"A New York Treasure" --Village Voice
Tag: Andy Pettitte
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The Long Goodbye Continued…

The Two Best Things From Andy Pettitte's Retirement Press Conference

1. Bernie Williams walking in late, and Pettitte calling him on it.

2. Jon Heyman’s sweater (screencap via @jaydestro):

Pettitte said “never say never” about pitching again at some point in the future, but that he does not expect to and definitely won’t this year. So that’s probably that. As usual, he was aw-shucks and earnest during the conference; he said he feels good physically, but his heart’s just not in gearing up to play. Vaya con dios, Andy.

Andy's Song

Is there anything as ridiculous as a retirement press conference? Sentiment, hot air, self-satisfaction, softball questions, public relations, and aw, shucks, Andy Pettitte. Doesn’t look like Andy is going to cry, he looks rested and happy. He is smiling and reminds me more of John Travolta than he has in a minute. Really, he looks relieved. His good-guy reputation will soar. This is the anti-Favre here.


Yankee Doodle Andy

The Andy Pettitte goodbye gala will stretch into tomorrow. Seems that fans are both nostalgic for the past, reflecting on Pettitte’s fine career, and concerned about what his retirement means for the 2011 team.

He was an easy guy to watch, especially these past few years, and we’ll always remember the Pettitte “look,” cap drawn low, eyes focused in on the catcher’s sign. As Ralph Kramden used to say, “Ohh, yer a good one.”

Say goodnight, Andy:

In a Sentimental Mood

Well, I’m not taking this very well.

I’ve written a lot about Andy Pettitte this winter, and of course by now, with spring training less than two weeks away, it’s not exactly a shock that he’s retiring. It’s bad news for the Yankees, whose rotation is not exactly AL East-ready, but I’m more bummed that I just won’t get to see Pettitte pitch anymore. More than any other current player he appeals to the lizard-brain part of my fandom, formed when I was still more or less a kid, and went to the Stadium for the first time, and had my mind blown. Andy Pettitte was on the mound when I fell in love with baseball, and I don’t think I can really be objective about him, even after all these years.

The is-he-a-Hall-of-Famer discussion has already broken out, and I think the answer to that is probably no. But he was certainly a pleasure to watch. Even more so in his later years, when he relied less on stuff and more on control and, for lack of a better phrase, know-how. The stat-head in me hates using wishy washy phrases like that — he had grit! he was gutty! — but like I said, when it comes to Pettitte I really can’t help myself. As I’ve written in this space so many times over the last few years, Pettitte just knew what the hell he was doing out there.

It’s interesting how little his admitted PED use seems to have affected his reputation. I’m not someone who gets particularly exercised about steroids in general, but even so, it’s usually a factor I take into account when looking at someone’s career. And I’m as cynical about athletes as the next person. Yet, when Pettitte says he only used it two times when he was injured once and then stopped, I do find myself believing him. I don’t know why and it’s probably not intellectually justifiable. I got to talk to Pettitte only a couple of times back in 2006 and 2007 when I was writing for the Village Voice, and yes, he was remarkably nice and seemingly sincere, though perhaps not the world’s deepest thinker. He didn’t seem annoyed to have to answer questions, he looked you in the eye and thought about his answers. That may not sound like much but for a star player, it kind of is.

But anybody can play nice in the clubhouse for a few minutes. I think more than that, what endeared Pettitte to fans is how we all saw him react to games: he was harder on himself than anybody else ever was. Paul O’Neill-style, but without the rage. When he pitched poorly he excoriated himself afterwards; when he pitched well, he always focused on his lucky breaks or the things he could have done better; and when he pitched excellently he praised his catcher. Every time. No wonder that, per Jon Heyman, “Pettiite is telling people he is feeling good but he just couldn’t get up for the grind of the season.”

Anyway, forgive me for the uncharacteristically sentimental post, but Andy Pettitte just has that effect on me. Maybe that’s why I’ll miss him so much, and why I regret that the fans won’t have a chance to say a proper goodbye, embarrassing the heck out of him on the mound.

Schrödinger's Pitcher

The will-he-or-won’t-he Andy Pettitte stories turned into self-parody weeks if not months ago, but yet here we still are (Newsday):

The Yankees aren’t the only ones waiting on Andy Pettitte.

Pettitte recently postponed a private autograph signing scheduled for Wednesday with a memorabilia dealer that would have brought him to the New York area.

The date was advertised on Steiner Sports’ website for Wednesday, but it has been changed on the site to Feb. 15.

Remember Schrödinger’s Cat? Pettitte is Schrödinger’s Pitcher. I don’t mean in the sense that he is trapped in a box with poison and is simultaneously alive AND dead according to the Copenhagen interpretation of quantum mechanics… well, let’s hope not, anyway; that would make Sergio Mitre pretty inevitable. No, I mean he’s in this weird stage of not being a Yankee but at the same time still being a Yankeee, simultaneously retired and unretired. Let’s hope we open up the box soon and find out his current state one way or the other, before some poor New York Post reporter is forced to dress up as a priest and ambush Pettitte in his church’s confessional.

Is He Gone Yet?

Saying goodbye is never easy. Just ask Andy Pettitte who is taking his own sweet time to announce his retirement (this just in…Bernie Williams still hasn’t officially retired).

According to Brian Costello in the Post:

“We’ve been moving forward as if he’s not playing,” Cashman said. “He may tell us otherwise at some point, but, no, this week we’re not expecting to hear anything from Andy. He’s already given us the courtesy on several occasions of telling us don’t count on him and he’s not expecting to play. It’s not official, but he didn’t want to hold us up.”

…”He might call and say, ‘Hey, I want to play,’ but I don’t expect a call with him telling us, ‘Hey, I’m not playing,’ because he’s kind of already told us don’t count on me playing,” Cashman said.

A few weeks ago, Steven Goldman was exhausted by this story:

They Yankee with the third-most wins in team history has been waffling all winter, and his indecision has been accorded more weight than it deserves. A 39-year-old pitcher who made only 21 starts the previous season, no matter how good, only deserves to be accorded so much projected value.

Please, Baby, Baby, Baby, Please

Correct me if I’m wrong, but don’t the Yankees look pathetic if the 2011 season rests on the arm of an old-timer like Andy Pettitte? I’m not saying Pettitte wouldn’t help, but if they can’t win without him, uh, didn’t someone take a left turn at Albeturkey?

Waiting for Mr. Goodbar

Andy is going to retire, no, he’s coming back, no…

Today, the glass is less than half-full. Who knows what tomorrow will bring?

“Shane, Come Back!”

Because, as Brian Cashman told reporters at the Winter Meetings yesterday, “this is what he always does,” I’ve half-assumed that Andy Pettitte would come back for another year. And if I had to put money down, I’d still guess that he will… but I also sort of conveniently forgot that he was now 38 years old and coming off a groin injury. Anyway, that Cashman line prompted my to look up the excellent Sports Illustrated lunch conversation between Tom Verducci and Musketeers Pettitte, Jeter, Posada and Rivera from just before spring training last season:

SI: How about when the season ends? You talk? Text?

Pettitte: We text.

Posada: We stay in touch. We try to get Andy to come back. ‘Andy, please come back. Please come back.’

SI: You guys took a picture together after the last game at Yankee Stadium in 2008. Do you guys do that every year?

Posada: Yeah, it’s Andy’s idea.

Rivera: Yeah, and it’s great because you don’t know how long we’re going to be together.

Jeter: We’ve done it other years because we did it when Bernie [Williams…] was there, too, right?

Posada: We’ve done it since ’03 because Andy’s been retiring since ’03.

Yesterday Andy Pettitte made a very Andy Pettitte-like call to Brian Cashman, and Chad Jennings at LoHud has the rather heartwarming details:

Andy Pettitte called Brian Cashman today. The message was vague and uncertain, but the purpose was direct and to the point. Pettitte still hasn’t decided whether he’s going to retire, but he had to make sure his indecision wasn’t negatively affecting the Yankees offseason.

“If I had to bet at some point, I think he’ll play,” Cashman said. “But he’s telling me right now he’s leaning the other way. He just doesn’t want to hold us up.”

Cashman said there was nothing Pettitte said that gave him reason for optimism, he simply believes — because “this is what he always does” — that Pettitte will eventually have a change of heart and decide to pitch one more year. For now, though, it’s completely up in the air.

This is a little gesture, but it’s one that a lot of players wouldn’t bother to make, and it’s things like this that give Pettitte his aw-shucks good guy reputation. When he finally does retire he will be hugely missed, and as always I just hope it isn’t this year. Aside from the fact that, especially in light of recent Red Sox developments, the Yanks could really, REALLY use a solid lefty this season, I want Pettitte to come back so that the fans can get a chance to say a proper goodbye. I remember someone pointing out, in Pettitte’s final 2010 playoff appearance, that it could be his last time in a Yankee uniform, but he hadn’t said anything yet, and the moment went almost entirely unacknowledged.

I have never really cried over baseball, but the closest I came was probably the 2001 World Series – those miraculous comebacks and, especially, the crowd chanting Paul O’Neill’s name. Of course the fall of 2001 was highly emotional for other, much more significant reasons, but that moment really got to me — and to O’Neill, who got awkward and embarrassed and teared up himself. It was Yankee fans at their best (the Bombers were losing at the time, after all), and the old Stadium at its most alive. That particular moment won’t ever be recreated, but Andy Pettitte deserves his own sendoff. He started, and won, the very first game I ever attended at Yankee Stadium – in 1995; I was 13 – and I would very much like to be there for his last. When all’s said and done I suppose you have to evaluate Andy Pettitte as a very good pitcher rather than, on the whole, a truly great one, but he had so many great and big and gutty games over the course of his career, and no player features in more of my Yankee memories.

Winter Meetings Day One (Open Thread)

As the winter meetings begin, the Yanks have their sites set squarely on Cliff Lee. According to George King in the Post:

“My priority list is pitching, pitching, pitching, pitching, pitching — I’ve been focusing on pitching,” GM Brian Cashman said yesterday.

…”When you’re a free agent, we kind of have to dance to their dance card,” Cashman said. “I’ve kind of been reacting to them.

“I flew into Arkansas especially to meet with Cliff Lee and his wife and his agent. I did that very early in the process. I was the first one out of the gates there.

“So, everybody knows I got ahead of everybody else. But it’s their dance card. They’re setting the pace of this thing. I can only wait and respect the process they put themselves in. It took them a long time, they fought through a lot of different cities to get to this point. I’m hoping this will be the last city he ends up in, in New York.”

It will cost the Yanks plenty in dollars and years to secure Lee.

UPDATE: Hall of Fame disgrace continues as Marvin Miller comes up one vote shy. No shock there.

UPDATE: Really nice breakdown of the Adrian Gonzalez deal by Jay Jaffe.

UPDATE: Klap tweets that Andy Pettitte will likely retire.

It’s a Family Affair

The pull of home. From Sam Borden:

“Right now, I can tell you my heart’s right here in Deer Park,” [Andy] Pettitte told KHOU.com. “If something happens and I play one more year that would be it. It would be one more year and that would be it.”

I’m sure there are some Yankees fans who get frustrated by Pettitte’s indecision, but it’s obvious that his family is a big pull for him. In the same interview, he talked about how he feels like each year he returns to baseball is another year where he’s going to be missing important moments in his kids’ lives.

“My kids are getting older and one’s going to be out of high school real soon, and I’m not going to miss his whole high school,” Pettitte said. “I want to be able to be here and see some of his stuff and you can’t see his stuff playing major league baseball. I just feel like a have a big responsibility here. I have three boys. I feel like I need to be around and raise them and I feel like we’re getting to that point where it’s the crucial ages of their lives that I need to be around a little bit more.”

Home, Home on the @#&$*%(#!

AP photo of Cliff Lee in the 8th inning

So, I’d say my pre-series prediction of “Yankees 3, Rangers 3, Cliff Lee ascends to a higher inter-dimensional plane midway through the fourth inning of Game 7” is looking pretty good.

Tonight’s game ended up a 8-0 drubbing, but it was a tight pitchers’ duel most of the way through. Only it didn’t really feel like a pitchers’ duel, because Andy Pettitte was merely excellent, whereas Cliff Lee was, as a friend of mine has put it, the T-1000.

Allow me to sum up the Yankee offense for you:

  • In the 4th, Mark Teixeira walked.
  • In the 5th, Jorge Posada singled (it’s kind of embarrassing how relieved I was, at this point, that New York would at least not get no-hit).
  • In the 6th, Brett Gardner singled and stole second.

That didn’t take long, did it?

Andy Pettitte was very, very good himself: seven innings and just two runs, which you’d sign up for any time. Those two runs came in the first inning, on an almost-accidental Josh Hamilton home run — he stuck his bat out awkwardly, the ball flew off it and into the stands, which is the kind of thing that only happens when your arms look like Josh Hamiltons’ — but given the Cliff Lee situation, that was enough. Pettitte was followed by Kerry Wood, who pitched a drama-free eighth, and since two runs ain’t much for the Yankees, I still held out hope going into the ninth.

At which point: Josh Hamilton doubled off Boone Logan; Vladimir Guerrero and Nelson Cruz singled off David Robertson, making it 3-0; after David Murphy was intentionally walked, Bengie Molina and Mitch Moreland joined the party with singles of their own off of Robertson; Elvis Andrus of all people decided to shake things up by, instead, doubling off of Robertson. Sergio Mitre (!) came in and put out the fire, but seeing as how it was 8-0 at that point, the building had already burned down.

So the Yanks are down 2-1 in the series, which is hardly insurmountable, but they do kinda need a win tomorrow – and A.J. Burnett is the one who’ll be asked to provide it, or at least facilitate it. Joe Girardi has said all week, when asked if he isn’t tempted to just pitch C.C. Sabathia on three days’ rest instead: “I believe in A.J.” Well. I believe in him too… in the sense that I am certain he exists, and indeed is a pitcher with the New York Yankees. Whether he can pitch more than four innings while giving up less than five runs is another question entirely.

Cliff Lee… I don’t know whether to shiver in terror or drool. I’d do both at once but I’ve been told it’s not attractive.

Barber Shop BS

Cliff Lee vs. Andy Pettitte–let’s chat. No matter how Lee fares tonight, and I assume he’ll pitch well once again, I’ve got a bad feelin’ about Andy.

Am I just being dramatic? My Spidey Sense is tinglin’.

[Picture by: galvarez51]

Have You Ever Been Experienced?

Like many of my statistically-inclined colleagues, I tend be wary of arguments that put a lot of stress on “experience”. Too often that line of thinking seems to result in managers playing declining veterans instead of more talented young players, something fans of many, many teams gnash their teeth over every year. Experience will only get you so far; the ability to hit a good fastball, or throw a great curve, will get you farther. So I don’t put a lot of stock in automatically favoring a player just because they’ve been there before.

But — did you guess there was a “but” coming? — with that said…

Andy Pettitte.

I can’t help feeling a bit relieved knowing that if the Yankees get to a Game 7 in the ALCS, Andy Pettitte will be on the mound and not Phil Hughes. That’s not only because of the experience factor – I think that when healthy Pettitte pitched a bit better, or at least pitched well more consitently, than Hughes this year; Hughes is absolutely a quality Major League starter now, but he’s still got a few kinks to iron out, as just about anyone does at that age.

But it’s more than that. I mean, there’s experience, and then there’s experience. And Andy Pettitte has experience. Postseason experience, sure, having thrown the equivalent of more than an entire regular season just in the playoffs, but I’m not so worried about that – I don’t think we’ve ever seen anything to suggest that Phil Hughes will suddenly crack under pressure, Game 7 or not. It’s more that Andy Pettitte just plain knows what the hell he’s doing out there. He knows what to throw to who when, and he knows exactly how he can best compensate when his velocity isn’t quite there, or when his cutter isn’t cutting; he knows how to get double plays and hold runners on and the odds of catching him sleeping are slim. He may not win – he may not even pitch well, he’s blown his fair share of postseason starts – but there likely won’t be too many what-ifs about it. If Phil Hughes pitches and loses Game 7, I think you start going over how things might have gone differently, pick over mistakes or questionable choices. If Andy Pettitte loses Game 7… well, what are you gonna do?

So I don’t know, maybe it’s the same old “experience” fallacy tricking me one more time. But one of these years, Andy Pettitte’s going to stop his annual (and by now kind of comic) contemplation of retirement and actually retire; until then, I hope the Yankees squeeze everything they can out of his seasoned veteran brain.

…Okay, it sounds kind of gross when I phrase it like that. But you know what I mean.


I figure Andy Pettitte is a borderline Hall of Famer, but if he keeps winning playoff games, who knows?

[Drawing by Larry Roibal]

Game 2: Idle Threat?

Alyssa Milano might be the only other entity that regrets a four-year relationship with Carl Pavano more than the Yankees. Granted, the beloved Middle School crush of my age group wasn’t with the man George King of the Post dubbed the “American Idle” as long as the Yankees, but neither relationship was successful for the parties on Pavano’s arm. For Yankee haters, the thought of Pavano dominating the Yankees after he stole $39.99 million from the team from 2005-2008, spreading 26 starts, pitching 145 2/3 innings and amassing a 9-8 record and more ridiculous excuses for landing on the DL, is sublime. For the rest of us, well, the nausea hasn’t subsided.

Somewhere down South, a grinning Pat Jordan is polishing off a gun for Alex.

The Yankees’ saving grace, as it has been in seemingly every Game 2 of every playoff series in which he’s appeared as a Yankee since 2003, is Andy Pettitte. Pettitte won Game 2 of every series in ’03. He won the clinching game in every series of last year’s World Series run. He represents the championships, reliability, leadership, and stability in the rotation.

But he also represents the age of this Yankee team. At 38, Pettitte has not shown the ageless superhuman qualities of his bullpen colleague Mariano Rivera. Thursday night will mark only Pettitte’s fourth start since coming off the disabled list. Pettitte admitted his success in Baltimore in his return was based on adrenaline. His next two starts — both against Boston — didn’t feature the command he displayed in that first outing. Will the adrenaline of the postseason, the knowledge of what it takes to win in these circumstances, especially now that he’s been bolstered to a 1-0 lead, be enough to get by?

With all due respect to Banter colleague Hank Waddles, Pavano’s presence on the mound for the Twins has nothing to do with audacity. In fact, there’s precedent for the possibility of him dominating the Yankees Thursday night. Pavano allowed four runs and held the Yankees to a .224 BAA in his two starts against them during the ’09 regular season. In four career postseason appearances (three against the Yankees), Pavano has an 8-to-1 strikeout-to-walk ratio, a 0.95 WHIP, and has allowed just 22 hits in 26 1/3 IP. Pavano started Game 4 of the ’03 World Series — the infamous “Jeff Weaver Game” — and held the Yankees to one run in eight innings of the pivotal contest. Last year, Pavano and Pettitte engaged in a great duel last year in Game 3 of the ALDS; what proved to be the final game ever played at the Metrodome. Pavano made two bad pitches in his seven innings of work. They resulted in solo home runs by Alex Rodriguez and Jorge Posada in the seventh inning. Pettitte, meanwhile, also pitched into the seventh, holding the Twins to just three hits in 6 1/3 innings, and he struck out seven. Pavano was a hard-luck loser. A step up from the first-class loser he was as a Yankee.

Spin forward to Thursday’s Game 2, given the current state of affairs with the two starting pitchers, the edge goes to Minnesota (Pavano’s 4.85 ERA since August 1 notwithstanding). Groin injuries can get reaggravated very easily. If there’s a Burnett or Meat Tray sighting within the first four innings, you can almost guarantee a loss for the Yankees.

A quality start from Pettitte will go a long way toward answering not only the questions posed above, but the broader questions regarding the viability of the Yankees’ playoff rotation behind CC Sabathia. I have to see it to believe it, though.

Prediction: Twins 5, Yankees 2

Don’t Fence Me In

According to reports, Andy Pettitte will pitch Game 2 and Phil Hughes will start Game 3.

Rays-ing to the Occasion

On my way home from work, I flipped on ESPN Radio as Michael Kay was interviewing Andy Pettitte. Midway through the conversation, Kay asked Pettitte which was the bigger priority: simply making the playoffs, or winning the division.

Pettitte’s answer was telling.

“Obviously, you just want to get to the dance,” he said. “But as for me, I want to win the (American League) East. I think we’re the best team in the East, so why not go out and win it?”

Pettitte has been a part of 11 playoff teams, including 8 Division winners, in his Yankee career. Certain Yankee players, and definitely manager Joe Girardi, would not be as candid as Pettitte in their replies to a similar question. So to hear that level of honesty was refreshing.

And for the first part of this four-game grudge match against the Tampa Bay Rays, Pettitte’s teammates have answered the call to push for a division title. Tuesday’s 8-3 win increased the Yankees’ AL East cushion to 2.5 games, thereby guaranteeing that they’ll be in first place when the Red Sox enter town this weekend to close out the home schedule. The Orioles’ 9-1 romp at Fenway put the Red Sox a little further in the rearview mirror.

Speaking of the Red Sox, these Yankees-Rays series are bearing a strong resemblance to the classic Yankees-Red Sox battles in the late 1990s through the middle part of this past decade, aren’t they? The games are long, action-packed, loaded with playoff-level intensity. You could sense that even games like this one, where the Yankees sprinted to a 5-0 lead after one inning, would have its share of nerve-wracking moments. The Rays have made a habit of coming back from big deficits, home-run prone Phil Hughes was on the mound, and Mariano Rivera was likely unavailable after throwing 25 pitches Monday.

I’ll admit it: I’m still not sure what Hughes will provide on a per-start basis other than throwing a lot of pitches, give up a home run or three, and maybe last five or six innings. Based on his last few outings, what I wanted to watch closely on Tuesday was his handling of batters once he got ahead in the count, specifically 0-and-2. He had six 0-2 counts, and allowed two walks, a loud flyout to right, and had three strikeouts. Hughes struck out six overall.

Hughes demonstrated a level of guts that proved why he will likely be in the starting rotation come October. There were three specific occasions where Hughes went into “grind” mode:

1) Top 3, Yankees up 5-1, two out. After Hughes issued a wild pitch on ball four to Carl Crawford that allowed the lead runner to advance to third, Evan Longoria delivered an RBI single to cut the lead to three. That brought the tying run to the plate in the form of Dan Johnson, who hit two prodigious home runs off Hughes last Thursday in St. Petersburg. Hughes won this battle, getting Johnson to ground out to Mark Teixeira to end the threat.

2) Top 4, Yankees still up 5-2, one out. BJ Upton bounced back to Hughes for what should have been an inning-ending 1-6-3 double play, but they only got the force at second, thanks to a gross miscommunication at second base between Robinson Canó and Derek Jeter. Knowing his trusted middle infield tandem gave the Rays an extra out, Hughes had the demeanor of Dante from “Clerks” for the next two batters (“I’m not even supposed to BE here today.”), loading the bases on a single to Jason Bartlett and a walk to John Jaso. Two pitches later, Hughes got out of the jam by inducing a soft grounder to first from Ben Zobrist.

3) Top 6, Yankees still up 5-2, two out. Hughes reared back and fired a 92-mph, Eff-You fastball right down the pipe that Upton swung through.

That pitch had the look of being Hughes’s last one of the night … until Girardi sent him out there for the seventh. My first thought: “Bad Idea Jeans.” Sure enough, Bartlett led off with a single and advanced to second on Jaso’s groundout. Girardi then removed Hughes for Javier Vazquez. My first thought: “Bad Idea Jeans.” And sure enough, Carl Crawford floated a single to left to drive in Bartlett and bring up Longoria with Vazquez and his intimidating array of whiffleball pitches keeping the lead intact. It should be noted that at this point, I was mentally prepared to scrap my original angle and rewrite the recap featuring an all-out assault on Girardi’s bullpen management, but Vazquez got Longoria to hit the ball on the ground. Inning over. Quality start preserved, lead preserved.

The offense responded with two more runs, only to have Vazquez and Joba Chamberlain do their best impressions of John Wettleand circa 1996 on the Rays’ next turn at bat. Chamberlain, with the bases loaded and one out, Houdinied his way out of it by striking out pinch-hitter Brad Hawpe and getting Jaso to fly out to center.

An extra insurance run in the eighth courtesy of back-to-back two-out doubles by Brett Gardner and Jeter provided the final margin, as Chamberlain pitched a stress-free ninth. Not until that last out was recorded, though, was there any relief.

Pettitte believes the Yankees have the best team in the division. They may be, provided they maintain the level of production in clutch situations they showed Tuesday — 5-for-10 with runners in scoring position, seven runs scored with two outs — continue to receive quality starts through the rest of the rotation and get capable relief pitching.

A sweep, which is still in the offing, would almost solidify Pettitte’s theory.

A Delicate Balance

Andy Pettitte is a big man with a huge ass and strong legs, but watching him pitch, the word that comes to mind is: touch. Petttitte was everything the Yankees could have expected today, allowing one run over six innings on 79 pitches and he was a pleasure to watch, adding, subtracting–pitching.

It was a sleepy afternoon at Camden Yards with the Yanks leading most of the way. But the O’s rallied late, scoring once in the eighth and again in the ninth to force extra innings–Mariano Rivera allowed just his second home run of the year, this one to Luke Scott. It was on the second pitch of the at-bat, a cutter that was low but right over the plate, and Scott popped it over the tall right field wall. And like that, a seemingly casual win turned into a ballgame.

In the 11th, Alex Rodriguez led off with a pinch-hit walk against the lefty Mike Gonzalez. Eduardo Nunez replaced Rodriguez as a pinch runner, Ramiro Pena squared to bunt and took a strike. Then Gonzalez threw the ball away trying to keep Nunez close at first,  a one-hoper into the stands. Joe Girardi replaced Pena with Marcus Thames who worked the count full and then waved over a slider for the first out.

Mark Teixeira pinch hit for Brett Gardner and was intentionally walked. Derek Jeter was next and he too was given a free pass, bringing up Fat Elvis, who has struggled as right-handed hitter. Berkman hit a high chopper to third base and as the Orioles started the 5-4-3 double play, it looked like even Fat Elvis would be able to leg it out. But he didn’t make it, out by a step. The play took forever to unfold and once Berkman was called out it was clear to this viewer that the Yanks were not going to win. Twelve runners left on base is too much.

At least it was swift. Scott led off with a bloop double then Ty Wigginton hit a rocket in the gap to end it. Final Score: O’s 4, Yanks 3.

Regrettable loss for the Yanks–aren’t they all regrettable, though?–as they blow a chance to gain another game on Tampa, who lost to the Angels.

Yanks, Rays, four games back home in the Bronx starting tomorrow. Then the Red Sox over the weekend.

Should be lively.

[Pictures by Bags]

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