The Red Sox did everything better than the Yanks last night and took Game One of the ALCS, 5-2. It was unseasonably warm in the Bronx, and the moon was just about full. Tim Wakefield was excellent limiting the Yankees to two hits, and a couple of runs, and the Boston bullpen mopped up from there. On the other hand, Mike Mussina was not sharp, and he paid for it. After Moose walked two batters in the second inning, I had a feeling it was going to be a rough night. He was constantly behind in the count and had thrown 39 pitches through the second.
Manny Ramirez reached first to lead off the fourth. He hit a tapper to the right side, which deflected of Mussina’s glove for a single; it is a play that Moose normally makes. After falling behind David Ortiz—who had been 0-20 lifetime against Mussina—Moose served up a fastball on the fat part of the plate, and Boston’s Dominican Cookie Monster crushed it into the upper deck.
Todd Walker hit a dinger off the foul poul in the following inning, and the Sox led, 3-0. Initially called foul, the umpires reversed the call, and made the correct decision. A fan tried to catch the ball, missed it, and the ball hit the pole anyway. Bernie Williams made a fine running catch moving toward death valley on the very next play, robbing Bill Mueller of an extra base hit, but Manny popped a homer just over the right field fence to put Boston ahead, 4-0. (Ramirez, Washington Heights’ adopted son, collected two more hits, all four going to right field.)
Derek Jeter’s poor range was on display as singles by Doug Mirabelli and Kevin Millar inexplicably scooted under his glove (Millar’s scored a run). Jeter was almost clipped by an eagle in the pre-game ceremonies, and the night didn’t get any better from there. The Yankee bullpen was decent. Jose Contreras struck out the side in the ninth inning, an encouraging sign for sure.
In all, it was the Red Sox night. The Yankees were shut down by Wakefield, and when they did sting the ball, it was directly at a Boston fielder. The Yanks mounted a rally in the seventh. After consectutive walks chased the knuckleballer from the game, Jorge Posada—who had two of the Bombers three hits—lined a double into center. Jason Giambi, the lead runner, scored easily, but Gabe Kapler—Johnny Damon’s replacement in center—cut the ball off nicely and prevented Bernie Williams from scoring as well. (Williams would come home on Hideki Matsui’s sac fly, but that was all the soup the Yanks were going to get.)
Damon was on the bench for Boston, but he looked ginger and more than a bit spacey. He is expected to play this weekend, and for one night at least, was not missed.
As frustrating as the game was to watch as a Yankees fan, I was encouraged by the optimism displayed by the Yankee fans at the Stadium during the late innings. Unfazed by trailing, or even losing the game, Yankee fans weren’t panicking.
There is still a long way to go, as Dan Shaughnessy, one of Boston’s most cynical columnist notes this morning. Andy Pettitte gets the ball in another huge game tonight. But if Derek Lowe manages to out-pitch Andy, the Yankees will be in the unenviable position of having to face Prince Pedro down 0-2, with the next three games coming in Boston.
Many baseball writers were hot for the Sox as the post season started, but most of them actually picked the Yanks in this serious. Considering how these playoffs have played out so far, nothing is a sure bet now.