They say, in baseball, momentum is only as good the next day's starting pitcher. The Yankees sure hope that's true, as they have their ace, Chien-Ming Wang, on the hill tonight against lefty Oliver Perez, who has done his best to mimic Andy Pettitte's season by posting a 2.49 ERA in his first four starts and a 6.98 ERA in his last four.
The Yankees seemed to have the momentum early in yesterday's game. Andy Pettitte got his first six outs on five Ks and a pickoff, stranding a David Wright infield single in the process, then had a 1-2-3 third inning. Johnny Damon led of the bottom of the first against Johan Santana with a walk and came around to score on a towering home run down the left field line by Derek Jeter. With the Yanks up 2-0, Damon led off the bottom of the third with a single which was followed by a Bobby Abreu double into the gap in right field.
Yankee third-base coach Bobby Meacham waved Damon home on Abreu's hit. With no outs and the heart of the order due up, starting with Jeter who had already homered, it was a questionable send at best and one that betrayed the Yankees' desperate need for runs. Still, it took a perfect play to nail Damon at the plate. Unfortunately, that's exactly what happened. Ryan Church cut the ball off before it reached the warning track, spun, and fired to Luis Castillo, who relayed home to Brian Schneider. As if he had eyes in the back of his head, Schneider, in one motion, caught Castillo's throw on a hop in front of the plate, turned, stuck out his left leg, and kicked Johnny Damon's foot away just as Damon was sliding into the plate. An overhead replay showed that Schneider's foot guided Damon's around the tip of the plate. Damon never touched home, and Schneider applied the tag to the back of Damon's leg as he slid by.
With that one play, the entire game changed. Abreu was stranded at second, and the Mets took the lead in the top of the fourth by scoring three runs against Pettitte on a series of dinks, dunks, and walks. It was only 3-2 Mets at that point, but the momentum had swung, and it never swung back. Pettitte gutted out six innings, throwing 116 pitches and coming away with a quality start and seven strikeouts, but Kyle Farnsworth came on in seventh to face the top of the Met order and gave up a home run to Jose Reyes, walked Church, and then gave up two-run jack to David Wright to make it 6-2 Mets. Farnsworth's home run rate now stands at an eye-popping 2.7 HR/9.
Jason Giambi answered that outburst by leading off the bottom of the inning with a solo homer off Santana and Abreu added another solo shot off the Mets' ace (whose 1.65 HR/9 this inning is ugly in and of itself) in the eighth, but Joba Chamberlain gave one of those runs back in the ninth following a Carlos Beltran triple, and the game ended with the Mets leading 7-4.
So, yeah, let's hope momentum is only as good as the next day's starting pitcher. Let's also hope that the 8:00 start time for tonight's ESPN game will allow the predicted showers to blow through before game time.