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July 20, 2004

Dropping the ball
by Larry Mahnken

If you're the centerfielder, everything you can catch, you catch.  If you're the left fielder, and you can catch it, you call, "I got it", or "Yo la tengo", or something, and unless the centerfielder says he's got it, catch it.  But if the centerfielder says he's got it, he's got it.  If you're the centerfielder, everything you can catch, you catch.
Kenny Lofton's been playing center for fifteen years, and Hideki Matsui played center back in Japan -- they should both know this.  And yet, when both called for a fly ball to left-center in last night's game, both pulled up, expecting the other to catch the ball.  It was Lofton's fault, of course, but that's incidental and not particularly important, as the ball dropped, two runs scored, and... guess what?  The Yankees lost by two runs.
That the Yankees were even that close at the end was something of a surprise, considering how badly they started out.  Alex Graman, who got bombed by the White Sox in April, promptly got his ass handed to him by the Devil Rays, giving up five runs and recording one out.  Say goodbye to Alex Graman, folks.  That's the end of his major league career.
What's odd is that Graman was the pitcher called upon to start, and not Brad Halsey.  Halsey had a couple of lousy starts, but he also had a couple of outstanding starts -- even outpitching Pedro Martinez.  Graman had been given a 7-0 lead before his first major league pitch in April, and couldn't even get out of the third.  Halsey should have been the pitcher of choice, and if Tanyon Sturtze, and not Halsey, gets the start on Saturday, there shall be much anger in Fairport.  All emanating from me.

The Yankees followed Graman with Sturtze, The Run Fairy, and Juan Padilla before bringing in Paul Quantrill in the ninth.  $185 million, folks.
But Sturtze pitched fairly well for a few innings, giving up Graman's fifth run right away, but keeping the game there until the Yankees could come back to tie it at five.  But Torre stuck him out there again for the sixth, and he gave up a leadoff double and a single.  Enter Run Fairy.
Heredia promptly gave up a single, scoring the go-ahead run, before falling behind 3-0 to a guy who was trying to intentionally make an out -- who then still went ahead and intentionally made an out!  He struck out Carl Crawford, and then appeared to get out of the inning with a fly ball to left-center.
(See first two paragraphs.)
The Yanks got back within one when Ruben Sierra hit another home run in the eighth, but Quantrill gave up another in the ninth, and that was too much for the Yankees, as they went down quietly.
Much of the sting of the loss was removed for me by the outcome on the West Coast, Seattle winning over Boston 8-4 -- not because of the result, but the manner in which it came about.  Boston lead 4-2 in the ninth, when Miguel Olivo and Edgar Martinez hit back-to-back one-out homers to tie it, and then in the 11th, Bret Boone hit a walkoff Grand Slam to win it.  Having expected Boston to win the game up until those three homers, Seattle's win almost felt like the Yankees had won one.  And the Yankees stay 7 games up -- no ground lost in the last week.
And with the condition their pitching staff is in, the Yankees better hope that they don't lose any ground the rest of the week, either.  The series with Boston this weekend looms, and a very possible sweep by Boston would bring them uncomfortably close again.