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Classic
2005-04-29 23:15
by Cliff Corcoran
Note: The Bronx Banter blog has moved to bronxbanterblog.com.

I don't care that the Yankees lost last night's game 2-0, or that the loss established just their second three-game streak of any kind this year (both losing streaks, the other a four-gamer two weeks ago). Last night's game was a classic. Randy Johnson and Roy Halladay both pitched complete games, baffling the opposing hitters with high heat and wicked sliders (in Johnson's case) and sharp curves and changing speeds (in Halladay's).

Both starters also benefited from excellent defense. Bernie Williams made a key running grab at the wall in the right field gap in the first inning. Johnson himself stabbed a pair of comebackers with his back to the plate, one with his glove and one barehanded, and Tino Martinez made a series of less flashy but equally excellent plays at first, from the throw that nailed Alexis Rios at second on a pick-off play, to the pop-up he caught while running over the pitchers mound, to a series of scoops and tags at first to convert questionable throws into easy outs. For the Blue Jays it was their middle infielders who were putting on the show, particularly Orlando Hudson's Jeter-style stretch to his right jump and throw move and John McDonald's tremendous leap to stab a line drive well over his head, which was followed by a stylish roll.

The difference in the game was a seventh-inning slider from Johnson to Eric Hinske that didn't slide far enough and landed in the right field seats for a two-run home run (Gregg Zaun preceded Hinske with a walk), just the 22nd home run hit by a lefty off Johnson in his 18 seasons in the majors.

As Alex noted in the comments below, the end result of last night's contest was strongly reminiscent of the May 28, 2000 duel at the Stadium between Roger Clemens and Pedro Martinez. That game, a Sunday night ESPN game, was the first time the two future Hall of Famers had met after Clemens' disastrous outing in Game 3 of the 1999 ALCS. That game was a scoreless tie in the top of the ninth when Jeff Frye singled off Clemens and Trot Nixon followed with a two-run homer into the right field seats.

The primary difference between the two contests--with the obvious exceptions of the history behind and importance given to the Clemens-Martinez match-up and the drama of Nixon's two run homer coming two innings later than Hinske's--was that if you took away Nixon's homer, Clemens actually outpitched Martinez (13 K, 0 BB to 9 K, 1 BB, both allowed four hits, Nixon's homer was the fifth Clemens allowed). Last night, however, Halladay was clearly the better pitcher, even if the margin was small:

Halladay: 9 IP, 3 H, 1 BB, 9 K, 65 percent strikes
Johnson: 9 IP, 7 H, 3 BB, 9 K, 65 percent strikes

The difference was that Johnson had brief spells in which his control escaped him, thus the five pitch walk that preceded Hinske's home run (which came with one out on an 0-2 count).

Would I have preferred that the Yankees won last night's game? Of course, but I feel privileged to have seen such a well pitched and well played game. With the exception of the result, it was an absolute delight.

Today Chien-Ming Wang makes his long awaited debut as the dueling aces are replaced by the dueling number fives. Here's hoping this is the start of something good for both Wang and the Yankees.

Comments
2005-04-30 05:10:27
1.   Paul
Great game. Nice to see two good pitching performances in a row from the Yanks.

But ...

To describe the hitting as pathetic understates it. Their run differential is deceptively average because of the blowouts; if those were mere wins, the Yankees would be looking at a run differential now that projects an outcome substantially below .500 ball.

As for "the games don't count in April", this has never made sense to me. They count the same no matter what month it is. A review of won-loss records for successful teams finds a strong correlation between winning in ANY month and ultimate outcome. Extraordinary come backs such as the 1978 Yanks are just that -- extraordinary. In other words, every game counts, and they'd better start winning soon or else this season is a loss.

2005-04-30 06:01:46
2.   murphy
i wasn't able to watch or even listen to so much as a minute of the game last night; so you can imagine my dissapointment when i came home to see yet another yankee loss (below .400 ball? uuuhhh....). i didn't even bother clicking through to the box score because when i saw the "zero" in the yankees run column, i was just disgusted. (but better halladay than bruce chen, right?) as much as cliff's post makes me feel a bit better, i gotta say: this optimism thing is getting really difficult. i can't remember the last time i have been subjected to so much well-deserved razzing as a yankee fan. while i am far from giving up hope, i gotta wonder what it feels like to be a mets fan (with less talent in the farm system)...
2005-04-30 06:03:01
3.   singledd
Cliff,
Your attitude and appreciation is that of a true Baseball fan. And if that game reduced the Yankess record to 5 games ABOVE .500, I might share your appreciation. But while a 'great' game was witnessed, there were many other things witnessed.... and almost all bad.

There are a LOT of Yankee haters. The Yankees are the center of the baseball universe. If this is the 'beginning of the end' as so many want, and many have predicted, it will be a horrible summer. The Yankees 'fall' will dominate ESPN and the media. I myself live in NH, surrounded by Red Sox Nation, which of course makes things extra specially painful. I have few buddies to share a remorseful drink with.

I would love to hear about possible solutions. I don't follow ALL of baseball, as much as just the Yanks and the Sox. Are there any guys for the getting that would help? Can we 'buy' Soriano and put him in center? Cameron? The Astros are hurting. Is Clemens coming back to NY? Is there help on the way, or are we looking at the final product?

If we went and got Martinez, why did we let Travis Lee go. Isn't he a better backup 1st baseman?

If pitching was the priority in the offseason, why did we lose our 2 best guys from last year (Lieber, Hernandez).

If we knew Posada needed more rest time, how about a better backup-up Catcher?

I guess I am still pissed about the offseason trades/gets. I can excuse the Yankess losing games... but I can't excuse stupidity... either by management or on he field... and it seems we have seen too much of both this year.

Am I a 'fair weather' fan, or have the Yanks really made serious mistakes that have jeapordized our post-season hopes?

2005-04-30 06:43:51
4.   unpopster
here's what really gets to me about the first 20+ games of this season: The Yankees look listless out there. They are not playing "smart" baseball and look very old.

MESSAGE TO THE '05 YANKEES: After the embarrassment of the '04 ALCS, how in the world can you look so disinterested?

This is infuriating, really. If the outcome of last year's playoffs doesn't motivate this team, what will?

2005-04-30 06:48:45
5.   Cliff Corcoran
No, Lee is a significantly worse back-up 1B. Tino was the best of what was available.

No we can't get Soriano and I'm not sure I'd want him as he'd have to come via trade. Cameron is a possibility, but he, like Sori has issues with making too many outs. At least Cameron would help the defense, which is a major issue.

Clemens is not coming. Lieber was a mistake that Cashman has admitted to. He misjudged the market. El Duque, do you really want to have to count on him? He's who knows how old and constantly hurt.

Back-up catcher has been a bugaboo for some time now, but guys such as Zaun and Mirabelli signed where they thought they might be able to start (Mirabelli resigned with the Sox before they got a handle on Varitek) and Todd Pratt is even older than Flaherty.

And yes, the Yankees made numerous mistakes this offseason (Placido Polanco LEAPS to mind, as does signing anyone but Jaret Wright, Jon Lieber being one of the better options, then there's that Beltran guy). I've been griping about them since before they were made.

2005-04-30 07:48:56
6.   markp
When most of the team is slow getting started, this is the result. I can't imagine those of us that witnessed 1978 are very concerned. I know I'm not.
My chief concern was health. Brown looks healthy. Giambi looks healthy. Even Wright's problem has been described as nothing to get worried about.
I find it difficult to believe everyone forgot how to hit all at once. When they do get hot, they'll win a lot of games in a row.
The most amusing part of all of this is that a lot of people who should know better are panicking while Jim Kaat (of all people) has been chuckling at them.
2005-04-30 07:57:56
7.   Dave D
It's fine to complain about the moves the Yankees should have made and I agree 110% with all the complaints but the problem is that the team on the field right now should be producing more than it is. I wish they had Beltran in center and had resigned Lieber, but this team just should not be so anemic. They need to win when Brown holds teams to 3 runs. They need to win when Johnson pitches that well. They are not getting the comeback wins they were last year, which is one reason their record was better than projected. And they're not getting the wins they should flat out be winning like last night. It's fun when they score 12 runs in one game but not when they score 2 in the next 3...
2005-04-30 09:27:27
8.   Nick from Washington Heights
"Clemens is not coming."

Cliff, what makes you think that Clemens' return is not a possibility? I think it was Gammons who reported about the tacit agreement between Houston and Clemens which guarantees his being traded to the Yanks if the Stros are out of contention by mid-season (not an implausible outcome). I guess it would mean goodbye to Eric Duncan and another prospect but on the upside Clemens will actually lower the average age of the Yanks' roster (my calculations might be off, but let's just say he won't raise the average age by much).

2005-04-30 09:52:00
9.   jayd
We are watching a team that is simply not clicking yet. I've seen 8 or 9 hit games that only generate 1 or 2 runs. At some point they are going to go 17-3 and take over first place.Trust me on this. I'm a Yankees fan. I KNOW what I'm talking about here. The Moose has a little dead arm but he's working out of it, Randy and Carl are fine, Brownie had his first solid start, and Wang will match up against any # 5 in the league. The hits are there. Giambi is due for a monster break out.

Baltimore could wind up in 2nd this year and the Jays will beat out the Sox -- you never saw that in any preseason picks.

If you're feeling bad, imagine what it must be like for RS fans surrounded by feel-good hype and the hope that they can play .500 ball for 1/2 the season and then still pull something out. The bad news for them this year is that there are 2 other .500 ball teams out there that will not roll over. And thanks to Schilling The Mouth, they have a bean ball war going with the freekin' Rays! I love it. This is a great year.

It all comes down to "compared-to-what". The only competition in this league is the O's and the Jays. What, me worry? You want panic? Add to the injury list and talk to me the end of May. If we haven't had a streak by then, I'll be prepared to listen.

2005-05-01 16:23:14
10.   ilovetoscore
How about the game time? Two hours and 8 minutes? I like to see the Yankees win, but on what has come to be the standard cold and rainy Friday night, I'll take a two hour game! (It didn't even rain this Friday as was forecasted. Classic!)

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