I can't think of a more depressing-looking ballpark in the American League than Tropicana Field in Tampa. Add to that the fact that the Devil Rays just aren't a very good team and it's hard to get juiced up for this series. Unless of course you are a Yankee fan. It's probably tough for some of us too, but hey, a win is a win, and I'll take it.
Javier Vazquez was good, if not sterling, and the Rays jumped on him for two runs in the first. Doug Waechter was decent for the first couple of innings, but when Ruben Sierra tied the game with a two-run blast, I thought Sweet Lou was going to hurt someone. When the inning was done, Piniella got in the face of his catcher Toby Hall. I guess Hall called for the wrong pitch in the wrong spot. The Yanks opened up their lead with four runs in the fifth, capped by a three-run blast off the bat of Gary Sheffield. Sheff only had one hit on the night, but continues to hit just about everything hard. (As does Hideki Matsui who had two hits and has quietly improved.)
Tampa Bay rallied against Vazquez and Paul Quantrill--who had another poor performance--and closed the Yankee lead to one run. But a solo home run by Derek Jeter gave the Yanks some breathing room, and Tony Clark made a nifty running catch in the ninth inning to help seal the victory.
The story of the night? Well, Mariano Rivera recorded the 300th save of his career, and Derek Jeter had three hits, and honestly is looking like the player we've been used to watching for the past eight years. If you had just watched the Yankees over the past week, you would have never thought that anything had been wrong with the Yankee captain.
Pedro Martinez wasn't brilliant last night either, but he pitched well enough and Cookie Monster hit a grand slam as Boston beat the Mariners at Fenway Park. The Sox remain a half a game ahead of the Yanks. David Ortiz is the rebirth of Luis Tiant for the Sox. There was a touching moment in the clubhouse last night. According to the Globe:
And then there was the cardboard box sitting on a table in the locker room. It had a slot in the middle. Written on it in black letters was, "Please, any help you can donate to the people of my country -- D.R. They got hit by the flood. Thank you, David Ortiz."
It was after his second at-bat, in the fourth inning, when Ortiz, the designated hitter, walked back into the clubhouse after grounding out to third. He encountered Ellis Burks with his 9-year-old son, Christopher. Alan Embree had paid off an old bet to Burks with a pair of $50 bills. Burks handed the money to his son, who immediately dropped a fifty in the box.
"When I saw this I was ready to cry," Ortiz said. "It made me feel great. To see a young kid do that. I got excited. My mind was different after that. That changed me."
As much as I loath the Sox, it's hard to resist some of the characters they've got up there like Cookie and the catcher...
Kevin Brown was back with the Yanks last night and will pitch today.