Larry Mahnken and SG's

Replacement Level Yankees Weblog

"Hey, it's free!"

The Replacement Level Yankees Weblog has moved!  Our new home is:

Larry Mahnken
Sean McNally
Fabian McNally
John Brattain

This is an awesome FREE site, where you can win money and gift certificates with no skill involved! If you're bored, I HIGHLY recommend checking it out!


Disclaimer: If you think this is the official website of the New York Yankees, you're an idiot. Go away.

October 14, 2003

Chair, Wall. Wall, Chair: Boston 3, New York 2
by Larry Mahnken

If anyone ever again says that they're sick of the Yankees getting all the breaks, take a tape of this game, and beat their brains in with it.

The Yankees had a chance tonight to put the Red Sox against the wall, to take a nearly insurmountable lead in the series, to take all the momentum from beating Pedro, and with their best pitcher on the mound, establish control of the American League Championship Series, and practically ensure a return to the World Series.

They didn't. The Yankees lost last night because they were outplayed; they were unlucky, but they also made poor decisions, and poor plays.

The bad luck came right away, in the top of the first inning. Tim Wakefield had trouble getting his knuckleball to dance, walked Soriano and gave up a bloop single to Derek Jeter. With first and second and nobody out, the Yankees had a great chance to take the lead, perhaps even start a rally. And Jason Giambi did exactly what was needed, hitting a ball on the nose--and right at Kevin Millar, who stepped on the bag for a rally-killing DP. Had the ball not been at Millar, Soriano would have easily scored, and Jeter may have as well. One run that would prove costly was lost, maybe two.

The second bad break came in the fifth, when the Yankees did score a run. With first and second and one out, Derek Jeter hit a hard ground ball down the third base line, which hit the bag and bounced high in the air, over Bill Mueller's head, and Nomar Garciaparra was unable to field it cleanly. David Dellucci scored from first, but because the ball was fielded so close the infield, Alfonso Soriano was only able to get to third. Had the ball bounced over the bag, or been slightly to the right of it, it would have gone to the wall in left, and Soriano would likely have scored easily. Instead, it was second and third with one out, and the Yankees had lost another costly run.

Of course, they did make poor plays, and failed to take advantage of opportunities, as well. In the first, Bernie Williams followed Giambi's double play with a walk, but Jorge Posada was unable to get an RBI single to bring Soriano home from second. With second and third and one out, the Yankees had the chance to score two runs with a single to anywhere but left. They couldn't even get that, as Giambi flied out to center, and Jorge Posada followed another Williams walk with a fly out to left.

And there were the mistakes of Alfonso Soriano and Willie Randolph. On Giambi's fly out, Randolph did not send Soriano, because the ball was hit very shallow. But Damon does not have a strong arm, and the throw was up the line, not to the plate. Had Randolph sent Soriano, he probably would have scored, and while it was a risk, the chances of Damon making an accurate throw were not tremendous, and the Yankees had obviously been having trouble scoring runs against Wakefield. And so the Yankees lost a chance to score a run.

Soriano's big mistake came in the seventh, with the bases loaded and one out--for Boston. Pinch-hitter Jason Varitek hit a sharp ground ball to Derek Jeter, who fielded it well, threw to Soriano, who relayed it on to first, where Varitek was safe by the smallest of margins. But Soriano's throw, while not a lollipop by any means, was not very strong, as if he felt he had plenty of time to throw. He could have thrown stronger, and certainly would have retired Varitek, but perhaps he was worried about throwing it away, and bringing home a fourth run. It's not a mistake worth crucifying him over, and Jeter and Soriano are not very good at turning the double play anyway, but most double play teams would have retired Varitek. And it gave Boston a run.

Finally, Soriano came up in the ninth, with two outs, with a chance to tie the game. Ruben Sierra hit a home run with one out to bring the Yankees back to within 3-2, but Soriano showed, typically, no plate discipline against Williamson. The three pitches he swung at and missed were not in the strike zone, and even a moderately disciplined hitter would have been standing on first with a walk after that plate appearance. But Soriano struck out, looked bad doing it, and the series was tied.

Now, of course I have to give credit to the Red Sox, too, who earned a victory even though the Yankees had chances to win. Tim Wakefield was, brilliant again, and will likely be the Series MVP if Boston wins. Todd Walker and Trot Nixon his crucial home runs off of Mussina, who was otherwise exceptional. He's now 0-3 in this postseason, but if not for his defense, and with better run support, he'd be 2-1, at worst, maybe 3-0. And Boston's bullpen has been exceptional in the postseason. It shouldn't be a tremendous surprise that they were able to turn it around, Williamson, Timlin and Embree are all extremely talented pitchers who have done well in the past, and the nature of relief pitching is such that minor slumps will have a huge impact on the overall value of a pitcher's performance. That they conveniently turned it around for October is strange, but the fact that they did it at all isn't really.

So, it's tied. It'll go back to New York tomorrow, and the Yankees have to win two games against Derek Lowe, John Burkett and Pedro Martinez (one of these names does not belong here, one of these names is not the same...). Boston has to win two against David Wells, Andy Pettitte and Roger Clemens, so it's not like the Yankees are against the wall, but with the specter of Pedro looming in Game Seven, they are almost in a must-win situation these next two games.

This afternoon, it's all on Boomer. The Yankees can get to Lowe--his success at Fenway is overblown, as I showed yesterday--so if Wells can hold Boston to only a couple of runs, they can win this game, and take it back to New York, and try to get Andy Pettitte to finish it off (and if he does, he's likely the MVP). With Boston's weakest starter going in Game Six, and their best in Game Seven, this game today is crucial for both teams. I wish I believed in curses, because then I'd have no lack of confidence in the Yankees winning these next two, because Boston could not possibly beat them. But they can, and they might, and someday, they will. Hopefully, it won't be this one.