Sometimes life can get in the way of baseball, and this was one of those nights. The good news, of course, is that I have a DVR, so I never really have to miss anything. I can coach volleyball practice, head directly to my daughter’s middle school band concert, then take the family out to a late dinner, confident that all the while my trusty DVR is dutifully recording the game.
The problem, of course, is that the game is also in my pocket the whole time. My phone buzzed at 7:05 to let me know that game had started, and I was tempted several times throughout the evening to check on the score. I resisted each time. During the lull between beginning band and beginning orchestra? Stand strong. After foolishly glancing at the restaurant television and seeing this on ESPN’s Bottom Line: Nova (NYY): 5 IP, 5 ER…? Stay calm and carry on. When my phone buzzed at 10:05, feeling suspiciously like an incoming text from a gloating Angel fan? Keep the faith.
And so I kept the faith, even as the Angels jumped on Ivan Nova for an early 1-0 lead in typically annoying Anaheim fashion. Mike Trout, heretofore referred to as the Most Exciting Player in Baseball, took a pitch to the shoulder to lead off the first, then galloped to third when a hit-and-run worked out and Alberto Callaspo singled where Derek Jeter had just been standing. Albert Pújols, suddenly fearsome again, walked to load the bases with none out, and disaster loomed. But Nova rebounded to strike out Kendrys Morales, yielded a sacrifice fly to Mark Trumbo, then got Howie Kendrick to fly out. Sure, it was 1-0, but it could’ve been much worse.
The Yankees answered back in the third when Russell Martin walked and later used the 3-2 head start to race to third on Derek Jeter’s single. Curtis Granderson followed that with home run to right, and the Yankees had their first lead since the first inning of the first game of the series. Ervin Santana was the victim of all that, and he responded by hitting Alex Rodríguez a few pitches later. If the Yankees were bothered by that — and I can’t imagine they were — Robinson Canó exacted revenge by powering a home run deep to right and they were up 5-1.
Nova, meanwhile, was looking good. I’m not sure how accurate it was, but according to the radar gun at Angels Stadium, Nova’s fastball was topping out at 97 MPH in the early going, and he cruised through the second and third innings on only eighteen pitches. But then came the fourth. I don’t have the energy to recap it completely, but believe me when I tell you it was just more Halo nonsense. Yet another home run from Mark Trumbo, a two-strike single, a bunt single, and a rocketed double off the bat of the Most Exciting Player in Baseball. In the blink of an eye, the game was tied at five. If you were watching live and felt confident at this point, you’re lying.
But Nova stuck around to cruise through the fifth and sixth and got back in position for a win when the Angels defense finally made a mistake. Raúl Ibáñez smoked a ball to the wall in right center, but Peter “Gorgeous” Bourjos foolishly chased it all the way to the warning track only to watch helplessly as the ball ricocheted over his head and bounded back towards center field, following the exact path Bourjos had just tread. Ibáñez actually looked like he had designs on an inside-the-parker before downshifting and coasting into third for his first triple in more than a year. Nick Swisher jumped on the first pitch he saw and produced a sacrifice fly to give the Yankees the 6-5 lead.
Nova was lifted after getting the first two outs of the seventh inning, then Boone Logan made things interesting by giving up consecutive singles to put runners on first and third with two out. With the game clearly in the balance, Cory Wade entered to face Kendrick and promptly fell behind 3-0. He was having trouble finding the feel of his curveball, but once he found it, the Angles hitters were at his mercy. He bounced back to strike out Kendrick, then K’d two of three in the eighth to hand the game to Rafael Soriano.
I won’t describe the ninth inning, except to mention that Pújols came to the plate as the winning run and I was dead certain that he was about to hit a walk-off. (Remember the suspiciously-timed text message from earlier?) He didn’t. Pretty or not, Soriano got the save. Yankees 6, Angels 5. And by the way, it isn’t just Mariano’s cold-hearted efficiency that I miss, it’s also his business-like reaction to the final out. Whenever Soriano gets a save, pulling his jersey out of his pants as he walks off the mound, I find myself completely distracted from the win and instead wishing he’d keep his clothes on. Classless. Someone should talk to him.
But things are looking up in Yankeeland. The teams heads off to Detroit, where two wins will make for a successful 6-3 road trip. Wouldn’t that be nice?
Oh, and that text message? Turns out it was just a push notification. It was my turn in Scrabble. If I had had the letters, I obviously would’ve played V-I-C-T-O-R-Y.
[Photo Credit: Chris Carlson/AP Photo]