The Mariners hit the ball hard against Mike Mussina in the first two innings last night but couldn't score a run. Mussina pitched out of jams in both innings, then quickly settled down and pitched his finest game of the year. Moose went eight, and didn't allow a run. For the first half of the game Seattle's baby-faced starter, Gil Meche blanked the Yankees too. However, they chased him from the game in the seventh as Rodriguez-Giambi-Sheffield and Posada hit a string of consecutive doubles to put the Yanks on the board.
The following inning, Bernie Williams connected on a 3-2 pitch for a single to center. After Rodriguez whiffed, then Giambo homered to right. Sheffield scorched a double to right field and Jorgie doubled him home. Done and done. Paul Quantrill pitched a scoreless ninth, which is great because Flash Gordon and Mo Rivera will be rested plenty for Sunday.
Watching the game, I couldn't help but chuckle at the fact that Rich Lederer and I chose to write a piece on Bernie Williams and Derek Jeter this spring. Williams has traditionally struggled early in the season, but now that he's older, it's easier to say, "Oh, maybe he's just warshed up." Still, he's bristling at called strikes every night, and that's not like him. On the other hand, Jeter has never slumped like this in his career. Who knows why it's happening no--armchair shrinks start your engines---but I can't recall a time when Jeter has experienced this kind of prolonged misery.
He was called on on strikes in his first at-bat. The pitch was on the outside corner and it looked good to me. The over-head angle replay showed that it was just off the plate, still it was close enough to swing at. Jeter had a conversation with the umpire before he walked back the the dugout, which he is doing more than ever these days.
The following inning, the YES cameras showed an exasperated Jeter talking with his hitting coach, Don Mattingly. Jeter was going over that third strike, and he shrugged his shoulders like there was no way he could win. But the biggest problem for Jeter isn't that he's getting killed with the outside fastball--although, that's been an issue too--it's that he can't catch up with the fastball right over the plate. His bat is slow. In that first at-bat, Meche threw a fastball right by Jeter that was down the heart of the plate. It's only natural that Jeter would question himself if he can't catch up with that pitch. Then they kill him outside, and that's what he fixates on.
During Jeter's third at-bat, you could clearly hear some Seattle fans chanting, "Over-rated."
Another thing that I've noticed lately is that Jason Giambi just doesn't look like a happy guy. When he's on the bench and he takes his hat off, he looks tense and alert, not quite comfortable in his own skin. His body language is stiff, and his choppy hair and big eyes make him look like an owl. It wouldn't be so strange if Giambi wasn't so different back in his Oakland days, where he was the B.M.O.C., the rock'n'roll leader of the pack. Just by looking at the dugout shots on TV, I don't get a sense of which players Giambi is tight with. They don't seem to dislike him, but he looks isolated. He hardly ever smiles. I don't know, he's not the same guy. Maybe it's the hair. I wish he'd grow it out ala Donnie Baseball--anything to loosen him up a little.
One last observation. Regular readers here are familiar with the fact that I'm no Kenny Lofton fan, but I have to say the guy smiles and jokes around more than any other Yankee. He's playful, and his teammates seem to enjoy him. At least that's what I get from what they show on TV. Maybe I could learn to like him after all.
Oh, one last, last thing: be sure and check out Kevin Kernan's piece today on Dioner Navarro, the kid who is generally considered the best prospect in the Yankees system.
Curt Schilling was a beast for Boston yesterday hurling a complete game five-hitter, as the Sox rolled over KC, 9-1. (Pokey Reese had an inside-the-park-homer.) But the most appealing game of the day has to be Texas out-lasting the Tigers, 16-15 in 10 innings. Our boy Sori went 6-6 with 4 RBI. Deep in the heart of Texas!