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Soggy Bottom Blues
2005-10-07 21:15
by Alex Belth
Note: The Bronx Banter blog has moved to bronxbanterblog.com.

On a thoroughly miserable night for baseball in the Bronx, the Angels out-slugged the Yankees 11-7 to grab a 2-1 series lead. It rained throughout, and though the grounds crew did an admirable job of keeping the field in order, there were puddles on the warning track and the fielders consistently had problems getting a good handle on the ball all night long. This was a game that Yankee announcer Michael Kay would no doubt call "unmanagable." It featured awful starting pitching, and some predictably sloppy fielding, however it also boasted some fine hitting, timely relief pitching and a few crucial defensive gems too.

Neither starting pitcher was sharp. Randy Johnson, in one of his worst games of the year, had nothing. In his biggest start as a Yankee, he decidedly came up empty. After getting two outs in the first, Vlad Guererro singled to right and then Benji Molina hit a high fastball (out of the zone but over the plate) into center for a base hit. Garret Anderson followed and golfed a long three-run dinger into the bleachers (the first of four terrific "guesses" he'd have on the night). In the third, Orlando Cabrera drove an 0-2 fastball that was around his eyes into right for a double. Two batters later, Molina--having the time of his life--hit his third home run in as many games, and the Halos were quickly up 5-0.

The hits that both Molina and Cabrera got off those high fastballs gave me the feeling that they knew what was coming. Whether or not Johnson was tipping his pitches, it certainly seems plausible. But as Joe Morgan said later in the game, it wasn't only that Johnson was missing his location: his stuff wasn't any good either. The combination chased the Big Unit from the game with two men on and nobody out in the fourth inning. He was booed loudly after the third inning and the fans gave it to him again (albeit less viciously) as he left the mound for perhaps the final time of the season.

Aaron Small came into the game and struck out Adam Kennedy. Next, Chone Figgins hit a hard grounder to second. Robinson Cano made a nice back hand stop, then slickly flipped the ball under hand to Jeter who threw to first to complete the double play. It was a highlight reel moment and one that temporarily changed the momentum of the game.

Paul Byrd pitched reasonalby well over the first three innings but Hideki Matsui greeted him with an opposite field home run to start the bottom of the fourth. Cano reached on an infield single and then Bernie Williams chopped a slow grounder through the right side for a base hit. Tino Martinez tapped out to first moving the runners along and then Jorge Posada pinch-hit for John Flaherty and bounced out to first driving in the second run of the game for the home team. Jeter followed with an RBI single and when Alex Rodriguez walked (after being down 0-2), Byrd's night was over.

Brendan Donnelly got Jason Giambi to hit a ground ball off the end of the bat right where the shortstop normally plays. But since the Angels had the shift on, the ball squirted into left and Jeter came around to score. Then Sheffield rocketed a low line drive to center. Figgins charged and made a diving catch to save a run and the lead for the Angels. It was the second ball that Sheffield rocketed to Figgins with nothing to show for it.

After Small worked a one-two-three fifth, Matsui walked and then came around to score on Cano's triple to the gap in left center. The rookie scored the tying run when Bernie Williams lifted a sac fly to left field. Scot Shields was now in the game and he struck out both Tino and Posada with some nasty breaking pitches to end in the inning.

Small could not hold the lead. A double by Juan Rivera and a single by Daren Erstad tied the game, and with two outs Chone Figgins, who was 0-11 in the series at that point, dropped a base hit in front of Bernie Williams to give the Angels the lead.

They wouldn't look back. The story for the rest of the game was the superiority of the Angels' bullpen. Shields loaded the bases in the bottom of the sixth (infield single by Rodriguez, walks to Sheffield and Matsui), but got Cano to swing at the first pitch and fly out to left to escape unscathed. (Matsui got the best pitch to hit in the inning--a belt-high 2-2 fastball that he fouled off...Damn!) Meanwhile, the Halos added two more in the seventh and another two in the eighth while Kelvim Escobar locked the Yankees down for two innings (the only blip being a solo homer by Jeter). Anderson ended up with four hits and five RBI, and the Angels pulled off a beautifully executed squeeze that would have made Billy Martin proud.

In the end the Yankees could not survive Johnson's lousy start or the general ineffectiveness of their bullpen. Even Flash Gordon had nothing as the Angels ended the game with 19 hits. Clearly, Johnson deserves the biggest goat horns of the night for New York; I can only imagine how he'll be roasted in the papers tomorrow. And although not as much was expected from him, Paul Byrd didn't do much to dignify himself tonight either. As has become his custom, Robinson Cano helped his team with the bat and the glove, and also cost them with both as well (first pitch swining with the bases loaded in the sixth after the two walks as well as a critical error in the seventh). The Yankee offense wasn't so much to blame, but the pen couldn't hold the lead. Sound familiar? For the Angels, Anderson and Figgins were the brighest stars and they came up with huge performances.

The rain is scheduled to keep on coming through tomorrow. We should expect more slop tomorrow. These are not good conditions for baseball, but the Yankees cannot use the weather as an alibi tonight. In his most important game as a Yankee, Randy Johnson got pounded. That is likely what we'll remember about this one as time passes. Hopefully, they can rebound behind Shawn Chacon in Game Four and bring the series back to California. For now, the Yankees, and their fans feel soaked.

Comments
2005-10-07 23:00:28
1.   Start Spreading the News
I just got back from the game. I thought there were two key moments in the game. One was the diving catch by Figgins on Sheffield's line drive.

The 2nd big moment was Cano swinging on the first pitch. It was so obvious to everyone at the Stadium that a guy who had just walked the two previous batters was struggling. Shields was at 30 pitches already. It looked like he was getting gassed. His slower pitches were missing. If Cano could have worked the count a bit more, maybe he walks and drives in a run. Then Bernie is up, followed by Posada. Both good OBP guys.

When he swung, EVERYONE groaned. I am amazed that nobody in the Yanks dugout told Cano to take a pitch. Or if they did, then that he didn't listen.

By the way, the play by Guerrero on A-Rod's double, was that a homer that he pulled back? Or did the ball go off the wall? There were no replays at the Stadium.

Come on, Chacon!

2005-10-07 23:22:05
2.   Max
I missed most of the Yankee game because I was photographing an event on Friday evening in an industrial, blue collar neighborhood just outside of Boston. Pretty funny that the party got started late because half of the guests were watching the Red Sox game in the bar downstairs.

I did catch the bottom of the sixth on TV at the bar and watching El Duque work out of that bases loaded jam was probably one of my favorite non-Yankee playoff moments...even the crowd at the bar just shook their head at Duque's cojones. I didn't revel in it because it was against the Red Sox...I would have probably enjoyed it just as much against the Angels, Tribe, whoever.

The mood at the party was pretty low-key with the Sox loss. Turned on Sterling and Waldman on the rainy drive home at 11:30pm to hear that Leiter was pitching and the score was 8-6, and I figured we were in big trouble. Randy was paid to be an ace and for him to not show up was unbelievably disappointing.

The rain washing out Saturday's game would be a real drag, because I think even if Chacon weren't sharp, we could win another slugfest with Shields and Escobar worn out. With our luck, though, they will get a break Saturday...seems like the Yankees have gotten no breaks this series.

2005-10-07 23:34:24
3.   tom yf
Two in a row, boys. Let's get it done.
2005-10-07 23:58:49
4.   brockdc
Some observations from a West Coast insomniac (thanks in part to the Yankees ineptitude)

-Does anyone recall the pop up to shallow center that Finley hit? I'm pretty sure it lead to at least one run for the halos, and, had Bubba been in CF instead of Bernie...

-Other than reel off an impressive month of September (admittedly, no small feat), Unit has done little to endear himself to Yankee fans this season. He's about as loveable as Hepatitis

-Rueben is finished.

-So is the bullpen.

-Benji's gonna look great wearing triple-X pinstripes next season.

2005-10-08 00:05:26
5.   e double trouble
Yo Belth Bomber

I was at the stadium as well tonight with brother Ben. The scene outside the stadium before the show was a tad disturbing as large groups of people were huddled outside watching tiny televisions in bars and chanting "Red Sox suck" en masse. Ben was dismayed that the fans weren't dismayed over the impossibility of a rematch.

The stadium took awhile to fill up making the first three innings awkward in general. When we took the lead, people were energetic in the stands but as soon as it started slipping away it was back to bad mouthing. You know me Al, I like to keep things positive with the game. Good flow goes around.

Which brings me to a question? Let's say you want to lean back in your seat and put your elbows up on the back of your chair, does a person sitting behind you have the right to say "Excuse me," rather rudely, when your offending elbow comes into contact with their foot that is rested in-between your seat and the one next to you? How do you respond to that? Brother Ben made loud comments like, "Why is his seat YOUR foot rest?" and better, but I didn't want to make a ruccus about it, my focus was on the field. But then, a couple of innings later, I was yelled at by a group of ladies down the row behind me who couldn't stand that I had been so polite ... then they started yelling at the offensive woman who was sitting with her two children and husband. Certainly the group that was aware of this happening were amused by it but the lack of focus gets to me as much as the lack of manners.

When the drama is in the stands we fail to make on the field. The last game Ben and I were at was when that drunk punk fell on the netting behind home-plate, which ruined the Yanks comeback momentum. The Yanks lost the game.

The family left around the seventh - just as they were gone, Jeter hit his homer.

The true baseball believers waited til the last pitch (almost four hours from the opening!). They were the best kind of fans to ride home with on the 4 train, very intelligent and polite.

Anyone going to the game? Stay focused.
Go Yanks!

2005-10-08 04:31:18
6.   randym77
A-Rod's double...looked to me like it would have hit the top of the wall if Vlad's glove hadn't been there. It hit right in the palm of his glove and bounced off.
2005-10-08 05:02:06
7.   Simone
It is the next day and I still can't believe that Randy Johnson pitched like he did in that game. What a disaster!

Regardless, the game last night was a typical Yankee game. Bad pitching (exclude Small and Sturtze, I think) throughout. Even after the Yankees climb back in it, Gordon implodes and the game slips away. Do you realize the Angels had 19 hits? Whoever is the next GM needs to work on that middle relief.

Let's go, Chacon. Pitch well and give the Yankees a chance to tie up the series.

2005-10-08 06:12:35
8.   rsmith51
Anybody else notice that Leiter ALWAYS gives up a run in his second inning of relief?

Down by 4 runs, you need baserunners and you send up a guy with a .265 OBP?

Maybe so he has one AB before he starts at DH today...

Johnson is definitely the goat for this game. I would put Posada as his catcher for the remainder of the playoffs.

Nice to see the Yanks get some runs. Hopefully their offense can continue. I think I would either play Bubba in CF or DH Bellhorn today.

Hopefully Chacon can pitch well today.

I am still very happy they made the playoffs, but since they are here...

2005-10-08 06:14:33
9.   rsmith51
Guess I should finish that thought. I would like to see them play well.

Go Yanks!

2005-10-08 06:22:57
10.   rsmith51
I take that back about starting Bellhorn at DH. This team has trouble preventing runs so they should put Bubba in CF and DH Bernie. I also think they should play Bellhorn at 2B against the lefty.
2005-10-08 06:23:59
11.   Yanks in NH
Plain and simple, Johnson sucked! You could see it right away with those booming shots on the first two outs. That's what he was brought here for, so I' very dissappointed.
2005-10-08 06:36:25
12.   Alex Belth
e double,
That's a bummer, but not entirely surprising. The negativity you can run into at any given game is always a very real possibility. People can be such a drag.

As for A Rod's double, it would have hit off the top of the wall, but it was square in Vlad's glove and he just dropped it. It was a tough catch, but certainly one that he should have made.

2005-10-08 06:47:32
13.   randym77
I think the wind made fielding an adventure. Some balls were carrying farther than expected, others were falling short.

Yeah, you kind of suspected it might be a rough night for Randy, with those first hard-hit fly outs. But he's struggled for an inning or two before, then been lights-out, so you can't blame Torre for hoping he'd right himself. Especially given the state of our bullpen.

I don't see how they get the game in today. It's a great day for ducks out there. Forecast is for heavy rain and thunderstorms all afternoon and evening. Which probably means we see Colon again.

2005-10-08 07:05:33
14.   Max
Buster Olney has written a beautiful summary (over at ESPN.com) of El Duque's classic inning against the Red Sox last night. It brought back memories of all the memorable sequences (and even the smaller moments of drama) that Buster was so good at bringing back to life in his Times stories during the peak of the O'Neill-Tino-Jeter-Brosius run. The opening paragraph:

"Orlando Hernandez is listed as 35 years old and is actually four days shy of his 40th birthday, having reset his baseball age after defecting from Cuba in December 1997. But when he threw in relief against the Red Sox on Friday night, age was irrelevant. He pitched with a fastball of a 25-year-old, the breaking ball of a 30-year-old, the guile of an old man and the guts of someone too young to know better."

I know reading it will make some Yankees fans mad, though, because it will remind them of what is so lacking in the heart of the current pitching staff, Mo excepted.

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