Baseball Toaster Bronx Banter
Fire and Ice
2005-10-09 20:30
by Alex Belth
Note: The Bronx Banter blog has moved to

In a taut game that was in almost every way the polar opposite of Game Three, the Yankees beat the Angels 3-2 to force a Game Five tomorrow night in Anahiem. John Lackey and Shawn Chacon were both outstanding, the Yankees scratched out just enough runs against the Angels bullpen and Mariano Rivera pitched two scoreless innings to prolonge the season for the Bombers.

Chacon and Lackey have different approaches but both were stunningly efficient through the first five innings. Chacon finessed the Angels, getting them to chase balls out of the strike zone, and keeping them off balance. Lackey was far more aggresive throwing strikes. His curve ball had a tight spin and it looked great, particularly as it was mixed with a fastball that was clocked in the low nineties. Lackey froze Matsui with a breaking pitch to start the second, buckling the slugger's knees but good, and caught Rodriguez looking with a 2-2 curve--that was flat-out nasty--to end the third. Chacon wasn't throwing as hard and yet, according to the Fox broadcast, after five full innings, each pitcher had thrown exactly 68 pitches (and their splits 42 strikes and 46 were the same too). Each had allowed just a single hit.

The Angels had the best chance to score in the fourth inning but ran themselves into trouble. Chone Figgins led off the inning and reached first when Godzilla lost his fly ball in the lights (the play was scored an error). After a standard throw to first, Figgins lengthened his lead and Chacon went back to first. This time it appeared as if the throw beat him, but Giambi's tag was tardy and Figgins was ruled safe. It was a close play for sure. The Angels' speedster took off on the very next pitch and Jorge Posada threw him out. The throw was on the third base side of second and this time it appeared as if Figgins beat the ball to the bag. But Robinson Cano made a good snap tag and got the call. Vlad Guerrero reached on an infield single (that was almost a fantastic play by Cano, ranging far to his left), and he took off for second when the first pitch to Garret Anderson momentarily got away from Posada. Jorge had to look down, pick up the ball (which had not gone far), avoid Anderson who was standing as still as a statue in the batter's box as well as the home plate ump. He was able to do all of this and make a strong throw to second which nailed Guerrero easily.

The Angels got to Chacon two innings later when Juan Rivera walked to start the sixth on four pitches. Steve Finley sacrificed him to second before Cano made a nice, back-handed pick on Adam Kennedy's ground ball near second base, and then side-armed the ball to Jason Giambi at first for the second out. The slumping Figgins was next and my stomach sunk well before he lashed Chacon's 2-1 fastball into the right field corner for an RBI double. Orlando Cabrera followed and smacked Chacon's first pitch--a flat slider that analyst Tim McCarver called the pitcher's worst offering of the night--into right center for another RBI double. Vlad Guerrero whiffed to end the inning but the damage had been done.

Derek Jeter led off the bottom of the inning and grounded the first pitch sharply but directly at Cabrera at short, who had no problem throwing him out. After Jeter returned to the dugout, he selected a new bat from the bat rack and handed it to Joe Torre, a little bit of superstition between the two that they obviously hoped would spark a rally. Lackey threw two fastballs, right over the heart of the plate, passed Alex Rodriguez, but he couldn't put him away as the Yankee third baseman walked on a 3-2 curve ball that was low and away. Rodriguez moved to second after Giambi grounded out weakly to second on the first pitch and then Gary Sheffield hacked at the first pitch he saw and lined an RBI single into left. The ball was hit so hard that the Angels actually had a decent shot at nailing Rodriguez but Garret Anderson's throw was off-line and there was no play at the plate. Scot Shields replaced Lackey and he got Godzilla Matsui to bounce out to first.

Meanwhile, Chacon retired Anderson on a pop out to first to start the top of the seventh and then hung a slider to Benji Molina, who singled up the middle. Joe Torre emerged from the Yankee dugout and you could hear the stadium groan as he made his way to the mound. With Daren Erstad due up, Al Leiter was on his way in. Chacon received a nice hand and Senator Al got Erstad to wave at two breaking balls. With the count 2-2, Erstad hit into a 6-4-3 double play, Yankee fans breathed a sigh of relief and Al Leiter may well have ended his career on a high note.

Cano started the bottom of the frame with a slow roller to short for an infield hit. The fans got loud for Bernie Williams--again, perhaps playing in his final game at Yankee Stadium--and the old fella got a decent pitch to hit but he could not get good wood on it and he popped out to center field. Williams returned to the bench and slammed his helmet down in frustration. Joe Torre said a few words to him and as Williams walked down into the tunnel, Rodriguez followed him and had a few more things to say. Jorge Posada worked a walk on a full-count pitch and then Ruben Sierra, pinch-hitting for Bubba Crosby--singled through the right side. Guerrero came up slinging and fired a bullet to home but Cano beat the throw--though he did not slide, making the play seem closer than it should have been--and the game was tied.

Posada adroitly advanced to third and with runners on the corners, Jeter worked the count even at two. (After taking the 1-2 pitch for a ball, Jeter allowed a small smirk to cross his face as he adjusted his batting gloves showing us once again that even though he's not some mythical "clutch" player, there are few men in the game who enjoy being in a pressure situation as much as he does. He may not be "captain clutch" but he's a gamer in the true sense of the word.) Next, with Sierra taking off for second, Shields got a fastball in on Jeter's hands and the shortstop hit a ground ball to third. Posada broke for the plate. Figgens fielded the ball cleanly and then made a poor throw to the plate. Molina had to move to his right, field the ball on a hop and then stretch back across his body to tag Posada. His glove touched Posada's right leg a fraction of a second after the Yankee catcher's foot had safely touched the plate. Not only that, but the ball was in Molina's right hand and not his glove. That said, Posada's slide was clumsy at best. Remember on "The Honeymooners" when Ralph would be asleep, blindly walk out of the apartment and then you'd hear the drummer make an awful racket simulating Kramden falling down the stairs? That's the sound that should have accompanied Posada's graceless slide.

Kelvim Escobar entered the game and walked Rodriguez on five pitches, all of which were out of the zone. The bases were juiced, but Escobar got Jason Giambi on strikes (three pitches, two nasty splitters) and Sheffield to fly out to center to end the threat.

Not wanting to leave anything to chance, Torre brought Mariano Rivera in to pitch. Considering how suspect Flash Gordon has been in the playoffs, he didn't have much choice. Bernie Williams went to center from DH (now, it became clear that Torre had told Bernie that he was going to play the field during the previous half inning) and Tino Martinez replaced Giambi at first. That meant the Yankees were losing their DH for the night. Martinez would bat ninth, while the pitcher moved into the three-hole vacated by Giambi. Juan Rivera bounced out to Cano, Rivera caught Finley looking at a 3-2 two-seamer and Rodriguez made a slick, back-handed stop of Adam Kennedy's sharp ground ball to end the inning.

The Yanks failed to score in the ninth. After a one-out walk to Cano, Bernie actually got around on a fastball from Escobar but it was hit directly at Finley for the second out. Clearly frustrated Williams slouched back to the dugout. The entire stadium chanted out his name. I thought of Cliff and his lady Becky who were at the game. Bernie is Beck's favorite player and I was sure that she was on her feet giving him lots of love. Posada actually stepped out of the batter's box as Williams emerged from the bench and tipped his hat to the crowd. Posada walked but Tino popped out weakly to short as the Yankees were unable to provide any insurance for Rivera.

He wouldn't need any. He caught Figgins looking on a 2-2 two-seamer and got Cabrera to tap back to the mound. Finally, Vlad grounded out to Cano and the Yankees had won the game. It was a brisk and relatively well-played game. The only reason I'm qualifying that is that two poor defensive plays, both on throws to home (Anderson, Figgins) cost the Angels dearly. Both starting pitchers were excellent and the Yankees showed some fight. If their season has to end in the first round at least they didn't go out in New York, in front of the home crowd. They've given us one more day to look foward to, one more game to enjoy in what has been a long, strange season. And I ask you: What more could we have asked for?

2005-10-09 21:40:36
1.   jkay
Just got back from the Stadium. As you know, it was rocking tonight. A dose of small ball and Posada base running gets the job done. Torre hits the Leiter-Sierra daily double. Holy crap!
2005-10-09 22:31:06
2.   e double trouble
nice sumuppins Al B
what a strange season indeed
hey could you tell us more about this special bat exchange between Jeter and Torre
what superstitions go on in that dugout that we don't know about Al?
enquiring minds want to know


e double

2005-10-09 22:51:30
3.   jdasilva
Poor Bernie. I just wish his hitting would return, even for one game. I feel like I'm watching Mattingly in 1995 -- the talent is there but can't get out except on rare occasions. Speaking of turning back time, nice to see Ruben can still hit a fat fastball.

For all the wonderings about Jeter's clutch abilities (and the final-out making was getting ridiculous), he actually hit .304 with RISP after the break.
P.S. He looks like a good candidate for another Gold Glove, too.

2005-10-09 23:10:23
4.   Cliff Corcoran
We both were, Alex, we both were.

Fantastic game, and kudos to Torre for doing everything right. Sitting in the left field wing of the upper deck in fair territory, Becky and I had an eagle's-eye view of the Yankee pen, and in addition to the action on the field, our anxiety was raised by seeing Leiter and Gordon warming in the sixth. Beck and I got to the park more than two hours before game time so that we could go to Monument Park (I'd only been once, more than a decade ago and she'd never been, largely because you can't get there from the bleachers). Through the windows in the LF wall, we saw Neil Allen working with Tom Gordon in the outfield on his delivery, then got an up-close look at Gordon working out in the pen. Gordon was followed by Jaret Wright, who seemed to be throwing easily and with good velocity.

At any rate, I had my concerns about Gordon going into the game, but knowing that Allen and Stottlemyre thought he needed an extra pen session to work on his mechanics raised my concerns even higher. Thankfully, Torre avoided him entirely, though that was partially luck.

Joe used Letier appropriately. Sen. Al's been aces against the first lefty he faces out of the pen, so I had no qualms with Torre using him to pitch to Erstad, my only question was, if he gets Erstad for the second out, who pitches to Rivera? Erstad helped Joe out there by hitting into a DP. Listening to the radio on the way home, we caught Torre's post-game press conference. Joe said he was playing match-ups in that inning, implying that Gordon would have come in to face Rivera. Considering the fact that the Yankees won this game by a single run (by a single inch, actually, considering the winning run was Posada's), I'm not sure that they would have survived Gordon vs. Juan Rivera, especially as Tommy's been hit hard in the postseason and Juan is hitting the Yankees hard in this series.

To his credit, we also heard Torre say that Mo was coming in to pitch the eighth regarless of the score, which is as it should have been. He also had Wang warming up in the ninth just in case the Angles tied it.

Kudos to Joe also for starting Bubba in CF, and to his excellent use of his bench for Sierra's pinch-hit (Sierra's had one huge pinch hit in each of the last three postseasons now--personally, I didn't think he had another in him and was killing Torre from my seat about using Sierra, but Ruben came through), Womack's pinch-running (though Mowack did't score), and his guts in using the double switch to give up the DH and put Bernie in CF once Bubba was out.

Also, the crowd was more than grumbling when Torre came out to get Chacon, they were booing loudly and many fans around me were screaming "nooo!!," but Torre made the right move. Better to soon than too late. He only needed two outs from his pen against the bottom of the Angel order having already decided to use Mo for the eighth and ninth.

I would not have pulled Chacon there, and I would not have pinch-hit with Sierra, nor would I have given up the DH to put Bernie in center, but each of those moves was the right one to make. I've been hard on Torre a lot this year, I still believe for good reason, but he's really done a great job in this series. Here's hoping he's as sharp tomorrow night and that the Yankees will be disembarking in Chicago in the wee hours of Tuesday morning.

2005-10-10 04:24:47
5.   randym77
I'm hoping Bernie still has a few good hits left. He had that terrific game at the end of August, when he hit a single and two homers (one an upper decker, one almost an upper decker). It wasn't that long ago.
2005-10-10 04:25:45
6.   Murray
I understand why Torre used him in that situation, but I thought that Torre might have waited with Rivera. After all, why pitch him against the three worst hitters in the Angels' lineup? The answer, I concluded, is that with a 1-run lead, he wouldn't take the chance that the Angels would mount a rally. Torre, to his credit, has demonstrated during his time in the Bronx that he understands the concept of the "must-win" game. That concern overrode everything else.

Rivera truly is amazing.

2005-10-10 05:45:05
7.   Simone
What a win! I was on the edge of my seat for the whole game. Chacon was wonderful. He is a keeper. However, Jorge was the star last night. Every move Joe made worked from bringing Leiter to Ruben pinch hitting. I suspect that this is how Joe always saw it playing out when he keep matching Leiter with left-handed hitters. Mariano was brillant as usual.

The Yankees gave themselves a chance to win these series. This is all I could have asked for no matter what happens tonight. I don't know how Mussina is going to pitch given his inconsistency this season, but I hope he keeps them in the game.

2005-10-10 05:46:18
8.   murphy
it's so rare that i can brag to my NL friends about a game like last night's. ;)

seriously: i was literally foaming at the mouth when i saw ruben coming up to bat. that was understandable. the things i could NOT understand was hearing my own voice shouting "PUT WOMACK IN!!! don't let ruben run, PUT WOMACK IN to run and then let HIM play the field!!" sheez... it was the right move but i never thought i would hear it come out of my own two lips. so did torre actually make a few TACTICAL choices that panned out last night? i do believe so.

also... Rivera blew my mind last night. i wanted him to walk Vladdy, but even one of my yankee hating friends said "Are you nuts? thats f*ckin rivera?!"

2005-10-10 06:06:13
9.   rbj
Man, another 8 o'clock (really 8:30) start tonight.
No rest until November!
2005-10-10 06:21:11
10.   jedi
Hey anyone notice Scott Shields maybe the bizarro to William Fichtner from Armageddon, The Perfect Storm and Black Hawk Down?

"Get off...the nuclear...warhead"

2005-10-10 06:46:08
11.   Alex Belth
I know that Jeter used to rub Zimmer's bald head before each game. These days I think he chooses a bat for Joe to hold during the game. Joe usually has it in front of him, holding the handle, during the game, unlike Sweet Lou, who'll not only hold a bat, but swing it on the bench.

Good call on Shields. Been waiting to get a good call on that guy. Man, he's a ornery looking guy. Looks as if he could have easily played in an earlier era.

2005-10-10 07:14:39
12.   Patrick
The Torre/Sierra combo always gets criticism, but he's done this type of thing before. I've always liked him - he generally deserves a bit more respect from people, though.

"... even though he's not some mythical "clutch" player..."

But, he is. He is. :)

Just a great game all around. Very good defense (A-Rod, Cano), except for the Matsui play. Big night for Posada. Leiter deserves a lot of credit for that DP ball. Huge, huge hit from Sierra. Mo was simply on. That Jeter hit was good as well. I mean, it was a slow roller, but thats what you got to do. He sees Sierra braking, hard to turn a DP then... put it in play, put pressure on the defense - that's what you have to do. That's what they did to us earlier in the series. Enjoyable game.

2005-10-10 07:35:49
13.   unpopster
watching Cano play these last four games makes me think that we are all witnessing the beginning of a very, very special player.

Sure, he makes the typical rookie/head case mistakes in the field, but this kid is reminding me of Jeter circa '96. Wow, does Robbie have some confidence or what?

He made two fantastic defensive plays last night (1. ranging far to his left to snag Vladdy's ground ball and then 2. that superb glide to his right to grab the hard hit grounder and sling the ball to Giambi). I also think that his non-slide into home sold that call. Had he slid, he would have done so right into Molina's outstretched glove.

2005-10-10 08:53:46
14.   cinthree
Cliff, pulling Chacon there was the right move he was done, he started leaving stuff up in the zone, and was missing BADLY on every pitch that inning and some at the end of the previous inning as well. If he was left in, he would have gotten pounded. Torre was correct in pulling him when he did, and at the time thought it might have been a batter too late.
2005-10-10 09:02:51
15.   Jen
I am so freakin' tired today, but it's a good tired.

Cliff, how long did it take you to get out of the Stadium last night? I didn't get home until around 12 or so, and we were in the bleachers. I imagine the folks in the upper deck had a longer wait just to get out of the Stadium. Very few people left early.

2005-10-10 09:09:44
16.   Murray
It took me only about 10 minutes to get out from the field level, and another 15 to get home--the joys of living in Yorkville!
2005-10-10 10:48:07
17.   randym77
It's been so long since Jeter was a rookie. I may not be remembering accurately, but I seem to recall he had a mental toughness and maturity that Cano seems to lack. Cano, like a lot of rookies, tries to get by on talent alone. Which sometimes results in goofball errors.

Still, he does have a lot of talent, and so far seems more willing to learn and adjust than, say, Soriano was. I don't know if Cano will be another Jeter, but I'll be watching him.

2005-10-10 12:04:34
18.   fansince77
I agree with the poise of Cano and the comparison to Jeter (not the intangibles but the talent)...seems like skies the limit. I think if the Yanks are gonna pull this one off tonight it's time for some leadership. Torre can't win two in a row with his moves. It's time for AROD to do something to earn his MVP- and start swinging at pitches to hit. I think he will break out tonight.
2005-10-10 15:09:48
19.   strangeluck
I'm not entirely convinced that Cano not sliding was a bad call. Sliding does help you avoid the tag, but running through gets you to the base faster. If Cano, as he rounded third, saw that Molina was off the plate in order to catch an offline throw, then he may have figured that he had a better chance to beat Molina to the plate by running through than he had to avoid the tag by sliding.

I realize that I could be giving him too much credit, and it was a simple lapse in judgement, but its at least something worth considering.

2005-10-10 15:52:40
20.   randym77
It wasn't really not sliding that bugged me on that play. He just didn't seem to be running as hard as he might have. I suspect it was your typical rookie error. He didn't realize that it was Vlad out there in right. You know, MVP? Arm like a cannon? Like the mistake with the DP on Molina in that earlier game. He didn't realize Molina was that slow.

That's what I mean when I say he's trying to get by on talent alone. Rookies tend to do that, but the smart ones soon learn better. You have to play tough mentally as well as physically. I'm reminded of an article I recently read about James Harrison, the Pittsburgh LB. He thought talent alone was enough, and didn't understand why he kept being cut. Finally he realized that he had to study, too - game films, scouting reports, etc. That's when he made it into the pros.

2005-10-10 16:15:16
21.   fansince77
This is the difference between Cano and Jeter- Cano was struttin' home - no doubt-in fact when I saw how long the ball took to get to Vladi - I thought there would be no play at the plate. Jeter would have been busting it from the crack of the bat. Cano didn't slide because he didn't know the play would even be close.
2005-10-10 16:21:12
22.   strangeluck
I haven't been able to watch any replays, so I'm not sure if he was running hard or not, and obviously if he wasn't then its pretty big lapse. That said, as far as Cano's general mentality is concerned, I think the fact that after the league figured him out and shut him down in August, he was able to make adjustments and have that torrid September says a lot about his ability and willingness to learn.

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