A day removed from the honor and hoopla of another Home Opener for the Yankees, which they happened to win , the Yankees returned for a second dose of Orioles baseball, courtesy of past manager and present raconteur Buck Showalter and company. Ivan Nova, the imminent leader of the new school (if you will) facing Wei-Yin Chen; second in career major league wins to fellow countryman and former Yankee meteor Chien-Ming Wang. An intriguing matchup, no?
In the first, Nova, who from what I was told had some issues in his previous start, but managed to work through them somehow, seemed perfectly content to pitch to contact; these were the Orioles after all, who seemed incapable of doing much of anything when they did make contact, or not so much that it mattered. But then Old Man Jeter decided to go pastadiving on a windy, but indeterminate Tuesday afternoon and gave the Orioles some unexpected momentum. The first run would score on a somewhat close play at the plate; Ellsbury showing a pretty good arm in CF threw home on a sac fly from Chris (Crush) Davis that hopped once kinda high before McCann, showing perfect form in allowing a clear alley for the runner to reach home plate, caught it and swipe-tagged in one motion, but too late to catch the sliding Markakis. Then Nova, still pitching to contact, hung something for Adam Jones whose eyes got really big and said “Hulk Smash!” and tanked it over the center field wall for a two-run job. After some some quick words with himself, Nova decided to strike out Weiters and Cruz to end the bleeding. Already it was 3-0.
Yanks showed a little bit of initiative in the bottom, though it took them two outs to do it; Ellsbury managed to dump a single into shallow right, and Beltran doubled him in to get a run back. Soriano, who looks like he’s starting to catch up to the rest of the season skied out to end the inning and Nova came out to work again. And labor he did; his pitches didn’t seem to want to listen to him too much as he gave up a single to second baseman Steve Lombardozzi (Jr.) and a well-executed drag bunt to Ryan (Hi Uncle Flash!) Flaherty, he of a 1-17 start to his season. But Nova did flash some quick wit as Roberts gave him the cue; pirouetting nicely to catch Lombardozzi off second. Buck almost challenged the call, but maybe the pirouette looked too good to sully with doubt and instead settled for gnashing his teeth and shaking his head in disbelief as is his wont. Nova was dealing now, his confidence seemed to falling back into place, but aww Schoop! He doubled down the third base line serving pasta in Port Jervis, and the score was now 4-1.
And nothing really happened until the fourth, when we all realized at the same time that the car battery was dead and Nova had nothing. After Cruz flied out, the basement trio of Lombardozzi, Flaherty and Schoop each singled so that Markakis and Delmon Young each took a turn driving one of them in with a sac fly and a single. That was it for Nova, and Cesar Cabral made his season debut while Nova left to a smattering of indifference. But since he cared, Roberts’ throw managed to pull Cervelli off first as Chris Davis beat his shift to first and they all gifted Nova with another one for the road. Cabral, for his part, walked the bases loaded before inducing a pop fly to left that almost caused more chaos, had not Gritner slid for second to avoid crashing into Jeter, who bogarted shallow left for the catch. 7-1.
But the Yanks showed some spunk. Soriano, he of the “he’s gonna be sooo bad this year” bat cannonballed one over left, and styled properly as a true home run hitter should. Why not? It was his 407th career HR, tying him at 50th with one Duke Snider who used to play somewhere on the opposite side of the universe (maybe we can talk about where in another post). Cervelli followed with a sharp single to left. running hard like a hard single hitter should. Roberts gave Chen, who was not spectacular but had a lot to work with, a hard time before singling on 3-2 to left (see a pattern developing here?) And then there’s this kid, this what’s his name? Yangervis Port Jervis? My friend, who I was watching the game with, couldn’t get his name straight no matter what I told him, As Kay, Cone and Singleton gabbed about his doubles power, he immediately powers a double to, yes, left, and my friend jumped up and said, “That boy’s name is ‘Doubles’!” (which immediately had me thinking of the possibility of a tie-in promotion with McDonald’s McDouble burger; worth a try if you’re high as some people would say). Gardner followed with a RBI groundout and Jeter also grounded out, but the score was now 7-4.
Vidal Nuño came on in place of Cabral in the fifth and retired the side on a Poughkeepsie Shuffle (4-6-3 double play) and a strike out of the suddenly hot Flaherty. On the flipside, Ellsbury, becoming rather indispensable early on, hit a booming double and later stole third standing up before Chen had a chance to notice the sudden draft from second. Nothing came of it though, and we all moved onto the sixth, where a familiar phrase floated in to haunt our man Nuño. It started out innocently enough with Schoop striking out, but then Markakis just had to single and then blammo! Delmon Young looped one over everyone’s heads and into the seats in left. The hits just kept coming after that, and the game shifted into a slow motion montage of carnage as Nuño was ripped apart from every angle. As he sighed and peered into the bullpen, the YES cameras showed us what he already knew: emptiness. No one was coming to the rescue. He was… taking one for the team. 11-4.
At this point I stopped taking notes and started thinking about what went well. Soriano’s showing some pop again. Jeter can still get a hit now and again. Ellsbury is on a roll. I must take a trip to Port Jervis before it becomes de rigueur; hopefully find a nice hamburger or pizza joint. Roberts is still alive. Gritner still has his appendages. Betances, now there’s something else to cheer about; the kid looks like a Real Deal™ type that you hope the Yanks won’t destroy like the others they had recently. Good things can happen in bad places if you look hard enough for them; look at diamonds. But since we’re looking at what is without a doubt a blood diamond at this point of the game, I have to inform or remind you that although Nuño managed to staunch the bleeding from that point and held his own for a couple more innings, there was no coming back from this. No fight left em, save for one or two more McDouble by Doubles McJervis and the first homer of the season from Kelly Johnson (well, he had been fighting for that). But between the time Girardi pulled the starters in the seventh and idiots were being gang-tackled by security to the vast amusement/relief of the paying leftover majority and up until that sidewinder Darren O’Day struck out Austin Romine, the rest of us had already pulled out of the parking lots and hit the Major Deegan or the New England Thruway, had flipped the channel or the flatscreen and took up horseback riding, mowing the lawn, paying the bills or returned to mundanity at work as the Yankees pulled their own pants back up and went quietly to their rooms to contemplate the spanking they had just received.
Deserve’s got nothing to do with this; see you in Hell, William Nathaniel Showalter III. Yeah.
Final Score: 14-5.
[Photo Credit: Andrew Mills/The Star-Ledger]