It had all the makings of another frustrating game for the Yankees. They couldn’t come up with a timely hit and the Pirates kept tacking on runs. Not only that, but when the Yankees did hit the ball hard it tended to be directly at a Pittsburgh defender. The Pirates boast a slick defensive infield, and they strutted their stuff all evening long. But with a little bit of luck (in the form of a missed call that would have ended the game in the ninth, as well as a ball that hit Russ Johnson in the tenth), the Yankees finally earned a come-from-behind victory, as Jason Giambi’s moonshot off of Jose Mesa sent Yankee fans to bed with a smile on their face. The final was 7-5, and the Bombers didn’t lose ground to the Orioles and the Red Sox, who both won as well.
Giambi couldn’t catch up to southpaw Mike Gonzalez’s gas in the eighth inning, but Mesa couldn’t sneak the heater past him in the tenth. I called Cliff a few minutes after the game ended and he said something to the effect that Jose Mesa is good for what ails ya. Amen to that, brother. The Yanks pounded out fifteen hits in all. Kevin Brown had to leave the game due to back spasms, and Tanyon Sturtze was roughed up again, but Mariano Rivera dominated the Pirates for two innings, lowering his season earned run average to 1.09 in the process. After a one-two-three ninth, Rivera clapped his hands and encouraged his team in the dugout.
With Gary Sheffield on first and two out, Alex Rodriguez came to the plate. The Yanks trailed by one run. Rodriguez missed a room service fastball with the count 1-1, and I thought that might be the game right there. Man, was it ever a fat pitch. As much as I think the notion of Rodriguez as a choker is nuts, I admit that in a tight situation I don’t have the same confidence in him that I do with, say Sheffield. Nevertheless, Rodriguez was patient, and eventually muscled a good fastball that was bearing in on his hands into center for a single. Jorge Posada followed and laced a line drive into right, which tied the game.
After Tino Martinez walked to lead off the bottom of the tenth, Russ Johnson came into the game as a pinch-runner. Increasingly disgruntled left fielder Tony Womack, who replaced Ruben Sierra in left an inning earlier, was set to sacrifice him to second. After several pitches the Pirates called a pitch-out. Johnson was running. Hung up, he retreated to first. But the throw hit him and he made it back safely. At that point I turned to Emily and said, “There is just too much going right for them tonight to lose this one.” Fortunately, I was right, and I couldn’t be happier for Giambi, who absolutely crushed the ball into the upper deck, momentarily turning the jeers to cheers. After he was mobbed at home plate, Bernie Williams, Derek Jeter and Alex Rodriguez all took the time to not only hug Giambi, but give him some words of encouragment too. Good for the Big Lug. And kudos to the whole team.
Ain’t We Great?