It didn’t take long for things to get out of hand for the White Sox last night. Mike Mussina set the Sox down in order on ten pitches in the top of the first thanks to a great running catch at the 385 ft. sign by Melky Cabrera and three called strikes on Jim Thome.
In the bottom of the first, Johnny Damon hit an 0-2 pitch to third base which spun away from Josh Fields, forcing him to reach for the ball and giving Damon time to reach with an infield single. On an 0-2 count to the next batter, Derek Jeter appeared to go around on a check swing, but was ruled not to have swung, robbing Contreras of a strikeout. In the previous inning, Thome had complained to home plate umpire Phil Cuzzi when strike two from Mussina appeared to be a bit high, then, after taking a pitch on the inside corner for a ball, was called out on another high pitch that he though was ball four. When Jeter’s swing was declared checked by first-base ump Tom Hallion, White Sox pitching coach Don Cooper and manager Ozzie Guillen started arguing from the dugout. Phil Cuzzi, who has a reputation for being an instigator, responded to the White Sox’s taunts and, before anyone knew what was happening, Cuzzi tossed Guillen from the game.
Guillen came out onto the field to get his money’s worth from Cuzzi, repeatedly, and colorfully imploring him to do his job at home plate rather than get in the middle of a disagreement between the White Sox bench and the first base ump, but it was all just bottle rockets before the real fireworks.
Given a stay of execution, Jeter singled up the middle and, two pitches later, Bobby Abreu crushed a home run into the upper deck in left. After Alex Rodriguez flied out to deep right, Hideki Matsui added solo shot into section 41 of the right field bleachers to make it 4-0 Yankees. Jorge Posada added a double before Contreras was able to get the last two outs on fly balls to left center.
Mike Mussina gave up a three-run home run to Juan Uribe in the top of the second to make the game momentarily close at 4-3 as Contreras set the Yankees down in order in the bottom of the second, striking out Melky Cabrera and Johnny Damon along the way. Mussina returned serve with a nine-pitch, all-strikes top of the third, and the Yankees broke it open in the bottom half, driving Contreras from the game with a three-run homer by Robinson Cano. Knuckleballing relief pitcher Charlie Haeger was greeted by an error by Juan Uribe, who booted an Andy Phillips grounder, then recovered only to have the webbing tear out of Paul Konerko’s glove allowing Phillips to reach base. That was followed by a two-run home run by Melky Cabrera that made it 9-3 Yanks after three.
From there things just got silly. Jorge Posada hit a two-run homer off Haeger in the fourth. Matsui added a two-run jack off Gavin Floyd in the sixth. With Floyd taking one for the team, Johnny Damon hit his first home run since June 26 in the seventh. Two batters later, defensive replacement Shelley Duncan followed with a solo shot of his own that set the final score at 16-3.
In addition to being Duncan’s fourth home run in 21 major league at-bats, Duncan’s tater was the Yankees’ eighth of the game, tying the franchise record set on June 28, 1939 when Joe DiMaggio and Babe Dahlgren each hit two and Bill Dickey, Joe Gordon, Tommy Henrich, and George Selkirk each hit one. Duncan was also the seventh Yankee to homer in the game, tying an American League record held by three other teams. The Yankees have now scored 54 runs in their last three games in Yankee Stadium. I don’t know if that’s any kind of record, but it sure sounds like one.
Alex Rodriguez, who entered the game with 499 career home runs, did not hit a home run. Nor did he get a hit. He did, however, hit a lot of warning-track bombs, one of which Jermaine Dye made a great catch on while running face-first into the wall in right. After his last at-bat, Rodriguez gave his bat to a very excited kid in a blue sleeveless shirt behind the Yankee dugout. That bat won’t make it to the Hall of Fame, but the next one off the rack just might.
Hidden behind all those homers was a strong performance by the Yankee hurlers who allowed no runs beyond that Uribe homer. Together Mussina, Kyle Farnsworth (who was booed when announced in the seventh inning and responded by retiring the side on eight pitches, six strikes), Mike Myers, and Sean Henn allowed eight hits, walked none, struck out eight, and threw 84 of 122 pitches for strikes (69 percent). By comparison, Contreras allowed seven runs on eight hits and a walk in just 2 2/3 innings.