It doesn't ever get old, it doesn't ever get boring. Down 5-1 to start the eighth inning in Minnesota yesterday, the Yankees rallied against Juan Rincon to tie the game and eventually put the Twins to sleep for the year in extra innings to advance to the ALCS against the Boston Red Sox. Emily and I were entertaining some friends: Jay Jaffe and his lady, Alex Ciepley and two of our dearest friends Lizzie Bottoms and her husband Andrew. Watching baseball with a group of people makes it harder to retain the details of the game. There is all sorts of conversation happening and I like to enjoy the company regardless of what's happening on the field. Which is not to say that we weren't paying close attention. There was a great, hushed tension in the room during the late innings when the score was tied.
Alex C was the lone voice of support for the Twins. When Lew Ford broke the game open with a two-run double, he was a happy man. And then when Esteban Loaiza relieved Javier Vazquez, Jay said that the Yankees were all but sending up the white flag. The game plodded along, Loaiza wasn't sharp but he didn't allow any runs either. "We've got em right where we want em," I said several times.
Little did I know how it would pan out. Johan Santana threw a decent amount of pitches but was pulled after just five innings of work. With the season on the line, why so early? I don't know but Grant Balfour mowed the Bombers down and so it didn't seem like a point worth persuing. But New York mounted a rally in the eighth inning. A good three batters before the decisive blow, Alex C said, "Ruben Sierra is going to tie this game."
And sure enough he did. Sierra couldn't catch up with Rincon's fastball, but he connected with a hanging slider, knocking a three-run dinger to right-center field which tied the game. Tom Gordon pitched two scoreless innings and Mariano Rivera did the same.
Alex Rodriguez lead off the bottom of the ninth with a double in the left field gap off of Joe Nathan, virtually a carbon copy of his game-tying double off Nathan in Game Two. But the Yankees couldn't get him home. Gary Sheffield went 1-6, Jorge Posada was 0-5, and Mr. Teflon, Derek Jeter was 1-6 with four strike outs. Rodriguez doubled down the left field line with one out in the eleventh off of Kyle Loshe. He proceeded to steal third base, without drawing a throw from Pat Borders, who replaced Henry "Home Run" Blanco. The Twins continued to pitch to Sheffield. But Loshe threw a breaking ball in the dirt which Borders couldn't handle. The ball skipped away and Rodriguez scored standing up. Loshe retired Sheffield and Matsui, and then Mariano retired the Twins in order to give the Yankees another big win.
It was a great series for the Yankees. Curiously, the post-game celebration was disrupted by a personal issue concerning Mariano Rivera. The details were sketchy but something sure kept the party subdued.
I was geeked up last night unable to fully enjoy what had happened, because I was already fretting about the Boston series. Surely, the Yankees have their hands full with this Red Sox team. The New Yorkers may actually be underdogs this time round, figure that. Regular readers of Bronx Banter know that I'm a pessimist by nature, and am always waiting for the Sox to finally overwhelm the Yankees when it counts. And it's not hard to rationalize why Boston will defeat New York this year. But while Boston may be the superior team right now--mainly due to Mr. Schilling, and a relentless PS2 offense--it would be silly to over-look the Yankees. They've been so tough, and such a rewarding team to follow this year, I've just got to have faith in them, warts (pitching staff) and all.
And regardless of what happens starting Tuesday night, it would be a shame if I didn't spend a majority of my day soaking in what the Yankees accomplished against Minnesota. More terrific memories for us Yankee fans who have been spoiled with dozens of such victorious moments since 1995. It's a sunny, crisp day in New York. And it's a good time to be a Yankee fan. Am I right or am I right?