Sometimes it's better to be lucky than good, and the Yanks were a little bit of both last night as they took the opening game from Houston, 5-3. Mike Mussina and Wade Miller looked sharp for the first four innings, but were hit hard in the fifth. (Derek Jeter and Alfonso Soriano predictably turned a few tough outs into hits.) Jeff Kent couldn't turn a double play on a sharply hit grounder off the bat of Derek Jeter in the bottom of the inning, which led three Yankee runs--an RBI single by Giambi, followed by a two-run dinger from Jorge Posada. The Astros stormed back against Mussia in the top of the sixth, rapping four consecutive hits, including a two-run homer which hit off the top of the left field fence, by Craig Biggio.
But then, Lady Luck stepped in again. According to Tyler Kepner in The Times:
As Mike Mussina finished his follow-through, he saw and heard Richard Hidalgo hammer a line drive toward third base, and he crouched while he awaited the outcome. If the smash found a hole, the Houston Astros would grab the lead. If the liner settled in someone's glove, the Yankees would still be ahead by a run and Mussina could exhale.
Robin Ventura slid a step to his left to spear Hidalgo's shot and whipped the ball to first for a double play that ended a sticky sixth inning. Mussina was still crouching after the Yankees saved him. Perhaps Mussina decided to sneak in a prayer of thanks since his knees were already close to the grass. It would have been appropriate.
The funniest play of the night for the Bombers came in the bottom of the sixth. Godzilla led off the frame with a double to right and then moved to third on Ruben Sierra's ground out to first (Joe Torre was up of the bench to congradulate Ruben Ruben for advancing the runner). Raul Mondesi then smacked a grounder sharply to the third baseman Morgan Ensberg, who stepped to his right to tag Matsui. David Pinto says that Matsui looks like Moe, Steve Keane says he looks like Shemp, but Godzilla did his impression of the Curly Shuffle to avoid the tag. Ensberg then threw to first to complete the strange double play. But wait, it appeared that he missed the tag, and Matsui scampered home with an extra run. Matsui continues to hit well, and he had three hits last night. He is going with the pitch a lot better and the balls he had been weakly dribbling to second base are now solid singles to left.
The Yanks would need all the insurance they could get because after seven innings, Mussina was relieved by Antonio Osuna, who did his best Juan 'Gone' Acevedo by giving up a bomb on his very first pitch. After recording a hard-hit out, Chris Hammonds came in and got out of the inning, striking out Lance Berkman with his inimitable Bugs Bunny change up. Mariano Rivera worked a 1-2-3 ninth, striking out two.
One thing I've noticed about Rivera this year is that when he comes set, he taps his left foot repeatedly, and gingerly as if he's trying to find his footing. I don't think I've seen him do this in previous years. It almost looks like when a cat is about to step on a ledge, and it feels the new surface for a minute before it makes a move. I don't know if Mariano is just trying to get comfortable or if it is a new timing mechanism.
It was a satisfying win for the Yankees, who have squandered a good deal of games like this during the first part of this season. The Cardinals tipped the Sox 9-7 in Boston last night, so the Bombers move back into first.
Be sure and check out Redbird Nation and Bambino's Curse for all the lowdown on the historic serious at the Fens. Redbird Nation has a particularly interesting post on Red Sox fans. Just scroll down and peep the article on Clemens vs. Pedro.
Weather permitting, the Yanks get Houston's ace, Roy Oswalt tonight. Jeff Weaver gets another shot for the Yanks.