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No Mercy
2006-08-20 07:16
by Cliff Corcoran
Note: The Bronx Banter blog has moved to bronxbanterblog.com.

Friday's doubleheader was outsized in almost every way. The distance between the first pitch of game one and the final play of game two was nearly twelve hours, while the combined length of the two games was 8 hours and 41 minutes, with the nightcap setting a record as the longest nine-inning game in major league history. Combined the two teams scored 41 runs on 60 hits, 24 walks and five errors while 17 pitchers (including two appearances each from Mike Myers and Scott Proctor) threw 756 pitches.

The two games were so taxing that they prompted four roster moves, with the Red Sox designating Game 1 starting pitcher Jason Johnson for assignment in order to activate reliever Keith Foulke for Game 2, then designating for assignment Rudy Seanez--who, with his team already down 8-3, threw 43 pitches in the ninth inning of Game 1, allowing four runs on four walks, a pair of singles, and a ball lost in the sun by right fielder Eric Hinske--and calling up reliever Jermaine Van Buren for yesterday's Game 3.

The Yankees, meanwhile, designated for assignment Game 2 starter Sidney Ponson--who inflated his Yankee ERA to 10.47 by allowing seven runs, six earned, on nine hits in a mere three innings of work--and Brian Bruney--a last-minute pre-series addition to the bullpen who ate up 1 2/3 scoreless innings in Game 2, but threw 56 pitches in the process, rendering himself unavailable for Game 3 at the very least--and bringing up rookie Jeffrey Karstens, who had been considered as an alternate Game 2 starter, and wrongfully exiled lefty-hitting outfielder Aaron Guiel.

With their rosters somewhat replenished and just one game on the card, the Yanks and Sox hoped things could return to normal on Saturday afternoon. You know what they say about the best laid plans?

Things started typically enough. The Yankees loaded the bases against Red Sox starter Josh Beckett in the first inning on a Johnny Damon double and walks to Bobby Abreu and Jason Giambi, but before those walks Derek Jeter foolishly bunted Damon to third. As a result, Alex Rodriguez's double-play ball to shortstop Alex Cora allowed the Red Sox to escape the inning unscathed.

After Randy Johnson retired the Red Sox on six pitches, the Yankees compensated for their discouraging first inning in the second with a two-out Bernie Williams solo homer around the Pesky Pole and another Damon double (his second two-bagger in as many innings and fifth extra-base hit of the series), which plated Melky Cabrera, who had walked and stolen second.

A double-play ball off the bat of Mike Lowell allowed Johnson to get away with another 1-2-3 inning in the second, and the Yanks added one more in the top of the third when an eight-pitch lead-off walk to Bobby Abreu (his second and Beckett's fourth of the game) came around to score after Abreu stole second and Cano singled him home with two outs.

Johnson and Beckett then exchanged 1-2-3 innings on a combined 19 pitches and the Red Sox roared back to tie the game in the bottom of the fourth when Manny Ramirez followed identical six-pitch walks to Mark Loretta and David Ortiz by crushing a Randy Johnson cement mixer onto the roof of a parking garage across Lansdowne Street. Ramirez's shot was followed by singles by Javy Lopez, Lowell and Wily Mo Pena, which made it 4-3 Sox before Gabe Kapler ended the inning with a double play.

Then things got crazy. The Yanks took the lead back in the next half inning when Abreu doubled, Giambi walked, Rodriguez doubled Abreu home and, after Robinson Cano was intentionally walked to load the bases, Jorge Posada hit into an RBI fielder's choice to plate Giambi. The Red Sox then tied it back up in the bottom of the inning when Cora, squaring to bunt, was hit on the left ring finger, Kevin Youkilis walked on four pitches (the ninth walk in the first five innings), Loretta bunted the runners to second and third, and David Ortiz hit a sac fly to plate Cora with the tying run, after which Manny Ramirez was intentionally walked for the third time in the series so that Johnson could pitch to Javy Lopez, who cooperated by flying out on the first pitch.

Thus in three half-innings the score had gone from 3-0 Yankees to 4-3 Red Sox to 5-4 Yankees to 5-5 Red Sox. I don't imagine I need to tell you what happened next. After Melky grounded out to start the top of the sixth, Johnny Damon hit his third double of the day, Derek Jeter drew the 11th walk of the game on four pitches, Bobby Abreu moved them up via a ground out, and Josh Beckett issued his eighth and ninth walks of the game to Giambi and Alex Rodriguez, the latter yet another four-pitch pass, loading the bases and forcing in the go-ahead run. That triggered Terry Francona's hook, but Manny Delcarmen merely picked up where Beckett left off, entering the game and walking Robinson Cano, yes Robinson Cano, on four pitches to push across another Yankee run. Jorge Posada then crushed a 3-1 pitch into the triangle in dead center for a bases-clearing triple (believe it or not, it was Posada's second triple of the year--Jorge also stole his second base of the season in the fifth with two outs and a runner on third).

That made it 10-5 Yankees, and so it would remain until the top of the eighth. With the just-promoted Jermain Van Buren--who that morning had to be retrieved from North Andover, where his minor league teams' bus had dropped him upon receiving word of his promotion on the way to a game in Ottawa--on the mound, Jason Giambi doubled, Alex Rodriguez drew (say it with me) a four-pitch walk, and Robinson Cano crushed a 3-1 pitch onto the black tarp covering the batters' eye portion of the bleacher seats beyond the triangle in center field to push the score to the eventual final of 13-5.

For his part, Randy Johnson lasted seven ugly, but effective innings, surviving six walks (one intentional) by allowing just four hits, with Ramirez's homer being the only one that went for extra bases. Taking advantage of his throw day, Joe Torre used Jaret Wright to pitch the eighth and had T.J. Beam mop up in the ninth. As a result, all of the key members of the Yankee bullpen got the day off. Save for Delcarmen, who threw 12 pitches as well as 28 on Friday, the Sox also rested their key relievers, with Van Buren and Kyle Snyder finishing things.

Meanwhile, the excess continued. Saturday's game lasted three hours and forty-one minutes. The Yankees have scored 39 runs in the first three games of this series. Never before had the Red Sox allowed a minimum of 12 runs in three consecutive games. There were 19 walks in Saturday's game, 13 of them by Red Sox pitching, nine of those by Beckett, the most by a Red Sox starter since 1975. Johnny Damon is now 9 for 18 with three doubles, a triple, two homers, five runs scored and 8 RBIs for the series. He is hitting .346/.382/.712 with four home runs against his former team this season.

Most importantly, yesterday's victory gave the Yankees the series win and swelled their lead in the East to 4.5 games, while the Red Sox have also fallen four games behind the White Sox in the Wild Card race. The Yankees are now guaranteed to leave Boston with a larger lead than they had prior to Friday's double header. If the Yankees can just split the remaining two games, they'll leave Boston with a lead greater than the number of games remaining between these two teams with just 38 games left in the season.

Comments
2006-08-20 08:52:59
1.   Ron Burgundy
Here's to hoping the Shelling that got shelled at the Stadium back in May and got shelled by the Angels a couple of weeks ago shows up. And of course, that the Moose that almost pitched a perfecto back in 1999. OK, I know, it's a bit much, but if we win this game, it doesn't matter what happens tommorrow, it's ahuge success.
2006-08-20 09:07:30
2.   Chofo
Moose didn´t almost pitch a perfecto on 1999, when he was a Oriole. He did it at Fenway, wearing a Yankee uniform, when he retired 26 consecutive men. It was 2001 if I recall well.
2006-08-20 09:23:34
3.   tocho
If the math is there, they yanks would need to win 2 out of the next 6 games to get the series win and automatically "add" a game to their lead.
2006-08-20 09:24:57
4.   tocho
3 2 out of the next 6 v. the red sox
2006-08-20 09:31:37
5.   Chofo
If the Yankees win 1 of the next 6 games against the Sox, their AL Esat lead is safe, if both of them do the same against the rest of the league. One more win means AL East champs.
2006-08-20 09:54:04
6.   Travis
3 4 5 Remember, the season series tiebreaker only means something if the Yankees and Red Sox finish with the same record AND are better than any other wild card teams. If, say, the White Sox have a better record, the Yankees and Red Sox would still have to play a one-game playoff for the division.
2006-08-20 09:58:17
7.   mehmattski
How about those sub-.500 Phillies, making their playoff push by trading for..... get ready for it..... Jamie Moyer. Weeeeehooo! I can taste the playoffs already! Gillick is starting to make his bid to be the "Isaiah Thomas of Baseball." As Steve Goldman put it yesterday "Hey Philies fans, let us know when you get tired of Chase Utley and Ryan Howard... we'll find room for them too."
2006-08-20 10:35:59
8.   monkeypants
Some interesting moves by the Yankees. By DFAing Ponson and calling up another minor leaguer, they have added more flexibility to their BP (since the minor league guys can be sent down w/o clearing waivers). Does this signal an end to this year's fetish with has-beens?

More interesting was the decision to call up Guiel instead of another pitcher. This move is linked to the Andy's 'injury' and DL stint. Does this mean that Cashman et al finally figured out that the team needed one fewer IF but another OF? Also, Guiel is the lefty bat that's missing. Hey, he's no HOfer, but it looks like the roster is FINALLY taking (perhpas final) shape.

2006-08-20 10:42:39
9.   seamus
8 Unfortunately, Guiel has been slumping. Let's hope being with the big club helps him get out of that.

Btw, has anyone else noticed what Baltimore has been doing to Toronto? It does appear that their bats all got hot at once which is why we struggled agains them. Looks like a bad break on our part catching Baltimore just as they were getting things going.

2006-08-20 10:45:09
10.   seamus
looking past Boston for a second, I hope Seattle doesn't break out of their slump until after we leave town. They've lost 10 straight!
2006-08-20 10:46:37
11.   Kered Retej
I wasn't home yesterday and just caught the game on Tivo, and I have what may be a stupid rules question. Doesn't the umpire have some discretion in awarding first base on a HBP? Has anyone ever seen an ump not award a base?

It's a moot point now, but I thought the HBP of Cora in the bottom of the 5th could have been such a situation. To my eye, Johnson missed the strike zone, but not by a lot. If Cora had not been bunting (i.e., had not put his hands in the strike zone) it would have been a typical "up and in" pitch that would have been called a ball. Clearly not a strike, but not a ball way outside the zone, either. To me, if you put yourself either in the strike zone or very close to it, you shouldn't get the free base. I think this point has been made with respect to Bonds and his arm armor. Of course, maybe I'm just an idiot and completely wrong about the rules.

PS - Cliff, thanks for the shout out to my transplanted hometown newspaper, the SJ Merc.

2006-08-20 11:03:12
12.   monkeypants
11 >

Unfortunately, that's not the rule. If you HBP that is a strike (that is, in the strike zone or the batter swings), or if the umpire judges that the battr made no attempt to avoid the pitch (this almost never is called), then the batter is not awarded first.

Otherwise, he gets first no matter how close he is to the zone, so long as he is not in the zone.

2006-08-20 15:00:16
13.   Kered Retej
12 OK, I guess I'm the idiot. Thanks for the clarification.
2006-08-21 07:19:23
14.   Barron
If I remember correctly, Albert Belle (pre-debilitating hip injury) once tried to argue with an umpire that he didn't try to get out of the way of a pitch, because he wanted to hit instead of go to first. I think I've seen the umpire not give the base, but probably once in my life, and I don't remember when it happened.

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