Although he's only played in New York for a season-and-a-half, Gary Sheffield has already left an lasting impression on Yankee fans. He's not only an incredibly clutch hitter but a viscerally exciting one--even his foul balls are electric. (In fact, for much of 2004, Sheffield's signature hits for the Yanks were line drives scorched into the left field stands.) Yesterday, in the first inning Sheffield glicked a low and inside pitch from Joe Mays into the left field stands that was hit so hard that it didn't have a chance to twist foul. Although I've seen great right-handed hitters like Jim Rice and Mike Piazza rope line drive home runs like that, Dave Winfield is the only Yankee I can recall who specialized in those kind of laser shots. Jim Kaat said later on that it was like watching Tiger Woods drive one off a tee, and he was right. I know Sheffield has hit more important home runs and even more majestic home runs too, but for my money, that shot yesterday was my favorite one he has hit in pinstripes. It was Mmm, Mmm Good. Put a patent on it because that there was the ultimate Sheffield dinger to me.
Aaron Small pitched impressively yesterday as the Bombers beat the Twins, 6-3. Small allowed three runs over seven innings. He struck out only one but didn't walk a batter. He was aggresive, throwing strikes and working quickly. After his first game last week, Cliff e-mailed me and commented that Small was a dead-ringer for Kaat. Yesterday, the YES broadcast put up a still photo of Kaat in the first inning and made the comparison in the first inning: it's all in the jaw. (Incidentally, Paul O'Neill continues to bust Michael Kay's chops. Early in the game he was ragging on Kay for being such a big star now. He asked Kay if he had his own clothing line yet. O'Neill went further and said it would probably be a line for oversized men. Kay was clearly offended and after O'Neill apologized an uncomfortable silence hung in the booth for the next two pitches.)
The Twins rallied to tie the game at three but Jacque Jones--who had made a nice diving catch in the first inning--misplayed two fly balls off the bat of Robinson Cano which helped lead to three more Yankee runs (Cano ended the day with three hits). Tom Gordon worked a perfect eighth and Mariao Rivera put heads to bed in the ninth earning his 26th save in as many chances, lowering his ERA to 0.83 in the process.
I like how Joe LaPointe wrapped up his piece on the game in the Times:
"We can win games in many ways," Sheffield said.
As Sheffield spoke, he was dressing to leave, and most of his teammates were already out of the clubhouse. A few attendants sorted out the uniforms for the laundry.
Along the far wall, Small sat in his chair, still wearing his sweaty T-shirt and shorts, sandals on his feet. He tilted back into his big locker, talking quietly on a cellphone with a smile on his face.
Across the corridor, out in the stadium, the sun was still shining on empty seats. It was high summer in the big city and the winning pitcher seemed happy to be exactly where he was, in no hurry to leave.
Small, who until last week had not started a game in the Majors since 1996, has been a big help for New York. After the game, the Yankees acquiredShawn Chacon from the Colorado Rockies for two double A minor leaguers. (Hideo Nomo, you've got company pal.) Chacon will start on Saturday against the Angels (who lost in 18 innings to the Blue Jays last night). Unlike Small thus far, Chacon is prone to walking people. I'm curious to see how he performs. While Carl Pavano and Jaret Wright continue to rehab, Kevin Brown was placed on the DL again.