As my friend Mark Lamster mentioned in an e-mail tonight, Phil Hughes is working faster than ever these days. It helps when he’s facing a bunch of hackers like the Jays who swing early, often and hard. So the game played like a National League affair and both starting pitchers were gone when the Yankees came to bat in the bottom of the eighth, score tied 2-2.
Alex Rodriguez singled with one out and moved to third on a passed ball while Robinson Cano reached on an infield single. That brought Jason Frasor into the game to face Mark Teixeira. Guy owns Tex and he got ahead of the Yankee first baseman. Then he threw a slider in the dirt. It bounced in the air and Rodriguez charged home. While he was doing that Teixeira hopped in a circle in front of the plate. The ball had clipped him in the right foot sending him to first and Rodriguez back to third.
That started a drama best appreciated by those of us who watch and care about baseball deeply. To a casual sports fan what unfolded might appear dull. Frasor shook off signs, huddled with his catcher, threw a pitch, shook off more signs, and met with his catcher again. No clock, just moments in between the action. Frasor got ahead of Nick Swisher but then it was 2-2 and finally 3-2. After shaking the catcher off again and one last meeting on the mound, Frasor broke off a curve ball–his first of the sequence–and caught Swisher stuck-on-stupid. Nothing he could do but look at the ball cross the plate and listen to the home plate umpire ring him up.
The crowd, which had been making plenty plenty noise, standing and cheering and carrying on, sat down and shut up. They stirred when the next hitter, Raul Ibanez, got ahead 2-1 and rekindled their enthusiasm when Frasor threw a fastball that missed outside for a ball making it 3-1. Fastball count. Frasor wasn’t going to throw another curve ball, was he? No, he threw the heater and Ibanez was sitting on it, waiting, drooling. And he didn’t miss it. Ibanez hadn’t finished his follow through when he, Frasor, everyone in the park, and everyone watching on TV, knew where it was headed.
Over the fence, yes. Into the second deck. A grand slam home run. Ibanez took a few steps and then slowed down. Frasor titled and then rolled his head. The tension was over and so was the game. Sure, Cody Eppley, Rafael Soriano, a bunch of bloop hits and an error made things tense, in an irritating, indigestion kind of way in the ninth, but Soriano caught Cody Rasmus looking at a breaking ball and soon he angrily untucked his jersey as the Yanks won: 6-3.
[Photo Credit: Kris Graves; Al Bello/Getty Images]