Before the NBA playoffs in 1983, 76ers power forward, and future Hall of Famer, Moses Malone was asked for a prediction. “Fo, fo, fo,” he replied succinctly, meaning that his team would win each series in four straight (the Sixers did win the title that year, going 12-1 in the process). The NBA playoffs have been truly exciting this spring, but for the injured-torn New York Yankees, the answer to their problems came in a familiar package last night: Mo, Mo, Mo. Mariano Rivera worked three innings for the first time in a regular season game since 1996. He threw just 25 pitches and was brilliant as the Yankees beat the Tigers in extra innings, 11-6. It seemed like the Tigers were going to find a way to pull the game out–coming back from 6-1, but Jason Giambi’s solo home run off of Todd Jones broke the tie and then his teammates added four more for good measure. Combined with another Toronto win over Boston, the Yanks find themselves tied for first place this morning.
It was the Good, Bad and the Ugly last night in the Motor City. Let’s address the bad first. Neither Johnny Damon or Gary Sheffield were in the line-up last night. Damon is playing with a broken bone in his foot and will need to rest every so often. Sheffield’s wrist has not gotten better. In fact, it may have become significantly worse and the slugger may return to the DL. According to Sam Borden in the Daily News:
Sheffield admitted that he has suffered a new injury to his already-ailing wrist and believes he could be facing another long layoff.
“Yeah,” Sheffield said when asked directly if he thought he might need to go back on the DL. “As soon as I picked up the bat to warm up (yesterday afternoon), it felt like my wrist came off. …I don’t know what’s going on. I felt like (the previous sprain) was getting better, but it’s in a different spot now. It’s right on the wrist, right on the bone. It’s really painful.”
As far as the game goes, the bad and the ugly went hand-in-hand. The ugliest thing about the game was actually watching it. The pitchers were deliberate, and so were the managers. The game lasted just over four hours but it seemed longer. The Yankees blew a 6-1. With one out and a man on first in the bottom of the fifth, Derek Jeter booted a sure-double play ball. Instead of two out and nobody on, runners were on the corners with zero outs. (After tweaking his wrist the night before, Jeter had an awful night on Tuesday.) Aaron Small had worked out of a bases loaded, no out jam in the first inning but his luck was about up. Pudge Rodriguez tripled to deep right, Magglio Ordonez followed with an RBI single and suddenly it was a two-run game. Later, Kyle Farnsworth walked two men and loaded the bases with nobody out. The Yanks still held a one-run lead, but that didn’t last as the Tigers tied the score on Brandon Inge’s fielder’s cherce.
However, Farnsworth wasn’t a complete bust. He came back and fanned the last two hitters to keep the score tied. As for the good? Well, Rivera was flat-out great. The cutter was really moving. How about Melky Cabrera going 4-6 with a double, triple, walk and two RBI? And lookit Cliff’s boy Andy Phillips with two big hits and 4 RBI of his own. Bernie Williams had three hits, T. Long added two and so did Alex Rodriguez. But it was Giambi’s blast that was a crucial blow. Giambi has been slumping recently and was 0-5 (with three strike outs) when he faced the Tiger’s closer in the top of the 11th. Jones got ahead of him 1-2 but then hung a curve ball. Giambi got all of it.
It was a big win for the Yankees. The Tigers look like a tough team. Their two young fire-balling relief pitchers, Joel Zumaya–who was hitting 100 mph on the radar gun, and has a bit of Carlos Zambrano’s emotional charge to him–and Fernando Rodney–a huge dark-skinned man with wild hair who reminded me of Lee Smith, or a combination of Doc Ellis and Ben Wallace–were impressive. They were throwing gas and getting strikes and they both had tough breaking pitches too. I didn’t come away from the game wondering if the Tigers are for real. I came away thinking the Yankees were fortunate to pull one out on the road against such a solid team. The crowd was apprehensive. They didn’t anticipate rallies but reacted when good things happened. You can hardly blame them. But my sense is that they’ll have plenty to cheer about this year.