Leading off the game for the Yankees, Billy Crystal fouled off Paul Maholm's second pitch, grounding it just outside of first base up the left field line. Maholm then fell behind 3-1 to Crystal on some borderline pitches up and away. That's when the Pirates starter got serious and came in down and hard on the lower inside corner with a pair of fastballs that Crystal swung through and struck out. It was over in an instant, and I'm sure for Crystal it happened even faster than that.
I have to say, I softened up a bit actually seeing Crystal at the plate. As much as the at-bat was another privilege for the privileged, looking at the 5-foot-7 Long Island native up there at the plate, I saw the kid, not the millionaire movie star. Sometimes it really is nice to see a dream come true, even if it happens to someone whose already realized all of his other dreams. Hell, I've lived a good life thus far. I have no complaints. Why begrudge anyone else a moment of pure happiness like that.
As for the game (or, rather, the rest of it) . . .
R - Billy Crystal (DH)
R - Derek Jeter (SS)
L - Bobby Abreu (RF)
R - Alex Rodriguez (3B)
L - Hideki Matsui (LF)
L - Robinson Cano (2B)
R - Shelley Duncan (1B)
R - Jose Molina (C)
S - Melky Cabrera (CF)
Pitchers: Mike Mussina, Mariano Rivera, Jeff Karstens, Billy Traber, Brian Bruney, Jose Veras
Subs: Morgan Ensberg (1B), Alberto Gonzalez (2B), Cody Ransom (SS), Nick Green (3B), Chad Moeller (C), Greg Porter (PH/RF), Brett Gardner (CF), Justin Christian (PR/LF), Johnny Damon (DH)
Big Hits: Seventh-inning homers by Cody Ransom (1 for 2, solo shot) and Robinson Cano (1 for 3, two-run shot) off Byung-Hyung Kim (who wound up vulturing the win). Doubles by Hideki Matsui (1 for 2), Brett Gardner (1 for 1), and Justin Christian (2 for 2).
Who Pitched Well: Mike Mussina was perfect for five innings, striking out two, throwing 64 pitches, and again benefiting from a strong curve. Jose Veras pitched a perfect ninth, striking out one. Brian Bruney retired the only man he faced to end an ugly eighth inning. Mariano Rivera allowed his first two runners of the game on a pair of singles, but managed a scoreless sixth inning anyway.
Who Didn't: Jeff Karstens got lit up for five runs on seven hits and two walks in just 1 1/3 innings. Billy Traber didn't help matters. Following Karstens in the eighth inning, Traber was brought in to face lefty Doug Mientkiewicz and gave up a single, then after a fly out, gave up a two-run single to righty Jorge Velandia and was pulled from the game. Combined with Heath Phillips' struggles on Tuesday, those three performances complicate the bullpen battles considerably.
Nice Plays: Brett Gardner nailed a runner at home. Shelley Duncan made a nice play in the third, ranging behind first for a hard hopper and flipping to Mussina for the outh, and another in the sixth. With men on second and third and one out, Duncan fielded a grounder, looked the runner at third back to the bag, and forced the batter for the second out. Then the runner at third broke for home and Duncan fired to Chad Moeller, who chased him back and tagged him out to end the inning.
Ouchies: Andy Pettitte (elbow) played catch before yesterday's game without any discomfort and should make his scheduled start on Monday. Johnny Damon (toe) took three at-bats as the DH. Hideki Matsui (knee) played the field for the first time. Stump Merrill (face) is back in camp minus a tooth, but in good spirits.
More: The Yankees play a pair of split-squad games on Saturday when tandem starters Ian Kennedy and Joba Chamberlain are due to pitch, but rather than have Kennedy face the rival Rays, they'll have him pitch in a minor league game, with Joba pitching against Detroit on the road and Kei Igawa getting the start for the game that will actually be on TV back in Tampa. On Tuesday, the Yankees will play an exhibition at (and against) Virginia Tech. That will also be on TV, but scheduled starter Mike Mussina will pitch in a minor league game back in Florida while Jeff Karstens is left to deal with the "unfamiliar college mound." Set your DVRs, folks. At least we'll get to see Pettitte vs. Boston on Monday.
Shameless Self-Promotion: For those of you in north Jersey, I'll be joining Steven Goldman and Derek Jacques at the Borders at (or rather, outside of) the Rockaway Mall at 2pm on Saturday to discuss Baseball Prospectus 2008, as well as field your questions on the Yankees, Mets, your upcoming fantasy draft, or whatever else is on your mind these days. Come out and say hi if you're in the area.