A fine pitcher’s duel, and crisp 4-1 victory for the Yankees yesterday at the Stadium was marred only by some inept umpiring from the man behind the mask, Andy Dowdy. Dowdy is a minor league ump who has been called on to work big league games as an alternate since 2002. On Sunday, before a packed house in the Bronx, he looked overmatched. Dowdy’s strike zone was all over the place by the fifth inning, and his shoddy work provoked each manager to get tossed–both arguing balls and strikes.
Mike Mussina believed he got jobbed on three pitches during the top of the frame–which ended with him striking Shea Hillenbrand out on a full-count pitch with the bases loaded. Mussina got Hillenbrand to chase a change-up that was up in the zone. As Hillenbrand slammed his bat to the ground in frustration, Mussina barked at Dowdy. By the time the game came back from commerical, Joe Torre was gone. According to the Daily News:
“I came (into his office) between (half) innings and watched the pitches that were in question (on TV). And I just went out there and expressed my disapproval,” Torre said. “I just told him from the top step of the dugout, or I asked him about one particular pitch and he thought it was high, and I didn’t think it was high.”
The Yankee manager’s heated discussion went into Gustavo Chacin’s warmups. Torre said the finale of the argument was when he held up three fingers at Dowdy as the team came off the field.
“He asked me what that meant. And I said I thought you missed three pitches,” Torre said. “And he threw me out.”
Andy Phillips knocked a solo home run to right field in the bottom of the inning, tying the game at 1. Gustavo Chacin had been pitching well, but he too was effected by Dowdy’s strike zone, and with two outs, the bases were loaded for the struggling Alex Rodriguez. The 2-2 pitch, was down and in and looked like strike three. The next pitch was almost in the same spot, but no strike three. Instead, Rodriguez drew a bases loaded walk, putting the Bombers ahead for good. Chacin, notable for being a young pitcher with poise, yelled out loud as he walked back to the dugout. Cue Toronto skipper John Gibbons: He puts in his two cents and get tossed.
Kyle Farnsworth replaced Mussina in the seventh and was impressive. He left a fastball down to Alex Rios who stroked a single to left. Rios then stole second but was called out. The Yankees have been on the wrong side of a slew of calls so far this season, but they got one back there–Rios was clearly safe. After falling behind Frank Catalanotto, Farnsworth blew two fastballs–right over the plate–past the Yankee killer. Catalanotto didn’t stand a chance. Farnsworth came back with two nasty sliders to whiff Vernon Wells.
Jason Giambi, the Yankees’ best offensive player for the first month of the season, smacked a two-run home run (on a full-count pitch from Pete Walker) off the facade in right field to pad the lead. Farnsworth caught Troy Glaus looking on strikes to start the eighth and then got Shea Hillenbrand to pop out after giving up a one-out double to left by Lyle Overbay (Farnsworth was hitting 100 mph on the radar gun, according to YES, he just left a fastball down in the zone to Overbay). Mariano Rivera came on and retired the last four Toronto hitters on a weak pop out and three ground balls.
It was a rewarding victory, and a particularly good way to head up to Boston. Right. In case you hadn’t heard, the Yankees and Red Sox are meeting for the first time this year for one of those strange little two-games series. There will be plenty of hoopla over Johnny Damon’s return to Fenway, but Yankee fans are more probably more preoccupied with the health of Gary Sheffield. Josh Beckett goes for the Sox tomorrow night and perhaps the Yanks will get to see Boston’s icy young closer, Paplebon too. Should be tense and nervous and excitable, as it normally is when these two teams meet.