Random thoughts from a crazy 11-9 Yankees victory that had highs, lows, and a lot of agita in between…
The lead-up to this quickie two-game set between the Yankees and the Red Sox featured several back stories:
1) The Red Sox were not a threat. They entered Monday night’s action in fourth place, three and a half games behind the Blue Jays, the starting pitching reduced to mediocrity, the bullpen reduced to tatters, and riddled by the combined struggles of David Ortiz and Victor Martinez, and injuries to Mike Cameron and Jacoby Ellsbury.
“The Red Sox don’t scare me,” so said 1050’s Seth Everett on Sunday. “They’re not a threat. David Ortiz doesn’t scare me. Not even now that he’s started to hit a little bit.”
“It’s not a rivalry right now,” said Mike Francesa. “It’s not a rivalry until the standings dictate that it’s a rivalry.”
To paraphrase Buster Olney, who subbed on “Mike and Mike in the Morning”: “By the end of May, Theo Epstein will evaluate and look at this team and restructure with 2011 in mind.”
Thank you, Cliff Corcoran, for bringing some sanity to the matter and giving the “Sox are dead” sayers a nice punch to the stomach. The Red Sox don’t suck and they proved it. (More on this later.)
2) Because Mariano Rivera hadn’t given up a run to date and was inhumanly infallible at Age 40, the fact that he yielded his first grand slam at home since 1995 and first grand slam since Bill Selby in July of 2002 to blow the save Sunday meant that something was wrong and the end was near. The likes of Olney, Craig Carton, and Mike Francesa all thankfully decried this notion. Olney said Rivera was allowed to have a bad day, Carton pointed to Teixeira’s drop of a line drive that would have ended the inning, and Francesa downplayed the importance of a Sunday game in May against a team the Yankees have owned in recent years.
3) Javier Vazquez is incapable of starting against the Red Sox, regardless of location. Monday morning, stories appeared stating that manager Joe Girardi planned on using Vazquez in the bullpen this week against the Sox and Rays to supplement a start. He struck out Kevin Youkilis on four pitches in the ninth inning — and was the winning pitcher — but even with that appearance, there’s a chance he may not start against the Mets at Citi Field Friday, in favor of the inimitable Sergio Meat Tray. If Vazquez is not good enough as a starter to get the Mets lineup out, in a National League ballpark, then why trot him out to the mound at all? That might be the kind of situation to get his confidence back.
In his postgame presser, Girardi got testy when the words “Javy Vazquez,” “skipped,” and “because of the Red Sox” were used in the same sentence.
“Absolutely not,” Girardi said. “I want to make this clear, OK?” His voice was stern and he was waving his hand in a karate chop motion. “He was not skipped because of that situation. Our bullpen is a mess. I needed a long guy today. We could not activate Chan Ho Park if you didn’t have a long man.”
Fine, but he was still skipped a second time during a Red Sox series. The reporter was right to ask the question. Girardi, to his credit, added that he didn’t want to use Vazquez because he still wanted to be able to start Vazquez on Friday, but with Joba Chamberlain unavailable after getting up twice to warm up on Saturday, and David Robertson unavailable, he had few options. After throwing just four pitches, Vazquez can still go Friday.
4) Nick Johnson will have wrist surgery tomorrow. It’ll be 4-6 weeks before he can pick up a bat, which means he’s likely not going to be back in the lineup until August. August of what year has yet to be determined, but August sounds about right.
Raise your hand if after the Yankees sprinted to a 5-0 first-inning lead, which became 5-1 and then 6-1 and then 6-2 following a towering homer by Big Papi, you were comfortable. Really? Me neither.
You were probably less comfortable, then, when Marco Scutaro singled after a seven-pitch at-bat, Dustin Pedroia doubled to cap a 10-pitch at-bat, and J.D. Drew clocked a three-run homer off Phil Hughes to make it 6-5. Me, I felt a sinking feeling when Boone Logan was brought in to face Victor Martinez to start the sixth inning. After Martinez’s first at-bat, Ken Singleton, an accomplished switch hitter in his day, discussed the off splits in Martinez’s switch-hitting line. He was a .165 hitter from the left side and .389 from the right. Somehow, Joe Girardi didn’t get this memo. Martinez was 0-for-2 against Hughes. Batting right-handed against Logan, the inevitable happened. Solo home run, 7-6 Yankees.
When Mark Teixeira popped out to kill the insurance rally in the bottom of the sixth, I received the following e-mail from our esteemed host, Alex Belth: “They need some insurance, here. Sox don’t have great hitters but enough good ones to do better than they’ve done.”
My response: “Chan Ho Park. Jesus Christ…” I thought Girardi was managing like he had no inclination to win the game. It was the seventh inning of a rivalry game, on the verge of blowing a huge lead; not exactly the time to unleash the Chan Ho Experiment.
Somehow, Park got out of the seventh inning unscathed. Prior to the eighth, Alex sent this: “Joba and Mo, take two.” Only Park emerged to pitch the eighth. A note pinged my inbox before I could reply. It was Alex.
“So I guess no Joba. It’ll be a miracle if they get out of the eighth with a lead.” (NOTE: This was before we knew which Yankee relievers were unavailable.)
Less than five minutes later, Kevin Youkilis hit a two-run home run to put the Sox on top, and Victor Martinez followed with another solo home run — this one from the left side, so apparently he can still hit as a lefty — to provide some padding. This left us both dispirited.
From Alex: “Last year, the Yanks had a ton of comeback wins. Another one tonight would be sweet but I’m not feeling it.”
I wasn’t, either. Then Gardner got on with the double. There was a chance. Teixeira made a loud out. Then A-Rod. So much for him not being clutch. And again against Papelbon. Huge home run to left-center. I immediately typed a note to Alex:
“A. F—ING. ROD.”
“Sweet Georgia Brown. They have to win now,” was the reply.
Then Cervelli gets plunked and we all could feel it. Then Michael Kay put on the prophet hat as Marcus Thames dug into the batter’s box:
“Marcus Thames can turn on a fastball, and he’ll be sitting dead red here.”
First pitch, 93-mph heat. Roped over the left-field wall. Jubilation.
Tomorrow, CC vs. Beckett. Beanball war, anyone?
Something must be in the air at Yankee Stadium on May 17. Consider … In 1998, it was David Wells’ perfect game. In 2002, it was Jason Giambi’s game-winning grand slam in the 14th inning to cap a 13-12 win. Prior to the bottom of the 14th, as Mike Trombley made his warm-up tosses, Jim Kaat said off-air, “I bet the first three guys get on and Bernie (Williams) hits a grand slam to win it.” Shane Spencer singled, Alfonso Soriano flied out, then Jeter singled and Williams walked, leading up to the Giambi home run.
And now this victory, which will likely be re-aired as a Yankees Classic in two weeks.
DEJA VU ALL OVER AGAIN
Marcus Thames got the first A.J. Burnett Shaving Cream Pie of the season. On June 10, 2002, the night of his Major League debut, in his first Major League at-bat, on the first pitch he saw, he homered off Randy Johnson. He received a pie in the face during his postgame interview that night also.
FRANKIE BRAINS BRINGS THE PAIN…TO OPPOSING PITCHERS
Courtesy of his RBI single in the first inning, Francisco Cervelli is batting .786 (11-for-14) with runners in scoring position this season. Overall, he’s batting an even .400 with an OPS of .988.
GARDY TO LEADOFF?
Brett Gardner got on base three more times in five plate appearances. I’ve taken my fair share of potshots at Gardner and his wet noodle swing, but the guy is a sparkplug and the kind of player I really enjoy watching. With his OBP now hovering closer to the .400 mark and Derek Jeter struggling, Girardi has to consider shaking up the top of the order to get Gardner on base.
Not only is it a cool obscure instrumental tune from Rush, it aptly describes the LOOGY Logan. “Relief” isn’t the operative word when describing Logan as a relief pitcher. Entering Monday’s game, Logan had walked six — he also struck out six — and had a WHIP of 1.80. He did little to improve those numbers, throwing three straight balls to open the at-bat to Martinez.
Logan retired the next three hitters and was credited with a hold. He threw first-pitch strikes to only one of the four batters he faced.
STRANGE BUT TRUE
Jeremy Hermida was the only starter on either team to go hitless and not reach base.