The Yankees kicked away game one of the playoffs yesterday afternoon at the Stadium. The Twins scored all three runs off of sloppy defensive plays, and their bullpen shut down the Yankee bats; the Bombers were 1-10 with runners in scoring position.
Bernie Williams played a single into a triple, and tripped over first base, reducing a sure double into a single. Jack Curry lectured Bernie in the Times this morning:
Outfielders are taught to surround the ball from the time they begin playing Little League. It is a basic task. If an outfielder cannot corral a liner or a fly ball, he must at least get himself into position to retrieve the ball as soon as possible. Again, basic stuff. Letting a ball rattle in the outfield gaps like a pinball can be as dangerous as losing the opener of a three-of-five-game series at home.
But this should not come as a great shock to Yankee fans. Dig what Will Carroll of Baseball Prospectus wrote in his playoff injury report yesterday:
Bernie has knee and shoulder problems that have not significantly impacted his ability, but if he comes up a step short of a sinking liner or a ball into the gap, just nod your head knowingly.
Alfonso Soriano was no better, and he doesn't have any excuses. Jason Giambi was clearly pressing, swinging at several pitches out of the strike zone. Combined, Giambi, Nick Johnson and Jorge Posada were 0-12. Derek Jeter was his usual self, collecting two hits and a walk. But it wasn't enough.
The Twins deserve some credit too. Johan Santana was good before he had to leave with a tight hamstring; LaTroy Hawkins was nasty, and they survived a rough 9th inning from their closer too. Shannon Stewart made the catch of the game, robbing Godzilla of a double, but probably saving the Yankees from a lot of embarassement.
Directly behind Stewart, in the first row of the left field seats, was a shmuck fan, leaning onto the field with his glove, ready to catch a ball that was in play---the photo is splashed all over the papers today. If Stewart doesn't come up with the ball, this dumb ass probably does. But he wasn't sly like J. Maier. It wasn't a night game, it was the middle of the afternoon. No way he would have gotten away with it. Can you imagine what the reaction would have been if this putz cost the Yankees an out?
I followed the game at work, periodically checking into a conference room to sneak a peak. It was a tense, exhausting way to follow a disappointing performance. The worst part was hearing all the Mets fans heckle and gloat, which brought my emotional maturity back to its sixth grade heights.
Game Two is now a must-win for the Yankees. Maybe it's good that they got a swift kick in the ass. I think Pettitte will pitch a good game and then the Yanks can go to Minnie in a better frame of mind.