Some Memories of 2009

I have been mulling a hot stove post for a few days but, as I mentioned after the recent Yankee Fan Club Radio show Sunday to Ty and Uncle Joe, I simply don’t want to let the great vibes from this championship season go.  I do promise a hot stove post in the next few days but, in the meantime, I wanted to share some good memories from this past season as a way of saying thanks to you, the good readers at The Heartland, for one of the most enjoyable seasons I will ever have.  It has been a blast to say the least, and a real privilege to do this despite lacking the time to do so down the stretch.

Hats off to Nick Swisher for carrying a languid Yankees offense in April, belting 7 homers, driving in 19 runs, batting .312/.450, scoring 21 runs, and walking 15 times as he more than replaced the injured Nady.  What a steal, Swish for Wilson Betemit!  As I mentioned to Frank the Sage in yet another spirited chinwag after the YFCR show Sunday evening, it is embarrassingly facile to simply point the finger at the Yankees’ payroll as the biggest reason why they won the World Series.  Yes, the payroll wisely spent on C.C., A,J., and Teixeira was huge for lots of reasons we have endlessly discussed.  Yet as I opined to The Sage–just as I did when we discussed the late 1990s Yankees and the brilliant Brosius acquisition–how many teams beat down the door for Swish when the Yankees got him for all of–yes–Wilson Betemit?  Swish carried the team in April, batting some cleanup and supplying much-needed power in A-Rod’s absence, playing a nice right field, and as importantly as anything adding some personality and looseness to a clubhouse that sorely needed it.  Swish made $5.3 million this year, is due to earn $6.75 next year, and $9 million in 2011.  Money well spent, and well within any team’s budget.

In one of a couple moments of PaVoldenfreude, on April 19 the Yankees denied He Who Shall Not Be Named a victory as he pitched six strong innings against the Yanks, but Jorge’s two-run, pinch-hit, replay-upheld homer in the bottom of the seventh gave the Yanks a 4-3 lead on their way to a 7-3 win.

The Yanks staved off what would have been a horrible defeat to the light-hitting A’s, and spared Sabathia a loss in one of few poor outings he had in 2009, on April 22 with the first of 15 walk-off wins this year. The Yanks had 17 hits and 7 walks but stranded 13.  However, Melky pasted a two-run homer to right in the 14th to win it 9-7, the bullpen pitched 7 1/3 innings of scoreless, three-hit ball, and Veras earned the win in his Yankee swan song, doing yeoman’s work by going 3 1/3 no-hit innings with a walk and four K’s.

Both the Yankees’ offense and Phil Hughes showed what they were capable of this year on April 28 in an 11-0 win over Detroit, with Hughes throwing six innings of scoreless, two-hit ball and the Yanks making him a winner by breaking a scoreless tie with a 10-run seventh.  It was Hughes’s first major-league win since September 27, 2007.

In what was a good sign for the season, the Yanks beat the Angels 7-4 on April 30, scoring 3 in the bottom of the eighth to break a 4-4 tie, with Melky and Ramiro Pena supplying 4 hits and 3 RBI combined at the bottom of the order to win off Speier.  Melky had the go-ahead single, and Pena laced a two-run double to right to seal it in the eighth.

More Yankee walk-off magic on May Day, as the Yanks blew a 4-0 lead, trailed 9-4 entering the bottom of the eighth, scored four but could have had more in the eighth, yet scored two in a great ninth-inning, no-out rally to best Fuentes and the Angels, 10-9.  Jorge’s two-run single capped a great comeback.

On May 9, A-Rod announced his presence with authority, belting Guthrie’s first pitch for a 3-run homer to give a red-hot Sabathia all the support he needed in a 4-0 win in Baltimore.

Mid-May is Minnesota’s Bronx bane, for the Yanks have had some classic moments against the Twins then–Giambi’s walk-off grand slam in the rain May 17, 2002 most notably.  They replicated the walk-off magic, winning three straight games via the walk-off.  Melky’s two-run, walk-off single off great closer Joe Nathan won it 5-4, with Brett the Jet supplying an inside-the-park homer and a triple off Nathan in the ninth.  A-Rod won the next game with a two-run, walk-off homer in the eleventh, 6-4 Yanks.  JD capped the walk-off magic with a line-drive homer in the tenth, 3-2 Yanks, and the Yanks swept the Twins with a 7-6 win Monday.  They really started to turn things around, again going on a winning streak while the family, friends, and I were on vacation.  Thanks again, boys.

Joba was brilliant in a June 1 start in Cleveland, going 8 strong and allowing but 4 hits, 2 walks, and 2 runs earned while fanning five to earn his 3rd win, 5-2 Yankees.

Melky belted the game-winning, two-run homer in the bottom of the eighth, and Teixeira was red-hot in May and early June, driving in three with a bases-clearing double, to beat Texas 8-6.  As cold as Teixeira was in April without A-Rod–3 HR, 10 RBI, .200/.367–he was smoking in May with him–13 HR, 34 RBI, .330/.391, reinvigorating the Yankee offense when it really needed it.

Thanks Luis Castillo!  June 12, the Yanks got totally lucky when Castillo dropped a pop-up from A-Rod that should have ended the game.  Yet Castillo botched the play, dropped it, threw to second as Teixeira, running hard all the way with two outs, scored from first after Jeter scored to win it, 9-8.

Two days later, they pounded Johan Santana into oblivion, scoring 9 runs against the Mets great as Burnett was dazzling en route to a 15-0 whitewash of the Mets for the series win.

After dismal series losses to Washington and Florida, and dropping an ugly, lackluster 4-0 loss in Hot ‘Lanta, the Yanks rebounded on June 24. Girardi got booted in the sixth and the Yanks awakened, getting their first hit and run on Cervelli’s solo shot to tie the game at 1.  The offense exploded from there, scoring seven more on their way to an 8-4 win.  Hats off to Cervelli for playing tremendous ball while filling in for Jorge and subsequently Molina.  Batting .190 in AA Trenton when he was called up when Jorge went down, he ended up playing a lot for Molina was hurt a few days later.  All he did was bat .298 in 101 plate appearances, and throw out 43% of the base runners who tried to steal off him.  Did he save the Yankees season? No, but he sure helped to, for the Yankees had a losing record when Jorge went down.  Great job, kid, and you may have earned a spot behind Jorge for 2010 for it.

The Yanks went on a seven-game winning streak after the embarrassing 4-0 loss to Atlanta, and the high point for me–and one of them for the season and for Mariano Rivera’s career, was their 4-2 series sweeping win at the Mets June 28.  Mariano not only notched his 500th save–a great accomplishment for the greatest ever–but also worked a 3-2 bases-loaded walk off that blowhard K-Rod for his first career RBI and a big insurance run.  The sheepish grin on Mariano’s face at first, and the moment of satisfaction off his talented but erstwhile antithesis, was simply priceless. One of the best moments of the year–sweeping the Mets, Mariano’s 500th and, due to a double-switch and the need to use Mariano to save it in the bottom of the ninth, his RBI walk.

July 4th–the nation’s birthday, George Steinbrenner’s birthday, John Sterling’s birthday, and the 70th anniversary of Lou Gehrig Day–saw the Yanks touch up Halliday for five runs.  JD ripped a game-tying two-run homer in the seventh, and Jorge won it in the 12th with an RBI single, 6-5 Yanks.

After getting swept in Anaheim before the break, blowing leads in all three losses, the Yanks responded with a vengeance after the break, winning 11 of their first 13, including eight in a row out of the gate and four straight close games against Detroit, all with pitching.  That was a huge sign that the Yankees were for real and, despite losing all eight games thus far to Boston, were tied for first in the East when they beat Baltimore 2-1 on July 20.  When they took sole possession of first place the next day with a 6-4 win, they never relinquished first.  They did just what Frank the Sage insisted they do after the break–shifted gears.

August 2nd–my 40th birthday–was simply the best game experience I have ever had at a ballpark in any sport.  After seeing the Yanks lose a terrible 14-4 game the day before, and being surrounded by human vermin, the next day was its antithesis in every way.  Melky hit for the cycle, C.C. was nasty after giving up 4 runs in the 3rd, I got presents before, at and after the game, and had a whale of a time that you can read more about here in an 8-5 victory.  Right there with the World Series run, the BEST this year in the regular season for me.

With The Sage hanging around for a few days as part of the extended birthday festivities, the Yanks swept Toronto in a two-game series, beating Halliday August 4 by again scoring five runs and hitting three homers against him.  Although Meat Tray was awful the next night, the Yanks bailed him out with six late runs to win 8-4, heading into a big grudge showdown with Boston.

After winning a satisfying but somewhat ugly 13-6 game August 6, the first win of the season against Boston, A.J. and Beckett squared off in a classic pitchers duel.  A.J. allowed six walks but just one hit, getting stronger as the game wound on, and he had to for Beckett matched him with seven innings of four-hit, two-walk ball.  The bullpens took over for the next eight innings, and the Yanks held tighter, allowing a mere four hits in 15 tense innings before A-Rod produced more walk-off magic, pasting a long homer to left center off Tazawa for a dramatic, classic 2-0 victory, prompting me to pump my fists with glee during a prolonged, aforementioned silent scream.  What a great game, and I listened to every pitch of it with my dutiful daughter GLG in tow; classic.

Things didn’t stop there, for C.C. flirted with perfection the next day, retiring the first 13 batters he faced and allowing just two hits while fanning nine in 7 2/3 tremendous innings at the exact time when the bullpen–after going eight innings the night before–had to get a blow.  STUD. The Yanks supported him with 5 runs in a shutout victory.

The Yankees capped a tremendous sweep Sunday night, August 9, with Pettite pitching seven outstanding, shutout innings to match Lester’s brilliant one-run ball over seven. Coke surrendered a two-run homer to Victor Martinez to give Boston a 2-1 lead in the top of the eighth, but the Yanks responded right away, as was their wont all year.  JD and Teixeira belted back-to-back two-out homers off hard-throwing Bard to regain the lead 3-2, and the Yanks tacked on two more to win 5-2.  As with Sabathia, Pettite gave them strength and length after the 15-inning classic, illustrating just how good the Yankees’ starting pitching was all year and especially in the second half.  The sweep put the Yanks 6 1/2 up on Boston–really no less important a series this season than Boston Massacre III was in 2006 for the Yanks, giving them the same size lead–giving New York a commanding lead in the East.  After losing eight straight games to Boston, the Yanks had not just won four straight in a convincing sweep, they also turned around that margin for a big division lead.

At the end of August, the Yankees avenged losing three of four in Chicago by sweeping the reeling White Sox in three games at home.

In a 10-4 loss to Baltimore on September 11, Derek Jeter passed The Iron Horse, Lou Gehrig to become the Yankees’ all-time hit leader.  Hats off to The Captain, an all-time great in any sport.

In one of the biggest series of the year, the Yanks cured their Anaheim woes by taking two of three on a West Coast swing, beating the Angels 6-5 on September 22 and 3-2 the following day.  The Yanks went up 5-0 on the 22nd, but the Angels yet again came back to tie it at 5.  Hughes, however, held it together, preventing a loss by fanning Vlad and Torii Hunter with two on to preserve the tie after allowing a run.  It really was a defining moment for the kid.  In the top of the 9th, Brett the Jet singled and stole second, Jeter walked, JD bunted them over, and after Teixeira got an intentional pass, A-Rod hit a sac fly for the game-winning run.  Mariano walked Morales to start the ninth, but a strike-him-out, throw-him-out DP erased him before Mariano retired Aybar on a 4-3 for one of the biggest series wins in a long time.  The following day, A.J. allowed base runners but avoided the worst of trouble by fanning a remarkable 11 in just 5 2/3.  Big praise for Ian Kennedy pitching a scoreless eighth to preserve the one-run lead for Mariano.  It was a massive series win for the Yanks for they, while still in control of the East and home field, risked losing ground to both the stubborn Red Sox and Angels, leading the East by five and home field by four in the loss column going into the September 22 game–a bit less than their lead a month before.  Another series sweep at the hands of the Angels would have added considerable pressure on the Yanks, and would have made the upcoming series in The Bronx with Boston vital.  Not this time, as the Yanks proved well before October they could win in Anaheim.

The Yanks swept Boston in that series, with Sabathia twirling a one-hit gem through seven, fanning eight and again brilliant in a 3-0 win September 26.  That was C.C.’s 19th victory in an outstanding year.  STUD. In 15 of his 16 starts after the break, Sabathia took the ball into the 7th 14 times, and the 6th a 15th.  Horse.

On Sunday, September 27, the Yanks did it all–swept Boston with a 4-2 win, earned their 100th win of the year, tied the season series with Boston at 9 wins apiece after losing the first eight, and most importantly clinched the East and home field, setting off a rousing celebration in The Bronx and my house.  This was just the start of several more joyous celebrations.  Clinchalicious.

On the last day of the year, A-Rod reached the 30-HR, 100 RBI plateau for the 13th time in his career, 12 straight, by pasting two homers and driving in seven in the 6th inning, part of a 10-run rally and a 10-2 win over Tampa to end the regular season in style.  The first and last pitches of the regular season A-Rod saw were for homers, and his hot September and October–7 HR, 30 RBI, .344/.398–prompted calls from Frank the Sage and me that A-Rod was due for the hot playoff run that he and the team needed, and that eventually occurred.

The playoffs are rather fresh in everyone’s mind, so I don’t feel a real need to recap those.  But feel free to add your favorite moments from October, November, or earlier this season in the comments.  Images of Cano’s brilliant throws across his body, running right and throwing left, and Teixeira’s many outstanding stops and plays at first, certainly come to mind.  Great, great year.

Published in: on November 10, 2009 at 10:50 am  Comments (1)  

The URI to TrackBack this entry is:

RSS feed for comments on this post.

One CommentLeave a comment

  1. hey great recap– i’m already in baseball withdrawal. congrats to jeter and tex for gold gloves today

    PS i’m able to comment with Firefox but not Safari….

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: