Yankees 15, Boston 9: War in Pieces

Introduction

…or, How I Learned To Stop Worrying and Love the Bloop. This was certainly one of those games between New York and Boston, the ones that a last month, the innings that leave you needing to shave again, the frame-by-frame vacillations between euphoria and despondence. If nothing else, Yankees and Red Sox fans know how to operate in such games–be patient, don’t get too high or too low, keep adult beverages of choice nearby, breathe occasionally, and draw on history to inform the situation. To me, three overarching points of reference matter most in Yankees-Red Sox games–perspective, patience, and respect. The first two emerge above, but the last matters just as much. The teams are so good, and are so good and beating on each other, that they and their fans know what they’re capable of. I don’t like the Red Sox, but I respect the heck out of them. They’re one tough, resilient team.

The Yankees are as well, and had to be today. Wang was not his best by any means, missing the strike zone more than he missed Boston bats as he got pummeled for the first time this year. But the offense carried the day, with every batter getting at least a hit and the team bouncing back immediately after a 7-3 lead became a 9-7 deficit. Also, A-Rod made history by belting his 522nd homer, passing Ted Williams and Willie McCovey to move into 15th on the all-time home run list. Great job by the bullpen to salvage Wang’s crisis and help to solidify the Yankees’ third straight win, 15-9. In order to save time and space for the recap, I’ll appendix the prodigious statistical output from tonight’s marathon.

Chapter 1: Feeling Each Other Out

GLG had piano and we waylaid some excellent Chinese food, so I entered in the second. In the first, Wang struggled from the get-go, issuing a one-out walk to Pedroia and surrendering a run on Ramirez’s double, 1-0 Boston. But as they did all night, the Yankees answered offense with even more offense. Jeter got a one-out single, and Abreu promptly homered to right-center, 2-1 Yankees. A-Rod cranked a missile to deep left-center, probably about 440 feet, for his historic milestone. Congratulations, A-Rod! A big-time blast for a big-time accomplishment for a big-time hitter. 3-1 Yankees. Boston made it 3-2 in the second, but Wang was fortunate that it wasn’t worse. Drew singled, and Varitek and Casey walked in succession to load the bases with no outs. Lugo’s 5-3 scored Drew, 3-2. But Ellsbury’s slow grounder to Wang helped bail him out. Wang wisely went home as Varitek broke, and Moeller eventually threw it to A-Rod for the second out, and more importantly the lead runner. Pedroia’s ground out to Cano let Wang exit with only a run in despite walking Varitek and Casey in five pitches apiece.

Buchholz had his change-up working in the second, surrendering only a single to the invaluable Moeller. Wang and Buchholz each settled down for an inning, breezing through the third. Wang caught Ramirez looking on a belt-high slider, and Ramirez heatedly argued with slothful home-plate ump Tim McClelland, whose painfully slow strike call caught Ramirez literally 1/4 of the way to first. It was a strike, and Ramirez pushed it with the ump. But still, call the strike right away McClelland, at least verbally. Boston tied it in the 4th when Varitek doubled to right, but should have been out on a close play. The slow-motion replay showed that Jeter’s tag on Varitek’s foot got in just before the foot hit the bag, pushing down the foot slightly beforehand. A bang-bang play–and not the only one tonight–that didn’t go their way, but the bigger problem was Wang’s being rapped. Casey’s single tied it at 3. But the Yanks scored four with two outs to open it up. Matsui singled, Posada flew out, Giambi hit a bloop to right, Cano’s deep F8 moved Matsui to third, Moeller doubled to left in a great eight-pitch at-bat to give the Yankees the lead 4-3, Melky walked, and The Captain smacked a single to right, 6-3, chasing Buchholz. Tavarez threw a wild pitch to score Melky the Clutch, 7-3.

Chapter 2: “When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro:” The Inning as Game Within the Game

Hold everything. When is 7-3 after four not secure? When it’s New York and Boston, q.e.d. Wang faced five in the fifth, retiring none, and all of whom eventually scored. Pedroia hit a ground-rule double, Ortiz scored him with a single, Ramirez and Youkilis hit consecutive singles to load the bases, and Drew singled to center, scoring Ortiz and Ramirez, 7-6 with no outs. Ohlendorf entered and mixed good with bad. He struck out Varitek looking on a close call, Casey singled to score Youkilis and tie the game at 7, Lugo fanned looking for the second out, but Ellsbury walked on four pitches, and Pedroia singled to score Drew and Casey, 9-7 Red Sox in what was at once a flash, and an interminably long half-inning. Ohlendorf fanned Ortiz on a fastball, striking out the side but allowing inherited runners to score and allowing one of his own. In all, it was a tough situation for Ohlendorf and he didn’t ruin things for the team. He was good and bad, but the killer was the walk to Ellsbury. Pedroia is scrappy and more of an established Yankee killer in his brief tenure. He’s not someone to mess with in that situation. Retiring Ellsbury would have made it a yeoman’s inning for Ohlendorf.

But all was far from lost. Back stormed the Yankees, chasing Tavarez. Matsui singled with one out, Posada’s double scored a puffing Matsui all the way from JFK Airport, 9-8 with Posada taking third on the throw. Giambi worked a walk, Cano scored Posada with a single that tied the game at 9, Moeller’s big night continued with a walk to load the bases. The Hunter S. Thompson quote entitling this chapter aptly sums up the next play. As is his wont, impelled by forces beyond human control, Melky the Annoying but Clutch swung at the first pitch and grounded to first. Casey began what could have been a 3-6-3 DP to end the 5th with the game tied, but Moeller made as important a play on the base paths as he did at or behind the plate. He slid very late on Lugo covering second, bearing down on him just as Lugo was to throw and forcing Lugo to miss Casey by a good ten feet. Thankfully, Moeller’s great slide to force the error made the return of Melky’s pointless and inexcusable head-first slide into first forgettable if not forgivable for the moment, for Giambi and Cano scored and Melky took second. 11-9 Yankees. Melky the Heads-Up but Head-First then stole third standing up, but Jeter’s out ended the wild, week-long fifth with the Yankees ignominiously losing, but gamely regaining, the lead.

Chapter 3: Depth and Character: The Yankees Bullpen

The last four innings barely took longer to play than the fifth inning alone, so it seemed. Credit the Yankees bullpen for this, starting with LaTroy Hawkins, who quietly and kindly switched his number from 21 to 22 to sate the sniveling and salivating throngs who shamefully and mercilessly booed a genuinely good guy in Hawkins for having the effrontery to honor the great Roberto Clemente. Hawkins pitched two good innings, the seventh smoother and shorter than the sixth, but both effectively quieted the noisy Boston offense. After Ohlendorf walked Ramirez on four pitches, Hawkins entered and fanned Youkilis in a tough, eight-pitch at-bat, Drew singled but Hawkins got Varitek looking on a fastball inside, and got Casey to fly out. He then pitched a 1-2-3, eight-pitch seventh inning. Tremendous way to change momentum, LaTroy. In a back-and-forth game, when each team responded to runs with runs, Hawkins ended the trend. He deserves a ton of credit for the win and a lot of respect from Yankees fans as much for his bouncing back from the rough start as for handling this painfully unnecessary and shameful episode with fortitude. Root for Hawkins, doubters.

In one of the few chances the Yankees failed to capitalize on, they squandered a shot to add on in the seventh. With two outs, the irrepressible Moeller singled, and Melky belted a double but, as it hit the tarp in right and bounced out to Drew, Melky chanced it and broke for second, getting called out on a close play. Again, the replay showed that his slide beat Lugo’s tag, but with the hot-hitting Jeter coming up Melky made an unwise and risky decision. With Ortiz, Ramirez and Youkilis looming in the eighth, my fear was the squandered chance in the seventh might come back to haunt the Yankees. But not to fear, for Traber entered in the eighth and got the struggling Ortiz to pop out to Moeller behind home on one pitch. Bruney then entered, surrendered a single to Ramirez but fanned Youkilis and retired Drew on a fly out. Great job by the bullpen. The Yankees salted it in the eighth with four more runs against the struggling Timlin. Jeter worked a lead-off walk on eight pitches, Abreu struck out but A-Rod hit a ground-rule double, reaching out with his left arm to swat the ball to the warning track in deep left-center on the fly . Jeez. After Timlin intentionally walked Matsui, Posada blooped a double to right, scoring Jeter and A-Rod, 13-9. Giambi got jammed but blooped a double to left, scoring Damon (pinch-running for Matsui) and Posada, 15-9. Cano figured that it was enough for Timlin, so he swung at the first pitch and flew out. Bruney worked the ninth, sparing Mariano the need to pitch the ninth despite his preparations before the eight-inning rally. After 37 hours, 26 minutes and 56.9 seconds, 15-9 Yankees.

Statistical Appendix and Random Pabulum

Credit the offense for an honest-to-goodness explosion tonight. Chad Moeller, combined with Jose Molina, has done much to ensure that the Yankees haven’t missed a terrific catcher in Posada very much at all. Moeller was great tonight, working a very long game behind the dish and going 3-4 with a BB, a run, and a two-out RBI. Don’t forget about his hard slide in the seventh that helped give the Yankees the lead on Lugo’s error. Great game, kid. A-Rod was 2-4 with 2 runs and an RBI, with his 522nd homer a big historic highlight. Not to be overlooked, he’s hitting .313 and consistently getting hits, hopefully remedying his swing in the process. He looks good at the plate again. The Captain was 2-4 with 2 runs and 2 big RBIs, batting .324. Matsui was 2-4 with 2 runs, batting .327 and hitting the ball hard most of the time. He’s been big the first half of April, and not to be overlooked. Posada was 2-5 with 2 runs and 3 RBIs, two on his bloop double, batting .270. Great to have his bat in the lineup even if he can’t catch yet. Big G was 2-4 with 2 runs and 2 RBIs and, though he didn’t hit the ball very hard, maybe the flairs are just what he needs to get going. At least he’s contributing. Abreu and Cano were each 1-5. Abreu may be cooling off a bit, but his homer was big in the first, and he’ll get plenty of chances to hit placed before A-Rod in the lineup. He’ll be fine. Cano, on the other hand, continued to flounder and flail, chasing pitches down and upper-cutting others for lazy fly balls. I feel for the kid, but he’s not helping himself or the team. His body language reflects his frustrations, with pop-ups followed by the head turn, look down, bat flip, and disgust. I don’t blame him, but sulking won’t help, kid. Calm down, stay back, trust your hands, speed and power, and just hit the ball hard and straight. You’ll be fine. Melky was 1-4 with a run and an RBI, but needs the reminder not to slide head-first, and not to take careless chances. But he’s been more productive leading off than Damon, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see him atop the order tomorrow.

Wang struggled badly, reverting to historical form somewhat against Boston–4+ IP, 9 hits, 8 runs earned, 3 BBs, and 2 Ks on 69 pitches/37 strikes. Wang was all over the place, throwing balls in chunks to get into trouble quickly. One bad start does not have me worried. But the bullpen rescued him. Ohlendorf was a bit rough, allowing a run on two hits and two walks, but striking out the side in the bizarre fifth. The others were great. Hawkins threw two innings of one-hit, scoreless ball with 2 Ks, shutting down Boston when the Yanks needed it most. Traber was refused a shower for only throwing one, but one big, pitch to retire Ortiz. Bruney was also good, allowing 2 hits and a walk in 1 2/3 IP, fanning one with a great heater working tonight.

The key was more than the Yankees getting lots of offense, which has been rare in 2008 but will be there for certain this year. Bullpen depth, even more impressive with the unfortunate absence of Joba to tend to his ill father, won out. Hawkins, Traber, Bruney, and even Ohlendorf’s ability to swing between long and short work, pulled the Yankees through. This is a long time coming, a bullpen with depth, talent, versatility and some grit. Expect to see Traber, Nuke, Albaladejo if necessary, and Mariano tomorrow, and hopefully Mussina can give the Yankees a quality start. The pen has been very good but can’t get overworked early, as 2007 showed.

Thanks to everyone for coming by the HDLR, including newcomer Steve from The Boston Red Sox Blog. Steve does good work over there, and was a very nice addition to the HDLR tonight. I’ll be sure to add your fine blog to the Non-Yankees blogroll, Steve. It was a lot of fun all around, and over 400 comments was a great way to start things in the new digs.

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Published in: on April 17, 2008 at 12:21 am  Comments (7)  

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7 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. i don’t know how you made sense of all that, but you did; great job. that 5th inning was excruciating. usually i enjoy these marathons against the sox, but not tonight. except the result.

    here is a stat i just read that blew me away ( i bet mike s knows this)

    The last time the New York Yankees scored this many runs against the Red Sox at Yankee Stadium, Mickey Mantle homered for New York and Ted Williams went deep for Boston.

  2. Hi Jason,
    If I miss a game, I know I just have to come here, and read your great recap. I know, your probably tired of hearing that.
    My Mom got blacked out from the game, and had to keep watching the bottmline score. She called me during the fifth, thinking there was a delay of some kind.
    The bats were hot, and it was so great to see the team pick up their struggling pitcher. I too, am not worried about Wang. I hated to see him struggle, but I really enjoyed this game. You just had that feeling that they were going to keep scoring runs.
    Our backup to our backup catcher certainly did his part, and you are so right that, almost the whole lineup contributed. Funny line about Cano and Timlin.
    The bullpen was good, and thankfully Hawkins held the Sox, and got the win. Jeter and Posada spoke with him and suggested he change his number, as it would be easier on him.Your right Jason, the fans booing him made me feel sick.
    Here’s to hoping for another offensive onslaught for Moose.
    BTW my mother turned me on to Hunter S Thompson a few years back. Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, was a hilarious read.
    Dianna

  3. Thanks for the kind words, Jason. I had a fun time. I gave up on a recap of the game and deferred to you on my post today–with a little help from Bugs Bunny.

    Steve

  4. Jason,

    Excellent recap of yesterday’s 15-9 Yankees win…

    Big win for the Yankees; and, great performances by Hawkins, Traber, and Bruney…

    A win for Hawkins; and, A save by Bruney … How many more times do you think we will see that combination in a “Yankees Win” this year ??? …If the Hawkins / Bruney combo was a “Daily Double”, or “Exacta”, I think the odds would be somewhere around 10,000 – 1 [or, more?] …anyway, if the Yankees win another game this year that ends with Hawkins as the winning pitcher, and Bruney closing out the game for the save, the pay-out would “break the bank”, if someone had a bet on that one…But, it’s great to see both pitch so well, [and, also, Traber] !!! …

    Another interesting stat in this game, is the fact: Boston left 27 runners on base, as compared to only 12 left on base b the Yankees! ….

    One other note: Way to go Chad Moeller …

    I like Dianna’s description: “Our backup to our backup catcher certainly did his part” …

    Yes he did, Yes he did !!!

    Hopefully, Mike Mussina pitches a good game tonight …. Go Yankees !!!

    Jimmy

    http://baseballtheyankeesandlife.mlblogs.com/

  5. Hey Jason,
    Nice new digs! I could not have gone to a better game if I had planned it myself. LaTroy no doubt played a key role in that win last night. Hope we pull it off again tonight!
    LETS GO YANKEES..

  6. Hey Jason,

    Quite the game last night. These marathons are killing me. Last night reminded me of the game I had the misfortune of being at last year — that game that was the second longest in history, the one in which the Yanks came back to win at Fenway — good for you guys, bad for a couple of Sox fans who decided to cope by being miserable and drunk. I’m not naming names.

    Nice new blog setup. Let me know how it goes. I’m giving MLBlogs some more time, but given I was beginning to work in some ads, I’m not terribly happy with the new setup and problems (loss of control) in the link columns. Speaking of which, now that I can finally put links in (couldn’t til this week), I’ll post a link to your new site.

    Talk to you soon,

    Dan
    http://fansonthefield.mlblogs.com

  7. Thanks for the kind words, everyone. Mike W. and Dan, welcome aboard. That’s some stat you posted at The Sommer Frieze, Mike–over fifty years since that many runs have been scored. Hunter S. Thompson is one of my favorite authors, though he was difficult at best to deal with personally especially later in life, from what I understand. When semi-lucid, he could say some profound things about his times and especially about politics. I liked Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas quite a bit, and was especially fond of the compilation Generation of Swine, which said much about the 1980s and the Reagan era. Funny line about your mom and the 5th inning, Dianna.

    Steve, that was the first time I had seen that Bugs Bunny cartoon you posted to The Boston Red Sox Blog in a long time. Hilarious.

    I think you have those odds pegged pretty well, Jimmy. Hawkins was really big, Mike W. He’s been very good since the six-run outing he had.

    Dan, welcome aboard. I’m fond of things here at WordPress. The dashboard for bloggers is very good, with built-in stats of posters and readers. Also, the loading speed is much better. I totally agree about MLBlogs and the problems with links, which they’ve done nothing to fix. It’s a shame, it’s a good and well-advertised site overall, and maybe they don’t have enough people to address all the needs they have. I wish MLBlogs had forewarned bloggers about specific changes and gave a heads-up so that we could have had some input before they altered things. In a way, I think that they didn’t says a lot.


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