Sunday, October 25, 2009

ALCS Game 6: Just Like Tom Thumb's Blues

After a fairly interminable wait, the Yankees will play their 8th game in 21 days this evening. Postseason baseball might be different because of the colder weather, lower scoring and the level of tension, but it's also unique in its infrequency. It's tedious for us fans to wait out these delays but it's probably equally unnatural for the players - who are accustomed to playing nearly every day - to take the field about one-third as often. The games themselves are made up primarily of lulls in the action, but they occur with such regularity that it's tough to swallow when the most anticipated games of the year are the most sporadically dispersed.

The Angels might have snatched the momentum back when Brian Fuentes got Nick Swisher to pop out to end Game 5, but said force was then flown across country, beaten down with cold and rain and put on the shelf for another day. The Bombers are back in the Bronx and now retain the homefield advantage that they've used so successfully to their advantage this year. They've only lost back to back games at home once since the middle of June, over which time they've sported a gaudy .782 winning percentage.

Joe Saunders takes the Angels' season into his hands tonight. The Yankees couldn't get much going against him in Game 2 at the Stadium, mustering only six hits, a walk and two runs in 7 innings. He left the game with the score tied but the Yanks of course rallied in the 13th inning to take a two game lead to Anaheim.

Mike Scioscia's decision to go with Saunders in Game 2 was widely questioned, but it's looking pretty good at this point. Instead of Scott Kazmir, who the Yanks smacked around in Game 4, Saunders will be trusted with the Angels' season on the line, which looks like a significantly better proposition with the benefit of hindsight.

The Yanks send their own lefty to the mound tonight, Andy Pettitte. He had a shaky start in Game 3 in Anaheim, allowing 7 hits and 3 ER in 6 1/3 IP while striking out only 2 batters. Tonight he'll be put in the same position he succeeded in during the Minnesota series; starting a game with the chance to advance the Pinstripes to the next round.

River Ave. Blues took a look at Pettitte's performances in previous opportunities to seal up playoff series yesterday and our old friend PeteAbe was there to shore up the analysis. By Pete's count, Pettitte has a 4.14 ERA and his teams are 6-4 in those games, including his time in Houston. Not sparkling by any stretch but not too bad either.

The return home for the Yanks coincides nicely with the song for tonight. Bob Dylan recorded Just Like Tom Thumb's Blues for the album Highway 61 Revisited in New York only three days after controversial and much maligned Newport Folk Festival appearance. On July 29th, 1965, Dylan made the fairly brash artistic statement of playing a set with an electric guitar and members of the Paul Butterfield Blues Band. After a chilly reception, he stopped and walked offstage after his third song, Like A Rolling Stone, and was serenaded with boos from the crowd.

The most common explanation for the reception was that the crowd was not pleased with his choice of an electric guitar but alternatively, it has been said that they were annoyed with the length of the set. Regardless, there was much angst among the fans in attendance - even some of Dylan's supporters.

While backstage, Dylan was convinced to finish the set by festival MC Peter Yarrow and singer Joan Baez. He finished his set with three acoustic tunes and the same fans who had booed him off the stage earlier showered him with applause and pleaded for an encore. Fans can be a fickle bunch, can't they?

The song is about returning to New York from an especially bleak trip out West ("When you're lost in the rain in Juarez"). It appropriately has six verses and the final and most appropriate one - about going back to New York under dubious circumstances - is quoted below.

I started out on burgundy,
But soon hit the harder stuff,
Everybody said they'd stand behind me,
When the game got rough,
But the joke was on me,
There was nobody even there to call my bluff,
I'm going back to New York City,
I do believe I've had enough.