When I was a young boy growing up in Southern California but obsessed with a team that played three thousand miles away, I often went to sleep listening to Dodger games. In those dark days of the early 1980s when not even George Jetson dreamed of the internet, there were three ways that I could get a Yankee score. One, I could wait until the next day and read about it in the morning paper; two, I could wait for the sports report on the local news at about 11:20 and hope they included out of town baseball scores; or three, I could listen to the Dodger game and hope I could stay awake to hear the scoreboard recap.
I usually chose option number three, which meant that I would lie in bed and listen to Vin Scully spinning yarns about Jackie Robinson and Willie Mays and Stan Musial. Thirty years later, I sometimes watch Dodger games — not for the game, but to listen to Scully. And so when faced with the choice this afternoon between spending ninety minutes in traffic and $300 in tickets to take the family out to Chavez Ravine, or watching the game on the couch with Vin Scully on the mic, I chose Scully. (The added bonus being that I could spend the afternoon rearranging the garage, much to my wife’s delight.)
Leading up to this series, I focused completely on all the feel-good stories. Grandpa Joe Torre would get to see the four kids he raised into Hall of Famers (I know you want to quibble with that, but that’s not really the point), Captain Don Mattingly would pose for photos with Captain Derek Jeter, and people like Tommy Lasorda and Reggie Jackson would have good fun recounting past battles. What’s funny to me is that I didn’t remember the snarky angle — Alex Rodríguez would be on the same field as Torre, the guy who sold him out to SI’s Tom Verducci in September of 2006, dropped him to eighth in the lineup in an elimination game a month later, and then finished the job by going back to Verducci for last year’s tell-all, The Yankee Years. Even if I forgot all this, the Associated Press did not, as almost half of their game recap focused on the Torre-Rodríguez rift. (For the record, I love Joe Torre, but I hate the way he handled A-Rod.)
But there was an actual game played on Friday night, and it was a good one. On the Dodger side, things started out nicely as they scratched out a run against CC Sabathia in the first inning with a lead-off walk and stolen base by Rafael Furcal, a ground ball to first by Andre Ethier to move him to third, and an RBI-single to right by our old friend Manny Ramírez (more on him later).
The Yanks immediately answered back in the top of the second when A-Rod led off with a double down the right field line and came around a few minutes later on a single by Jorge Posada. After three scoreless frames, A-Rod gave his team a lead when he led off the sixth inning with a no-doubt home run to left. Like we’ve been saying, the swing appears to be back.
That 2-1 lead would prove to be enough for Sabathia, as the cruised through the rest of the night. He was particularly proud of his fastball, which regularly clocked in at 95 and 96 MPH, but his slider was also effective. During his eight innings he tallied twenty of the twenty-four outs on strikeouts and ground balls, and even with that thin one-run lead, the outcome of the game never really seemed in doubt.
Ah, but there was lots of drama. Dodger starter and noted headhunter Vicente Padilla plunked Robinson Canó in the ass in the top of the fourth inning. Canó took his base without incident, but when Padilla came up with one out in the bottom of the fifth, Sabathia nailed him with his first pitch, then stared him down as he walked to first, escorted a third of the way by Posada. Nothing happened from there, but it might be something to monitor on Saturday and Sunday.
The highlight of the game came in the ninth inning when Mariano Rivera entered to face Manny Ramírez. If you add Mo’s 542 saves to Manny’s 554 home runs, you get a total of 1096. I don’t have any friends at Elias who can confirm or deny this, but I’m guessing that’s the highest total ever for a batter facing a pitcher. (You get extra credit if you can either confirm or deny this in the comments.) On the telecast, Scully set the matchup by rattling off a series of statistics, then suggested, “And now, let’s watch…” What we saw was Mo being Mo, as he struck out Manny for the first out of the inning. Matt Kemp followed with another strikout, and then James Loney ended the game by striking out without lifting the bat from his shoulder. The first two called strikes were probably out of the strike zone, but strike three was a perfect pitch, right on the outside corner. Loney tossed his helmet and bat into the air in protest, earning the rare post-game ejection, Torre argued from the dugout, and Mattingly looked ready to explode as he tossed several f-bombs towards home plate umpire Phil Cuzzi. So much sound and fury, signifying nothing.
For his part, Mariano simply bowed his head and walked off the mound. Yankees 2, Dodgers 1.