Going into the ninth inning with a five-run lead and Tom Gordon on the hill, there was plenty of reason for Yankee fans to feel confident last night. After all, Paul Quantrill had his best outing in weeks and the Yankee offense carried Mike Mussina again. But Gordon only recorded one out, while allowing two hits and a walk. Mariano Rivera was brought in and retired Melvin Mora on one pitch for the second out. But even before Mo came in I had a feeling that the Yankees were going to blow the game. Migeul Tejada singled scoring two runs and then Rivera walked Raffie Palmeiro to load the bases again. He fell behind Javey Lopez, who stroked a single to left scoring two more runs. A cushy 8-3 was now down to 8-7. But Rivera got B.J. Surhoff to fly out to left to end the game and disaster was averted. (Man, am I glad when my gut-feeling is wrong.) After the game, Rivera told the New York Times:
“I just couldnít find the plate,” Rivera said. “I was missing a lot. I was falling behind, and the hitters have the advantage. You fall behind hitters and youíve got to throw strikes. I wasnít worried; I was just upset. You canít come into the game and do that.”
After a 45 minute rain delay, Mike Mussina labored through the first inning, allowing two runs and throwing 36 pitches. However, he settled down nicely after that, though he was still far from his A game:
“That first inning was tough, and I got fortunate. Matos hit the ball right on the nose, but right to (Wilson) to get out of it,” Mussina said. “From that point on, I got a little better, made some better pitches, and changed speeds a little better. . . . And we found a way to get some runs and get the lead.” (NYDaily News)
Sidney Ponson continues to show that he’s more chump than champ, unable to hold a lead. (He’s the east coast’s answer to Kelvim Escobar.) Hideki Matsui and Jorge Posada hit homers. But Derek Jeter was the offensive star of the night for the Yanks, with four hits, including two solo dingers. Alex Rodriguez had a walk and a single and has now reached base safely in 39 consecutive games (a career high).
Meanwhile, the Angels held on to beat the Red Sox last night in Anahiem. The Yanks are now a game ahead of Boston in the AL East.