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June 7, 2008: Comeback Kids

I was in the house for a wild, wild win in the Bronx today.

Um, by “in the house” of course I mean “at Yankee Stadium.” The scoreboard counting down the number of games left by increments went from 51 to 50 today, and at various points in the game we were treated to video montages of: great moments in Yankee Stadium, time lapse of the construction of the new stadium, aerial video of the new and old stadiums (stadia?) standing side by side…

It all feels a bit like the Yankees are hoping we’re really going to like moving into that snazzy new condo, even though nothing can replace the family’s ancestral home. One can’t help but stare at the grand and classic-looking facade across the way while waiting in line to enter the old place. I don’t know. Every now and then I worry that we’ve been sold a bill of goods. But I guess we won’t really know until we move in over there and see how it is.

The thing that will make the new place as special as the old, of course, is that the Yankees will play there. And if they play a lot of games there that were like the one we saw today, it won’t be long before a whole new generation cherishes that building nearly as much as the old one.

It started out a hot, humid day–the first really summer-hot day of the year. Last night it was chilly and foggy, and the Yankees lost 2-1 to Kansas City in another game that starter Darrell Rasner deserved to win, except the Yankees could not score for him.

Andy Pettitte did not have that problem today, as the offense came alive in the hot weather. Unfortunately for him, it came alive for both teams.

The pounding began in the first inning, when with two outs Mark Teahen hit a booming double which would later cause Johnny Damon to remark that he knew then that it was a good day to be playing deep. He couldn’t play deep enough for the next batter, though, Jose Guillen, who hit a two run shot. Andy seemed to be struggling with his control, but he got the next hitter to end the inning with a soft comebacker.

The Yankees bats then got to work. Damon himself started off with a big double. Jeter moved him over with one of his patented bunts in a sac situation but which could have been a hit if the Royals hadn’t fielded perfectly. Giambi singled him in for the Yankees first run, and the Royals’ lead was cut in half.

Pettitte was still a little wild in the second, walking the leadoff man, but appeared to settle down with the ensuing double play and strikeout.

Then, in the top of the third, the first pitch of the inning was bunted at by Joey Gathright and the glancing foul hit the home plate umpire in the head. A twenty minute delay ensued while he was taken out of the game for precautionary reasons, and Jim Wolf had to change into the chest protector to take over behind the plate. The delay seemed to “ice” Pettitte, whose wildness returned, and after retiring Gathright on the very next pitch (4-3), the then gave up a single and a triple, walked Teahen, gave up an RBI single to Guillen, struck out Olivo, then gave up another RBI single to John Buck who was caught out trying to stretch it into a double. The Royals now had a 5-1 lead and Pettitte had thrown 64 pitches in 3 innings.

Pettitte did settle down after that, recording 1-2-3 innings in the 4th, 5th, and 6th, and giving the Yankees a chance to catch up, which they did in the 4th. A-rod led off with a single, Giambi (who has been red hot of late) walked on four pitches, and the Jorge Posada, in his only his second game back after a long stint on the DL, slammed an RBI double. Cano brought in another run with a base hit, and then Wilson Betemit brought in Jorge with a deep sac fly to center, proving that these days he is the only man who can hit a fly ball with a runner on third and fewer than two outs. But the rally didn’t end there, no. Melky singled, then Damon followed with his third hit of the day, making it now 5-5 with men on the corners and one out.

Up came Jeter, who then had a 3-0 count… and swung at the next pitch and fouled it off. He ended up hitting a high pop to right, not terribly deep, and Melky tagged up and tried to score… and ended up out at the plate in a 9-2 double play. To that point Jeter had hit into two double plays and he and Abreu were the only two in the lineup who had no hit or RBI.

And it was only the fourth inning.

The Yankees took the lead in the fifth when Giambi hit a solo shot–one of those ones where the crack of the bat rings in your ears–a soaring blast into the upper deck. Everything was peachy.

Until the seventh, when Pettitte began to tire. The temperature was in the 90s, perhaps expecting him to pitch a full seven inning was to much? Alberto Callaspo greeted him with a double, light-hitting Esteban German followed with a bunt base-hit, and Gathright followed that with an RBI single to tie the game. Damn. DeJesus bunted the runners over, and so Mike Aviles was intentionally walked to set up the double play. Pettitte actually struck out Teahen though, and then was one strike away from sealing the deal against Jose Guillen. If he’d been able to sit Guillen down, he would have gotten out of the inning giving up only one run.

Unfortunately, Guillen then hit a grand slam. Ouch. It was now 10-6 Royals, and Pettitte had earned all ten runs. Jose Veras came in and struck out Olivo on three pitches, but the damage was done.

The Yankees, however, were not done. In the bottom of the inning Abreu finally joined the party with a base hit, followed by a no-doubter off the bat of A-rod that landed in the visiting bullpen. It was now 10-8 Royals, but it seemed likely the score wouldn’t stay that way.

And indeed, in the bottom of the eighth, the Yankees made up their second four-run deficit of the day. Cano led off with a bit, and after a Betemit strikeout, Melky added his own. They moved to second and third with Damon at the plate. Damon had a 3-0 count and had already gone four-for-four in the game. Could he actually get five hits? Yes. He knocked in both runners to tie the score. Jeter followed with a hit, but both he and Damon were stranded, and Mariano Rivera entered the ninth inning with the game tied.

Not for long. Mariano’s first pitch went deep off the bat of David DeJesus and it was 11-10 Royals. It was the first homer Mo has given up, and only the second run he has allowed all year.

One more comeback, Yankees, please?

The fireworks began with one out, when Jorge Posada, jumping right into the thick of things, hit a solo shot into the lower deck in right off KC closer Joakim Soria. Tie game. With two outs, Betemit worked a walk, and then Melky Cabrera got lucky, rolling a slow grounder up the third base line that just never rolled foul.

And so up came Damon, who was then 5-for-5. Betemit on second, Melky on first, and two outs. It was two pitches into his at bat that corwin reminded me to eat sunflower seeds. You see, in each of the two big scoring rallies for the Yankees that day, we had been eating them. Clearly, we needed to eat them now. We each took a handful and began munching.

And it worked! Damon laced a single, Betemit raced home, and Damon was mobbed by his teammates at first base. Final score 12-11 Yankees, with the two teams having 31 hits between them.

We’ll be back at the Stadium tomorrow, to see Joba Chamberlain in his second start. Hopefully the Yankees’ bats will stay hot, and the Royals’ will not.

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