The Yankees had a chance to get to Senator Al Leiter in the first inning at Yankee Stadium yesterday and failed. With one out and the bases loaded, Leiter fell behind Jason Giambi 2-0, but came back to get the slugger looking on a full-count pitch. It felt like a big moment at the time, and it turned out to be one in the long-run. Jorge Posada followed and tapped out weakly to the mound. It was the begining of a long, listless day for the Bombers.
The Yankees provided rookie pitcher Brad Halsey with four first inning runs last week in Los Angeles. But they didn't give him a lead against the Mets, and the young control-specialist simply could not throw strikes. He walked five in all, and his three walks in the fourth inning helped sink the Yankees. So did a poor play by first baseman Jason Giambi. With runners on first and third, the Yankees looked to have Jose Reyes picked off of first base. But Giambi, whose greatest weakness is his throwing arm, faked to second and ate the ball. Perhaps he was afraid that he would throw the ball into left field. The infield came in and Kaz Matsui poked one into right scoring two more runs.
Although Gary Sheffield hit a game-tying homer early, the Yankees were blown out at home. Frankly, they played a terrible game and deserved to lose. Al Leiter and Brad Halsey were a study in contrasts. Leiter was effectively wild, a veteran who was utterly at ease going to a full count before he made his pitch; Halsey nervously danced around the strike zone, afraid to challenge hitters. Though Halsey appeared as calm as he did last week--Joe Torre's "paper boy" looks as if he could be Buck Showalter's son--but he didn't pitch with confidence. Leiter, with his full array of tics and quirks, vexed the Yankees, dictating the pace of the game. His fastball had some zip and his breaking ball was good too. But even more, he used his guile to throw the Yankee hitters off balance. In the second, with the count 2-2 to Ruben Sierra, Leiter began his motion, only to break it off mid-way through. "Let's do this over." An innocent enough mistake, or was it? After the count went full, Sierra struck out on a breaking ball and he glared at Senator Al as he made his way back to the dugout. Leiter was all-school yard for sure.
In all, it was an ugly day for the Yankees, and a bright one for the Mets. The Shea faithful made plenty of noise at the Stadium and had themselves a B-A-double L. For the Bombers, they can't forget this game soon enough. Especially with a grumpy Boss George in the house. Fortunately, the Red Sox were pounded by the Phillies too, so New York's lead remains at five. (Boston gained a half a game on Friday night when the Yankee game was rained out.)
It's a beautiful sunny Sunday in New York and they'll play two today. At one o'clock Jose Contreras will go against Traschel. This could be a decent game or it could be plodding, and drawn-out affair. Neither pitcher is known for being economical or brisk. (The Mets ran on Halsey and Sturtze yesterday; best believe they are licking their chops at the thought of getting on base vs. Contreras.) Then tonight, Matt Ginter will face Mike Mussina in the Sunday Night Game of the Week.
Hopefully, the Yanks put forth a more compelling effort today, or we're really going to hear it from George.