA Tour Championship. While en route, the cabin lost pressure and everyone on board was killed almost immediately. The Learjet, presumably still on autopilot, continued it's journey, flanked by F-16's until it crashed in an unpopulated area in South Dakota. Just a month removed from the American's dramatic Ryder Cup victory at Brookline, and four months past Stewart's U.S. Open victory at Pinehurst (the first of Phil Mickelson's many seconds), the American sporting landscape had lost one of it's more iconic characters.


The temperature at game time was an unseasonably warm 62 degrees with a steady breeze blowing out to right field. Lefties Tom Glavine and Andy Pettitte took the hill for the pivotal Game 3. Both had turned into two excellent starts thus far in the '99 postseason, but each stumbled out of the gate.

To begin the top of the first, Pettitte gave up a single to Gerald Williams and a double to Bret Boone. Williams was driven in on a groundout by Chipper Jones, but Pettitte avoided further damage. Chuck Knoblauch reached on an E9 and was advanced to third on a fly ball by Derek Jeter. A single by Paul O'Neill evened the score at 1.

After a scoreless second inning for both hurlers, Pettitte ran into trouble in the third. He gave up a single, two doubles and another single, and by the time he had recorded three outs, the Braves were up 4-1.

Already facing the top of the order for the third time in the fourth inning, Pettitte gave up a triple to Williams and a double to Boone, making the 1-2 hitters for the Braves 5 for 6 against Pettitte with three runs scored. The next batter, Chipper Jones, finally chased Pettitte with a single. Andy had put up another poor performance in the Fall Classic, getting tagged for 10 hits and 5 runs in 3 2/3 IP. Jason Grimsley mopped up nicely however, keeping the Yanks in the game with 2 1/3 innings of scoreless relief.

Meanwhile, Glavine rolled along up until the 5th inning, when he allowed a solo shot to Chad Curtis. He didn't allow another hit until he gave up another homer to Tino Martinez in the 7th. 5-3 Braves.

Jeff Nelson came on after Grimsley and also did his part admirably, pitching perfect 7th and 8th innings. The Yankees had clawed back to within two runs when Joe Girardi led off the bottom of the 8th. He singled to center, bringing up Chuck Knoblauch, owner of exactly one home run in 160 postseason at bats. He lofted one just over the short porch in right, tying the game at 5. Bobby Cox decided he had seen enough and brought in his closer, John Rocker to close out the frame. Despite the 5 runs, (4 earned) Glavine pitched pretty well, but like Pettitte, he would not factor into the decision.

With the Yanks having pulled even, Torre brought in his closer to try to keep it that way. Mo faced the minimum three batters in the top of the 9th, but Rocker sat down the side in order in the bottom half to take the game into extra innings.

Bobby Cox burned through three pinch hitters in the top of the tenth, but all he got in return was a two out single by Ryan Klesko, who never made it past first.

Since Rocker had already pitched two innings, Cox called on Mike Remlinger to extend the game. He did not. Chad Curtis hit his second home run of the game, brought the house down and gave the Yankees a seemingly insurmountable lead of three games to none in the series.

During his postgame interview with Jim Gray, Curtis informed Gray on live television that the Yankees were upset with his treatment of Pete Rose two days earlier and that they refused to speak with him. When asked by the media after the game, Joe Torre said that there had been no meeting. There in fact had been an agreement between the players only to which Torre was not privy and Tino Martinez informed the manager that was the case. Curtis, asked Torre to set the record straight since the mix up had shown Curtis in a bad light, but Torre never did. Curtis remained bitter about the incident and was traded to Texas during the ensuing offseason for Brandon Knight and Sam Marsonek.

Sitting on the verge of yet another World Series sweep, the Yankees would still have to traverse another loss, but not on the field.

1999 World Series: Game 2

[With the Yankees squaring off against the Braves this week, we thought it would be appropriate to take a look back at the two World Series during which they faced off in the late 90's]

Before Game 2 at Turner Field, Major Leauge Baseball presented its All-Century Team. During the 1999 season, fans were allowed to vote, from a predetermined list of the greatest players of all time, the top 25 players to comprise the team. There were six pitchers, nine outfielders and two players at each infield position. In addition, an oversight committee appointed five other players who they felt belonged to the time.

As FOTB Jason has consistently pointed out, fan voting is a terrible way to select the best players for any sort of team. Case in point, Mark McGuire made the All Century Team at first base, receiving more votes than Lou Gehrig and bumping out blank ink Hall Of Famers Harmon Killebrew, Jimmie Foxx and Eddie Murray. Futher evidence of the short sighted nature of fan voting is that Cal Ripken Jr. was the top vote getter at shortstop, while Honus Wagner had to be appointed by the committee.

Regardless of the nitpicks, it was quite the spectacle. Every living player nominated to the team was in the house, including Ted Williams, Sandy Koufax, and the ostracized Pete Rose. Rose was the subject of a contentious interview with Jim Gray, during which Gray immediately attempted to get Rose to admit to betting on baseball. Rose has since admitted to this very deed, but it was rather foolish for Gray to put him on the spot and expect that after years of denial, Rose would simply admit that he lied during the broadcast of the World Series to millions of viewers. The interview would become a hot topic again before the World Series was over.

After the All-Century ceremony concluded, of all the legendary players in attendance, Hank Aaron, who broke Babe Ruth's home run record while in a Braves' uniform was chosen to throw out the first pitch. Unfortunately for the fans in Atlanta, most of the excitement for them was contained to the pregame festivities.

Kevin Millwood, just 24 years old at the time, was actually the best pitcher on the Braves in 1999. Maddux, Smoltz and Glavine all had relatively off years, while Millwood pitched 228 innings to a 2.86 ERA, a .996 WHIP and went 18-7. Over three starts and one relief appearance in the postseason he had thrown 22.2 IP with an ERA of 2.87.

Things went south for Millwood as soon as he took the mound. He allowed back to back singles to Chuck Knoblauch and Deter Jeter to start the game then Paul O'Neill added another base hit to drive in Knoblauch. With men on first and second, Bernie Williams grounded into a 6-4-3 double play, which looked to be Millwood's stepping stone to getting out of the inning. However, yet another single, this time by Tino Martinez drove in Jeter. A walk to Ricky Ledee allowed Scott Brosius the chance to drive in O'Neill with the fifth single of the inning. Remarkably, without an extra base hit and while grounding into a double play, the Yanks managed to push across three runs.

After being staked to the early 3-0 lead, David Cone never looked back. He didn't allow a hit until the fifth inning, which was immediately erased by a double play. By then, Millwood had already been chased from the game in the third inning before he could record an out and the Yanks led 6-0. Cone did issue 5 free passes, but that single to Greg Meyers in the 5th was the only hit. He went 7 innings, struck out four and didn't allow a run.

The outcome of the game was never in danger but the Braves did get on the board in the ninth, scoring two runs against Ramiro Mendoza and Jeff Nelson. The Yanks had just flipped the script on the Braves. Unlike 1996, it was the Yankees who were heading home with a 2-0 series lead.

1999 World Series: Game 1

[With the Yankees squaring off against the Braves this week, we thought it would be appropriate to take a look back at the two World Series during which they faced off in the late 90's]

For the second time in four seasons, the Yankees and Braves matched up in the Fall Classic. In 1996 the Braves entered the Series as the defending champions; this time around the Yankees held that distinction. Neither team had missed the postseason since their last October meeting. The Braves were bounced from the NLCS in six games in both of those seasons, while the Yankees lost Game 5 of the ALDS in 1997 and swept the World Series in 1998.

Interleague play was introduced following the '96 Series. As a result, the Yanks and Braves had met every season since their last World Series match-up. In '97 the Braves took 2 of 3 at The Stadium. In '98 they split a two game set in New York then went to Atlanta where the Yanks swept two games. Finally, in July of '99 the Braves once again took two of three in New York, with both teams plating 20 runs over the course of the series.

The Yankees had posted the best record in the AL in 1999, at 98-64 (96-66 pythagorean) while the Braves had the best record in baseball at 103-59 (98-64 pythagorean). The Yankees had lost just one postseason game en route to the Series, the Braves three. The Yankees tied for the AL's best offense and had the second best pitching according to OPS+ and ERA+ respectively. By the same metrics, the Braves were roughly league average in offensive, but characteristically at the top of the heap in pitching.

In Chipper Jones the Braves had the eventual NL MVP, while Kevin Millwood was their ace of the year, finishing third the Cy Young race. Derek Jeter would finish third in the AL MVP voting, but was arguably the best position player in the AL, leading all batters in Win Probability Added. On the mound Mariano Rivera and David Cone finished third and sixth respectively in the AL Cy Young voting. In short, the two teams were very evenly matched.

Game 1 featured an outstanding pitching match up: Orlando Hernandez against Greg Maddux. It was a rematch of the July 16th interleague matchup in which both received no decisions but pitched poorly. El Duque went 4.2 IP, 8 H, 6 R, 6 ER, 3 BB, 3 K, 4 HR. Maddux was no better at 3.1 IP, 9 H, 5 R, 5 ER, 2 BB, 1 K

Despite that start, El Duque led the '99 Yankees in wins (17) and IP (214.1) and was second to Cone amongst starters in ERA (4.12). He started Game 1 in both the ALDS and ALCS as well as the clinching Game 5 of the ALCS. He came to the States with a reputation as a big game pitcher on the strength of his international resume for the Cuban national team, and his performance in the postseason showed that reputation was legit. He entered Game 1 having made five postseason starts, going 4-0, with a 0.97 ERA, 1.08 WHIP, and 30 K in 37 IP.

For the Braves, Greg Maddux took the mound. The 33 year-old led the Braves in wins, going 19-9 with a 3.57 ERA. By anyone else's standards he had an exceptional year, but by Greg Maddux' standards he had slipped a bit. His ERA+ of 125 was his poorest since '91. His 10.6 H/9 remains the worst of his now completed career and his WHIP of 1.35 was better than only his rookie season. But he looked like his old self in the postseason, going 1-1 in 3 starts and a relief appearance, and posting a 2.14 ERA in 21 IP.

Game 1 took place at Turner Field and despite the interleague debacle the previous summer, it proved to be a classic pitchers' duel. El Duque struck out the side in order in both the first and third innings, and worked around a walk in a hitless second. He gave up his first hit of the night on a solo HR to Chipper Jones in the fourth, but followed that with a perfect fifth, perfect sixth, and a seventh inning in which all he gave up he was a leadoff walk. By the time he was lifted for a pinch hitter in the top of the eighth, he had gone seven innings of one run ball, allowing the solo shot as his only hit, and walking two against ten Ks. It lowered his postseason WHIP to 0.98, raised his postseason ERA 1.02 and left him with 40 K in 44 IP.

Through seven, Maddux was nearly as good as El Duque, and benefited from not making the one big mistake Hernandez did. Maddux had faced four over the minimum. He registered perfect innings in the fourth and sixth, worked around singles in the first, third, and fifth, and around walks in the second and seventh. The two runners to make it as far as second base did so via a stolen base.

Just as it had in Game 6 in '96, one slightly poor inning did in Maddux, as the Yankees caught their break in the eighth.. Scott Brosius, with the World Series gods still smiling on him from the year before, led off with his third basehit of the night. With El Duque's spot due and desperately needing a run, Joe Torre called on Darryl Strawberry.

Just over a year earlier, Darryl Strawberry had been diagnosed with colon cancer. It knocked him out for the entire 1998 postseason. When spring training came around in February, Strawberry was in camp, but felt detached from the team, not participating fully and periodically leaving camp for chemotherapy treatments. The plan was for Straw to continue his recovery in Tampa and rejoin the team later in the sesaon. But as the team was breaking camp the isolation forced Straw to turn to old demons. On April 3rd he solicited what he thought was a prostitute only to find she was an undercover cop. While being arrested, he was found to be in possesion of cocaine. Major League Baseball handed down a 140 day suspension. Straw rejoined the team when rosters expanded in September and went on a tear, hitting .327/.500/.612 in 66 PA.

Strawberry drew a walk, an uncharacteristically high third free pass from Maddux on the night. Chad Curtis pinch ran for Straw and the lineup turned over with two on and no out. Entering the inning Bobby Cox sent Brian Hunter to replace Ryan Klesko at firstbase for defensive purposes. Klesko had made a costly error at first in Game 4 in '96, but it was not as costly as the errors Hunter was about to make. Chuck Knoblauch laid down a bunt, but Hunter misplayed it, leaving the bases loaded with no one out and the Yankees best hitter coming to the plate.

Jeter sent a single to left, tying the score and chasing Maddux. Bobby Cox called on Atlanta's inbred/racist/homophobe/moron/closer John Rocker. Paul O'Neill greeted Rocker with a single, plating Curtis and Knoblauch. Hunter committed another error on the cutoff, leaving two runners in scoring position. It was now 3-1 Yankees and still, no one was out.

Rocker intentionally walked Bernie Williams to load the bases, then fanned Tino Martinez and Jorge Posada. 1996 hero Jim Leyritz pinch hit for Ricky Ledee and walked to force Jeter home. Scott Brosius was then finally retired to the end the inning.

In the bottom of the inning the Yankees used Jeff Nelson, Mike Stanton, and Mariano Rivera to get an out each, stranding a Nelson walk at first. Torre's mixing and matching forced Bobby Cox to burn four pinch hitters for two plate appearances. Despite our most recent memories of him, there was a time when Joe Torre was a fairly brilliant tactician. He routinely managed circles around his counterparts in the 1999 postseason.

The Yankees went quietly in the ninth. In the bottom half of the inning, Mo retired the leadoff man, then allowed a single and a walk to bring the tying run to the plate with one out. But Mo struck out Brian Jordan and got Greg Myers to foul out to Brosius to end the game. The victory not only gave the Yankees a 1-0 lead in the Series, but ran their World Series winning streak to nine games, with five of the victories coming against the Braves, and four of them coming in Atlanta.

Brian Bruney Is A Renegade

No, I'm talking talking about the tattoo.

Brian Bruney is back from the DL, he's got a bad ass motherfuckin' mustache and he doesn't give a shit about that damn patch commemorating the first season at the New Stadium the fuckin' MAN is tryin' to get him to wear.

Brian Bruney does what Brain Bruney wants, thank you very much.

(Below: Where the patch should be, as displayed
by upright citizen Joba Chamberlain)

(And by the way, yes, we would have nabbed a shot of Mo batting if Jason didn't beat us to it.)

Say Goodbye It's Independence Day

Good morning Fackers. Today is a day for celebration, and not just because the Yanks notched a needed win last night. Our long national nightmare is over. Sixty days after he was added to the roster, and nearly seven weeks after he'd outlived whatever usefulness he offered, Angel Berroa was finally designated for assignment last night when Cody Ransom was activated.

Berroa made it into 21 games in his Yankee career, amassing 24 plate appearances and hitting .136/.174/.182, good for an OPS+ of -6. That's negative six. He is now .228/.270/.318, 52 OPS+ over his last 796 Major League PAs.

In the field he was ostensibly A-Rod's back-up at third, even though A-Rod has started all but five games there since his return. Berroa logged 63 innings at third, or 62 and 2/3 more than his career total entering the season. In his time there, he made 3 errors, good for a fielding percentage of 0.880 and a UZR/150 of -34.5. Once again, that's negative thirty-four point five.

From May 5th until spelling A-Rod this past weekend, he played in just 11 games, had only 5 PAs, and played just 18 innings in the field. Yet the team considered him more valuable than any of the other options at their disposal.

How and why he lasted that long is beyond me. It confounds me to even ponder why. Boggles the mind. Stupifies. Befuddles. Flabbergasts. The best I can come up with is the following list of National Independence Days:

June 12 - Philipines
June 17 - Iceland
June 26 - Madagascar
June 29 - Seychelles
June 30 - Democratic Republic of the Congo
July 1 - Canada, Burundi, Rwanda
July 3 - Belarus
July 4 - USA
July 5 - Algeria, Cape Verde Islands, Venezuela
July 6 - Malawi

There it is. Within two weeks in either direction of Berroa's release fourteen different nations celebrate their independence. Caught up in the spirit, the Yankees wanted to give us fans a holiday of our own in that time. So thank you Yankees. Thank you for thinking of us, and potentially sacrificing victory over the past several weeks so that we can now observe Angel Berroa DFA Day every June 24th, celebrating our independence from Berroa's tyranny of epic suckitude and worthlessness.

Four weeks ago I went on a diatribe about what I felt was the dead weight on the Yankee roster. Of the five players I highlighted in that post, Wang is moving back towards respectability and three are now off the roster. You're next Tomko.

The Yankees have ten days to waive, trade, or release Berroa. If they were able to move Jose Veras for cash considerations, what can they get for Berroa? Loose change?

A Shift In The Winds Of Fortune

The Yankee blogosphere and sports talk radio were abuzz prior to tonight's game. Brian Cashman joined the team mid road trip, a rare occurence. A line-up was posted that had Melky Cabrera in RF and Nick Swisher on the bench. Then the lineup was, as Walter Sobchak would say, unposted. Then Swisher went into a closed door meeting with Cashman and Joe Girardi. Then the lineup was reposted, with Swish and Melky switching spots. Speculation abound: was a trade in the works?

It was much ado about nothing. The only roster move was the merciful and long overdue DFA'ing of Angel Berroa to make room for Cody Ransom (more on that tomorrow). In typical fashion, everyone was left in suspense on that one until minutes before first pitch.

As for the game itself, it was much the same for the Yankees early on. The Braves were tossing a perfect game through five innings with the Yankees' best chance at a hit coming on a line drive off the bat of Joba Chamberlain. The comebacker grazed the neck of pitcher Kenshin Kawakami, knocking him out of the game, but Kris Medlin picked up where he left off, sending the Yankees down one by one.

The sixth inning started with the Yankees trailing 1-0 on a home run by human out machine Jeff Francoeur. Brett Gardner drew a leadoff walk, ending the perfecto but keeping the no hitter in tact. With the offense scuttling, the team down a run, Gardner being virtually unstoppable on the bases, and the eight and nine spots due, everyone in the ballpark knew Gardner was going to be running. Medlin knew as well, and before he threw a single pitch to Francisco Cervelli, he threw to first three times. On the third attempt firstbase umpire Bill Welke called Gardner out, though replays showed him to be undoubtedly safe. Girardi came charging out of the dugout, and I'm sure he was fixed on getting tossed. Welke obliged, and as has seemingly been the case with his past ejections, the Yankees responded after the skipper had been thrown out.

Cervelli pulled a 2-2 curveball over the left-centerfield fence for his first Major League home run. It ended the no-no, tied the score, and gave the Yankees their first run since Sunday's ninth inning. After Joba lined to second for the first out of the inning, Derek Jeter and Johnny Damon knocked consecutive singles to put runners on the corners.

When Medlin issued an unintentional intentional walk to Mark Teixeira, Michael Kay likely soiled himself in the YES booth. Boldly on his afternoon radio show and more tactfully on the YES pregame, Kay made it known that he strongly feels A-Rod needs to be dropped in the order while he struggles. Electing to load the bases to pitch to the slumping slugger must have been extremely gratifying to the play-by-play man.

Bobby Cox summoned flamethrower Jeff Bennett from the pen to face Rodriguez, and he quickly got ahead 0-2 as A-Rod struggled to keep up with his 94 MPH fastball. But when Bennett let one get too much of the plate, A-Rod lined a base hit to center, giving the Yankees a 3-1 lead, their first since the fifth inning Sunday. I know it's not the best metric, but A-Rod does have 4 BRI over his last 3 games. Baby steps. Nick Swisher hit a solo shot in the seventh to make it 4-1.

Aside from the Francoeur home run, Chamberlain had a very good start. Entering the bottom of the seventh he had thrown 85 pitches and allowed just five hits and no walks while whiffing five. A single and an error by Chamberlain put two on with one out. Joba then allowed an RBI single to bring the go-ahead run to the plate.

Tony Pena, managing for Girardi, called for Phil Coke. Coke retired both batters he faced on flyouts, the first being a sacrifice fly that featured a circus catch from Swish on the RF warning track. Joba's book closed at 6.1 IP, 7 H, 3 R, 2 ER, 0 BB, 5 K. He was in line for the win with the Yankees leading 4-3.

The Yanks added some valuable insurance runs in the eighth. Johnny Damon led off with what should have been a groundout, but miscommunication between Casey Kotchman and Eric O'Flaherty left him with an infield single. Teixeira singled, then he and Damon moved to second and third on a wild pitch. This time, it was A-Rod who was intentionally walked. Take that Michael Kay.

Robinson Cano followed with a potential doubleplay ball to first. Kotchman came home, forcing Damon out. Brian McCann then tried to double Cano at first. McCann made his throw from foul territory along the first base line. His throw tailed back towards fair territory, on a collision course with Cano's back. Replays showed that Cano's left foot may have been slightly inside the foul line. Burned by a bad call in the sixth, a non call in the eighth went in the Yankees' favor on a play reminiscient of the 1978 World Series and 1998 ALCS. As Kotchman simultaneously chased the ball down and pled his case, Teixeira scored and A-Rod moved to third. Bobby Cox came out to argue. After Girardi had been tossed the all time ejection leader somehow managed to stay in the game. A Swisher groundout plated A-Rod and made it 6-3. The Yankees would need the extra runs.

In the eighth, Brian Bruney struggled, in spite of his sweet 'stache and unique hat. He walked Chipper Jones leading off the inning. McCann struck out, and Garret Anderson grounded to first, moving Jones to second. Kotchman walked and Francoeur drove Jones home with an RBI single to make it 6-4, and that was it for Bruney. Mariano Rivera, who hadn't pitched since last Tuesday, was summoned in a relatively high leverage 8th inning situation. Mo fanned Kelly Johnson to end the threat.

The Yankees batted around in the ninth, scoring two more runs to make it 8-4. The ninth batter of the inning was Mariano Rivera, he of four career plate appearances between the regular and postseasons and none since striking out on June 20, 2006. One could question the relative wisdom of allowing Mo to bat in a four run game with three outs to go. But the Yankees needed a win and Mo needed some work. The whole team had a good laugh when he lined a shot to center that was caught for the final out of the inning.

Rivera struck out the side in the ninth to end it. For those of you scoring at home, that's a pitching line of eight days rest, four batters faced, four strikeouts and a batting line of 1,100 days rest, 1 AB, and one line drive that's probably amongst the top ten best batted balls by a Yankee over the past four games. Such is the wonder of Mo.

At long last the Yankees caught a few breaks tonight, and they capitalized on them to end a three game losing steak. Here's hoping the breaks and the wins keep coming their way.