There is no secret to the Yankees approach to Pedro Martinez–or any dominant pitcher, for that matter. You hang in there, keep the game close, hope to chase him by the late innings, and win the game against the bullpen. The Yankees have spoiled many good performances by Martinez over the past five, six years. True to form, the Yanks did it again yesterday, ruining a fine outing by Pedro, and beating the Mets, 5-3.
Alex Rodriguez is doing everything to live up to his new moniker. In the bottom of the second inning, with men on second and third, Martinez cued a soft ground ball to Rodriguez. It looked like a sure out, but the ball knocked off the side of Rodriguez’s glove, a run scored and everybody was safe. Another run came home on an RBI single, as Rodriguez’s muff led to two unearned runs. (Somewhere, Cliff Corcoran was slapping his forehead in disgust.) Cliff Floyd added a solo bomb off of Pavano the next inning and the Mets looked to be in good shape behind an effective Pedro, who was resuced from his only real jam in the first by a terrific diving catch which sent David Wright into the stands.
Several key faces were missing in action yesterday, as Carlos Beltran, Derek Jeter and Gary Sheffield all sat due to injury. Dig this: The Yankees 7-8-9 hitters were John Flaherty, Rey Sanchez and the pitcher. Womack, Williams and Matsui were the starting outfield. Yipe. This was far from an imposing line-up and Martinez took advantage. Rodriguez got one of his runs back with an RBI single (he finished the day 2-4 with a walk), and then got an opportunity for redemption in the top of the eighth. Errors by Wright and Reyes put runners on first and second wtih one out (Womack was the lead runner, and Derek Jeter, pinch-running, was behind him). On the first pitch, Womack and Jeter took off and easily pulled-off a double steal.
Here it was, but Rodriguez fouled out. Groan. Matsui followed though, and took a fastball that was low-and-away beautifully to left field for a two-run single. The man is tough in a big spot, right? The game was tied. Bernie Williams was next and he stroked a double into right, scoring Matsui. That was all the Yankees would need. They tacked on a run in the ninth, as Stanton-Gordon and Rivera set the Mets down without any drama to end it. Pavano pitched a solid game and the Yankees out-lasted the Mets to win the series. Or, if you want to be crass about it, the Mets just out-sucked the Yankees. Neither team play particularly well over the weekend, and if the Friday and Sunday games were close, possessing a degree of tension, they were not pretty.
But hey, but looks are overrated. Just ask Rodriguez.