Oh, what a relief it is
Down 8-4, the Yankees staged a dramatic comeback in the eighth inning, scoring six runs, giving New York its most compelling victory of the season. Mike Mussina, who allowed five runs in six innings of work said after the game that he hasn’t seen the Yankees this excited since the playoffs last year. It sure was good to see them smiling again.
Mussina said that he felt good about his performance, though it wasn’t especially sharp. Eric Chavez proved why he is the goods in the top of 3rd when he pounded a solo home run to left. Ooof, that man has a sweet swing, and boy is he ever strong. After the Yankees jumped on an equally shaky Tim Hudson for four runs in the bottom of the frame, Mussina gave it all back in the fourth. The Yankee defense didn’t help, as Miguel Cairo couldn’t field a ball, and Mussina had another grounder deflect off of his glove. Mussina was smiling by the end of the inning, as if to say, “It can’t get any worse than this.”
Tim Hudson, who is a dead-rinder for Ray Liotta for the nostrils down, left several pitches up in the zone during his seven innnings of work (he got away with a hanging splitter to Clark in the fourth, which the big man swung over), but the Yankees couldn’t take advantage. But in the third, Matsui lead off with a single and advanced to third on a double by Tony Clark. Migeul Cairo then double them home. Derek Jeter, who grounded out in his first at-bat, laid down a sacrifice bunt which moved Cairo to third. Bernie walked and Rodriguez grounded out to Chavez, scoring Cairo. Next Jason Giambi singled through the Boudreaux-shift for an RBI single. A sign of life! A two-out hit. Hey, I remember what those look like.
However, the Yankees would not get another base hit until the seventh inning. Meanwhile, the A’s continued to add to their lead. Mussina left a pitch up to Frankie Menechino in the fifth, who smacked an RBI single to center. Gabe White relieved Moose in the seventh and recorded two quick outs. Then Scott Hatteberg dumped a double into center field just beyond the reach of Bernie Williams. The play must have left Yankee fans shaking their heads, “Jeez, that was a play Bernie used to make, right?” (I doubt that Larry Mahnken was that kind.) After Durazo doubled to make the Oakland lead 6-4, Paul Quantrill came in and Marco Scutaro skied a high fly ball to left center.
You can run but you can’t hide. The winds were swirling last night, and Bernie Williams took a poor route to the ball. He dove but the ball knocked out of his glove, and the A’s had another run. Williams looked old. My girlfriend Emily tried to console me, but I shook my head and cursed my favorite player anyway.
Paul Quantrill tweaked his sore right knee on the final play of the seventh, so Mark Kotsay bunted for a base hit in the eighth. Next, Bobby Kielty hit a liner to right which popped out of Gary Sheffield’s glove. The ball floated in the air like a football that tipped off a reciever’s fingertips. Sheffield tried to recover and snag it, to no avail. It was scored an error and helped lead to another Oakland run, 8-4.
It looked like another night of bad breaks for the Yankees. Jeter’s third-inning sacrifice was admirable or desperate, depending on how you look at it. Regardless, it was a contribution. He stung the first pitch he saw from Hudson in the fifth, but it was right at the shortstop. And so it goes when you are slumping. Credit the stadium crowd for giving Jeter a standing ovation when he came to bat in the seventh. It was a rousing moment. Jeter missed a 1-2 fastball that was up, fouling it straight back. On the next pitch, Jeter grounded out, and his hitless streak would reach 0-28 by the end of the game.
Hudson was replaced by Jim Mercir in the eighth, and Bernie Williams hit a solid single through the right side to start the inning. Alex Rodriguez followed with a seeing-eye single through the left side. Then, Jason Giambi walked on a close full-count pitch. At this point, I was hoping for a home run, but expecting a double-play. Gary Sheffield cued a ball off of the end of his bat that squibbed towards the right side. It went for an infield single, and an RBI.
Jorge Posada spoiled a good pitch (outside fastball or splitter) and lined a single through the left side, and now the Yanks were down 8-6. The southpaw Ricardo Rincon came in for Mercir, and quickly got ahead of Matsui 0-2. But the next four pitches were out of the strike zone, Matsui walked, and the Yankees were within a run. Clutch at-bats from the Bombers here. Ruben Sierra pinch-hit for Cairo. I was cursing the move at home, loudly predicting that Sierra was going to hit into a double play. Instead, the bulky bench player smacked the 3-1 pitch into left for a double. Two runs scored and the Yankees had the lead for good. Sierra’s ball landed smack dab on the foul line. It was the luck the Yankees needed. Bernie Williams added an RBI on a fielder’s cherce, Mariano Rivera pitched the ninth, and the Yankees won, 10-8.
Another frustrating game turned into an improbable win, and like I said, it was great to see the Yankees smiling. What a sight for sore eyes. That they rallied in the nickel-and-dime tradition of the 1998 Yankees made is especially rewarding. With Jose Contreras pitching tonight, it was close to a must-win for New York. Now, if they can swipe one of the next two games, they should feel good about themselves. For Oakland, it was a vexing loss, considering that they blew a four-run lead on a night when Tim Hudson was not on his A-game.