(... title courtesy of Alex Belth, thus sparing you all from the truly repugnant Joba-related puns I'd been planning. You owe him more thanks than you'll ever know).
I missed Tuesday night’s game, which was apparently for the best. On Wednesday, by contrast, the Yankees were able to meet the goal Joe Girardi set for them during his pre-game interview: “to not stink." Indeed, the team smelled like lilacs and Driven during their 10-0 cruise past the Pirates.
Joba! I’m sure eventually we’ll all settle down and get used to Chamberlain pitching every fifth game, but the bloom’s not off the rose yet. Plus “Joba!” is still super fun to say. He was excellent last night, throwing 6.2 controlled innings of 7 K, 1 BB, 0 R ball and earning his first official win (though the Yankees won the last three games he started, too).
For the most part, Chamberlain dominated. He got in a bit of a jam in the second inning, with two runners on and no out, but both had reached base on relatively soft base hits, and Chamberlain followed with a strikeout and a fly out. Jack Wilson then stroked a hit to short right field, but Pirates third base coach Tony Beasley made the puzzling decision to send Ryan Doumit – who, remember, is a catcher – home from second, even though Abreu was already picking up the ball as Doumit rounded third. (Third base coach: one of those thankless jobs where, if people actually know your name, it means you’ve screwed something up). Abreu’s throw home was good, and Jorge Posada stood there waiting for Doumit for so long that he would’ve had time to plant a small spice garden next to the batter’s box if he’d felt like it. Inning over, and that's about as sticky as things ever got.
As for the offense, the Yankees picked away at Zach Duke until he was removed for a pinch-hitter after five innings, at which point they unloaded on the Pirates relievers. Whether this was a “the bats are waking up!” moment or a “the Pirates’ bullpen is terrible!” moment, I’m not entirely sure.
The scoring began in the first, when Derek Jeter and Bobby Abreu scored on a Jason Giambi groundout – helped out by an error on Pirates’ shortstop Jack Wilson, the victim of an aggressive (though clean) Alex Rodriguez slide into second. The (newly darkened!) Porn ‘Stache of Doom struck again in the third, scoring Jeter, who had his best game in many moons: three hits, two of them doubles. On top of that, he eked out a hard-earned walk in the sixth that set the stage for the game’s biggest blast, a three-run Bobby Abreu homer that broke the game open. Robinson Cano homered, too, and had three hits total; every starter had at least one, except Chamberlain, and even he did his part offensively.
At the plate, Joba takes just the kind of swings you’d expect him to: full speed ahead, aiming for the fences, to the near-hysterical amusement of the Yankees bench. I was briefly concerned that Jeter and Posada were going to pull something, they were laughing so hard. Chamberlain did work a walk his first time up, however, then laid down a nice bunt his next time up, and finally got some good wood on the ball in the sixth, though he hit it straight to the right fielder. When his flare was caught Joba strode off the field all serious and poker faced, until he got a few feet from the dugout, at which point he could no longer suppress a massive, infectious grin.
He finished his night in with two outs in the seventh inning, not quite able to close it out before his pitch count climbed to 114 (76 of them strikes); but Ross Ohlendorf finished the frame for him, and Jose Veras preserved both the win and the shutout in the ninth.
Finally, much has been written about the 1960 World Series, but I recently happened across a nice piece of writing about the 1927 Series between the Yanks and the Pirates. This was one hell of an overmatch; that ’27 New York team, as I’m sure most of you know, won 110 games and is widely considered one of the most dominant ever. It's by Frank Graham, who covered the team for the old New York Sun, and I found it in an old book called Press Box: Red Smith’s Favorite Sports Stories. (Which has a few gems, in case you’re wondering, but an awful lot of pieces on boxing and horse racing, neither of which I’m very invested in unless I have money on the line). Here's Graham on the day the Yanks arrived in Pittsburgh, and took batting practice before the first game:
In the stand the Waner brothers, great ballplayers in their own right but little men, stood talking with Ken Smith, New York Mirror reporter, as the Yankees slugged the ball. Ruth hit one over the fence in center field, Gehrig hit one high in the seats in right field. Meusel hit one over the fence in left field. Lloyd turned to Paul.
"Jesus," he said fervently. "They're big guys!"
Paul shook his head. The Waners walked out. Most of their teammates followed them. They had seen enough. It is undoubtedly true that right there the Yankees won the Series. Before a ball had been pitched in competition, they had convinced the Pirates that theirs was a losing cause.
And, later in the article, with the Yanks up two games to none and back in New York:
...a newspaperman in a cab with Lazzeri and three other players said:
"If you fellows don't wind this Series up in these next two games, I'll shoot you."
And Lazzeri said: "If we don't beat these bums four in a row, you can shoot me first."
The other players nodded. That's the way everybody on the ball club felt.
Here’s my question: who would win a Series between the 1927 and 1998 Yankees? I'm inclined to think that modern athletes -- bigger, fitter, stronger, possibly injecting cattle hormones -- will generally win out, but how do you bet against Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig at their absolute peaks, plus a staff of Waite Hoyt, Herb Pennock, and the fabulously named Urban Shocker? Discuss.