I climbed into a reclining chair at my dentist’s office on 57th street in Manhattan yesterday just minutes before the first game of the Yankees-Twins double-header. Looking up, I noticed a TV. So while I was having a cavity-filled and my teeth cleaned I watched the first five innings of the game. Man, dentistry has come a long way. Getting a cavity filled doesn’t involve the kind of messy drilling that I remember as a kid. But while the immediate events in my mouth weren’t nearly as uncomfortable as I had anticipated, the Twins drilled Mike Mussina around for three first inning runs. And though Johan Santana was clearly not going to pitch a full-length game, three runs is an awful lot to spot the probable AL Cy Young.
But Derek Jeter lead off the bottom of the first with a double and he scored on a single by Gary Sheffield. Maybe Santana was human after all. Hardly. The Twins’ southpaw allowed two base-runners in the second and then got out of trouble by striking his way out of the inning. Man, even when he was handling my team, there is something to be said about watching a dominant pitcher at work. The second time Jorge Posada was up, he swung through two high fastballs. So I figure that Posada has to be sitting on the change, or Santana’s nasty slider, which dives down and in to righties. But instead, Santana threw two more fastballs. They were both out of the zone. He’s got to come with the soft stuff, right? Nah, he blew Jorge away with a fastball on the outside corner. Man, you’ve just got to guess right and hope that he makes some mistakes in order to beat a guy like Santana right now.
Mussina wasn’t elegant, issuing walks and allowing hits, but he didn’t allow anymore runs to score. I watched the first five innings, and endured some kind of lecture from Maria, a portly, plantain-eating chaza, who cleaned my teeth, about the art of flossing. I smiled at her, half of my face still numb from the novacaine, when she handed me a complementary tooth brush. “You look just like Mike Gilbert,” she tells me. I had never heard that one before. “Oh yeah, who is Mike Gilbert?” “He’s a friend of my son’s. He’s a sheriff you know.” Sheriff Mike Gilbert? Jeez, no, Maria, I did not know that.
Unable to eat anything solid, I headed to the best Jewish deli in my neighborhood for some matzo ball soup. The mexicans working behind the counter had the game on the radio. “What’s the score?” I asked. “5-3…Yankees.” Really? “Did they get the runs off Santana?” “No, the bullpen.” Okay, the sky isn’t falling for the Twins faithful. I got my soup, and walked into my apartment as the Yankees ended the game with a 6-4-3–nice pick Tony Clark–double play.
Emily and I watched Game Two together. Hideki Matsui hit a three-run dinger to the opposite field in the first inning, his second long ball of the day, and 30th on the season. Alex Rodriguez added a solo shot later on, and the Yanks held on for a 5-4 win. The story of the game for New York was Tanyon Sturtze’s performance, one and two-thirds innings of scoreless ball. Perhaps they’ve found a cure for what ails Paul Quantrill. The game ended on a double play, and Mariano Rivera had his second save of the afternoon, his 53rd on the year.
The night ended on a high note for New York and a low one for the Red Sox, who were thumped by the Devil Rays. Pedro Martinez was roughed up again and has now lost four-consecutive games, the first time that has ever happened to him in his career. With Boston now four games behind the Yanks, New York needs just one more win, or a Red Sox loss to secure the division title for the seventh straight year.
It was a good day for the Yankees and their fans. But leave it to Selena Roberts, she of the Mike Lupica-No-Joy-In-Yankeeville-School-of-Thought, to rain on the parade. The kindest way for me to characterize Roberts, a columnist for the Times, is as a dilettante. Today, she writes that these Yankees are just no fun. They are dour professionals who have had all of the fun squeezed out of them by the high expectations that come with playing for George Steinbrenner. Haven’t we heard this before? This isn’t Paul O’Neill’s Yankees anymore. Okay, we get it. Get over it. But noooo, Roberts wants to know why the Yanks can’t be more like the Twins or the Red Sox. Believe that. I don’t know, why can’t the English learn to speak?
You’d think that there is nothing more that writers like Roberts would like than to see the Red Sox win. Or anybody else but the Yanks win. If the Yanks do manage to win the Serious, this line-of-thinking would have little merit. We already know what Roberts and Lupica and the like will say if the Yankees lose. Meanwhile, if the Yankees win one more game, it will be the first time in the organization’s storied history that they’ll have won 100 games, three years in a row. There are plenty of good stories on this team. Even if Steinbrenner and a decent portion of Yankee fans dismiss the season as a failure should they fail to reach and/or win the World Serious, that shouldn’t prevent sportswriters from coming up with a new angle. But that would require some thought. Ah, I suppose it’s easier to rip the team. Remember, this is coming from the New York Times. The home town paper. Oy veh.