"A New York Treasure" --Village Voice

Three is the Magic Number

“We were dead,” said Rodriguez, whose 34th homer made it 3-2. “This is as tired as I’ve seen this group in probably three years. A.J. Burnett was dominating us, about as much as we’ve been dominated all year.”
(Don Amore, Hartford Courant)

Man, was anyone else fired-up watching that game last night? After the bullpen blew two games on Sunday, I was in rare form as A.J. Burnett dominated the Bombers through the first five innings–cursing, kvetching, and shouting loud enough to drive Emily from the couch. Burnett had his fastball and his breaking ball working and he simply overpowered the Yanks who didn’t arrive in their hotel ’til the wee hours of the a.m. The team got a jolt of life when Johnny Damon was ejected for arguing balls and strikes after Hideki Matsui was called out on a check swing in the fifth.

The Jays held what seemed like a commanding 3-0 lead in the bottom of the sixth when Burnett could not finish off Bobby Abreu with two men out. Abreu worked a full count and then slapped a single up the middle. Then Alex Rodriguez planted a 1-0 fastball over the wall in left center field and the Bombers were on the board. Suddenly Burnett lost his groove. Jason Giambi walked on five pitches, Burnett balked him over to second and then walked Jorge Posada. However, he got Robinson Cano to pop a fastball up to shortstop to get out of the inning. As good as his stuff is, you have to wonder about Burnett’s mental toughness. I was calling him everything in the book from where I was sitting.

Godzilla Matsui singled sharply to center to start the seventh but was retired when Melky Cabrera hit into a 6-4-3 double play. But Aaron Guiel–who replaced Damon in center and made a fine sliding catch to boot–dunked a 1-2 curve ball into left for a double. Burnett fell behind Derek Jeter 3-0 before the Yankee captain crushed a home run over the wall in left center field, putting the Yankees ahead for good. It was only the second time that Jeter has swung at a 3-0 pitch since 2002 (the other time came in his final at bat on Sunday night). Hot damn and go figure, right?

The Yanks added three in the ninth (with Bernie Williams doing his best Albert Belle routine) before Posada waved at ball four with the bases loaded to end the inning. As it turns out, they would need all the insurance they could get as Troy Glaus lined a three-run dinger off Octavio Dotel in the bottom of the ninth. More moaning in the Bronx. The only reason I wasn’t more upset was that I had called Glaus’ dinger two innings earlier. It took four Yankee relievers to seal the deal, but when all was said and done, the Yanks had a 7-6 victory, and saw their magic number for clinching the AL East cut to three games.

Gary Sheffield had a thorough tutorial at first base yesterday afternoon and it looks like we’ll see him at first base, if not in Toronto, then later this week or this weekend down in Tampa. According to Tyler Kepner in the New York Times:

Sheffield has spoken recently with Fred McGriff, a former teammate who lives near him in Florida. McGriff reinforced the message that the position change would benefit Sheffield.

“This is a blessing in disguise for you, and you don’t even know it yet,” Sheffield said McGriff told him. “It just enhances your value.”

Sheff will face Ron Guidry in a live bp session today. Yo, I’m just licking my chops to see that man hit again, aren’t you?

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"This ain't football. We do this every day."
--Earl Weaver