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You Gotta Believe
2006-05-21 07:58
by Alex Belth
Note: The Bronx Banter blog has moved to bronxbanterblog.com.

"I didn't think Pedro would come out, the way he was throwing and with his pitch count pretty low," [Mike] Mussina said. "It was pretty easy for him. And I was surprised when Wagner came back with a four-run lead, and he just pitched last night.

"But, of course, you don't expect a closer of his caliber to pitch like that. Strange things happen."
(N.Y. Times)

Over the years, the Yankees' key to success against Pedro Martinez is to make him throw a lot of pitches, and hope their pitcher can keep the score close. The idea, in theory, is to chase Pedro from the game by the seventh inning--either by scoring off him or just plain tiring him out--to get into the bullpen. The Yankees had to be careful what they wished for yesterday though, as the Mets' bullpen has been one of the strongest in the big leagues so far this season. Add that to the fact that because of injuries Miguel Cairo was the Yankees' starting left fielder yesterday. But strange things do tend to happen when Martinez pitches against the Bombers. And though he didn't figure in the final decision, you have to wonder if was days like these that once prompted him to call the Yankees his daddy.

Martinez out-pitched Mike Mussina over seven innings yesterday at Shea and left with a seemingly comfortable 4-0 lead. Neither team was crisp in the field--there were seven errors in the game--but the Yankees' mistakes were costly. Alex Rodriguez rushed a throw on a slow ground ball by Mets lead-off hitter Jose Reyes to start the bottom of the first. Reyes stole second and took third on a throwing error by Kelly Stinnett, bringing back the instant offense of Rickey Henderson. By the time the inning was over the Mets had two runs, and the Yanks were fortunate that was all they had.

The home team would add two more runs on solo shots by Carlos Delgado and old man Cliff "Bernie Mac" Floyd. Delgado's led-off the fourth inning and was particularly impressive. Mussina made a decent pitch, one was on the outside part of the plate and tailing away. Delgado flicked his arms out and swatted at the ball--it was a late but swift and compact swing. The ball looked like an easy pop-up for the left fielder, but it just kept sailing. The announcers said that the wind was blowing out, but Delgado looked like he tapped that ball. Talk about a display of strength. Man.

Meanwhile, the Yankees couldn't get to Martinez. I thought they'd start to make him work after the third inning. Martinez recorded two quick outs, but though he whiffed Mussina for the second one, the count had gone full and Mussina had even fouled off a few. Then Johnny Damon walked and stole second while Pedro fell behind Jeter 3-0. After a called strike, Martinez zipped one up and in to Jeter--out of the zone, but too tempting for the aggresive Jeter to lay off. Swing and a miss, strike two. The next pitch was another fastball, this one centered over the plate more, but still out of the zone--swing and miss , strike three. A beautiful job of pitching.

Pedro then sailed through the middle innings, allowing just two singles to Alex Rodriguez and a base hit to Melky Cabrera. By the time Floyd's solo shot put the Mets up 4-0 in the bottom of the seventh, all looked well for the Mets.

That's how things stood in the bottom of the ninth. Billy Wagner struck out all three men that he faced on Friday night and though this was not a save situation, here he was again, trying to shut the Yankees down. Jason Giambi led off with a single to center and after getting ahead of Alex Rodriguez, Wagner lost the strike zone and walked him. Robinson Cano followed and smacked a single to center. Wagner almost got a glove on it, as did a diving Reyes whose vision was perhaps momentarily blocked by Giambi, the base-runner. Regardless, Bam-Bam rumbled home and the Yanks were on the scoreboard.

Miguel Cairo flew out to center field for the first out. Still a long way to go for both Met and Yankee fans. Shea Stadium was tense and if you know any Mets fans, you know they were thinking the worst. And the worst was just about to come when Wagner could not put Melky Cabrera away. Down 0-2, Cabrera fouled off several pitches and then took three straight fastballs on the inside corner. The 2-2 offering looked close, but it was off the plate. I couldn't believe how much discipline Cabrera was showing and I couldn't believe that Wagner wasn't just rearing back and throwing it by him. The at bat seemed to last forever and Cabrera finally took ball four to load the bases. It was the critical at bat of the afternoon.

Kelly Stinnett followed and was walked on four pitches, forcing in a run. 4-2. Tim McCarver, who was calling the game for FOX said that Willie Randolph needed to take Wagner out of the game right then and there. "You can combat wildness day-to-day, but not batter-to-batter." Sure enough, Wagner plunked pinch-hitter Bernie Williams on the leg with the next pitch, foricing in another run. 4-3. With that, Wagner's day was over as he was greeted by a chorus of boos--no doubt, mixed in with some Bronx cheer--as he left the mound.

The southpaw Pedro Feliciano came on to pitch to Johnny Damon and got him to tap weakly to short. Reyes started the 6-4-3 but the ball was hit too softly and Damon beat the relay throw by half-a-step. Instead of a game-ended double play, the score was tied. Damon was clearly safe, but man oh man, was the play ever close.

Extra innings. Scott Proctor worked a perfect ninth, striking out two, and Mariano Rivera worked around a one out single in the tenth. Miguel Cairo led off the eleventh with a walk. He proceeded to swipe second and then third as both Cabrera and Stinnett went down hacking. But then pinch-hitter Andy Phillips lined a single to center and Cairo scored the go-ahead run.

To top off the what-a-difference-a-day-makes scenerio, Mariano struck out the side (Wright, Floyd, Nady) to end the game. After the game, Joe Torre told reporters:

"I don't think there's anybody better at rebounding from something that gets perceived as negative, getting beat or giving up a base hit," Torre said. "He just totally took this game over."

An improbable 5-4 win for the Yankees puts them in a position to actually take the weekend series. And even should they fall tonight, yesterday will be one of their more memorable comebacks of the year. As for the Mets, even if they win tonight--and I expect that they will, behind another good performance from Tom Glavine--you have to figure they'll be thinking, "What if?" Saturday was a game they virtually handed to the Yankees.

It's not often that we find the Yankees in the role of underdogs, but with their injury-depleted line-up, it was the reserves--Cairo, Cabrera and Phillips--who were the heroes. Hey, every dog has his day, right?

Comments
2006-05-21 12:03:14
1.   Yankee Fan in Chicago
Man are we ever banged up.

Watching Damon play yesterday, I wonder if he'd be on the dl too if we could afford to have him out for 2 weeks.

The way he went after that ball in the first inning, the double, yesterday was shades of Bernie from early last season.

And that grounder to ss in the 9th. when that was hit so softly, I figured the 2nd baseman doesn't even make a throw Damon hs it beat so easily, yet they almost got him.

2006-05-21 12:26:02
2.   monkeypants
Why even have a AAA team if Miguel Cairo starts at LF?
2006-05-21 13:03:44
3.   rbj
Ah, it's Joe Morgan night. I bet he's going to remark on the two Yankee comebacks this week:
"This team has a lot of heart, they never give up and that's why they're champs. Or at least why they're in it every year. That's what we were like on those Reds teams, we never gave up and we were so successful."
2006-05-21 13:17:07
4.   alterity
3 Did you somehow time travel into the future and hear Morgan's commentary and come back to tell us? Otherwise, how could you possibly know what he's going to say?

For serious, that's a frightenly good impersonation. I can hear his voice and everything. Shudder. . .

2006-05-21 13:44:24
5.   rbj
4
It came into my head unbidden. Maybe I've spent too much time at firejoemorgan.com or such. But it shouldn't be limited to me, anyone can play "what sort of inanity is Joe Morgan going to say tonight." Grand prize is a year's supply of Rice a Roni and Turtlewax*

Any talk of time travel devices is nonsense. We don't have any TTDs. Really. Honestly. Just ignore that blob of metal over there. It's just a, um, scuplture. Yeah, a sculpture.

* (prize winners must furnish prizes themselves

2006-05-21 14:54:44
6.   bloodyank78
Joe Morgan cracks me up. However, everyone should remember and respect the guy for what a great ball player he was. Those '73 and '76 seasons when he stole 60 and hit at least 25 dingers were unreal.
2006-05-21 15:14:07
7.   randym77
I guess Bernie's butt is better. He's back in LF. Still no Jorgie. I hope he's ready to go for the Red Sox games.

Johnny Damon CF
Derek Jeter SS
Jason Giambi 1B
Alex Rodríguez 3B
Robinson Canó 2B
Bernie Williams LF
Melky Cabrera RF
Kelly Stinnett C
Aaron Small P

2006-05-21 15:19:09
8.   brockdc
I don't have any more of an issue with Morgan than I do with Sutcliffe or any of the other dopey ESPN color commentators. They're all working on a 1-year information delay when it comes to analysis. So, tonight, we will hear such groundbreaking insights as:

-The Yankees have a modern-day murderer's row.
-Derek Jeter is what baseball is all about - if you're a parent of a Little Leaguer, have them watch him.
-The Yankees payroll has eclipsed 200 million dollars. Were you aware of that?
-Robinson Cano is a great-looking young second baseman.
-The Yankees' biggest deficit is starting pitching.
-The Yankees' roster is loaded with 30-somethings.
-Steinbrenner could pull the trigger on a deal at any moment.
-The loveable, underdog Mets are showing the Yanks a thing or two about winning baseball.

Lazy, lazy, lazy.

2006-05-21 15:46:04
9.   dianagramr
I was shocked to see Wagner start the ninth (especially if it meant he couldn't pitch again on Sunday), but I guess if Heilman couldn't go ...

Willie couldn't start Bradford or Sanchez or Julio in the 9th and bring Wags in if it got tight?

As for Morgan, I try and listen to the radio broadcast, but the 10-second delay gets my brain all wobbly (not unlike anything Morgan might say).

2006-05-21 15:56:34
10.   weeping for brunnhilde
Some thoughts.

1) Melky Cabrera is the real thing, his two high points thus far being yesterday's walk and the equally critical one against Schilling. I have to echo what you're saying Alex, because yes, that at-bat was truly implausible.

Laying off that outside pitch? This guy's got tremendous potential and I'm just thrilled to get to watch him play and hope to God we can all watch him develop on the Yanks.

2) What do we think about Mo? Do we buy the "He's not worked enough" line or is this new inconsistency just part of aging? As far as I can see, the difference between good and bad outings isn't his stuff, but rather this command. Is that a good sign? Does aging actually effect command, or just stuff and velocity?

In any event, it was truly glorious to see Mo perform like Mo last night. We needed that and more to the point, I'm sure he needed that.

3) How 'bout them Yanks? Seriously, this team is playing damned well of late, especially considering it's only the B Team.

There's a spark there that's really gotta make you wonder whether it's just incidental that the drama's coming from no-names, like it used to in the old days.

Cairo, for instance. I don't know why everyone's so down on him, he's really clutch. When he's up in a big spot, I always feel like he's got a fighting chance.

2006-05-21 16:14:21
11.   rbj
Shef took batting practice today!
2006-05-21 16:26:58
12.   rilkefan
10.2 - someone I think here recently linked to an article about how age erodes a pitcher's mechanics - which should affect control.
2006-05-21 16:35:58
13.   randym77
10 I'm not worried about Mo. I think Posada's right; he needs regular use to keep his edge. Perhaps especially since he's not throwing at all during the off-season now. He had a bit of a slow start last year, too, then went on to have a great season. I expect the same thing to happen this year.

"There's a spark there that's really gotta make you wonder whether it's just incidental that the drama's coming from no-names, like it used to in the old days."

Been thinking along those lines myself. I really like this Yankees team.

2006-05-21 16:46:24
14.   randym77
Oh, and I'm really liking Cairo this year. Even before last night, I was pleased with what he's done this season. I wasn't so thrilled with him last season, but this year, I got no complaints.

This article from the Journal News has some interesting stuff from Cairo:

http://makeashorterlink.com/?O27D2242D

He says he stole those bases to try and force Julio to throw a fastball.

2006-05-21 17:05:07
15.   weeping for brunnhilde
12 rilkefan, thanks.

13 randym77, you're right about Mo starting slow last year, it's true, so there is grounds for hope, surely. I'm confident he can still be dominant (like last night, of course), the question is, how often. We'll see.

Thanks for the Cairo link!

2006-05-21 17:44:16
16.   Paul in Boston
Watching this Mets lineup, I can't help but conclude that they're better than the Yanks right now.

But boy Cano can play 2nd! What an arm!

2006-05-21 17:58:51
17.   randym77
In case anyone's still hanging around here...there's a new game thread up.
2006-05-21 17:58:51
18.   rbj
16 Paul
There's a new thread going, go back to the homepage.
2006-05-21 18:21:17
19.   Paul in Boston
Just my imagination, or does A-Rod hit more hard line drives right at fielders in critical settings than any other player? 10 feet to the left or right and that might have been 3 more runs.

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