Pettitte vs. Mulder. Not a thinking-man’s delight, but a big boy special instead. Andy is 6’5 and Mulder is 6’6. They are both guys you want to call “Meat.” Mulder has been striking guys out recently, but Ben Jacobs thinks it could cost him in the long run. Pettitte has enjoyed an excellent string of pitching winning his last eight starts.
I’ve been critical of Pettitte this year. Here is a portion of a letter I received last week from a reader named Steve:
"I think the thing with Pettitte that gets him in trouble on the hill is that he has a pretty wide repertoire of pitches and too much Mike Mussina in him. Mussina is a thinker but I think he's a confident thinker. He's playing chess out there and always seems to be on the attack. Andy on the other hand starts questioning himself, and always seems to default to the cutter when he questions his other stuff. I think (and this is totally subjective and I could be very wrong) that Andy is at his best when he trusts his breaking stuff and doesn't try to overpower guys. When he gets fastball happy he gets knocked around."
Mulder starts off well and so does Andy. The A’s have the only hit through three (a single by Jose Guillen that was misplayed by Soriano; could have been an error, but it was a tough play). Mulder is quick and efficient. This guy makes it look easy. He’s got the Yankees anxious, swinging at pitches early in the count. Cruising through the early innings without breaking a sweat. He retires the first twelve without incident.
The A’s are hitting a ton of ground balls to Boone at third.
Funny how humbling the game can be, but Eric Byrnes, who played so well against the Yankees early in the year, is in a deep funk. Since he hit for the cycle in June, Byrnes came into Sunday’s game 8 for his last 80.
Mulder retires the first two batters in the fifth, and then Aaron Boone laces a double over Eric Byrnes’ head. Soriano follows with a hard-hit one-hopper to short. It narrowly misses hitting Boone, who bends his back to get out of the way, as if he was avoiding a tag in a rundown. Tejada times his leap for the ball perfectly, but it takes a funny hop, and skips past his glove into center for a single. (It was slower than he thought.) Tejada slaps his glove on the ground, and Boone scores his first run as a Yankee.
After giving up a hit in the first, Pettitte has retired 14 in a row through five. Byrnes is now 8 for his last 82.
Jeter singles to start the sixth. Bernie flies out to right on the first pitch. That helped Mulder out a lot. Boos for Giambi. Michael Kay is ‘sticking up’ for Giambi. (Spare us.) Giambi grounds into a 3-5 double play (Chavez is the only infielder on the left side of the infield in the Giambi shift) to end the inning.
Terrance Long skies a pop foul to the left side. Matsui runs for days to catch it, but he makes the play for the first out. Eric Piatt follows with a hard liner to center field, but it’s right at Bernie Williams who makes the catch for out number two. That’s probably the hardest hit ball for the A’s all day. Pettitte walks Mark Ellis on five pitches. The first man to reach in sixteen batters. Now Pettitte works out of the stretch. Andy rears back and K’s Jose Guillen on a high heater, out of the zone (thank you Rocket Clemens Workout!) to get out of the inning. (Andy seems to be throwing his change-up effectively today too.)
Yanks 1, A’s 0.
(44,528 announced crowd in Oakland. The largest of the weekend.)
Top of the Seventh
Posada leads off. Mulder never steps off the rub. He’s perpetually ready to pitch. He gets Jorgie swinging in the dirt at a good off-speed pitch for his sixth strike out of the day. One out. Curve ball, outside to Matsui, 1-0. Fastball, strike. Slider, low, 2-1. Swing and a miss foul, 2-2. (Matsui broke his bat.) Breaking ball, 55-footer, 3-2. Fastball, on the outside corner. Delayed call…no call. Ball four. Everyone just froze for a moment. Mulder isn’t happy with the call.
Here’s Aaron Boone. Throw to first. Ball one (88th pitch of the day), outside corner, looked close. Another throw to first. Next pitch, same place, low and outside, 2-0. Boone then hits a soft grounder to third. Chavez goes to second for the force. Two outs. YES replays show Ellis took his foot off the bag before he got the throw.
Fastball, high, ball one to Soriano. Sori singles between short and third into left. (See the ball, hit the ball.) He’s 8-17 lifetime against Mulder. Two men on with two out for Todd Zeile.
The first pitch to Zeile is high for a ball. The next pitch is way inside, ball two. Why nibble with Ziele? Breaking ball, high and outside. Again, it looked close. 3-0. Fastball right down the middle, strike one. Ziele swings over a nice slider for the second strike. Full count, runners moving…Eeee strug ‘im out. Another nasty slider, low and out of the zone. Mulder pitches out of trouble.
Bottom of the Seventh (stretch)
Eric Chavez flies out to Karim Garcia in right. Garcia almost lost the ball in the sun, but he made the catch.
Andy over throws the first two pitches out of the zone against Tejada, and then lays a breaking pitch over the plate for a strike. Jorgie goes out to talk with Andy. Tejada snaps the next pitch foul. Man, does he ever swing hard. Fastball, inside and high, the count is full. Tejada calls time as Pettitte is in his wind up, and Andy launches one over the umps head. Miggy raises his hand apologetically to Pettitte. Tejada fouls the next pitch foul, and then whiffs on a cutter in the dirt. That pitch was similar to the one Mulder struck Ziele out with. Two out.
Durazo strikes out to end the inning. Pettitte has thrown 95 pitches.
Okay, I’m officially starting to worry about Benitez.
Ruben Sierra pinch-hits for Garcia, and grounds out weakly to third on the first pitch. Way to go, big guy.
Jeter looks at a fastball, high 1-0, then drives the next pitch to Eric Byrnes in center for the second out.
The bullpens are quiet. Mulder falls behind Bernie, 3-0 and then Bernie swings at the freakin’ 3-0 pitch and grounds out to short. Come on. Come on, youse guys are freakin’ killin’ me over here.
Even though the Yanks aren’t hitting, I feel comfortable and confident. Even if they lose this game late again, I feel like they should win it.
Ramon Hernandez flies out to deep right for the first out. Dave Dellucci is the new right fielder.
Eric Byrnes gets all over the first pitch and hits a home run foul by about 15-20 feet. Dumb luck, man. He fouls the next pitch---a fastball, in on the hands, 0-2. Fouls the next pitch, a cutter in the dirt, off too. Grounds the next pitch foul too. The last two pitches were balls, but Byrnes isn’t letting any pitch get by. He grounds the next pitch—a breaking ball, to Boone at third. Boone collects his seventh assist of the game for out number two.
T. Long hits a grounder at Soriano. He has to move to his right, and he throws off his back foot. The throw takes Ziele off the bag, but he tags Long for the apparent out. But the call is safe and the A’s have life. Ziele is hot, and here comes Joe and so is he. It looks like Torre is telling the rookie umpire that he made the call too soon. “This is as mad as I’ve seen Torre all season,” says Singleton. Forget about starting off the ninth with the number nine hitter.
Eric Piatt falls behind, 1-2. Pettitte goes to first three times. The 1-2 pitch is low and wild. It gets past Jorgie and Long moves to second. Posada goes out to talk with his pitcher.
The A’s organist plays “If You’re Happy and You Know it.” Mariano Rivera is sitting on the bullpen grass, his legs split wide away. He leans back on his arms and wags his feet back and forth. Singleton says he looks like he should be chillin’ on a blanket in Central Park.
Pettitte K’s Piatt on the next pitch, swinging. Another cutter. Onions. (Actually, I don’t know whether it was a cutter or a sinking fastball.)
Top of the Ninth
Mulder throws a strike to Giambi on the inside corner, 0-1. Giambi skies the next pitch to Long in left for the first out.
Breaking ball, way outside to Posada, 0-1. Jorgie had K’d thrice. He grounds the next pitch to Chavez. The throw is in the dirt, but Durazo makes a terrific scoop for the out. If that got away, Posada is on third.
Hideki hits a grounder toward right for an infield single and then gets picked off of first to end the frame.
Bottom of the Ninth
Torre lets Andy start the inning. It’s top of the order for Oakland. The thought of Tejada coming up scares me here.
Andy falls behind Mark Ellis 2-1. Ellis works the count full. The crowd is finally into it, making noise. The 3-2 pitch is fouled off to the right side. The next pitch is up and hit, Ellis twirls away and jogs to first with a walk. That’s it for Andy, here comes Mo. This will make it four games in a row for Rivera.
I have a bad feeling about this.
Guillen bunts Rivera’s first pitch foul, off himself. There goes Billy Beane’s lunch. Mo makes a courtesy throw to first. The next pitch is a fastball high, and Guillen jabs at it foul, 000-2. Ron Washington, one of Michael Lewis’ favorites, strolls down to say a word to Guillen. Rivera then throws to first again. Pitch out, Ellis bluffs. 1-2. Fastball, inside, foul-tipped. Posada couldn’t hold on to it. Great pitch. The next pitch is a 96 mph heater, up in the zone. Guillen swings right through it for the first out.
The first pitch to Eric Chavez is low and inside, 0-1. Chavez is 2-7 in his career against Rivera. He swings at the next pitch and fouls it back, but it’s a good-looking swing. Rivera got away with one. Chavez then laces a single sharply to right. Ellis moves to third. This is getting messy.
Fastball, right down the plate to Tejada, 0-1. Fastball in, Tejada moves back, 1-1. Fastball, low and outside, 2-1. Pettitte is slumped in dugout; he can barely watch. Tejada rocks a fastball to left. It’s off the wall. (It was almost out.) Godzilla fumbles the ricochet and the game is over. Ellis scores, and Chavez comes around to score the winning run. If Matsui made the play cleanly, the run might not have scored.
In a game with no margin for error, the Yanks couldn't close the door on the A's. Who else but Tejada?
Final time: Two hours and twenty-five minutes. More Efficiency.
Oh, well. Shoot. That’s a tough loss. Still, one that will hopefully make the Yankees grouchy. Sometimes that’s grouchy and pissed is not a bad place to be. I remember feeling so confident as a fan when Paulie O or Cone would linger in the dugout, steaming, after a tough loss.
The Yankees lost two of three against both Boston and Oakland when they could have swept both series. A lot will be written about the failure of the bullpen, but you still have to feel confident that the Yankees will win more games like this than they’ll lose. They finish the road trip, 4-2 but it could have been better. Do you look at the glass as half-full or half-empty?
The Red Sox salvaged the weekend series with a win in Baltimore, 7-5. There was a long rain-delay, and Sports Center ran a clip of Todd Walker and Nomar Garciaparra reacting to a loud thunder clap. Walker sprinted off the field with the quickness. The Sox were loose and having fun during the delay. The offense, sleeping all weekend, made sure they weren't swept.
The Yankee lead is now 3.5 games, which is the same lead they had nine games earlier when they started this road trip in Boston.