"A New York Treasure" --Village Voice

Don’t Worry, Be Happy

If you hung on to the bitter end on Sunday night, then you can imagine what a pain in the ass this game is to try to write about.  For the first six innings the story line was about the continuing ineptitude of the Yankee bats, as Boston starter Daisuke Matsuzaka was dominant throughout.  The recap for that game was called “The Darkness on the Edge of Town,” and the story pretty much wrote itself: the Yankee swoon continues, the Twins and Rays are now the top two teams in the league, and the Red Sox and ’64 Phillies are looming.

But then the seventh inning happened and I ripped that first story up.  With one out and Mark Teixeira on first base, Alex Rodríguez came up to face Dice-K, a pitcher against whom he’s always struggled.  A-Rod quickly dug himself into a two-strike hole, then lashed at an inside fastball with a swing very much like a Rafael Nadal two-handed backhand.  At contact my first hope was that the ball would dunk in in front of an outfielder, but then as the camera panned upwards both outfielders were racing towards to the gap in right center and suddenly I was hoping it would be over their heads.  A split second later it was scraping over the wall and the Yankees had a 2-1 lead.  A-Rod was the hero, and what’s better than a hero story?  Again, the story would write itself, and it would carry the title “Don’t Worry, Be Happy.”

And then we got to the ninth inning.  Mariano Rivera had come in to get the final out in the eighth, and now he needed only three more outs to send everyone home happy.  Jed Lowrie almost ended the suspense early, but his rocket to right was cut down by a vicious wind and settled harmlessly into Nick Swisher’s glove.  Ryan Kalish followed with a single, and that’s when all hell broke loose.  Kalish quickly stole second, then a few pitches later stole third without a throw, and suddenly we were ninety feet away from a tie game.  Bill Hall then hit an absolute missile towards third, but the drawn-in A-Rod really had no shot, and the game was tied.  Proving that he had been paying attention earlier, Hall stole second and then third.  (You don’t have to be a SABR member to know that Mo has never allowed four stolen bases in the same inning.)  Now the winning run was on third, still with only one out, and the only thing keeping me off the ledge was everything I knew about Mariano Rivera.  But this wasn’t the Rivera we’re used to seeing.  He struggled with his control throughout, and eventually yielded a sac fly to Mike Lowell, giving the Sox a 3-2 lead.  This time, the story was titled “Cuts Like a Knife.”

But the ninth inning wasn’t over.  Even after Derek Jeter flied out to start the bottom half, I still had hope.  Nothing Jonathan Papelbon has done recently makes me fear him, so I wasn’t surprised when Nick Swisher started a Yankee rally with a sharp single to right.  When Teixeira kept the line moving with a single of his own, I just knew A-Rod would end it all with another dramatic home run.  Didn’t you?  Alas, he took a well-earned walk, loading the bases for Robinson Canó.  With MVP chants raining down (the first time I’ve noticed those for Canó), Robbie showed how far he’s come over the past two years.  He took two tough pitches to get into a hitter’s count at 2-0, then laced the expected fastball into right field to tie the game at three.  With the bases loaded, one out, and Jorge Posada and Lance Berkman, I was sure the game was in hand.  My only question was whose face would be covered in pie at the end.  But Posada struck out and Berkman flied out and we moved to the tenth.

The Boston tenth was uneventful, unless you count the fact that Joba Chamberlain looked good, and the stage was set for a walk-off in the bottom half.  With Hideki Okajima on the mound, things got interesting almost immediately.  Curtis Granderson roped a line drive for a single to right, then Brett Gardner reached when he was able to beat out an intended sacrifice bunt as Victor Martínez’s throw hit him in the back, allowing Granderson to race all the way to third.  As Jeter stepped towards the plate, I just knew Captain Clutch would wrap things up, and I started typing a story called “You Never Forget Your First Pie.”  Terry Francona made me rip that one up, too, when he walked Jeter intentionally to load the bases with nobody out.  Greg Golson was due up next (long story), but Joe Girardi sent Marcus Thames up in his place.  Thames did what he does — he hit a bullet — but it was snared by Adrian Beltré, who threw home for the first out.  Due next was Juan Miranda (long story) who worked an anticlimactic bases-loaded walk to end the game.  I don’t even know if he got any pie.  For a quick moment my story was called “Walk This Way,” but then I quickly realized that that was kind of lame.  The Yankees started bouncing around a bit, but then they quickly realized the same thing.  A walk-off walk isn’t the most exciting thing in the world, but a win is still a win.

Yankees 4, Red Sox 3.

[Photo Credit: Kathy Willens, AP]

Categories:  Game Recap  Hank Waddles  Yankees

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1 Shaun P.   ~  Sep 27, 2010 8:25 am

[0] Great recap, Hank. I really enjoyed the behind-the-scenes glance into how you tried to write up the game that wouldn't end. Reminds me of Posnanski's story about Game 4 of the '01 Serious.

After the almost comeback on Friday night, and the horribleness that was Saturday, I stayed away from the Internet all day Sunday . . . only to turn on the TV at eight-something and find our boy Hughes pitching. Aces, I thought. The Yanks will win this one.

I read the AP recap this morning and saw they quoted Girardi saying, "We still want to win our division. We still want to get homefield advantage, and we’re fighting like crazy to do that,” and I wondered how the Banter commentors would react to that one.

2 Alex Belth   ~  Sep 27, 2010 8:49 am

Alls I can say is whew!

3 kenboyer made me cry   ~  Sep 27, 2010 9:09 am

I posted this late (about 1AM) in the game thread. Can anyone answer the question about sacrifices?
And...great recap!

I couldn’t bear to follow the posts with the game on, it was nerve racking enough. It is funny to read the arc of the game in the posts after the fact. A good thing the Yanks won, or there would have been a lot of sleeplessness, and non-productivity tomorrow. Plus angry hangovers, and abused pets.

Why can’t the Yanks hit fly balls when there is a man on third with less than 2 outs? This year they must have the lowest percentage of fly ball sacrifices per opportunities in the majors. Is that stat available to research?

Both Mo and Sphincter-face blow saves in the same game? Mo and Posada allowing not one, but two steals of third in the same inning? Can this team get it together and compete in the PS? I believe they will and can. One more win or Sox loss, and they can rest and set up the PS rotation. It does not look like the division crown is available but I fear the first round against the Twins as they have to win something against the Yankees eventually, are a hot team, with luck a bigger factor in the short series.

This strange season should result in an exciting October. I can’t wait, but just not so sure I’ll like what happens.

Let’s go Yankees!

4 chrsm   ~  Sep 27, 2010 9:34 am

Love the recap, Hank. And I was thinking, 'Joe Packs Up Popeye Arm Building Workout Tapes and Heads To Cubs.'

5 Horace Clarke Era   ~  Sep 27, 2010 9:49 am

The grown-up in me kept saying that we're not going to choke on the scale this would have been, but facing a sweep and 5 straight losses and ending the season in Fenway, the grown-up was in the bar and the nervous kid was watching. In the light of morning I have now relaxed again ... about making it. Winning is another story.

Here's what I took away from last night. Although the stealfest was not really his fault, I do believe that against teams with speed we are going to see Posada DHing a lot. This means last year's debates are likely to resume, but I am still onside with the idea. I don't LIKE losingPosada + Berkman at the plate, but the defensive difference puts a ton of strain on a pitching staff that is already our major worry.

Setting up the staff ... do we now go CC/Phil/Pettitte/AJ? Or trust in Memories of Andy and have him 2nd? I guess it has to turn on matchups. How does Minny hit lefties, how does Texas? How is Phil on the road? How is Andy?

Do we skip AJ this year and start running CC on 3 right away? (Don't like that either.)

6 RIYank   ~  Sep 27, 2010 11:18 am

Jonathan Papelbon has written the perfect appendix to last night's novella: blaming the ump for his blown save.
The strike zone was pretty small, I'll give him that. But I thought Hughes got squeezed earlier, and certainly Mo was working with the same strike zone that Papelbon was (Terry Francona says so, quoted in the same article). So, in short, STFU.

7 cult of basebaal   ~  Sep 27, 2010 1:08 pm

[6] Blaming the umpire is never a winning move, but Cuzzi was pretty fucking awful last night, starting off with a generous strike zone (seriously, strike 3 to Jeter in the 1st was on the chalk of the batter's box) that turned, somewhere around the 6th inning into a tight one where not only were balls not being called strikes anymore, strikes weren't being called strikes.

Robot Umpire Overlords.

8 seamus   ~  Sep 27, 2010 2:03 pm

[6] [7] Read the comments on that post, frackin' hilarious. I thouht Papelbon was all over the map and most certainly off the plate a lot. And that is ultimately what he started not getting close pitches for strikes. Because he was wild.

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