The Yankees had their movie moment on Saturday when Brad Halsey, a fresh-faced kid straight outta central casting, won his big league debut against the Dodgers (Halsey actually looks like the kid in the movie that gets to act out every boy's fantasy by actually pitching for a big league team, only in the movies they usually pitch against the Yankees). On Sunday night, the Dodgers capped the weekend on a dramatic note as Eric Gagne faced the heart of the Yankees order with the game on the line. Gagne, who recorded his 81rst consecutive save, entered the game with two outs and a runner on in the eighth inning to square off against Alex Rodriguez. Gagne struck Rodriguez out swinging with a blazing fastball. Later, the Yankee third baseman told reporters:
"I got one pitch to hit, the last one," Rodriguez said, meaning the fastball he missed. "He put a little bit extra on it. It's fun to face a guy like that, it's a fun situation, the fans were into it. He had good stuff. We felt we had a pretty good chance against him. (N.Y. Daily News)
Jason Giambi, who had three hits on the night, led off the ninth and lifted a 1-2 breaking ball over the right-center field fence drawing the Yankees closer, 5-4. Next, Gary Sheffield smacked a rocket directly at the Dodgers' third baseman Adrian Beltre, who easily recorded the out. Jorge Posada flew out to left on the first pitch he saw from Gagne and then Hideki Matsui worked the count full only to be called out looking to end the game. Never mind that the pitch was clearly outside; the Yankees have seen plenty of generous game-ending calls behind their stud closer too. (Mike Francesa, eat your heart out.) The Dodgers set an attendance record for a three-game series, drawing 165,240 fans. Business as usual for the Yankees on the road.
This was the kind of finish that everyone had hoped for; only Yankee fans could be disapointed with the results. In all, this was the best game of the weekend series. The Yankees hit the ball hard several times (Kenny Lofton) but didn't have much to show for it. Jose Contreras pitched well, despite giving up four runs in the second inning. (My man Shawn Green homered--his first hit of the series--and Dave Roberts had a two-out, two RBI bloop single to center.) Contreras didn't allow a walk, and pitched with confidence after the second.
Jose Lima was effective as well. He gave up back-to-back solo homers to Matsui and Miguel Cairo. In the seventh, Matsui struck again, and knocked a two-out, RBI triple off the center field wall. The Yanks trailed 4-3. But in the bottom of the inning, again with two out, Dave Roberts sliced a single to left. Matsui charged the ball, hoping to nail the speedster at second, but it slipped past him, and rolled all the way to wall. The race was on, and it wasn't even close. This must have been the most exciting play of the evening for Dodger fans as Roberts raced around the bases and scored easily. It turned out to be the crucial play of the game.
Dodger Stadium looked great yesterday. My only complaint was the bush "Yank-ees sucks" chants which didn't stop all weekend. (Believe that, a Yankee fan offended by rude and crude fan behavior.) Maybe Dodger fans were still smarting from how the Lakers went out in the N.B.A. finals. Regardless, they were incorrigible.
I am fascinated by late-afternoon starts because I love to watch how the evening sun casts shadows on the field. The sun sets behind third base in L.A., so the right-side of the fielders' faces were in the light and their shadows--which got longer and thinner as the game progessed--were cast toward right field. The right-handed hitters were back-lit for the first three innings. Above all, the stadium was replete with blue (Rob Neyer's worst dream come true). The colors were crisp and bold in the warm evening light, painting a vivid picture for those of us watching at home. It must have been a terrific game to attend. At the very least, you would have been spared having to listen to Tommy Lasorda and Reggie Jackson rehash the past on ESPN.
I wasn't too discouraged when it was over. First of all, the Red Sox lost earlier in the day to the Giants (Fronzie strikes again!): one-hit by Jason Schmidt. That took a lot of the pressure off the game for me. Plus, even though the Yanks came up short, you've got to like their chances in a close game like that. I'm almost certain that no self-respecting Dodger fan thought the Yankees were going to go away quietly. And nobody would have been suprised if the Yankees came back to swipe the win, no disrespect to Gagne the Great.
I'm also relatively certain that the Yankees were steamed that they didn't win the game too. That's fine by me. They had a chance to go 4-2 on this west coast swing, but had to settle for 3-3 instead. Hopefully, the plane ride back east was uncomfortable; the pitching in Baltimore come tomorrow should be a sight for sore eyes indeed. (Hey, at least they don't have to face the big, bad D-Rays, right?)
For more on the game, be sure and slip around the dial here at all-baseball.com where everyone has their own take on what went down.