When Johan Santana has a four run lead on your team early in the game, you pretty much think it is going to be a short, curt afternoon for your boys. But Santana is not his usual dominant self yet and by the fourth inning, the Yanks started to hit him hard. The Bombers rallied down 4-0 and tied the game on Derek Jeter's third hit of the game--this in spite Torii Hunter casually swiping a home run from Andy Phillips and Jorge Posada missing a homer to right by two feet. Alex Rodriguez, who has been laboring to find a groove this year, got down in the count and then hit a hard ground ball through the left side to put the Yankees ahead 5-4.
There was a lively discussion of what transpired in the bottom of the eighth inning yesterday in our comments section here yesterday. It involved all of your favorites--Johnny Damon, Derek Jeter, Gary Sheffield and Alex Rodriguez. The Yankees had a man on second with nobody out and weren't able to get a run home. The debate was sparked about Derek Jeter. Of all people. And it involved a sacrifice bunt. Of all things. Regular commenter and fellow blogger Mike Plugh wrote a good a follow-up post analyzing the inning over at Caynon of Heroes, which you should check out. Far as I saw it, the inning was highlighted by a thrilling duel between Juan Rincon and Gary Sheffield.
And that's where it stood with Mariano on in the ninth. The first batter Luis Castillo has pestered the Yankees over two games and on the 2-2 pitch barely held up on a cutter. The third base ump opined that Castillo did not go around--it was a generous ruling at best. Castillo then slaps the ball into the turf and beats out an infield hit. Rivera pounced off the mound beautifully and made a strong peg, but it was just a fraction late.
Rivera narrowly missed striking out the next batter Mauer on the 2-2 delivery--a fastball, up and away. The high strike. It's a pitch Rivera has been known to get over the years. So, on a defensive swing, Mauer slaps the ball into left. Matsui gets it and chucks it to third--an absent-minded decision that proved costly. There wasn't going to be a play on Castillo at third, but the throw to Rodriguez allowed Mauer to go to second.
Mo then strikes out poor Rondell White, do did manage one base hit on the game, but who is in the midst of a horrid slump. (The Yanks twice walked Mauer to get to White in the game and both times they retired 'ol Ro.) Mo made him look silly. And then Rivera overwhelmed Torii Hunter for the second out. Caught him looking at a nasty cut fast ball. It fooled Hunter so badly he argued with the home plate ump about the call, but replays showed it just broke devastatingly late. Nothing Hunter could have done about it, but say something. Got to get it out when you get burned that badly.
Then Justin Morneau plunks a soft liner into right, not all that far from Robinson Cano's reach. Two runs score, and the Twins win the game, 6-5. Other than Mauer's defensive-swing hit, nobody had hit the ball hard of Rivera.
But these things happen. It was the first game that hit me in the gut this year, that got me pissed and upset. What calmed me down more than anything was watching Rivera being interviewed after the game. He was smiling and saying, "What can I do, they didn't hit it hard, I felt good, made some sharp pitches, and these things happen. I've already gotten over it and moved on." And he means it, he has moved on. He's speaking in cliches but he isn't lying. Rivera is imperturbable. It's not just schtick with him. That's what makes him the greatest. Win or lose. And if he's cool with the ups and downs of the game, I've got to ask myself "Why am I all nuts over this?" Way to calm me down, Mo, yer the man.