There were about 53,000 people at the Stadium today, and as far as I can tell they are the only 53,000 left in New York this weekend. Last night I went to a Smith Street bar with a few friends that’s normally packed to the gills on a Saturday night, and we had it pretty much to ourselves; there were no cabs around either, so we walked home over the pungent Gowanus Canal and didn't encounter a soul. And there are parking spaces! Not that I have a car, but I appreciate it in a sort of abstract way. It’s like spotting a flock of rare exotic birds. I've read about these things in books, and I've been trying to walk very slowly and quietly down my street so as not to frighten them away.
Anyway, today's mess was not the best game to catch live, although the weather was perfect -- still, if I’m going to see the Yankees lose 8-2 to Tampa Bay, I don’t see why it should take them nearly four hours. It actually began as a fairly brisk pitchers’ duel between Andy Pettitte and Devil Rays starter Jason Hammel, but in the sixth inning it devolved into an excruciatingly slow morass and never recovered. I'm not going to lie: I stayed til the bitter end, but I did spend much of the last two innings helping a friend with the Sunday crossword puzzle. Nice day for it.
Anyway. Pettitte had worked well through the first five innings, aside from a solo shot to Dioner Navarro (whose sizzling second half has brought his average all the way up to… .208), and with an assist from Johnny Damon, who made a great throw in the fifth to nail a Tampa Bay runner at the plate. (Yeah, you heard me, a great throw. Johnny Damon. Believe it). But in the sixth Pettitte got into trouble, allowing a walk to Carl Crawford, a throwing error on a pickoff attempt and a stolen base, another walk to Carlos Pena, a sac fly by B.J. Upton, and two more singles. It was a minor miracle and an impressive accomplishment to get out of that mess with only one run scored.
Pettitte had thrown 101 pitches by then and so I was surprised, along with a number of quite vocal fans in my section (“Grady Little, Joe! Remember Grady Little!”), when he came out to start the seventh inning. It didn’t go so well: two singles, a strikeout, and on his 119th pitch a three-run home run to Pena, off a hanging curve (or a hanging something anyway), made it 5-1 Devil Rays. Torre admitted afterwards that he “may have pushed the envelope” in having Pettitte go out for the extra inning; Pettitte, as is his wont, blamed himself entirely.
Anyway, Edwar Ramirez came in and looked good while closing out the seventh, and while getting two strikeouts on his changeup in the eighth, but then suddenly awful as he quickly gave up two more home runs, which put the score at 8-2 and blew the game open for the Rays. In Ramirez’s defense, I will say that he came out to Van Morrison, and if he actually picked that out himself I personally vow never to boo him no matter how many poorly located fastballs he tosses out there.
It’s hard to tell from Row T of the left-field upper deck, but it looked like Hammel was pitching a pretty good game. At the very least he was throwing strikes. Still, the Yanks had their baserunners, and just couldn’t capitalize; and it’s not as though Tampa’s bullpen is known for its stinginess. The Yanks’ only two runs came in the fifth, when Andy Phillips, hit in the wrist by a pitch, scored on a Melky Cabrera single, and in the seventh when Bobby Abreu tripled home Johnny Damon. More bad news: the pitch that hit Phillips looked like it hurt like hell, and though he stayed in to run the bases, he was then taken out of the game and sent to a hospital for tests.
Fortunately Seattle lost again(!) so no other real damage was done, except to Andy Pettitte’s pretty ERA. Seattle is actually making me nervous, since even though rationally I realize that their having lost nine in a row does not make them any more likely to win tomorrow... it sure feels like they’re due, doesn’t it?
One bright spot for me personally was that I finally got to see Grant Balfour, who you may recall as one of my picks for Worst Pitcher Name Ever, live and in person. You think I’m kidding, but I was actually really psyched when I saw him warming up.
Also, I still haven’t gotten to see Joba Chamberlain pitch live, but I did get to see him loosen up in the bullpen, which is frankly hilarious. He did a series of sort pelvic thrusts (vaguely Elvis-ish), then something that looked a lot like the Chicken Dance, and after that a kind of high-leg-kicking grapevine sort of move, sideways down the upper bullpen area. I see why they don’t want to have him come in during an in-progress inning, because the whole thing took him forever, but it was beautiful; next time I’m going to remember my binoculars.
Anyway, then I took the subway back to Brooklyn and had a seat the whole way, because there is seriously no one left in this town. Happy Labor Day, people… uh, people? Hello? Can anybody hear me? Echo-echo-echo-echo…