The moment Mark Teixeira’s home run left the field, the party atmosphere at Yankee Stadium was restored. Up until then the atmosphere was tense and the crowd, which had been largely clammed up by the cold weather and Cliff Lee’s dominant pitching the night before, continued to be uncharacteristically quiet in the face of Pedro Martinez. Only once had the “Who’s Your Daddy” chant greeted him in the first three innings.
I decided to start my night off right, which meant getting a good luck hug from Mickey Rivers outside Stan’s Sports World, where he was autographing. I don’t think he actually remembers me from one year to the next, although I’ve interviewed him many times in Spring Training. But he’s a sweetheart, no other way to describe him.
I also ran into Seth Everett, now of XM Radio, formerly of MLB.com. Seth recognizes me, but I think can never quite remember who I am either. I probably look quite different when I am pinstriped-up in my fan gear than when I am in my professional writer get-up. (For those who don’t know, the spring training uniform of the baseball writer is a polo shirt in a neutral color with bermuda shorts with pockets to hold your voice recorder and notebook. If you wear a hat to keep the sun off your face, it’s always a neutral non-team affiliated hat. I usually wear one I got from ESPN, even though I don’t write for them. Anyway, hi Seth if you’re reading this! You know me as the editor of Yankees Annual and we met in either Tampa or Clearwater, or maybe it was Lakeland? Probably all three, now that I think about it.)
Anyway, back to tonight when I was out to express my rooting interest and hopefully see the team I love get off the mat.
The weather was brisk, the wind having reversed from last night, blowing a little bit in and from right to left. It was cold, but much nicer than last night. Also, mysteriously, it always feels warmer at the stadium when the Yankees score runs.
A. J. Burnett had his stuff. In fact, he seemed to have stuff we hadn’t seen from him before. In the first inning, he established strike one quickly. The Phillies drew first blood, scratching a run with two outs, after Ibanez doubled and then a ground ball got through the infield off the bat of Matt Stairs. AJ did not pitch scared. He attacked the strike zone and got ahead of hitters. He threw a lot of pitches, but so did Pedro. In fact, both pitchers racked up high pitch counts early. Pedro had 61 pitches after three innings and AJ had 59 pitches.
Kudos to Jose Molina for the big pickoff of Jayson Werth in the fourth. Werth had led off the inning with a base hit and the crowd was worried that it might be the spark that started a brush fire of the Phillies offense. The Panda snuffed that with a heads-up throw to Teixeira.
Teixeira. When he came to bat in the bottom of the inning, I was in a crowded ladies room. They play the radio play by play in the bathrooms in the new stadium, so I was washing my hands when I heard John Sterling go into his patented home run call. Every stall was full at that point, with women in line. The screams of joy were deafening.
I returned to my seat to find the party in full swing. You would have thought he had hit a grand slam to put the Yankees way head, not just tied the game, but somehow there was a feeling of confidence that returned to the fans. If Tex, who had been struggling, could get going like that, surely that meant we were going to be OK?
The feeling was only fueled even more by how great Burnett continued to pitch. Pedro and he continued to duel. Pedro was always wily, but he was even wilier than ever. I knew he had taken the place of Jamie Moyer in the Phillies rotation, but I didn’t know he had taken over the role of Thrower of a Dizzying Array of Off-Speed Junk. His curve ball ranged from 69 mph to 79 mph, and his fastball(s) ranged from 84 to 91. The scoreboard guy didn’t even label half the pitches since he couldn’t figure out what they were. The pitch that Pedro threw to Tex that left the park came in at 75 miles per hour. According to FOX tv, it left the bat at 106.
Burnett threw 22 out of 25 first pitch strikes. That is phenomenal.
Just listened to Pedro on the postgame show. I’m typing this in the car on the way home, of course. Pedro says Tex hit a good pitch, whereas the one that Matsui hit, he said he might have thrown something different if he’d thought about it a bit more. Matsui hit a solo shot in the sixth, to put the Yankees up 2-1.
After six innings he had thrown 96 pitches, and then he came out to pitch the seventh. The crowd was going nuts, supporting him all the way. And he got two called strike outs, and then Feliz grounded out. The party was rocking.
I was predicting at that point that if the Yankees didn’t score five runs, Girardi would go to Mariano for a six-out save. As it turned out, the Yankees managed a small rally, one run on three hits, including a nice pinch single from Posada. They might have had more if not for a strange double play where everyone on the field seemed to see something different. The official call was that the liner to first was caught in the air and then Posada was doubled off first, but some thought it was short-hopped. In any case, they did get an insurance run, and on came Mo for a six out save.
Getting the job done required a nifty double play to end the eighth, but when Mo needed it, he got it. With two outs in the ninth, including the Golden Sombrero for Ryan Howard, Raul Ibanez doubled, but Matt Stairs struck out to seal the deal.
The two games were so similar in some ways, being such close pitcher’s duels. And I’ll point out that the two big boppers, Alex Rodriguez and Ryan Howard, have both been shut down. A-Rod is 0-for-8 with 6 strikeouts, while Howard is 2-for-9 with 6 strikeouts. I worry that A-Rod is psyched out, but perhaps he will bust out in the homer haven of Philly, especially if Hamels doesn’t have it.
Looking forward to the day off tomorrow to rest and recuperate. Tonight was my last game at the stadium this year no matter what happens in the series, since if it goes to a game 6 or 7 I will be on my way to South Carolina for a convention at that point. So it is sports bars for me this weekend and then XM radio. Seth Everett, I’m listening to you.
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