Here's what I wrote in anticipation of last night's game:
Given their performances over the past few weeks, tonight's match-up of fireballers Randy Johnson and Josh Beckett could be the wildest game of them all. In his last three starts, Beckett has posted this combined line:
16 IP, 16 H, 18 R, 17 ER, 6 HR, 10 BB, 11 K, 9.56 ERA
Meanwhile, in three of his last four starts, Johnson has done this:
15 IP, 22 H, 18 R, 18 ER, 2 HR, 8 BB, 8 K, 10.80 ERA
That's ugly enough in and of itself, but consider that, despite all of those crooked numbers, the two have combined to go 2-2 in those six games thanks to their offenses, which have scored 15 runs for Beckett and a whopping 32 for Johnson in those three games. That would seem to place the over-under on total runs scored tonight somewhere around 15.
The Yanks and Red Sox combined for 17 runs last night. What I didn't expect was that the Red Sox scored 14 of them, posting a pair of touchdowns to the Yankees lone field goal.
Thing started encouragingly enough with Randy Johnson pitching around a pair of walks for a scoreless first and Jason Giambi depositing Josh Beckett's twenty-first pitch of the game in the right field box seats for a two-run home run to give the Yankees a 2-0 lead before Beckett had recorded a second out. Johnson followed that with a seven-pitch 1-2-3 inning and it seemed that if either pitcher was going to right his ship last night it was going to be the one wearing pinstripes.
Then it all fell apart. Beckett answered Johnson's 1-2-3 in the top of the second and Johnson fell apart in the bottom of the inning. Dustin Mohr led off the second with a single on a 2-0 count. Johnson then got ahead of ninth-place hitter Alex Gonzalez only to have Gonzalez battle back for a nine-pitch walk. Kevin Youkilis followed with a sinking liner to left that was only turned into an out because of a fantastic sliding catch by Hideki Matsui. Johnson then got Mark Loretta to ground out to Cano, who also made a nice play ranging to his left. That brought David Ortiz to the plate with two outs and runners on second and third.
On a 2-2 count, Ortiz lined a shot just to the left of Alex Rodriguez, who was playing in the shortstop hole because of the shift. Rodriguez smothered the ball, but it trickled behind him and by the time he got the ball to Giambi, Ortiz had crossed first and the other two runners had advanced, cutting the Yankee lead in half. Johnson's next pitch was high and away to Manny Ramirez, ticking off Jorge Posada's glove and hitting the backstop, allowing Gonzalez to score, tying the game. Ramirez then singled to left to plate Ortiz with the go-ahead run. Johnson then walked Jason Varitek before striking out Lowell to end the inning.
After another 1-2-3 inning by Beckett, Johnson picked up where he left off in the fourth. He recovered from a 3-0 start to strike out Wily Mo Pena, only to walk Mohr on eight pitches and surrender a single to Alex Gonzalez. Johnson then struck out Kevin Youkilis before firing another wild pitch past Posada with Loretta at the plate, allowing Mohr and Gonzalez to move up to second and third. Loretta then singled, scoring both men to make it 5-2, and Ortiz followed with a first-pitch double to drive Johnson from the game.
In total, Johnson lasted 3 2/3 innings, walked five, threw two wild pitches and just 53 percent of a whopping 92 pitches for strikes. Quite simply, he had nothing. He regularly missed Posada's glove not just by several inches but by a foot or two. After the game he had few answers, though he did admit that he was overthrowing. When Torre came out to relieve him in the fourth Johnson looked dazed. His body language was that of a puppy that had been beaten with a newspaper, though just one of the five hits he allowed went for extra bases.
Things would get worse.
Aaron Small came on with men on second and third and two outs and got ahead of Manny Ramirez 0-2 only to have Manny battle the count back full over eleven pitches. On Small's twelfth offering, Ramirez popped up behind second for what looked to be the third out only to have a strong wind blow the ball well out of Robinson Cano's range and directly to Melky Cabrera, who was called up earlier in the day and will be starting at right field while Gary Sheffield is on the 15-day DL. Cabrera, thinking Cano had the ball, came in a bit too far and the ball blew back over his head, tipping off the end of his glove as Loretta and Ortiz scored and Manny hustled (no really) into second base.
Small then struck out Jason Varitek to temporarily freeze the score at 7-2, but he would surrender a three-run home run to Gonzalez in the fifth and a solo homer to Ramirez to start the sixth to push the tally to 11-3 (the Yanks picked up a run on in the fifth when Melky Cabrera followed a Robinson Cano double with a two-out RBI single, though Beckett was otherwise untouchable, walking none and striking out seven, including three in that run-scoring fifth, in seven innings of work).
After two scoreless innings from Ron Villone, Tanyon Sturtze came in to put the finishing touch on both an awful night for the Yankees and on his slow descent into Joe Torre's doghouse allowing one-out singles by subs J.T. Snow and Willie Harris to come around to score, the latter on a resounding double by Mike Lowell, who also came around to score to put the final score at 14-3.
An interesting footnote to last night's game was Ron Villone's performance. Not that it was particularly strong. He threw just 53 percent of his pitches for strikes, walking two, hitting one and allowing two singles in his two innings of work, though one of the singles was a perfectly placed infield hit by the speedy Harris. More significantly, hidden in there was a four-pitch strike-out of David Ortiz by the lefty Villone. Also of interest is the fact that Villone hit Trot Nixon with one on and two out in the top of the eighth and then in the bottom half of the inning Keith Foulke plunked Bubba Crosby, who was the second batter he faced.