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June 22, 2005

Wow. Just Wow.
by SG

I don't know what to say about tonight's game. I started writing an entry ripping Randy Johnson's performance to shreds after the third inning. When Scott Proctor gave up another two runs to put the game 'out of reach', I added Joe Torre to my entry too. However, Proctor settled down after a shaky fourth, and the Yankee offense started chipping away.

Lou Piniella foolish stuck with Hideo Nomo for too long in the fifth in the misguided pursuit of a personal goal (his 200th win). A Gary Sheffield three run homer and a Bernie Williams RBI double made things interesting again. Chad Orvella came in and walked Jorge Posada, who was pinch hitting for John Flaherty in the fifth inning. I really appreciated this move by Joe Torre. Robinson Cano then hit a hard liner, but right to the second baseman, and the inning was over, with a score of 10-6. I figured the Yankees blew their best chance at this point.

In the top of the sixth, Mike Stanton got an out and then gave up a single. Tanyon Sturtze 2.0™ came in to get out of the inning helped by an amazing tag by Robinson Cano on a Travis Lee steal attempt.

In the bottom of the sixth, Derek Jeter crushed a homerun to deep center field, and the deficit was cut to 10-7. That was all the Yankees would get in that inning.

Sturtze 2.0™ pitched more like Sturtze 1.0 in the top of the seventh. A strikeout was followed by 3 straight singles. to load the bases with one out. At this point I was sure the Devil Rays were going to bust the game back open, as Sturtze was shaky and the other bullpen options were Paul Quantrill and Buddy Groom.

Then came what was to me the turning point of the game. Jorge Cantu smoke a ball down the 3rd base line. Alex Rodriguez made an amazing diving stop on the ball, was able to stand up, run and beat the runner to third base for one out and then amazingly throw over to first and almost turn what would have been one of the most incredible double plays I'd ever seen. The runner was safe and another run had scored, but that ball could have very easily been a bases clearing double that would have made it 13-7 and could have sucked the life out of the Yankees.

Rodriguez has been criticized by people at times for not being "clutch." That play was the definition of clutch. Torre pulled Sturtze at this point and Buddy Groom got the last out.

The Yankees went out very meekly in their half of the seventh. In the top of the eighth, the Devil Rays again threatened to tack onto their lead. A leadoff double was followed by a trap by Gary Sheffield who almost made a good (for him) play, setting up runners on first and third and no outs. Knowing that any more runs would be difficult to overcome, Torre played the infield in. Damon Hollins hit it right to Jeter, who held the runner and threw him out. Hollins is a 31 year old rookie having a very good offensive season, but he seemed to be a bit shaky on his reads in CF, almost Bernie-like. Kevin Cash walked, then Groom got Alex Gonzalez to hit a tailor-made double play ball. Rodriguez double-clutched and I thought he may have blown his chance, but Cano made a good pivot and they got it.

All this set up one of the most incredible offensive innings I've ever seen. Here's the play by play from CBS Sportsline.

Yankees 8th
Franklin Nunez pitching:
Robinson Cano: Ball, Strike looking, Foul, Foul, Ball, Foul, Foul, Cano singled to center.
Derek Jeter: Strike looking, Ball, Ball, Jeter singled to right, Cano to third
Ruben Sierra hit for Tony Womack.
Ruben Sierra: Ball, Sierra grounded out to second, Cano scored, Jeter to second.
Gary Sheffield: Strike looking, Strike swinging, Sheffield singled to left center, Jeter to third.
Alex Rodriguez: Strike looking, Ball, Rodriguez singled to left, Jeter scored, Sheffield to second.
Travis Harper relieved Franklin Nunez.
Hideki Matsui: Ball, Foul, Ball, Strike looking, Foul, Matsui doubled to deep right, Sheffield scored, Rodriguez to third.
Jason Giambi: Intentional ball, Intentional ball, Intentional ball, Giambi intentionally walked
Russ Johnson ran for Jason Giambi.
Bernie Williams: Williams tripled to center, Rodriguez, Matsui and Johnson scored.
Jorge Posada: Ball, Ball, Foul, Ball, Foul, Posada homered to right, Williams scored.
Robinson Cano: Ball, Ball, Cano flied out to center.
Derek Jeter: Ball, Strike looking, Foul, Ball, Jeter singled to right.
Ruben Sierra: Strike looking, Sierra singled to right, Jeter to third.
Gary Sheffield: Strike looking, Ball, Ball, Ball, Foul, Sheffield homered to left center, Jeter and Sierra scored.
Alex Rodriguez: Ball, Strike swinging, Rodriguez homered to right.
Hideki Matsui: Ball, Ball, Strike looking, Matsui homered to center.
Russ Johnson: Strike looking, Ball, Strike swinging, Foul, Ball, Johnson flied out to right.
End of Inning (13 Runs, 12 Hits, 0 Errors)

Showing shocking common sense, when the Yankees got Cano and Jeter on, Torre pinch-hit for Tony Womack. Other than that, it was all the Yankee offense, who unloaded on Franklin Nunez, and then Travis Harper. I must admit that I started to feel bad for Harper, who I felt Lou Piniella embarrassed by leaving him out there.

After that inning, a 11-7 deficit had turned into a 20-11 lead. Flash Gordon threw a few 96 mph fastballs and a couple of curves to close it out, and the Yankees had one of their most incredible comebacks ever.

It was a great win, but again there are causes for concerns. When your ace, whom you traded good value for and are paying $16 million a year gives up 7 runs in 3 innings to a team that had won 5 of its previous 21 games, you should be concerned. When your defense is allowing catchable balls to fall in all over the field, that is a concern. When your starting left fielder is defended by the manager for "having good at bats" when he's hit .178/.191/.178 in the month of June, you should be concerned.

It's not worth dwelling on that tonight though. This was a team effort. Everyone on the team with the exception of Johnson contributed. The bullpen was not stellar, but pitched well enough to keep the game in reach (4 runs over 6 innings). The offense exploded, and that was enough for the win.

I'll close with one random note. After bottoming out at .235/.310/375 on May 14, Hideki Matsui is now at .300/.363/.491.