Saturday, August 8, 2009

Life Is Good; CC Is Better

When last night's this morning's fifteen inning marathon concluded, after the initial euphoria of the victory passed, three thoughts went through my mind. 1). I'm glad I didn't celebrate too outwardly, as I was likely the only Yankee fan in a Hyannis, MA Irish bar full of Sox fans. 2). Thank God the game ended when it did, as the last call lights came on immediately after A-Rod crossed the plate and I would not have been happy had I not been able to watch the end of the game. And 3). The Yanks are really going to need innings out of CC later this afternoon.

Not only did CC give the Yankees the innings they desperately needed, but he did it in about the best way he possibly could have: perfect through four and a third, a no hitter through five and two thirds, and exiting after seven and two thirds shutout innings of two hits, two walks, and nine strikeouts. Sabathia was dominant, consistently hitting 97 MPH on his fastball and despite a relatively high pitch count, never really laboring.

His counterpart, the laptop loving Clay Bucholz, did labor, but managed to hold the Yankees to just two runs, despite allowing 11 baserunners (6 H, 5 BB) in six innings of work. That's what will happen when the Yankees go 2-11 with RISP.

The Yanks got on the board in the third. Melky Cabrera led off with an infield single, moved to third on a Jose Molina walk and Derek Jeter DP, then scored on a Mark Teixeira single.

The second run came in the sixth. Robinson Cano - who had an excellent day in the field yet again, and at the plate with three hits - led off with a double. Nick Swisher sacrificed him to third, momentarily infuriating me. The Sox countered by intentionally walking Melky Cabrera, setting up a potential inning-ending double play with the slow-footed Molina at the plate. But Molina came through with a sacrifice fly to make it 2-0.

In the seventh, things got interesting. Ramon Ramirez came up and in on Teixeira before walking him, then proceeded to plunk Alex Rodriguez, no doubt in retaliation for Mark Melancon drilling Dustin Pedroia Thursday night. Ramirez was tossed, and while the Yankees had a bases loaded, one out situation on their hands, they managed just one run. Derek Jeter capped the scoring in the eighth, dropping a two run homer just over the right field fence, thereby saving Mo for tomorrow as the Yanks go for the four game sweep.

With Jason Bay still sidelined with a sore hamstring, our friend Youk made his second appearance in left field this series. He had a rough go of it, dropping a Johnny Damon fly ball in the first and taking a poor route on a Johnny Damon double in the fifth. As he did on Thursday, Youk also flexed his arm a few times after making throws back to the infield. In the seventh, he went into second high and hard for the second time this series trying to break up a double play and came up flexing his knee. That Terry Francona would put Youkilis in left twice already this series speaks to how important they view these games and how desperate they are for offense after mustering just eight hits and zero runs over twenty-four innings in the last two games.

Every season is going to have its peaks and valleys, and the Yankees are definitely on top of a mountain for the moment. As bad as things felt during the first three series against the Sox, things are just as good right now. As evenly matched as these two teams seem to be, it stood to reason that things had to start evening out eventually. So it enjoy now, and hope that it lasts.

That's it for today folks. Life is good right now. Go out and enjoy your Saturday night.

Game 110: I Feel Free

Now that the Yanks have taken the first two against the Sox, the momentum feels as if it has shifted significantly. Matt and I are both reporting live from Red Sox Nation (Cape Cod) and can independently verify that the morale among Sox fans is on the decline. The Yanks are rolling, having won 16 of 21 games since the All-Star Break while the Sox are reeling, having lost 7 of their last 12.

Furthermore, the Yanks send CC Sabathia to the mound today while the Red Sox counter with Clay Bucholz. The young righty has made four starts this year spanning 19 1/3 innings with a 6.05 ERA, allowing 28 hits and 11 walks. If momentum is only as good as the next day's starting pitcher, I think we know who that would favor as well.

Despite the season series still being tilted significantly towards the Sox, the Yanks have guaranteed that they will emerge from this series with at least the 2.5 game lead they came in with. The Yanks are playing with house money for the rest of the series. In poker, they would call it freerolling. The Yanks are feeling it.

Dance floor is like the sea,
Ceiling is the sky.
Youre the sun and as you shine on me,
I feel free, I feel free, I feel free.

112 Plate Appearances Later...

The third incarnation of the matchup between A.J. Burnett and Josh Beckett finally delivered on it's pitcher's duel billing. They combined to allowed 16 earned runs the first time around and Burnett didn't hold up his end of the deal when they faced off almost exactly two months ago, getting bounced in the second inning.

This time, however, not only did Beckett and Burnett keep their competition at bay, every pitcher that was called in from the bullpen kept a scoreless tie alive into the bottom of the 15th inning. When Joe Girardi pulled Phil Hughes in favor of Mariano Rivera heading into the top of the 9th, Matt texed me and said "Now who is going to pitch the 10th?" It was only the tip of the iceberg.

The answer to that question was Alfredo Aceves, who also pitched the 11th and 12th, holding the Red Sox just one hit and one walk and striking out three. Brian Bruney added two scoreless innings of his own.

Junichi Tanzawa, who made his major league debut by facing Hideki Matsui in the bottom of the 14th, got him to line out to center and took a huge sigh of relief. He then allowed back to back singles by Jorge Posada and Robinson Cano, and Ramiro Pena was brought in to run for Jorgie. Eric Hinske ripped one to right field that appeared that it would end the game but J.D. Drew snared it with an impressive running catch to keep the Sox alive. Melky Cabrera was up next and during the course of his 8 pitch at bat ripped a 3-2 pitch down the rightfield line that was foul by no more than six inches before striking out swinging.

Phil Coke sat down the side in order in the top of the 15th and the Yanks got right back at it. Derek Jeter led off with a bloop single, bringing up Johnny Damon. For some incomprehensible reason, Damon, who has 13 home runs at Yankee Stadium alone this year, tried to bunt. After one unsuccessful attempt, his second popped up right towards Victor Martinez at first base and he made a diving catch. It looked like the game might be extended further when Mark Teixeira struck out swinging and A-Rod came up to the plate.

He worked the count to 2-1 and blasted a breaking ball in the the opposing bullpen to bring the game to an end after five hours and and thirty three minutes. There is a tendency to classify any curve ball that get hit for a home run as a "hanger" but this one was really not that bad. A-Rod just reached down and rocked it. The 73 at bat home run-less was ended at the best possible time.

It was hard tell whether it was a triumph of pitching or a failure of hitting. Obviously, to preserve a 0-0 tie for the better part of two full games the hurlers had to be doing something right. But there were 15 walks issued and the teams were a combined 0-19 with runners in scoring position. Just like Thursday night, it wasn't pretty. And just like I said after that game, we'll take what we can get.