Yanks Win Tense Classic, 7-4; Take Command

I have to admit that last night’s 7-4 victory might have been the most nerve-wracking affair thus far in the playoffs for me.  C.C. pitched well but struggled a bit, especially early.  The offense was good but blew a few chances to really open up a big lead.  Utley, then Feliz, homered to tie the game.  After Feliz homered to tie the game at 4, it was hard for me to fight off thoughts of Game 4 of the 2003 World Series, when the Yanks headed to extra innings with chances in every extra frame, yet lost in the 12th on Gonzales’s walk-off homer, tying the Series that the Yanks eventually lost in six.  I grappled with the fear that the Yanks, having squandered some chances last night, might do the same should the game head to extras.  Combined with the fact that the road game would have exposed the Yanks to the chance of a dramatic walk-off, and the fact that despite a well-pitched game from C.C. the score was tied heading to the ninth, I was more than a little concerned going into the ninth that the Yanks, despite playing better ball, would face a tied series like 2003.

However, as quickly became evident in the ninth, this season is NOT 2003.

With Lidge in for the first time this Series, Matsui popped out and Jeter fanned.  But JD had what might be the at-bat of the World Series thus far.  After falling behind 1-2, he fouled off sliders and fastballs, laying off a couple to work it to 3-2 before looping a single to left.  With Teixeira up, JD then stole second and, with the drastic over-shift against Teixeira, bolted up out of his slide and sprinted to an open third, with no fielder there for a throw; brilliant base running, JD! The only other time I have seen that was when Jeter did it a few years ago when a team over-shifted against Giambi. [Edit: …or did Jeter take third in similar fashion after a hit?] What amazing timing and headiness from JD.  Appearing rattled, Lidge (who belatedly realized he needed to cover third and skulked back to the mound afterward) then hit Teixeira, bringing up A-Rod.

A-Rod who had been incredibly clutch this post-season.  A-Rod who got the Yanks back into Game 3 with an opposite-field, reviewed home run.  A-Rod who had endured intense criticism for past playoff failures.

A-Rod who is MONEY. He lined an 0-1 fastball on the inner half to deep left, scoring JD and sending me into an uncontrollable, joyous frenzy.  With my son asleep and under the weather, I had to invoke what I termed in the late 1990s the “silent scream,” a quiet, hoarse-like whisper fraught with elation that, had it been infused with the volume I would normally provide, surely would awaken neighbors regardless of closed windows.  I jumped up and down for so long, pumping my fists and high-fiving my elated wife, that I missed the first pitch to Jorge.  He tacked on vital insurance runs, delivering a gap shot to left center on Lidge’s 30th pitch of the inning, a 2-2 fastball, before being thrown out with ease at second.  Yet the damage was done, and the Yanks took an insurmountable 7-4 lead to the bottom of the ninth, where Mariano took a crisp, tidy eight pitches to set down Stairs, Rollins, and Victorino with ease for the save, victory, and commanding 3-1 Series lead.

Wow.  WOOOOOW.

Despite–or perhaps because of–the tension of the game, that was easily one of my very favorite Yankees victories ever.  Incredible win; just incredible.

The Yanks jumped on Blanton for two in the first when Jeter slapped an infield single to Utley and JD roped a double to right.  Teixeira’s ground out down the first base line made it 1-0, and A-Rod got hit by a pitch for the third time this Series, prompting him to stare off in anger, and Mike Everitt to warn both benches–prematurely to me.  Jorge’s sac fly to left made it 2-0, but Cano’s flyout (and Cano sure is scuffling) ended what could have been a big first; still good though.  The Phillies responded in the bottom half when Victorino looped a double to shallow left off the end of the bat that a hustling JD could not get, and Utley (who has been outstanding) creamed a double off the wall, 2-1 Yanks.  But The Big Guy held tough, fanning Howard on a 3-2 slider on the eighth pitch of the at-bat, intentionally walking Werth to face Ibanez, whom he fanned on a nasty 0-2 slider. Clutch.

Each side went 1-2-3 in the second and third, with C.C. getting Utley to pop up to end the third and provide some emotional relief to me.  The Phillies tied it in the fourth when Howard singled and stole second, then scored on Feliz’s two-out single to left despite not touching home on the collision with Jorge, 2-2.  After intentionally walking Ruiz, C.C. fanned Blanton to keep the game tied.

The Yanks, not for the last time last night, responded right away in the top of the fifth.  Swish walked, Melky hit one up the middle that Utley flipped sky-high, all safe.  C.C. bunted foul for the third strike–not well done, Big Guy–but Jeter’s seeing-eye single to left scored Swish, 3-2 Yanks.  JD looped a single to right, scoring Melky 4-2.  But fly outs from Teixeira and A-Rod left runners on in what could have been another big inning; still, the lead was welcomed.

The bottom of the fifth was tense, and illustrated yet again how money Sabathia is.  Rollins singled to lead off and Victorino walked for the dangerous Utley.  But C.C. appeared to quick-pitch Utley, who was still wheeling his bat when the tough slider approached, and he popped up to Jeter, one down.  C.C. also got Howard to pop up to Jeter for the second out, then fanned the tough Werth on a nasty change for the third out and a tremendous escape; outstanding pitching, some of the best I’ve seen from him or anyone this playoff run.  He also worked around a one-out single to Feliz in the sixth, maintaining the two-run lead.

C.C. started to get hit hard in the seventh when Rollins ripped a hard grounder that A-Rod adroitly fielded, one down, and Victorino lined out hard to Swish, two down.  Utley finished C.C.’s night with a deep, no-doubt blast to right to cut the lead to 4-3, but C.C. was on the whole quite good–6 2/3, 7 hits, 3 runs earned, 3 walks, and 6 K’s on 107 pitches/67 strikes.  Good work, especially on short rest.  Marte entered and got Howard to fly out, excellent work by Marte, excellent.

The Yanks missed a good chance to extend the lead in the eighth when Jorge walked and Cano blooped a single in no man’s land between a sprinting Rollins and Ibanez.  But Swish was caught looking, and Gardner (in for Melky who pulled a hamstring) popped out weakly to short to end the threat.  At that point, the Yanks were 2-9 with RISP, stranding 7 and causing me and others, no doubt, some consternation.

Joba entered and was excellent, fanning Werth on 96-mph gas and Ibanez on a 2-2, 97-mph fastball.  He got ahead of Feliz 1-2 with fastballs, but twice tried the slider to no avail before grooving the fastball he should have thrown earlier, and on which Feliz guessed right on 3-2, drilling a long homer to left to tie the game at 4.  Joba responded well by fanning Ruiz, but the damage was done on that one pitch.  I liked that teammates consolded Joba in the dugout, but I was unquestionably concerned that Game 4 of 2003 would resurface.  They had to win it in the ninth.

They did, with JD’s hit and two brilliant stolen bases taking their place in World Series lore, and A-Rod’s and Jorge’s heroics propelling the Yanks to a tremendous 7-4 victory.  Typing up this post, I am still smiling in a bit of awe and amazement.  Classic victory.

A.J. goes on short rest against Lee with a chance to lock up the Yanks’ 27th World Series championship in their great and storied history.  One game away, guys.  Now is the time to lock it up.  I like their chances and, while Lee was outstanding in Game 1, I don’t think he will have as easy a time tonight as last week.  The Yanks have scored 15 runs in the last two games, and are getting balanced contributions.  Jeter is batting .412 and has been money.  A-Rod is at .143 but has had two big hits and 3 RBI.  JD has been perhaps the biggest difference, coming alive and batting .294 after his big 3-5 night.  Jorge is batting a sound .308 with 5 RBI.  Swish was 0-2 but had 2 good walks.  Teixeira and Cano really need to pick it up.  Teixeira seems to do everything right, laying off junk and seeming to see everything clearly, but is not handling hittable pitches.  Cano has been unimpressive and disappointing, yet the Yanks still have a commanding 3-1 lead.

Finish the job tonight, guys.  Enjoy it, Yankees fans.  All this, including last night’s dramatic victory, has been a privilege.

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Published in: on November 2, 2009 at 12:12 pm  Comments (6)  

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6 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. I don’t know how I’ll get through this game without throwing up multiple times. This isn’t like Game 3 of the ALDS or Game 6 of the ALCS where there’s still another hurdle to jump once you get past that one. We win tonight, it’s over.

  2. Let me let you something Jason watch games at 1am to 4 game over the last 2 years I have mastered the silent scream living with other people. Its hard when the moments are as big as they were last night.

    Anychance of a HDLR tonight it could be pretty special.

  3. Game 4 was definitely a classic game. I keep replaying Damon’s double-steal in my mind. I love it.

    I’m a little worrried about these next 2 games. I think A.J. is going to have to be near perfect tonight just to keep the Yanks in the game. This could be the weakest lineup we’ve sent out there all year. Not sure if it’s a wasted start for A.J. and if the team would be better off using Gaudin and using A.J. in game 6. This start could have a ripple effect that sends us to a game 7. Very nervous about these next 2 games.

  4. I am not thrilled with the lineup either, J-Boogie. Posada should be in it, no two ways about it. Then again, a few early runs off Lee would be huge. He has been great, but also had a stretch this year when he struggled. It can happen.

    Tonight will undoubtedly be tense, Beth. I am excited, but have been worked up all afternoon waiting for the game to start.

    Nick, I bet you’re the silent scream master. I would love to do an HDLR but, since my wife is working late, I’ll be with the kids and will be diverted a bit, but watching.

  5. Starting Gaudin in a game where you can win the World Series with a victory is essentially saying you’re punting the game. You don’t punt games in the World Series. We won 103 games in the regular season with basically only 3 starters and we’ve won 10 games this postseason with only three starters. AJ is very good on 3 days rest and says he can do it and wants to do it. So it’s his game to lose. If we have to play Wednesday night, then so be it. It is what it is.

  6. I’d love to see Gardner and Molina team up for four hits and lead the way to the Championship tonight. Wouldn’t that be something?


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