Randy Johnson pitched an excellent game last night at the Stadium against the Indians as the Bombers moved into first place in the AL East with a 6-1 victory. But the game will be remembered for Johnson getting tossed for throwing the ball at Eduardo Perez in the seventh inning. You remember Perez, the guy who beat Johnson about the face and neck last year when he was with the Devil Rays. It was the old eye-for-an-eye as Johnson was "protecting" his teammate Jorge Posada, who had been plunked the inning before. No matter what you think of such machismo, the move can only win Johnson favor in the Yankee clubhouse. You could also argue that Johnson getting thrown out when he was pitching so well--and against as good a line up as Cleveland's--was foolish. Regardless, the Yankee bullpen did a fine job and the "What were you thinking?" headline will have to wait for another day.
The rumpus began when Jorge Posada was hit in the right elbow by a Jason Johnson pitch in the bottom of the sixth inning. The Yankees had a 3-1 lead at the time (thanks to RBI's by Alex Rodriguez and Robinson Cano and a solo dinger by Johnny Damon). Posada started to walk away from home plate but as he moved towards first he started riffing at Johnson. It didn't seem that Johnson was intentionally trying to hit Posada, but Yankee hitters have been getting drilled a bunch lately, and it was the veteran catcher--who has always had a good dose of the red ass in him--who finally freaked. Posada was in enough pain that he couldn't grip a bat and was removed before the game concluded. Both benches were issued a warning. Whether or not the incident bothered Johnson, he would not make it through the inning. Robinson Cano to hit into a double play--the only time Cano was retired (he had three more hits and swung the bat with authority all evening). But then Williams doubled to the opposite field before Andy Phillips smacked a two-run dinger to extend the lead to 6-1.
The Big Unit recorded one out in the seventh before throwing way inside to Perez. The pitch did not hit him but it was considered intentional. Perez was heated and the teams meakly emptied out of their dugouts but there was no brawl. As Johnson walked off the field the crowd gave him an ovation. Joe Torre was automatically ejected as well. Johnson appeared more comfortable than usual last night, throwing strikes early in the count and staying ahead of the hitters. He struck out six and didn't issue a walk. I thought the Big Unit missed his location at least four times in the first inning but he only allowed one hit. After that, Johnson settled into a good groove. Again, no small feat against the potent Cleveland line up.
Andy Phillips made the first play of the game when he stabbed a Grady Sizemore ground ball and then raced to first, beating the speedster for the out. Phillips came up limping ever so slightly as he may have jammed his foot sliding into the bag. But that was nothing compared with the aches and pains that Phillips will be feeling after he recorded the final out of the game. Victor Martinez lofted a foul ball to the right side and Phillips gave up his body--his airness!--diving into the stands. It was a scary-looking play at first. Not as reckless as Jeter's famous dive into the stands against the Red Sox, but along those lines. Yes, it was terrific that Phillips made the catch, but he fell hard, banged his chin against a seat and tweaked his back a little something. With the Yanks playing their next two series in National League parks, they cannot afford to lose Phillips (particularly with Giambi--who returned last night and hit a double--still banged up).
It was one of those nights where even the potentially damaging plays worked out for New York. It also reflects just how poorly things are going for the Tribe right now. Today gives Mikey Moose in an afternoon matinee. Joe Torre said that Posada will not be playing today. It is muggy in New York and we are supposed to see showers. But even if the game is delayed some, I think they should get it in.