"Bernie always starts off slow," Jeter said. "I don't really think it's anything new. But he's the type of hitter where if he gets hot, he can hit .450 for a month and people forget about what he did." (New York Times)
Jon Lieber retired the first eleven Angels he faced yesterday before Jeff Devanon singled to right. (The Yanks already had a 3-0 lead, thanks in part to two RBI singles to left field by Jason Giambi.) Lieber's next pitch was smacked to center by Vlad Guerrero and then Jose Guillen tagged an off-speed pitch that was high and over the plate over the right field fence to tie the game. (Jeez, when you are hot, you're hot.) The rookie Casey Kotchman followed and nearly came out of his spikes he swung so hard at one offering. I thought Lieber might put one in his ear; instead, the threw a strike and Kotchman ripped a single passed Miguel Cairo into center field.
Then Lieber retired the next eleven batters before allowing a one-out double to Adam Kennedy in the eighth. Lieber finished the frame and left with a 6-3 lead. (The Yanks added a run in the bottom of the inning.) In the ninth, Tom Gordon walked the lead off hitter, recorded an out (Vladi), then allowed a single--to Guillen--who else?--before he was replaced by Mariano Rivera. Casey Kotchman singled in a run, then Jose Molina whiffed. Molina's brother, Benji, walked to load the bases, but Rivera came back to K Shane Halter to give the Yanks the win.
Lieber was the story of the day, and so was Bernie Williams who had three hits, including a double and a home run. Funny what happens when your manager scolds you, especially in public. Torre and hitting coach, Don Mattingly, still have faith in Williams. Joel Sherman reports:
Torre is asked about the conventional wisdom, that there is nothing more difficult than to coach a star player beyond his prime.
"Except what makes that tough is that normally the player thinks he's better than the manager thinks," Torre said, delving into the fuzziness of Bernie World. "This is the other way around. This is unique in that regard."
...Sentimentality is not permitted, and Mattingly and Torre claim they are seeing Williams with objective eyes.
"I like Bernie, period. Still, you have to separate that," Mattingly said. "I know hitting. Joe knows hitting. You can see it [that Williams can still hit]. It's there. We've told him, 'You can still play, and we're not lying.' "
Mattingly talked then about watching Williams grow up in baseball, the way Yankee fans have, talked about how Yankee fans who have been around - not the ones who decided they were madly in love with the Yankees in October of 1996 - root as hard for Bernie Williams as they do for anybody in the place.
"Bernie is theirs," Mattingly said. "He did grow up in front of these people, from the bad time into the great times. You can hear it when he does something. They want him to keep going."
It was a good win for the Yankees, particularly after they were embarrassed on Wednesday night. Jorge Posada appears to be fine--he'll miss another couple of games--and harbors no ill-will toward Alfredo Amezaga or the Angels. The same cannot be said for the thin-skinned Jose Guillen, who had some cherce words for Paul Quantrill:
"Trust me, I'm not afraid of anyone," said Guillen, who hit a three-run homer off Jon Lieber in the fourth yesterday. "You tell him that.
"I don't give a [bleep] if he has 20 years in the [bleeping] big leagues. He can shove it up his [bleep]."
Quantrill dismissively said, "I don't need a war of words with this guy. What's his first name?
"The fact is, if he wants to stare and rant because someone pitches him in, he needs to grow up and learn the game . . . I guess I didn't get the memo that you are not allowed to pitch Guillen in."
Jack Curry correctly notes that a good little rivalry is brewing between the Angels and Yanks:
The Angels do not fear the Yankees and privately relished the idea that they helped create a tenser atmosphere at Yankee Stadium with their bruising victory Wednesday. The intensity is not within light-years of the intensity surrounding Yankees-Red Sox, but it is intensifying.
...What should concern the Yankees about this series is how comfortable the Angels were against Rivera. The Angels had four hits, including Bengie Molina's two-run homer, and a walk in nine plate appearances. Rivera struck out three, but he looked mortal against a patient lineup, blowing one save and struggling to earn another.
Not to mention the fact that the Angels were playing without G. Anderson and Tim Salmon (Troy Glaus sat out yesterday too). The Angels, like the Red Sox, are a worthy rival; a well-rounded team with plenty of appealing personalities, as well as some guys who are oh so easy to root against. Oh yeah, they are good too. It should be interesting to see how things pan out next week in California.
Ruben Sierra had two hits, including a solo dinger, and Derek Jeter continues to look like his old self. He doubled down the third base line to lead off the game, and was robbed of another double by a Amezaga in his next at bat. Hideki Matsui homered and doubled halting a mini-slump, which made two of his biggest fans happy. The YES cameras were in love with an amusing Japanese couple that has been at each of the Angel games. The man, who looked to be in his 30s, wore glasses and a Godzilla hood over his head, as well as a pinstriped Matsui jersey. Dude had a Godzilla hand-puppet on his left hand and a held a Godzilla doll in his right hand. (His girl had wore a Matsui jersey too, and also rocked the hood and hand puppet as well.) Before each pitch he tapped the two dolls together, and for two games, he had nothing to show for it. But yesterday, he was as happy as you can imagine.
Alex Rodriguez continues to look impressive in the field, making a nice charging play on a bunt by Amezega in the third. The funniest moment in the game came in the eighth when Tony Clark scored from first on Matsui's double to left. Clark started his head-first slide about half way between third and home. It was a ridiculously long slide and when Clark picked himself up, he raised his eyebrow---looking a lot like a young John Cryer--and offered a goofy smile to his teammates, who were already having a good laugh.
The Yanks moved into first by a half-game as the surging Blue Jays pounded Curt Schilling and the Red Sox in Toronto last night.