Saturday, July 18, 2009

Game 90: Uptight (Everything's Alright)

Ten years ago today, it was Yogi Berra Day at Yankee Stadium. After being fired as Yankee manager just sixteen games into the 1985 season, Berra refused to return to Yankee Stadium so long as George Steinbrenner owned the Yankees. When Mickey Mantle passed away in 1995, and then Joe DiMaggio in early 1999, it left Berra as the greatest living Yankee. Allegedly, when Steinbrenner went to visit The Yankee Clipper on his deathbed, Joe D. implored Steinbrenner to make ammends with Yogi.

Steinbrenner heeded that advice, and an unofficial burying of the hatchet was held at Berra's museum in New Jersey shortly after DiMaggio's death. But July 18, 1999 would be Berra's big day at the Stadium. Don Larsen was flown in for the festivities, and it was Larsen, author of MLB's only post-season perfect game, who threw out the ceremonial first pitch. Berra caught it, just as he did the final strike on October 8, 1956, then returned Joe Girardi 's catchers mitt to him.

Girardi took the mitt, and then proceeded to catch a perfect game from David Cone. It was perhaps the most efficient game ever pitched: Cone needed just 88 pitches, a whopping 66 of them strikes (75%), to throw the perfecto, striking out ten. He didn't have a single three ball count all afternoon. The game, though delayed by rain briefly, required just two hours and sixteen minutes to complete.

To mark the anniversary, Cone will throw out the ceremonial first pitch today. It will likely be caught by Girardi, who may then turn the glove over to Jorge Posada. I wouldn't expect a perfect game today, but I would expect one helluva pitching match-up.

CC Sabathia squares off against Justin Verlander in a rematch of their April 27th match-up in Detroit. Sabathia was good that night, allowing just six hits and no walks while fanning seven in eight innings of work. But Verlander was better, seven innings of seven hit ball, no walks and nine Ks. Verlander didn't allow a run, CC allowed four. The Yanks will try to turn the tables today.

It's a beautiful day. We have a great pitching match-up. They'll be celebrating a little bit of history at the Stadium today. I'd say everything is alright, but ten years ago today it was clean out of sight. Here's one of Motown's finest to tell us about it.

Baby, everything is alright, uptight, clean out of sight

Back At It

When play resumed in the bottom of the 8th inning, Yankee Stadium couldn't have held more than 5,000 fans. Whittled down from the original 46,197, the 57 minute rain delay drove home the all but the most hearty Pinstripe supporters.

There were about a dozen people in each of the bleacher sections, and if you buy into the seating-based Yankee fan stereotypes, one would have to assume that many of them were sitting in better seats when Derek Jeter led off the inning with a sharp single to center. At that point, the Yankees seemed to be in control of the game, but for the first six and a half innings, that did not appear to be the case.

Despite the gloomy, overcast conditions at gametime, the weather held out for quite a while. The rain started falling in the sixth inning, and at that time the Yankees were trailing, as they had been for nearly the entire game.

To lead off the game, Curtis Granderson took two pitches before ripping a double to right off of A.J. Burnett. He came around to score two batters later (after being advanced to third), on a Miguel Cabrera groundout. The Yanks tied it up on a Hideki Matsui single in the bottom half of the inning but the Tigers added another picket to their fence in the second.

Granderson again proved lethal in the leadoff role to start the fifth inning, sending a solo shot to right center field to bring the score to 3-1. It might have stayed there if Josh Anderson hadn't let a routine single by Mark Teixeira bounce through the wickets and up against the wall, allowing Johnny Damon to score easily. It wasn't the first costly error he's committed against the Yanks this year.

For the second time in a row, A.J. Burnett wasn't sharp. However, he found a way to work around a 11 baserunners and a throwing error (his own) and keep the game competitive. He allowed 5 BBs to just 1K, and spent 104 pitches in the process of getting through 6 innings. But he never allowed more than one run in a frame and left the game with the Yanks still in striking distance at 3-2.

After Phil Hughes worked a scoreless half of the seventh inning, the Yanks jumped on Joel Zumaya in the form or a Derek Jeter single and a two bagger courtesy of Johnny Damon. Still with no one out, Mark Teixeira worked the count to 3-0, took a strike and then blasted a three run shot to RF to shift the balance of the game permanently.

Hughes came back on for the 8th and rung up 3 more K's, bringing his total to 6 for the two innings he pitched. His line included 3 hits, a balk and 40 pitches, but Phil was dominant, mixing a fastball that touched 97 with a cutter and a curve.

After the rain delay and the top half of the 9th, the Honorable Mariano Rivera brought the proceedings to a close by getting former Yankee Marcus Thames to pop out to Teix in front of the pitcher's mound.

It was the 8th time in a row that the Yankees had come out of the All-Star break with a victory, and their third win in four games against the Tigers; seemingly the only first place team they can handle this year. They'll be back at it tomorrow at 1:05 with CC Sabathia and Justin Verlander squaring off in a battle of aces.