Sunday, October 17th, 2004
11:45 am - Yankees 19, Sox 8...  

It's all about location...
The smart money figured the Sox would have the edge because they're going home. They're a great hitting team, but they're even more so at Fenway Park, a location that makes opposing pitchers tremble. It's the wall, Pesky's pole, and the fans. And for awhile it looks like the smart money is right. The Sox hit the heck out of the ball, and on any other night that should've been enough to win. Except their pitchers apparently have forgotten how to pitch. They're throwing hard enough, but the location of their pitches is just awful.

It's apparent right from the start that Bronson Arroyo isn't fooling anybody. His control isn't sharp, his pitches aren't moving, and the Yanks are just sitting on the fastball, which Arroyo keeps putting within easy reach. Even the Yankee outs are loud. (Leiter later mentions that of the 60 pitches Arroyo threw, not a single one was a swinging strike. In other words, every pitch the Yankees swung at they hit somewhere, fair or foul. Not good.) A-Rod doubles home Jeter, Matsui homers, and the Sox are quickly down 3-0. The crowd goes silent.

The Momentum Shifts...
The thing is, Kevin Brown isn't doing much better. The only reason Brown gets out of the first inning unscathed is because Manny gets thrown out trying to go first to third on a short single to right. It doesn't matter that the umpire blew a close call. Manny had no business giving him the chance to blow it in the first place. In the second inning, the wheels start to come off for the Yankees. Brown gives up a two-run homer to Nixon, and suddenly the fans are involved again. As the faithful taunt him, Brown's location goes to hell, and the Sox tattoo him. There's a wild pitch. The rest of the Yankees are feeling it, too. Cairo makes a dumb throw home that allows Damon to take an extra base. Even the unflappable Jeter makes an error. The Sox take their first lead of the series, 4-3.

And Then Goes Back...
The lead lasts for one batter. A-Rod leads off the top of the third, and Arroyo throws him a hanging breaking ball. A hanger is a breaking ball that doesn't, a pitch thrown at medium speed that only breaks enough so that when it reaches home it is hanging belt high right over the middle of the plate. It's is the easiest of all pitches to hit, and A-Rod does just that, launching it completely over the Green Monster. Tie game. Then Sheffield walks, Matsui doubles, and Arroyo is sent to the showers.

The Balk...
Mendoza comes on and doesn't do any better, giving up a hit to Bernie Williams that drives home another run. Then he balks. Now there aren't a lot of balks called in the major leagues. They are generally judgement calls about small details in the pitcher's motion. Did his hands come to a complete stop before he delivered the ball? Is his front foot going toward home or toward first? Things from the rulebook where there can be gray areas of interpretation. Not this time. The rulebook's most basic rule for pitchers is that their foot has to be in contact with the pitcher's rubber when they throw a pitch. For whatever reason, Mendoza pulled his foot off the rubber and then threw a pitch. There was no need to interpret anything. I'd be willing to bet that even some Sox fans yelled "balk" instinctively. Everyone in the park knew it was a balk. Everyone, that is, except Terry Francona. I have no idea why he comes out to argue. Maybe he'd looked away for a sec. He couldn't possibly have been arguing about interpretation, but he's out there far longer than it should've taken for the ump to tell him what happened.

Cabrera Brings Them Back...
Orlando Cabrera is a fun player to watch. It's not just that he plays well, but he always looks like he's enjoying the hell out of himself as he does it, too. Brown is gone by the bottom of the third, and Cabrera comes up to face a shaky Javier Vasquez with the bases loaded and two outs. Vasquez quickly gets ahead of him 0-2. Meanwhile, Tim McCarver comments that Sheffield has correctly moved in on Cabrera in right, because it's extremely unlikely that Cabrera could hit it deep in that direction. Cabrera works the count from 0-2 to 3-2, then hits the next pitch over Sheffield's head, tying the game. It could've been even better, but Mueller gets thrown out at home trying to score from first on a bizarre play. Mueller gets nailed because the catcher already has the ball from an attempt to get Millar at the plate, and Mueller just happened to be right behind him.

The Best Laid Plans...
Mendoza opens the next inning by plunking Cairo, and Francona pulls him for Leskanic. The Yanks hit him hard, including a monster home run by Sheffield, and go up 9-6. Wakefield, who is supposed to start the next game, is brought in, and Francona's plans for the rest of the series go into the toilet. Wake gets Bernie Williams, then intentionally walks Posada. He makes Sierra look bad on a nasty knuckle ball, but Sierra shakes it off and triples to drive in two more.

Shattered...
Whatever other deficiencies Manny Ramirez has as a player, he is a great hitter. He has a great at bat against Vasquez with one out, working a walk while he wears down the pitcher. Ortiz follows with a hit. The Sox have something going again, but it's not to be as Varitek shatters his bat while hitting a line drive toward first. Olerud manages not only to pick the ball out from among all the splinters flying past him, but is able to tag out a surprised Ortiz as he tries to get back to first. Double play, rally over.

Taking One for the Team...
Wakefield is now in the game for the long haul, come what may. Francona has already used up too much of his bullpen, and he needs someone to give him innings. It's a tough spot to be in, but at this point Francona's only hope is that they can come back strong in the next game. The Yankees just keep on hitting. By the time Wake is finally relieved, it's 13-6. Francona eventually brings in Embree and Myers, and the Yanks treat them just as badly as they did all the others. Varitek hits a monster home run off Vasquez, but that's the end of it for the Sox. Vasquez doesn't make anyone forget Whitey Ford, but he scratches out the win. Final score 19-8. After the game, a reporter asks Francona if he's disappointed that the Sox didn't hit in the game, and Terry just looked at him cross-eyed. The Sox got 8 runs and 15 hits. Their OBP was .475. Most of the time that would've been plenty.

The only glimmer of hope for the Sox is that Wakefield lasted long enough that neither Timlin or Foulke had to come in, leaving them ready for today if Lowe falters.
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Veejaneveejane on October 18th, 2004 - 03:48 pm
Like I said on the board, the game was really exciting -- for the first 5 innings. It was really sort of funny how the fans were chanting "Keeeeeviiiiin" like his mom off the back porch at sundown.


The broken bats in this game were legion. I've never seen a bat shatter like Varitek's did -- I'm pretty sure fragments of the bat went farther into Left than the ball did.
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