Breath of Life
“Which one of you guys just dropped that ball?” Mike Sherry demanded when he called me somewhere between the third and fourth inning. “Who do you think,” I answered. “Please don’t say Acc.” “Yup. Johnny Damon caught the third out, tossed it right to Acc, who had boxed out four guys to be perfectly in position, and Acc bobbled it, bobbled it, and dropped it right onto the dirt.” “No way. Please tell me you’re kidding,” Mike Sherry said. “There’s more,” I said. “Since Acc dropped in onto the field, Johnny Damon had to go back and pick it up. Then he handed it to some other dude.” I was telling the same story to Big Joe when he called me on the ride home, and as I got to the part about him handing it to somebody else, Big Joe could hear Acc, who was driving, mutter the f-bomb in background, as just hearing it got him ruffled. Big Joe laughed so hard he almost accidentally hung up on me.
During the season, although it was never intended this way, I realized I would get a lot more people calling and texting me during the game when I was wearing the green Yankee hat with the shamrock on it, as it was easy to pick out. As interesting as that is, I really only have one criterion for the gear that I’m going to wear, and that’s whether or not it’s “winner” gear. So today I pulled out the green hat, for no other reason than that it has a great track record. And it came through for me. We also bought new shirts before the game, with the five of us getting Jeter, Ruth, Gehrig, DiMaggio, and Mantle shirts so we could line up 2,3,4,5,7 across the rail. And I got calls and text messages from about 10 different people who saw us. Vino was in the house, and he stopped by section 24 early on to pool the vibes. Brooklyn’s own Mike Dantone was in the house, taking care of business out by our old seats over first base. And in section 24 we were lined up with me, Acc, Bri Rumble, Big Ange, and Acc’s little brother Brian. Big Ange is a spectacle. In a good way. He has this thing he does when the Yankees do something good, sort of a swan dive into the group with his arms spread wide, and he kind of falls into you. Big Ange is not short on excitement.
Things started ominously. Brooklyn’s own Mike Dantone and I were texting each other that something good needed to happen soon. At one point after the fourth I sent him a note saying that I had been watching nothing but ground ball outs for the last 15 innings. It was getting pretty annoying.
So you can look at this in one of two different ways. You can take the point of view that Jake Westbrook tired slightly, got his sinker up and started to get hit, as well as not being as elusive the second and third time through the order. Or you can just look at the game with a broad stroke and say that it was just high time the Yankees started to hit and started to win. However it was going to happen, I was squarely in camp number two. The Yankees are going to win today, I told the missus before the game, not because they have a favorable pitching match-up or because they’re playing at home, but because it’s just time. The numbers on their playoff futility had become astoundingly outlier-ish (definitely just made up that word), and the individual numbers that made them up were even more staggering. The Yankees had only eight hits in the whole series. They had scored one run in their last fifteen innings. They had not gotten back-to-back hits in the series. They had not scored more than one run on any one swing of the bat in the series. Indeed, they had only scored a total of four in 20 innings. And as you looked at their wins and losses, you realized that in addition to having lost 12 of 15 playoff games, they hadn’t won back-to-back playoff games in three years – 16 playoff games. They were also 1-4 in their last 5 elimination games, meaning, of course, that when they were on the ropes, they generally went down. All of this was off the charts. I guess the won-loss record was what got me most of all. To illustrate it for you, I asked the boys this question today. Let’s say MLB was going to decide to throw the Pirates and Royals in the playoffs, regardless of the fact that they are to losing what Picasso was to oil and canvas. And they would play in the playoffs for a couple of years in a row, until they had played fifteen games. And let’s say we set the over/under for wins at two each, and you had to put up your life savings and bet on one of two options. Would the Pirates or Royals win two or fewer games out of fifteen played, or would they win three or more? Everybody said that in fifteen games, of course they would win three or more. And that’s where the Yankees were squarely sitting earlier today. The mighty New York Yankee juggernaut had won exactly three.
Point is, lads, they were due to win. So due. And so they won.
Now, that doesn’t mean there weren’t spectacular performers. Phil Hughes and Johnny Damon need to be front and center on that list. Allie came up with two hits, which was huge in terms of him getting up off the mat. Melky and Cano, the Wonder Twins, both came up large today, as did the Ferocious Lion. Even Posada got his first hit of the series. Mo continued to clean up. As for Joe Torre… what can you say. I really didn’t understand leaving Joba out there for a million pitches, frankly. Suzyn Waldman seemed to say that they did that rather than bring in Mo because they figured the plan tomorrow would be to use Joba for one and Mo for two. Unfortunately, it kind of underscores the fact that there are only two guys who can get anybody out. And now that Clemens has been removed from the postseason roster, it becomes even more pronounced. But I don’t know. I actually think with a five run lead, you need to bring in Jose Veras or Vizcaino or Farnsworth to pitch there. No better time, and you can save Joba. If things really get weird, you can always go to Mo. Didn’t love that move. Brooklyn’s Own Mike Dantone was livid. I probably got 6 or 7 texts from him calling for Torre’s head on that.
I like the fact that Wang is going tomorrow. He usually doesn’t stink it up two games in a row, and he’s a lot better at home. He’s also a more reliable option than the Moose, at this point. The Indians are a good team, and Paul Byrd is a pretty good pitcher, but the Yankees are supposed to win this game tomorrow, and they need to deliver. Wang is leaps and bounds better than Byrd, and he’s pitching at home. The Yankee bats should come out. But if we do go down, at least we go down with our best.
If the Yankees manage to plug on here, this postseason will have taken on a sort of 2003 feel, with the Yankees playing the role of the 2003 Red Sox and vice versa. If you recall, the ’03 Red Sox were down 0-2 to Oakland, and might have lost in extra innings of game 3, when Eric Byrnes thought he touched home plate. And then if you further recall, upon realizing too late that he missed it, he was tagged out, and then proceeded to hop around for a few minutes with some mysterious “injury,” which seemed to me to be a badly ruptured ego. And so the Sox went on to meet the Yankees, who had breezed pretty easily through the first round. I realize this might be a bit unsettling for some of us…
So section 24 rides again on Monday night. Another night of playoff baseball in the Bronx is a good thing, regardless of where the series stands. Remember those trends? Remember the one about the Yanks not winning back-to-back playoff games in 16 games? Just asking…