Two nights ago my girlfriend Emily started clapping when she got home and I told her the Yankee game was about to begin. I think she even surprised herself with how much she was looking forward to watching the game. Em never followed baseball until we started going out a little over two years ago. Now that we live together, it's become a welcome part of her life. We watch a lot of games together. Em dubbed herself "the Big O," the big optimist, last week. She helps balance my most base, defeatist tendencies.
I never intended to subject Emily to watching baseball on a regular basis. I've always kept sports and relationships with women apart like the seperation of Church and State. But believe me, it has been a real treat that she not only tolerates my fanaticism, but actually appreciates the game on her own. I remember telling Will Carroll about this last year and he sent me an e-mail that read: "Marry her."
Last night, after Emily's favorite player Jorge Posada whiffed to end the fourth inning, Em says to me in a soft voice, "I love baseball." I turned down the volume on the commercials and asked her why. She said, "I like it because I enjoy seeing how much you get into it. I like that it brings you so much joy. I also like it because it's food for conversation and learning for me."
Emily often asks questions, and naturally, I love to give her answers if I can.
She calls me Rainman because I know that Joe Dimaggio struck out 13 times in 1941 as well as I remember my mother's birthday. However, Emily takes special pleasure in stumping me with trivia (which, truth be told, I'm not so great with). Regardless, baseball initiates conversation, which often leads to things that have nothing to do with the game at all.
She continued, "I also like it because I can get up and dick around and when I come back the game is still on. It's not like a movie where I have to pee and get everything together before the commercial is over. If something good happens I hear you yell and then I come running and watch the replay. I think they made the replay for people like me. It's like they knew I wasn't there the first time, so they can show it again."
Em and I watched the Yankees beat the White Sox 3-1 last night. It was a lean, efficient affair, a welcome change from Tuesday's rain-soaked barner-burner. Jon Garland and Javier Vasquez both pitched very well. Vasquez, whose uniform is tight and form-fitting--unlike the rumpled, baggy look that Derek Lowe or Mike Mussina sport--didn't have his best stuff early, but he worked out of trouble. He's quickly becoming my favorite Yankee pitcher. He is all business on the mound, and pitches with confidence and purpose. The only mistake he made all night was a curveball he hung to Carlos Lee. Lee popped it over the left field wall for a homer and gave Chicago a 1-0 lead.
Garland was almost as good. But Alex Rodriguez lined a homer to right field in the sixth to tie the game, and Jorge Posada murdalized a pretty-good breaking ball for a two-run bomb in the seventh. Vasquez pitched eight innings and retired the last ten men he faced. Mariano Rivera got the save.
Rodriguez's homer was memorable because he didn't know where the ball went. On an 0-2 pitch, he put a good swing on an outside fastball. The ball scooted over the right-field wall, on a low-line, in a hurry. But Rodriguez didn't pick the ball up. He looked up, then around, clearly having lost the ball. Surprise, big fella, you just tied the game. Rodriguez's second homer of the season came on a similiar pitch that he hit his first homer on.
In his next at bat, against reliever Cliff Politte, Rodriguez had a beautiful swing on a 2-0 fastball that was out, over the plate. It was one of those swings that make you say, "oooohhh, man, he just missed it." Looking for an inside pitch, Politte came back with the same exact pitch for a called strike. Then Rodriguez swung over an inside fastball to end the inning. Rodriguez was visibly upset, an encouraging sign. It didn't look like he was frustrated, just pissed that he missed a couple of good pitches. He appears close to regaining his form.
Gary Sheffield had two singles, but along with a Javier Vasquez, Jorge Posada was the story of the night. Bubba Crosby started for Bernie Williams in center, lead off the game with a bunt-single, and was robbed of another hit by Magglio Ordonez in the ninth. Travis Lee played first, while Jason Giambi DH'd.