I went to school in the Bay Area from 1987 to 1991, just an hour or so away from what was then called Alameda County Coliseum. I always did my best to convince someone to make the trip across the Bay with me whenever the Yankees came to town, and even in the first few years after I graduated and returned to Southern California, I had enough college friends — even one who was a Yankee fan — who had remained up there to justify weekend road trips up north whenever the Yankees came out west.
The problem, of course, was that the during the late 80s, when the Yankees were at least above average, they always performed miserably on the west coast; in the 90s they were just plain awful. The A’s, meanwhile, were world-beaters, a team of superlatives from top to bottom. Their manager was hailed on the cover of Sports Illustrated as The Mastermind, and the closer he created revolutionized the game. Their right fielder wasn’t yet outing steroid cheats or allowing fly balls to bounce off of his head and over fences; he was simply the most prodigious talent in the game.
The results of these match-ups were predictably one-sided, but no one could ever have predicted how one-sided they actually were. In 1990, for example, the Yankees dropped all 12 games to the A’s and were outscored 62-12. A quick look at that 1990 roster reveals a team of injured stars, false prospects, failed free agents, and sideshows. Don Mattingly was there, but the back troubles had started by then, and Donnie Baseball only made it into 102 games and hit a paltry .256. Dave Winfield was old and injured and only managed sixty-seven plate appearances. Kevin Maas and Hensley “Bam Bam” Meulens were top prospects, but neither would amount to anything. Steve Sax, Jesse Barfield, and Mel Hall all made in the neighborhood of a million dollars, but none of the three earned his keep. For entertainment value, though, there was Deion Sanders and his .158 batting average, as well as the voodoo antics of Pascual Pérez. It’s no surprise that that ragtag group finished dead last.
The starting catcher most nights that season was Bob Geren, the current A’s manager, and you couldn’t blame him on Tuesday night if he thought back to that 1990 team as he sat in the Oakland dugout and wondered how he came to be on both wrong sides of the same rivalry, first as a Yankee back then, and then twenty years later as the skipper of the Athletics. Over the last three seasons Geren’s A’s have been 4-21 against the Bombers, and things aren’t getting any better for them in 2011.
If Monday afternoon was about Bartolo Colón, Tuesday night was all about the Score Truck. Mr. Almost 3000 started things out with an infield single, and Curtis Granderson opened up the scoring by launching a home run deep into the right field stands for a 2-0 Yankee lead before the seats were warm. (Granderson’s line on the night, by the way, was pretty impressive: 3 for 5, HR, 4 RBIs, 2 R, SB)
Jeter reached base again in the third inning, this time on a Mark Ellis error, and Alex Rodríguez came up with that rarest Yankee hit this year, the two-out RBI, as he grounded a single up the middle to push the lead to 3-0. Not to be outdone, Granderson came up with a two-out hit of his own in the next inning, this one coming with the bases loaded and scoring two. In the fifth, Robinson Canó laced a no-doubter over the big wall in right field, scoring two more and giving the Yankees a 7-1 lead.
Meanwhile, starter Freddy García was holding the Athletics at bay with his usual buffet of fastballs, curves, and changeups. He struggled a bit in the middle innings, giving up a run in the third, barely slithering out of a bases-loaded jam in the fourth, and surrendering a two-run homer (David DeJesus) in the fifth, but he settled down to skate through the sixth and seventh innings and eventually earn the win. If you had told me in March that the Yankees would be depending hugely on both Colón and García, I’d have thought you were crazy; now I can’t imagine where this team would be without them.
Aside from all this, there were a few interesting notes that should be mentioned.
- Jeter picked up two base hits, bringing his total to 2,983.
- Granderson’s first-inning homer off Brett Anderson was his 9th off a lefty, tops in baseball.
- The Yankees stole four bases in a game for the second day in a row.
- One of those steals came from Mark Teixeira, who stole home. I could explain exactly how this happened, but I think it’s more fun to leave you imagining that he pranced down the line like Jackie Robinson, bobbing and weaving, feinting and flinching, staring at Brad Ziegler and daring him to step off the rubber before finally putting his head down and breaking for the plate, sliding in in a cloud of dust with spikes high, barely beating the throw. Yeah, that’s how it happened.
All of that added up to a 10-3 Score Truck win. We’ve seen two of the young Oakland phenom pitchers and roughed ‘em but good, but we’ve got another one coming tomorrow. Wouldn’t a sweep be nice?
[Photo Credit: Ezra Shaw/Getty Images]