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The Smell of Burning Hair
2005-06-21 21:34
by Cliff Corcoran
Note: The Bronx Banter blog has moved to bronxbanterblog.com.

It all started innocently enough. Randy Johnson struck out Carl Crawford on three pitches, the first two looking, the third swinging. He then sat Julio Lugo down on five more and stranded Jorge Cantu at first base by getting Aubrey Huff to ground out to second. Clean, simple, and an apparent indication that Johnson was picking up where he left off last Thursday with his complete game against the Pirates.

Then Johnson started the second inning with a ball to Eduardo Perez. His next two pitches were sliders that Perez offered, but, at least according to home plate umpire Eric Cooper and first base ump Fieldin Culbreth, did not actually swing at. Down 3-0 in the count when he just as easily could have been up 1-2, Johnson wound up walking Perez on four pitches. Johnson then got Jonny Gomes to pop out to short on an 0-2 count and got called strike one on Damon Hollins and all appeared to be well.

Then Hollins and back-up catcher Kevin Cash homered on Johnson's next two pitches to put the Devil Rays up 3-0. Alex Gonzalez then singled on an 2-0 pitch and stole second on a first-pitch ball to Carl Crawford. Crawford then missed two pitches before yanking a third to deep right for an RBI triple. Johnson then got ahead of Julio Lugo 0-2 only to have Lugo single home Crawford. Just like that, the Devil Rays had scored five runs on Randy Johnson in the second inning.

The Yankees got one back in the bottom of the second on a Matsui walk, a Giambi ground rule double, and a Bernie Williams sac fly, but the D-Rays doubled that in the top of the third. Before Johnson could get the first out, Eduardo Perez doubled and Jonny Gomes homered to make it 7-1 Devil Rays.

Despite throwing 67 percent of his pitches for strikes, Johnson had given up seven runs on eight hits, three of them homers (to Damon Hollins, Kevin Cash and the rookie Gomes no less). After just three innings and 60 pitches, Johnson was done. After the game, Johnson reported that he felt fine physically, but simply had nothing working. Echoing what John Flaherty told him in the dugout, Johnson blamed his performance primarily on bad location. It was the first time Johnson had failed to go at least six innings since July 9 of last year, his first outing shorter than five innings since April 11, 2003, and his shortest outing in about 140 starts dating back to August 15, 2000. After the way Johnson dominated the Cardinals and Pirates, one has to hope that last night was indeed an aberration.

The Yanks scraped out another run in the bottom of the third on a Jeter ground rule double and a Sheffield single. Down five runs and needing to piece together six more innings from his bullpen, Joe Torre then turned to Scott Proctor, who had just been summoned from triple-A Columbus to take Bubba Crosby's spot on the roster because of the strain put on the Yankee pen recently by Sean Henn (who will indeed take his next turn against the Mets on Saturday), Carl Pavano, Kevin Brown, and a lack of off-days.

This went about as one might expect. Carl Crawford lead off the fourth with a single. Proctor then walked Julio Lugo on six pitches and fell behind Jorge Cantu 3-0 before getting him to fly out on a 3-1 pitch. Crawford and Lugo then executed a double steal and Torre put Aubrey Huff on intentionally to set-up the double play and have Proctor pitch to the righty Perez. Lou Piniella countered with lefty Travis Lee, who choped the first pitch he saw to Cano at second. Aubrey Huff running from first, Cano and the ball all arrived at the same spot at the same time and as Cano attempted to field the ball and tag Huff in one motion he wound up swatting the ball out in front of second. All hands safe, 8-1 Devil Rays. Proctor then retired Gomes on a foul out before giving up a two-run single to Damon Hollins (who is hitting .320/.371/.539--.306 EQA on the season, by the way). 10-2 Devil Rays.

Proctor pitched around a Carl Crawford single in the fifth and, after stranding a lead-off single by Matsui in the fourth, the Yankees seized the opportunity presented by Proctor's goose egg.

After Robinson Cano flew out to start he fifth, Derek Jeter and Tony Womack singled on consecutive Hideo Nomo pitches. Nomo then fell behind Gary Sheffield 2-1 and Sheffield cracked a three-run homer into the stands in left to decrease the Yankee deficit to five runs. After Alex Rodriguez ground out for the second out, Hideki Matsui and Jason Giambi picked up back-to-back singles. With Lou Piniella pacing the top step of the visitors' dugout, trying to keep from having to pull his starter before he became eligible for the win, Bernie Williams laced a double down the right field line to plate Matsui and put the Yankees within a grand slam of tying the game.

Cursing to himself, Piniella then forced his feet to cross onto the field and removed Nomo in favor of rookie Chad Orvella, a 24-year-old converted shortstop that some consider to be the top relief prospect in baseball. Orvella walked Jorge Posada on five pitches (the one strike was a swing and miss by Posada on a pitch out of the zone), loading the bases for Robinson Cano.

At the time, this appeared to be the key at-bat of the game. Cano represented the tying run, Orvella hadn't found the strike zone, and the on-deck hitter, Derek Jeter, had a double and a single in his previous two at-bats, the latter coming in this same inning. All Cano had to do was keep the bat on his shoulder and the odds were that Jeter would come to the plate as the go-ahead run. Cano did take ball one, but swung and missed at a pitch below his knees for strike one and then yanked Orvella's third pitch (admittedly hard) right at Cantu at second base for the third out. Orvella's next pitch, in the bottom of the sixth inning, landed on the far side of the centerfield fence for a solo Jeter home run.

Still, Mike Stanton and Tanyon Sturtze combined to pitch a scoreless sixth and Jeter's homer brought the Yankees within three runs of the Devil Rays. Unfortunately, Sturtze gave that run right back in the seventh when consecutive one-out singles by Alex Gonzalez, Carl Crawford and Julio Lugo loaded the bases and Jorge Cantu scored Gonzalez on a fielder's choice that was about a stride away from being one of the best plays I've ever seen. Cantu absolutely scorched a 1-1 pitch from Sturtze down the left field line, only to have Alex Rodriguez catch it on a full dive, scramble to his feet, race to third to force out Crawford and fire to first as if turning a double-play pivot at second. Had his throw beaten Cantu (who is not a swift runner judging by his minor league stolen base totals), Rodriguez would have turned a spectacular inning-ending, run saving double play. As it was, Cantu beat a typically strong throw from Rodriguez by a step at most and the Devil Rays went up 11-7.

Buddy Groom then came on and got Aubrey Huff to fly out on his first pitch to end the inning. With Groom staying on in the eighth, the Devil Rays again loaded the bases on a lead-off Travis Lee double, a Gomes single and a one-out walk to Kevin Cash, but this time they actually were stifled by an inning-ending double play turned by Rodriguez, this one a more traditional 5-4-3.

With a four run lead and six outs from victory, Piniella then turned to another rookie reliever, Franklin Nuñez, who had been on and off the DL with shoulder tendonitis earlier in the year. Then this happened:

After an eight-pitch lead-off at-bat, Robinson Cano singled to center and Derek Jeter singled Cano to third on a 2-1 pitch. Joe Torre then pinch hit Ruben Sierra for Tony Womack. Sierra scorched a 1-0 pitch into the hole between first and second, but Jorge Canto made a spectacular diving play to turn a sure-thing base hit into an RBI ground out. 11-8 Devil Rays, man on second, one out. Gary Sheffield then singled on an 0-2 pitch to push Jeter to third and Alex Rodriguez singled him home. 11-9 Devil Rays, tying runs on first and second, one out.

That's when Lou Piniella gave the ball to Travis Harper. Harper fell behind Hideki Matsui 2-1, evened the count, then gave him a juicy pitch low and over the plate that Matsui fouled back. Having apparently missed his pitch, Matsui bore down and drove Harper's next offering on one hop to the wall in right for an RBI double, pulling the Yankees within one run of the Devil Rays and leaving runners on second and third with one out for Jason Giambi. Lou Piniella then elected to intentionally walk Giambi to load the bases in the hope of getting a double play grounder out of Bernie Williams. Torre responded by pinch-running for Giambi with Russ Johnson. Bernie Williams responded by taking it personally.

With the crowd chanting Bernie's name, Travis Harper's first pitch was a chest-high floater right over the plate that Bernie served into the deepest part of center for a three-RBI triple that pushed the Yankees ahead 13-11. In an unusual display of defiance, Bernie didn't bust it out of the box right away, but flipped his bat to show up Piniella. Clearly upset, Bernie continued to scowl while being congratulated by Luis Sojo at third base. He continued to scowl when scoring on Jorge Posada's subsequent home run, which pushed the Yankee lead to 15-11, and continued to scowl in the dugout.

Meanwhile, the rest of the Yankees went to town. After Posada's homer Cano, who had lead off the inning, flied out for the second out. Derek Jeter then reached on an infield single to second. Seirra singled Jeter to third. Then came the heart of the order:

Gary Sheffield. Three run homer into Monument Park, 18-11.
Alex Rodriguez. Solo homer into my section of the right field bleachers, 19-11.
Hideki Matsui. Solo shot into the black in dead center, 20-11.

Russ Johnson, who had pinch-run for Giambi, the seventh batter of the inning, then rescued Travis Harper by lifting a deep fly out to right that fell short of the warning track. Tom Gordon then retired the Devil Rays in order in the ninth to nail down the win.

Wow.

To recap that eighth inning in which the Yankees scored 13 runs on 12 hits and a walk, including six singles, a double, a triple and four home runs, it went a little something like this:

Single, single, RBI ground out, single, single, double, intentional walk, triple, homer, fly out, single, single, homer, homer, homer, fly out.

The list of personal and team bests (or "bests since . . .") is to long to include here (I'll leave that to Jayson Stark), but one of the more interesting factoids is that the last time the Yankees homered four times in a single inning was almost exactly 28 years ago, on June 30, 1977, also in the eighth inning, and the second of the four was hit by none other than Lou Piniella himself (Cliff Johnson hit two and Thurman Munson hit the other).

After looking listless for large chunks of the season, the Yankees suddenly have three thrilling come-from-behind wins in the past week and are four games over .500 for just the second time all year (their high being six games over .500 after their defeat of the Red Sox in the opening game of their most recent series in the Bronx). They've now won 7 of their last 8 and 9 of their last 12 and are second only to the Red Sox in total runs scored on the year.

I can only imagine how much fun it must have been to have been at the ballpark last night.

Comments
2005-06-22 05:16:26
1.   bp1
"The Smell of Burning Hair". Nice shout-out to A-rod's comments in yesterday's press, Alex.

I was telling the fellas at physical therapy yesterday (torn cartilage in right knee) that the Yankees had to win against the D-Rays w/ RJ on the mount. That had to be a no brainer game. I heard the 2nd homer in the 2nd inning on the car, and just about lost it. How can this be?!? The pod Yankees are back.

Anyone notice that pleasant little chat on the mount when Mel came out to talk w/ Johnson? Was that something, or what? You didn't need subtitles to read Johnson's mind "Go away. Get out of hear. I cannot believe this is happening. Please go away. Scotty - beem me up." Mel was funny, looking at the other players gathered around, as if this was a little pep talk. All the while, RJ was just burning holes into the backstop with his stare. Hate to say it - but I thought that whole episode was a little funny. I had a sick feeling in my stomach due to the score, but I still managed a chuckle. Talk about awkward.

I kept tabs on the game, but that 10-2 score was tough to swallow. How embarrassing. I wouldn't be able to face the therapy guys on Friday (Mets fans, they are). They'd rag on me big time for this one.

Then I tuned in later just in time to see Matsui foul off a couple before he hits that rocket of a shot off the right field wall in the 8th. Whoo hoo!! Maybe we can do it afterall. I had to watch from that point on.

IBB to Giambi?!? Makes sense, now that you think about it, what with all the talk Bernie has been giving about his "sore shoulders". Not such a bad move on Lou's part, but this was one of those situations where it really didn't matter.

Loved that Bernie smacked the first pitch - and hit it hard. Loved the stylish Bernie-like slide into 3rd base (does anyone else play like he does?). Loved the stare into the D-Rays dugout. A big moment for our aging star. Good for you, Bernie. The guy still has pride, and (Thank Heavens) the ability to back it up.

The back-to-back-to-back had my giggling in bed, and my wife told me to either stop it, or go downstairs. I couldn't help it. I did not believe what was happening, and it was getting silly. I went downstairs. I had to see just how far this would go.

What a game. Not quite the win I was hoping for over the D-Rays, but we take what we can get. While we didn't impress anyone with our pitching (11 runs to the D Rays is nothing to be proud of), it was nice to send out a message that the Yankee bats are not dead.

Hopefully next time RJ pitches, we'll get the Big Unit and not the Pod Unit.

BP

2005-06-22 05:23:28
2.   johnny7
I remember the Yanks losing one like this years ago... against the Red Sox too. Your 'burning-hair' analogy is spot-on.

This particular game was in the late 60's... way before 'Red Sox Nation' became 'Gay Nation'... during the 'BS' years... Before Steinbrenner.

The Yanks had built up a big lead at Fenway in the first couple of innings. Staten Island strong-boy, Frank Fernandez, had a big home run over the Green Monster and things looked sweet. But when you have a team like THAT Yankee team... or the current D-Rays, the opposing team is ALWAYS still in the game.

I believe the final score was 10-9 Sox... maybe 11-0... whatever... they still managed to lose it.

2005-06-22 05:29:35
3.   rbj
Wasn't that a three-rbi triple for Bernie?
Man, I come home and see the score 10-6. First reaction: ugh, but these are the Devil Rays, we can get to their bullpen. Next reaction: what the hell happened to the Big Unit?! Was the wind blowing out?
Nice eight, though I started feeling sorry for Harper.
Memo to Cashman, trade Womack for whatever, even a bucket of discolored balls (they can be batting practice balls for Trenton.)
Any bets that the Yankees have one more 13 run inning vs. Tampa this season.
2005-06-22 05:53:05
4.   debris
Probably not much fun to be at the stadium at all last night. Probably thousands kicking themselves for leaving early.

I was at the 17-1 Sox affair some weeks back. The place was half empty by the sixth. By the ninth, there were some 4000 Sox fans singing Dirty Water and a few hundred hardy Yank fans.

I assume that by the time the floodgates opened last night, the joint had been abandoned.

2005-06-22 06:10:29
5.   Dan M
Watching Lou in the dugout during the 8th reminded me of the look on his face when the Yanks blew out Seattle to clinch the 2001 ALCS - only without the 55,000 fans chanting "Sayonara" and "We Want Nelson."
2005-06-22 06:22:38
6.   rsmith51
That had to be the most runs to come back from(8) to win by(9). That was an amazing 8th inning.
2005-06-22 06:22:57
7.   jalexei
Can't believe I turned this game off.....Uggh
2005-06-22 06:29:46
8.   Murray
Who thinks that intentionally walking Giambi, of all people, to load the bases in the middle of a big rally might be the stupidest intentional walk since Bucky Harris ordered Pete Reiser intentionally walked in the ninth inning of Game 4 of the 1947 World Series?
2005-06-22 06:37:59
9.   rsmith51
Player 1
YEAR G AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB CS BA OBP SLG OPS
2005 62 238 31 58 4 1 0 11 11 37 17 3 .244 .279 .269 .548

Player 2
YEAR G AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB CS BA OBP SLG OPS
2005 60 203 19 51 11 1 3 25 30 24 1 0 .251 .345 .360 .704

Why does option 1 get 50 more plate appearances?????

2005-06-22 06:40:36
10.   rsmith51
Not to mention Womack bats in front of Sheffield, so he isn't gonna get much better pitches anywhere else in the order. Dumb Dumb Dumb Dumb Dumb!

Player 2 is Bernie, btw.

2005-06-22 08:09:23
11.   Cliff Corcoran
RBJ, thanks for catching that RBI error. Fixed it.

BP1, check the byline.

Murray, I think walking Giambi made sense, a double play from Bernie seemed likely enough to make it worthwhile (with 8 on the season, Bernie's on pace for a career high in GIDPs). Piniella set up the force at home and everywhere else and brought up a hitter who makes outs more frequently and who was slugging just .342 entering last night's game.

2005-06-22 08:54:54
12.   rsmith51
Actually, if the pitcher had just pitched carefully to Giambi, it is likely Giambi would walk anyway. It is possible that he would strike out. I would take my chances and pitch to Giambi. His idea was defensible, however.

It definitely isn't as dumb as putting a near automatice out 2nd in the lineup nearly every day.

2005-06-22 09:00:03
13.   Paul in Boston
>That had to be the most runs to come back from(8) to win by(9). That was an amazing 8th inning.

According to Elias, they tied the major league record for largest margin of victory by a team with a 8+ run comeback. The record was originally set by the Indians, who also trailed the Devil Rays 10-2 and beat them 20-11, in 1999.

(Thanks to Lee Sinns.)

2005-06-22 09:13:31
14.   Cliff Corcoran
Thanks for that, Paul. Here's that box score:

http://www.retrosheet.org/boxesetc/B05070CLE1999.htm

2005-06-22 09:16:46
15.   rbj
Quite alright Cliff, you raised a suspicion in my mind that maybe one run wasn't an rbi through some weird scoring play.
Walking Giambi did make sense, it seems like it had been quite a while since he'd been IBB'ed. It's not like anyone would give a free pass to Womack with Bernie on deck.
2005-06-22 11:07:34
16.   Bob B
I am guilty. I left early.
2005-06-22 11:47:20
17.   Patrick
Nothing new for me with Bernie. He's awesome. Love the guy.

Anyone know of any footage of the "scowling" and bat flipping thing available online? I can't see it at MLB.com and I didn't see it on the ESPN highlights last night. Would like to see it.

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