"Mo's in the game, man," said Derek Jeter, when asked if he was worried. "Mo doesn't give up many hard hit balls, let alone home runs. When Mo's in the game you're thinking it's over, no matter who's up." (Hartford Courant)
It feels like the Yankees have been playing catch-up ever since they blew a 9-2 lead last Saturday in Washington D.C. The Bombers fell behind early last night, but hung tough in a see-saw affair down in Philly, eventually pulling ahead against their old friend Arthur Rhodes. Mariano Rivera pitched two innings to nail down the save as the Yanks beat the Phils, 9-7.
Mike Mussina retired the first two hitters in the bottom of the first and then gave up a single to Bobby Abreu and a walk to Pat Burrell. Mussina was furious at the ball four call to Burrell and not only glared in at the home plate umpire but he started lecturing him too. The umpire took off his mask, which didn't help matters. "No, it wasn't low," complained Mussina, who rarely displays as much irritation as he showed here. It was like a professor being incorrectly corrected by a student in front of the entire class, and Mussina's feathers were clearly ruffled. His next pitch--the first to Ryan Howard--was absolutely crushed into the right field upper deck. It was almost comical. Ryan looks like the legendary New York rapper KRS-ONE, whose moniker used to be the "Blastmaster." I think it's appropriate to pass that nickname onto Howard, who would go on to homer in his next at bat against Mussina too.
The Yanks tied the game at three, thanks to RBI singles from Bernie Williams and Kevin Reese and a solo dinger from Jason Giambi. (Old man Bernabee went 5-5, two doubles and three singles...how about that?) Reese's bloop single to left in the third inning was particularly enjoyable as he slapped at a pitch way out of the strike zone (with the pitcher on deck there was no way he was going to get a good pitch to hit, so he made the most out of a bad one). Howard put the Phils ahead with his two-run blast in the fourth. Jorge Posada popped a solo homer in the sixth and Alex Rodriguez tied the game with an RBI ground ball single in the seventh. That man Howard was at it again in the bottom of the inning as he drove in two more runs (giving him seven RBI on the night) on a triple off of a flat breaking ball from southpaw Mike Myers.
Arthur Rhodes pitched well against the Yanks on Monday night but would not record an out on Tuesday. Bernie Williams reached on an infield single, Miguel Cairo (in for Cano) walked and then Melky Cabrera slapped a single to right driving in a run and putting runners on the corners. It was an impressive at bat for Cabrera who had been 1 for his last 19 going into the inning. Cabrera fell behind in the count but fouled a few pitches off before going the other way with the pitch. Damon was next, and he lifted a fly ball to center field, enough to tied the game for sure. But Aaron Rowand was playing too shallow and the ball sailed over his head. It appeared as if Damon thought it was a routine fly out. He did not run hard out of the box but turned the jets on and when all was said and done wound up on third with a triple and two RBI. Damon scored on Derek Jeter's single and the Yanks had a two-run lead.
Rivera pitched an easy eighth inning and even got a chance to hit in the top of the ninth. It was the first regular season at bat of his career (he is 0-3 in post-season play). Joe Torre huddled with him before Rivera grabbed a helmet--Jeter's as it turns out. Torre was probably telling him not to swing. Rivera could barely hide a smile as he walked to the plate. Rivera took the first pitch for a strike and then took two mighty cuts before returning to the dugout. Jeter and Jorge had big smiles for Mo upon his return.
In the bottom of the ninth, Chase Utley blooped a one-out single to right. After Rivera struck out Abreu on a very hittable pitch--Abreu was immediately vexed because he knew Rivera had gotten away with one--pinch-hitter Dave Dellucci blooped a single to left, setting up a boffo confrontation with the Blastmaster. The Philly fans, who had been tame for much of the evening, came alive. But the fight was over before it really even begun. Rivera threw Howard a cutter, and the young slugger tapped it to second base for the final out of the game. The Blastmaster had a tremendous night, but in the end, it was Rivera and the Yanks who came away with the win.