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September 22, 2007: Long Night

I have a credo, which is that any game in which your team gets the tying run to the plate in the ninth inning is a good game. By extension any game in which your team gets the winning run to the plate is pretty darn good also, and getting that man to cross the plate? Well, that would make it a great game.The Yankees game in the Bronx last night was a good game. I felt it was a good game even before the ninth inning, for a number of reasons. The weather was beautiful, warm and pleasant for a late September night. The crowd was energized by the sweep of the Orioles, which coincided with the Red Sox being swept by Toronto, slimming the Sox’ lead on the division to one-and-a-half games, lending a playoff-like air to the precedings.

And Chien-Ming Wang pitched a gem. Unfortunately for him, Damon was caught stealing in the first inning, which may have cost the Yankees a run, and Roy Halladay pitched a gem of his own. All night long the Yankees were picking the wrong pitch to swing at, hitting bleeders and squibbers and rarely leaving the infield. Halladay gave up a long drive to A-rod on the first, caught at the wall in center, one double to Cano, but otherwise the only real excitement came when once in a while someone would hit a long foul ball off him.

Wang, meanwhile, gave up two hits to lead off the seventh and might have got out of it with only one run, but on a play at the plate Jorge couldn’t handle the ball and a run came in on what was ruled catcher’s error.

In the eighth, skinny reliever Edwar Ramirez hit the first batter he faced, got a ground out, then gave up a two run shot. After all the soft stuff both starters had been inducing all night, the home run came as a shock, as though we’d forgotten what a hard hit ball looked like. 4-0 Jays.

Ah well. About a quarter of the sell-out crowd headed for home at that point. Little did they know that six more innings of scoreless baseball would be pitched by the Yankees’ bullpen after that. Made possible, of course, by an improbable ninth inning rally by the Yankees.

It felt like they didn’t want to give up so easily. The crowd certainly didn’t, cheering and hooting and hollering with such focus in the eighth inning that I wrote on my scorecard “most into it I’ve ever seen a regular season crowd for the Blue Jays.” When Damon doubled to lead off the ninth, his chances of coming home were high, but the chance that the Yankees would score four in the inning?

The crowd was on its feet for Jeter, who grounded out harmlessly, not even moving Damon along. But Abreu singled, and when Alex Rodriguez singled to bring Damon in, it was the only time in the game Halladay had given up 3 hits in an inning. He got Matsui to roll into another harmless grounder, though, despite the crowd now being in full playoff voice.

The game appeared to end for a moment when the next batter, Jorge Posada, grounded to second and was beaten to the bag by the throw. But Matt Stairs never got control of the wild throw, and Posada was called safe while a second run scored.

That ended Halladay’s night, and he went to the bench to wait for the bullpen to finish the job.

It would be a long wait. Lefthander Scott Downs came in to face Robinson Cano, who shattered his bat but muscled a grounder through the right side, bringing in A-rod. 4-3 Jays, and Halladay wore a stricken look as shown by the TV broadcast. As I was sitting in the stands, you might wonder how I know this. Well, my boyfriend called from home, where he was listening to the radio broadcast, where John Sterling described what was being shown, to tell me about it.

He also described how Halladay looked like he wanted to cry, when the next batter, Jason Giambi, stroked a soft liner into left to bring in the tying run. The place, as the expression goes, was going nuts.

Unfortuantely, Melky Cabrera grounded out to end the inning, and then a long drought ensued for both teams. The crowd was excited to see great outings by Mariano Rivera and Joba Chamberlain, whose father is making his first trip to New York to see his son pitch. In fact, it’s his first trip east of the Mississipi River.

Pretty good game. Too bad Brian Bruney gave up a home run in the top of the 14th and the Yankees were unable to answer. It would have been an instant classic if anyone had been able to manage that walk-off blow. But Matsui, after 3 games in a row having the ‘Mini Cooper Drive of the Game’ looked flat, Giambi too, and A-rod is in a bit of a slump as well.

We still had fun, and there is still a good chance to catch Boston for the division lead, and a great chance to make the playoffs, what with a 4.5 game lead in the wild card and nine games to play. So it’s hard to be very upset about the loss, really. The last out came just 5 minutes shy of midnight and by then it was hard to say who was more tired, the crowd or the players. It was time to go home.

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