July 4th brought plenty of fireworks to the Bronx as the Yankees enjoyed one of their most satisfying wins of the season, out-lasting the O's, 13-8.
I had a really good feeling at the start of the game. Watching the Yankee hitters walk to the plate, they looked like they were fresh out of a video game. Recall how incredulous I was earlier in the season when junk-ballin' Bruce Chen shut them down. Well, I was not expecting a repeat performance. Derek Jeter led off and tomahawked pitch out-of-the-zone into left for a single. Then dancing around first, he distracted Chen plenty, who proceeded to walk Robinson Cano on five pitches. Cano was very calm, which I found impressive. Then Chen laid an egg, or a what you'd call a room service fastball (?) to Gary Sheffield. Sheff almost jumped out of his uniform, he was so excited, waiting just enough, and with a long, phat, juicy swing, slammed a three run dinger into the left field bleachers.
Alex Rodriguez was next and he hit a wicked line drive down the third base line. Melvin Mora bent his right knee and stuck his left arm across his body. Miraculously, it caught the ball in the webbing of the glove. But the speed was so great, that it could well have knocked Mora's mitt clean off. Instead, he twirled around, propelled by his left leg, like a dradle, and threw Rodriguez out easily. The play happened in the blink of an eye, and was some kind of Major League moment. Rodriguez can't seem to buy a hit (a problem that would continue in his next at bat when Jay Gibbons robbed him of an extra-base hit). But Hideki Mastui launched a breaking ball off the facade in right field, and Jason Gaimbi did the same in the next inning. It was a short day for Chen.
Meanwhile, Tanyon Sturtze could not make it out of the fourth inning, and by the time the Yanks came to bat in the bottom of the frame, their lead was down to 6-4. Jay Gibbons popped a solo dinger off of Scott Proctor in the sixth, and the Birds picked up three more off of Wayne Franklin and Jason Anderson in the seventh to take an 8-6 lead.
I still felt the Yanks would take the game. But when Jorge Posada, who along with Bernie Williams, looked awful at the plate all day, strucked out with two men on in the seventh, I thought the boys were in trouble.
Especially with B.J. Ryan looming in the Baltimore bullpen. But then the bounces started, well, bouncing the Yankees' way.
Steve Kline opened the eighth. Giambi hit a laser shot that missed being a home run by just a few feet. But then he turned around, and muscled a fly ball to right, which hit right on top of the wall and popped into the stands for a home run. Dumb luck. We'll take it. The lead was down to one. Ruben Seirra followed with a pinch-hit single, and that was all for Kline. Time for the Big Poppa, Ryan.
Jeter greeted him with a single. Then, after getting ahead in the count, Cano laid down a good bunt, moving the runners to second (Jeter) and third (Bubba Crosby, pinch-running for Sierra). Sheffield was intentionally walked to load the bases for Rodriguez.
Another big spot for Rodriguez. But Ryan couldn't blow him away. Rodriguez took one good swing, fouled off a tough pitch and worked the count full. He then took an outside fastball for ball four, which brought home the tying run. Again, the myth about Rodriguez not coming through in the clutch is being dispelled before our eyes this season. Rodriguez is taking walks, hitting singles and doubles in key spots, instead of getting himself out trying to hit a home run.
More luck followed, as Bernie Williams was jammed with a heavy breaking pitch bearing in on his hands. The result was a harmless bloop that dropped about twenty feet past first base into right field. Two runs scored, and the Yankees had the lead for good. Bernie stood on first base with a sheepish grin on his face. Hey ol' dude, we'll take 'em anyway we can get 'em.
Another run scored when Miguel Tejada botched a ground ball. The bases were then loaded again as Posada walked and Giambi was hit by a pitch.
Send in the clowns, cue the Benny Hill music. Bubba Crosby lofted a short fly ball to shallow right. Jay Gibbons dove to catch it, but couldn't make the play. Another run scored. Giambi, who had waited half-way between first and second for the play to develop, jogged into second base. Only a half-step behind him, however, was Bullet Crosby. Bubba had his head down the entire way. It was only a few strides before he reached second that he realized he had made a mistake. So instead of sliding he put on the breaks, knocking into Giambi at second. Tejada tagged them both, and Giambi almost lost his footing. It was a fine bit of comic relief for the Yanks.
But perhaps the most gratifying part of it all was tagging Ryan, who has been murdering the Yanks over the past couple of seasons.
Mariano pitched the ninth. He threw ten pitches, struck two men out, and got a fly ball out as well. Rivera's scoreless inning streak now stands at 23.