The Yankees were down 2-0 in the bottom of the first inning and Robinson Cano was at the plate, a man on base, two outs. Jerome Williams, in his first start since coming off the disabled list, threw a 2-2 fastball that tailed away from Cano.
It was what they call a pitcher’s pitch. Not only did Cano swing at it and make solid contact, he drove the ball deep to left field. As fortune would have it, the ball landed on the top of the fence and bounced over the bullpen into the bleachers.
I don’t know how many left-handed hitters could drive a pitch like that out of the park to the opposite field–Joey Votto, of couse; who else?
I was reminded of something I once read by Tom Boswell about Don Mattingly in his book Heart of the Order:
For historical reference, the Musial analogy works [with Mattingly]. Left-handed hitter. Eccentric closed and coiled stance. Sprays the ball. Tons of doubles. Not too many walks. Hard to strike out.
“He doesn’t look like Musial, but he hits like him,” says Orioles manager Earl Weaver. “Musial was the best at adjusting once the ball left the pitcher’s hand. He’d hit the pitcher’s pitch. Williams was the best at making them throw his pitch. He didn’t believe in adjusting. If it wasn’t what he wanted, he knew enough to walk to first base. That’s why he hit .406.Once every coupla games, a Musial or Mattingly is going to adjust and put that tough pitch in play instead of walking and you’re going to get some extra outs. But he’s also going to drive you crazy by popping a perfect fastball on the fists down the left-field line for a double.”
Curtis Granderson hit a two-run homer later on, Cano singled home Alex Rodriguez in the sixth (more good luck as his ground ball up the middle knocked off second base), Freddy Garcia was decent and the bullpen was even better. Rafael Soriano struck out Mike Trout (three hits) in the ninth and got Albert Pujols on a check-swing strike zone to end the game.
Final Score: Yanks 5, Angels 3.
Don Mattingly turns 50 today. Happy Birthday to Donnie Baseball!
(image: Topps Heritage)
Joe Torre and Don Mattingly are expected to be at Yankee Stadium tonight to honor the late George M Steinbrenner. This will be Torre’s first trip to the new Yankee Stadium. Imagine the hand he’s going to get. For once Mattingly, Reggie and Yogi will have to take a back seat, because the loudest cheers will go to Joe.
A report has Torre out, Mattingly in. Should be a lost year next season for the Dodgers. Wonder how Dodgers’ fans feel about it.
The past 10 days have seen an immense range of stories leapfrog to the forefront of New York sports fans’ collective consciousness. In no particular order, with some analysis and commentary mixed in…
• The Yankees slashed prices for the primo seats, an altruistic move that still leaves many of us thinking, “You know, you have your own network, and it’s on my cable system. I’ll contribute to your bottom line that way and I won’t feel like I got stabbed in the wallet.”
• Alex Rodriguez did everything necessary in extended spring training and returned to the lineup Friday. He punctuated the return with a home run on the first pitch he saw, thus fulfilling his job as the media-anointed savior of the team’s season. He proceeded to go 1-for-10 with two strikeouts in the remainder of the series, and perhaps fearing aggravating the hip injury, didn’t hustle down the line to run out a ground ball, thus reclaiming his role as the team’s most prominent punching bag.
• The Yankees lost two straight to the Red Sox at home and have lost the first five meetings of the season. (Sound the alarms! Head for the hills! There’s no way the Yankees can win the division without beating the Red Sox! Except that they can, and they have. In 2004, the Yankees went 1-6 in their first seven games against the BoSox, ended up losing the season series 8-11 and still finished 101-61 to win the American League East by three games.)
• Joba Chamberlain 1: His mother was arrested for allegedly selling crystal meth to an undercover officer. Following Chamberlain’s own brushes with the law during the offseason, it stood to reason that the tabloids attacked this story like starving coyotes. It’s remarkable that he was able to pitch at all given the negative attention he received.
• Joba Chamberlain 2: Flash back to Aug. 13, 2007. Chamberlain struck out Orioles first baseman Aubrey Huff in a crucial late-inning at-bat to end the inning and in the heat of the moment pumped his fist in exultation. Yesterday, following a three-run home run in the first inning that gave the O’s a 3-1 lead, Huff mocked Chamberlain’s emotional outburst with his own fist pump, first while rounding first base, and again when crossing home plate. Apparently, Mr. Huff holds grudges. Thanks to the New York Daily News’s headline, “MOCKING BIRD” with a photo of the home-plate celebration, this story will have wings when Baltimore comes to the Bronx next week. Even better, as it currently stands, Chamberlain is due to start in the series finale on Thursday the 21st. Get ready for a rash of redux stories leading up to that game.
• Mariano Rivera surrendered back-to-back home runs for the first time in his career last Wednesday night, a clear signal that something is wrong. Maybe.
• The team as a whole. The Yankees are 15-16 through 31 games, and some rabid fans (the “Spoiled Set,” as Michael Kay likes to call them; the group of fans between ages 18-30 that only knows first-place finishes for the Yankees) are calling for Joe Girardi’s head. As in the above note on the Red Sox, some context is required. The Yankees’ records through 31 games this decade:
2000: 22-9 (finished 87-74, won AL East)
2001: 18-13 (finished 95-65, won AL East)
2002: 18-13 (finished 103-58, won AL East)
2003: 23-8 (finished 101-61, won AL East)
2004: 18-13 (finished 101-61, won AL East)
2005: 12-19 (finished 95-67, won AL East)
2006: 19-12 (finished 97-65, won AL East)
2007: 15-16 (finished 94-68, won AL Wild Card)
2008: 15-16 (finished 89-73, missed playoffs)
2009: 15-16 (finish TBD)
No one is going to make excuses for the team with the billion dollar stadium and the highest payroll, least of all your trusted scribes here at the Banter. Looking at the last three years — including 2009 — it should be noted that similar issues of injury, age, and woes throughout the pitching staff have befallen the Yankees.