This is one of those Interleague weekends that look like the misbegotten results of one of those old Choose Your Own Adventure books. The Rangers vs the Mets? Padres vs. the Tribe? Nats vs. the M's? Yanks in Houston. Right...
Shawn Chacon and Joba Chamberlain share at least one thing in common--they both rock a baseball cap with the hard, flat bill. That's probably about it, though. Chacon, a familiar face to Yankee fans, is a veteran junkballer; Chamberlain, a hard-throwing young stud. They both pitched well on Friday night, each allowing a run over six innings. Chacon gave up three hits and walked four. For Chamberlain, it was his best start yet--he's been a little better in each of his three turns since joining the rotation. He walked four and gave up six hits only striking out a couple of hitters. 88 pitches in all. Really, it was more like 80--he walked two batters intentionally. Joba worked in-and-out-of trouble--picked Lance Berkman off second for a big out in the fourth. Robinson Cano made a smooth play behind him too and Melky Cabrera got in plenty of running out in center. And while the Astros ran at will against the combination of Joba and Posada, the Yankee catcher made a big throw to nail Michael Bourn at third in the sixth inning.
So it came down to the pens. Wesley Wright, a thin, baby-faced southpaw replaced Chacon with two men on and just one out in the seventh and retired both batters he faced (Melky and pinch-hitter Wilson Betemit). Jose Veras got the 'Stros in order in the bottom of inning.
Derek Jeter drove the first pitch he saw from Doug Brocail into the right field seats to start the eighth, good for career dinger 199 and a 2-1 Yankee lead. Veras was back in the eighth and his stuff was devastating, going through Miguel Tejada, Berkman and Carlos Lee with ease. He struck out Lee with a sensational breaking ball that has so much spin on it that Jose Molina--who replaced Posada behind the plate midway through the game--dropped the ball. For his part, Lee's knees buckled so badly that when he regained his balance he just stood up straight and refused to move.
In the ninth, Godzilla Matsui reached on an infield single to Kaz Matsui. Then Angel Hernandez, who, according to Michael Kay, "loves to call balks," called a balk on Jose Valverde. Jason Giambi just missed a 2-1 fastball and then hit a hard line drive right at Carlos Lee in left for the first out (the stache is getting fuller...it's alive, alive). Johnny Damon, pinch-hitting, whiffed, Cabrera was intentionally walked, and Molina went down swinging.
All of which set the stage for Kyle Farnsworth. I felt slightly nautious during the commerical break as I remembered the last time I saw Farnsworth pitch in Houston. This is what life with Mo will be like one day. I started to moan softly.
Ty Wiggenton fouled off the first pitch from Farnsie and waved at the next, 97 mph fromage. He laid off a pee-at-the-knees, just outside; Farnsworth slipped during his follow-through. The next pitch was even lower and then Wiggenton refused to bite at a weak slider. He fouled off a fastball and then got plunked, just above the elbow, with another heater.
The first pitch to Bourn, squaring to bunt, was high and outside, the next, right down the middle for a strike. Bourn popped the following pitch right at Farnsworth. Bourn didn't run and on the YES broadcast, Ken Singleton was all over it saying someone in the infiedl should have shouted at Farnsworth to drop the ball and try and turn a double play.
Geoff Blum, a veteran pinch-hitter, fouled off the first pitch, a fastball. A good cut. He took the next pitch, another fastball, for strike two, and looked at another for a ball. Farnsworth let loose with a fastball, high and away and Wiggenton was off and running. Molina stood up, caught the ball and threw Wiggenton out at second, Jeter applying the sweep tag.
One more pin, Farnsie. And the big lug came through, with a tight slider. Blum swung over it and the Yankees survived a night without Mo.