Sunday, May 20, 2018

GAME RECAP BY DAVID LIPPMAN



May 19, 2018

By David H. Lippman

I’m finding it difficult to believe that the Yankees are yet again menaced by rain as they face the Kansas City Royals at Kauffman Stadium, as they barely seem to play this season. I wonder what they’ll do in October when every other team has played 162 games and the Yankees have played only 40. It’s been pouring buckets here all day, too.

At any rate, on paper, this game should be a mismatch – the Yankees are sending the 6-1 Luis Severino out to face Danny Duffy, who is 1-5, with a 6.51 ERA. It’s a bit like a joke from my childhood – a wrestling match between Dorothy Hamill and Haystacks Calhoun. Or, for more modern audiences, Serena Williams against Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson.

I missed my other favorite show this morning, the royal pageantry of His Royal Highness Prince Harry of the United Kingdom and 16 other countries of whom Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II is head of state, by Grace of God, marrying American actress Meghan Markle, who dropped her promising career in “Suits” to take up a different one as a princess. To most people around the world, this is a Harlequin romance come to life. To me, it’s the wedding of an heir to the throne my family has fought to defend since 1680 and a new era in the Monarchy – young faces with considerable social causes, a mixed-race American princess, an effort to modernize this ancient institution for a new era. So I’ll just watch the re-run on BBC after the Yankees win.

The new face tonight on the ballyard is Clint Frazier, finally back in action after his concussions. I like his red hair and hustling play – the red hair reminds me of Prince Harry, but too much hustle sends players flying into walls and hospital beds as Pete Reiser showed us back in the 1940s and Juan Lagares did for the Mets last night. Logically, he’s the designated hitter.

Parked on the bench this evening are Didi Gregorius – enduring the curse of being American League Player of the Month for April with his slump, and Brett Gardner, doubtless for percentage reasons. Giancarlo Stanton will impersonate a left fielder (he is learning the position), and Danny Duffy prepares to impersonate a pitcher. On paper, he’s the team’s ace. On the field, he’s yielding up walks and runs.

Under the clouds, Duffy fires a strike to Hicks, who is also in a slump, 3-for-2 against lefties to boot, and it goes to 0-2 quickly, as Suzyn Waldman tells us to drive carefully. Duffy fires a waste pitch in the dirt for 1-2, a pitching tactic that goes back to Christy Mathewson in 1908 and earlier.

Hicks ends the no-hit bid with a desperately needed line-drive single (for himself) to center field. Aaron Judge is next, down to .299, but leading the Yankees with 11 home runs. With 67 home runs lifetime, Judge is 58th on the Yankees’ all-time list, tied with nobody. He’s in a trough, two behind No. 55, Hall of Famer Red Rolfe, who has 69. Rolfe was the best Yankee third baseman in the team’s history until A-Rod, I guess.

Three-and-two now to Judge and No. 99 on the uniform hits one on the screen. Dozier holds Hicks to first and leaves a huge gap on the right side. This should test Judge’s ability to hit through the hole, but instead, Duffy strikes Judge out, freezing the slugger in the zone, with a 93.6 mph fastball.

Giancarlo Stanton is next, and he has been knocking lefthanders around, .459 to be precise, and Duffy is a lefthander. Duffy deals a 1-1 pitch to Stanton and he hits a deep fly to right that almost goes out, but Jon Jay hauls it in, sending Hicks to second base. Stanton looks annoyed as he returns to the bench. He’s disgusted. The Kansas City fans are delighted.

Gary Sanchez is next, and Duffy works the count to 2-2 with a 94 mph fastball. The Kansas City organ does its version of the “two-strike” music. Sanchez hits a fast ball that stays up deep to left center field, it smacks off the wall, and Hicks scores, putting the Yankees up, 1-0. Sanchez races to second.

Suzyn speculates that the heavy storm-laden air held the ball from being a home run as Tyler Austin comes up and works up to 0-2. She adds that Greg Bird is going to Scranton tomorrow or Monday to continue their rehab. Bird and prosperity are just around the corner.

Duffy uncorks a wild pitch to Austin, but it doesn’t mean much, as he strikes out Austin swinging to end the inning, leaving Sanchez stranded at third under the threatening clouds.

Kansas City is in Missouri, not Kansas, which is across the Missouri River. Kansas City, Missouri, is the major city. Kansas City, Kansas, is a suburb of Kansas City, Missouri. Consequently, the bad weather merely adds to the proof that we are not in Kansas anymore, Toto, and that is today’s reference to “The Wizard of Oz.” Nobody can get through a day without hearing a reference to “The Wizard of Oz,” unless you’re amid the upper crust, in which the clich├ęs all come from Shakespeare.

Sanchez puts on his gear, Severino takes the mound, the Royals take up their bats, and Jon Jay leads off for Kansas City. His name is similar to the nation’s first Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, and he hits a grounder wide of third. Torreyes grabs it and makes an off-balance throw that nails the speedy Jay in time.

The Kansas City Royals are a free-swinging club – the next Royals’ hitter, Jorge Soler, hits the first pitch for a line out to Aaron Judge. They have line-drive hitters, but no home run hitters save today’s DH, Mike Moustakis. The Royal fans greet him with “Mooooose,” for obvious reasons, probably unaware of Moose Skowron.

Moustakis hits a 1-2 pitch to Torreyes at short, who fires across to Austin for the final out, and the Royals are done in short order. Severino is working quickly and efficiently, probably hoping to get the victory in before the storms soak Missouri.

With Andujar up to lead off the second inning, the Royals put three infielders on the left side. I’m tired of these overshifts. Duffy goes to 2-1. He needs to draw more walks, but his defense is improving. He lines right to Soler for the first out.

Clint Frazier returns from purgatory and Scranton (they are interchangeable) and goes to 2-1. Duffy throws his changeup outside to the righthanded hitters, his fastballs inside, and the count goes to 3-1. Frazier takes a pitch outside for a walk. He seems a bit calmer than last year, taking more pitches. Torreyes hits a high fly to center for the second out of the inning.

That brings up Gleyber Torres and his .329 bat. He hits a liner to right to Soler to end the inning.

Despite heavy rain in New York and Boston, both the Mets and Red Sox are playing in the rain: the Mets hosting the Diamondbacks, the Red Sox facing Baltimore. The Sox have Rick Porcello going – the Orioles have sent Dylan Bundy (2-5) and a cast of thousands.

Umbrellas and rain slickers emerge in the bottom of the second as All-Star catcher Salvador Perez comes to bat, and he walks to lead off the inning, which is always fatal.

Second baseman Whit Merrifield, who had three stolen bases last night, comes up and strikes out swinging on a slider in the dirty. His name is a variant on the legendary turn-of-the-last century juvenile fiction star “Frank Merriwell,” whose name was a subliminal message. “Frank” made the character honest. “Merri” made him happy. “Well” made him healthy. He showed all three of these virtues repeatedly in print, winning fictional baseball games for Fardale Academy, Yale University, and the New York Giants on the mound and at the bat, usually while battling opposing teams, nefarious villains seeking to kill him (or his girlfriend), and the horrific writing.

Oddly enough, the man who wrote these books (under the assumed name of Gilbert Standish) also wrote erotic fiction at the time (under another assumed name). He did very well with the Frank Merriwell series, spewing out about about 200 books about this perfect paladin. His erotic fiction, however, was panned by readers and critics alike for lack of emotion and depth. Apparently his romantic scenes were more clinical than erotic.

Left fielder Alex Gordon is next, and Severino works the count to 1-2, and Severino fans him on a 90 mph slider, swinging.

Hunter Dozier is next, the rookie first baseman who is benefiting from Lucas Duda’s presence on the disabled list. Met fans know of Duda’s sojourns on the bench. Severino gets him with a slider for a swinging strikeout, his second of the game, and final out of the inning.

The umbrellas get packed away as Duffy goes 3-1 on Hicks to lead off the third inning. Duffy is on his 40th pitch. Hicks hits the ball down the line and it hits a ledge near the foul pole, bounces away from Soler, and rolls to the Royals’ bullpen. Hicks hops on his horse and charges toward third. Soler falls down as the ball rolls away toward center fielder Jon Jay, who picks it up. Hicks rounds third, and keeps charging. Jay is smart enough to realize that his throw will not reach home in time, so he can only stand there and watch Hicks score his second inside-the-park home run of the year. Hicks crosses the plate and gives a sheepish grin. Yankee fans in the stands cheer and baseball writers and publicity people scramble to their books and computers for statistics on inside-the-park home runs.

Aaron Judge prevents one record from being tied – that for back-to-back inside the park home runs, by striking out for the inning’s first out, which brings up Giancarlo Stanton.

Duffy works the count to 2-2 on Stanton, who draws considerable boos. When Stanton swings and misses at a slider, he draws considerable applause.

YES reports that Mickey Mantle had three inside-the-park HRs in 1958. Duffy works an 0-2 count to Sanchez. Duffy is up to 54 pitches, despite the tight score. Sanchez hits a line drive up the third base line, but Gordon is able to hold Sanchez to a long single. He is showing nice, easy swings, which is good.

Austin hits a line drive to right for a single that puts Sanchez on second – two on and two out for Andujar. Duffy is not exactly being “knocked around,” but he is being worn down.

Duffy had a great year two seasons ago, signed a great deal, and has been injured and erratic since – one can hear the annoyance in the Kansas City front office. But Andujar hits a fly ball to Soler to end the inning.

Here’s the bottom of the third, and Severino faces Alcides Escobar, who hits an infield roller to short for a base hit. Ryan Goins is up next, whose abilities come from his glove. He’s 13 for 53. Logically, he lines a double down the line into the left field corner, which scores Escobar, ending the shutout. The ball stayed under the padding of the fence, and Goins trots into second. Never assume a weak-hitting hitter cannot get a hit.

Jon Jay follows and he bunts toward third and the play works: Jay is out, Goins at third with one out, Soler up, one out. Soler loops a flare to center field for a base hit and Goins trots home to tie up the game. The 96-mph fastball was belt-high.

The fans all roar “Mooooose,” which means Mike Moustakis is up again. So he is. Severino works a 1-1 count. He hits changeup for a hard liner to right for another base hit – the fourth of the inning – and the Royals have runners on first and second with one out.

Salvador Perez hits a foul ball and breaks his bat – part flies into the Yankee dugout, but does not do damage. Severino works a 1-2 count, and Perez swings and misses at a slider in the dirt for the second out.

Whit Merrifield returns to bat, with two out, and Severino makes the count 2-2. Then Severino fans him on high heat to end the inning, which is the good news, but with four hits, the Royals have tied the game at two.

Frazier goes 3-0 against Duffy quickly, as the latter is doubtless pitching to a scouting report. Duffy then gets the usual automatic strike. Then Frazier fouls off a pitch to fill up the count, which is annoying. Both players are facing scouting reports, as neither have faced each other much, but Duffy flinches first – he walks Frazier. Not a good move.

Torreyes is next, which doubtless confuses Royals fans who are unfamiliar with the Yankee roster. Duffy makes it 2-2, and Torreyes nicks off three straight foul balls. Duffy is up to 75 pitches.

We are told that John Ryan Murphy has put the Diamondbacks up 1-0 over the Mets. He was the last man to catch a Mariano Rivera pitch.

Torreyes’ patience works, he hits and 84 mph changeup in the hole by short for a base hit, and the Yankees have runners on first and second with nobody out for Gleyber Torres.

The likely future Rookie of the Year steps up, and a Royal pitcher in the pen starts loosening up his arm and now running circles in the bullpen. Duffy goes to 1-1 on Torres and Gleyber hits a foul ball. He hits a drive to deep left over the bullpen, 407 feet, into the crowd for a three-run home run. Despite being in Kansas City, there are loud roars of approval from Yankee fans in exile. The Yankees now lead 5-2, having eliminated the tie.

It is a big moment for Torres – his fourth major league home run and 15th RBI – but it comes after two disastrous errors last night that cost the Yankees the opening game of the series. Redemption is swift in baseball, as the game is played every day, not every other day or every week.

Hicks comes up, already two-for-two. Duffy is now up to his 85th pitch, but while people are moving in the KC pen, nobody is throwing. Duffy works a 3-2 count on Hicks. Duffy’s next pitch is low and outside, and Hicks is on with nobody out, Duffy’s third yielded walk.

Still nobody warming up, but the Royals’ pitching coach trots out to discuss the situation with Duffy. Perhaps the Royals have decided that Duffy must die gloriously for the Royals’ tradition, which was displayed before the game in a ceremony honoring the team’s 50th anniversary – some of their top players of the past, including George Brett and Frank White, came out and took applause.

Now the Royals get someone loose. Aaron Judge stand in, and hits the 0-1 pitch to deep right center, and Jay catches the ball right at the wall, sending Hicks back to first, just missing a home run. Suzyn tells us that Duffy has no idea why he’s being hit like this. Perhaps it’s because he’s facing a tough team.

Stanton next, and Duffy goes back to work, probably hoping for the bell. Stanton fouls off the first pitch and half-swings at a pitch way off the plate for strike two. Duffy is at 92 pitches. His next pitch is a high fastball -- a waste/challenge pitch for 1-2. Stanton hits a pop to shallow right center for the second out.

Sanchez comes up, and I find out that Justify has won the Preakness, so we might have a Triple Crown this year. Sanchez, on the other hand, has doubled and singled, the two easy parts of the cycle. He doesn’t get the next one – he flies to right to end the inning. But the Yankees go up, 5-2.

Suzyn comments that the Yankees are likely punchy from the disastrous voyage of the damned on Thursday, when their plane was delayed first by weather, second by FAA regulations, forcing the team to literally camp out in the airport all night long, staggering into Kansas City early in the morning. The Yankees insisted it did not affect their play, but having gone all over the world in the Navy by air, I don’t believe that for one minute.

Severino back to work against Alex Gordon in the bottom of the fourth and Gordon grounds to Torreyes, playing on the right side to open the inning with the first out. Severino works quickly, inducing Hunter Dozier to pop up to right for the second out. Escobar follows, hitting an 0-2 pitch weakly to second to end the inning. Clearly the fight has been taken out of Kansas City by having their two-run and four-hit rally nullified by a single three-run home run.

The quick inning is followed by something worse – the “Kars for Kids” promotion on the radio, with its ghastly song. If I ever met the author of that tripe, I’ll force him to transcribe Frank Merriwell books as punishment.

Burch Smith takes over for the hapless and hopeless Danny Duffy. Suzyn says he has good stuff but is a “thrower,” with 13 walks in 19 innings. He has 21 strikeouts, though, and a 4.26 ERA.

The victim of tonight’s game is Danny Duffy, with an ugly line of four innings, seven hits, five runs, all earned, three walks, four strikeouts, and his ERA has ballooned to 6.88. Not something “write home about,” as they said in World War I.

Smith is 6-4, and goes 1-2 to Tyler Austin, who laces a 95.6 mph four-seamer fastball to right for a single. The Yankees have eight hits.

That brings up Andujar who quickly hits yet another pop-up to right, his third of the game. Here’s Frazier and his two walks, facing a new pitcher. Smith delivers a strike at the knees.

Once again, two scouting reports face each other…doubtless neither hitter nor pitcher are too familiar with each other. Smith proves it by throwing to first to hold Austin – Smith can’t make up his mind.

Smith makes the count 1-1 with a 94-mph fastball. Then Frazier hits a hard grounder to short, and the Royals turn an even harder 6-4-3 double play to end the inning. Smith has done his job so far – a 10-pitch inning.

The bottom of the fifth opens with Severino going to the mound and the ground crew taking up their positions to roll the tarp on the field – if Severino can get the three outs, the game is official and a victory can go into the books.

Severino goes 3-1 on Goins, who got the hit that opened all the chaos in the third inning. It would be embarrassing if that happened again, and Severino is embarrassed – he walks Goins to lead off the inning. As we know, leadoff walks are fatal, and Jon Jay comes up, the top of the order.

It’s not surprising to me that number nine hitters get walks and hits – pitchers seem to ease up on them. Severino gets tougher on Jay, starting him off with a strike, but Jay hits the next pitch on the ground over third base for a base hit, and the Royals have two on and nobody out, with their big hitters coming up.

Soler hits a grounder to short, and Torreyes feeds Torres for one out and fires a low ball to Austin for the second out. A clutch double play. Goins goes to third, but two are out.

Moustakas comes up and takes low for ball one. He hits the next pitch on a line drive to right field for a base hit, and Goins scores – the Yankee lead is cut to 5-3. Severino shakes his head in disgust at where his pitch went. Not only was it a hit, it splintered and broke the bat. The double play looms larger than ever.

Salvador Perez rips the first pitch to him off the left field wall, and the Royals send Moustakas home. Torreyes takes the relay from Stanton and fires home. The umpire calls him out. The Royals call for a replay. The umpires call for the headphones and the feed from New York City. The staffers at MLB study the video, which makes Moustakas look out at one angle, safe at another. The fans yell and shout at the replay on the screen as the umpires stand in their huddle, headphones on their heads, awaiting the decision – and then the audience starts booing. Moustakas is out. It’s a double for Perez, the inning is over. Score it 7-6-2, the fifth inning is over, and Severino is in line for the win.

Fittingly, Torreyes, whose replay ended the inning and the Royals’ rally, leads off the top of the sixth inning. He adds to his laurels on the first pitch (a 94 mph heater) with a line drive to center field for a double.

This game is defining ugliness, but John Sterling tells us the sky in Kansas City is becoming brighter. Suzyn Waldman tells us the Red Sox are leading the Orioles 4-1 on three home runs, one by Mookie Betts. That game appears to be a foregone conclusion. Paul Goldschmidt has homered for Arizona and Michael Conforto for the Mets, and that game is tied at 2-2.

Smith goes to 1-2 on Gleyber Torres, who foul tips a pitch into Perez’s mitt for one out. Sterling and Waldman note that the Yankee offense is so good because it comes from all points in the order.

Aaron Hicks is up now, having a pleasant night: two-for-two with his inside-the-park home run. Smith works the count to 3-0, which is not wise, with Judge on deck and only one out. Smith gets a fastball strike (common enough in 3-0 situations). Then Smith gets another strike to make it 3-2, so the at-bat is getting tougher. Hicks grounds to second to move Torreyes to second, but Hicks is out. Two down.

Here comes Aaron Judge, who has struck out twice and flied to center. First pitch is a breaking ball outside, 1-0. Smith works the count to 1-2, then freezes Judge for strike three called with a 95 mph fastball – a “hat trick” for the slugger. On to the bottom of the sixth.

Whit Merrifield leads off the bottom of the sixth, complete with his impressive name. Merrifield hits the first pitch to deep left that goes off the wall, and winds up on second. He did not miss a home run by much, and Alex Gordon follows. Severino is at 67 pitches, but has given up eight hits. Not a good outing.

Chad Green gets loose in the Yankee pen. The Yanks are suffering from the lack of Tommy Kahnle and Adam Warren, of course, but Severino responds by striking out Gordon with hard stuff, freezing Merrifield at second, Severino’s sixth strikeout.

Hunter Dozier is next and Severino goes to 0-2. The KC organ plays the usual music for Dozier. He hits a high fly to right, and Judge catches it. Merrifield goes to third, bringing up Escobar with two out.

Escobar taps the 0-1 back to Severino, who flips to Austin to end the inning and rally – and, I suspect, his evening, as we go to the seventh.

Burch Smith stays on the mound to face Stanton, Sanchez, and Austin in the bottom of the sixth. Stanton is 0-3, and could use a base hit. The count goes to 2-2. Stanton hits the ball deep to left, to the wall, and Gordon catches the ball in front of the bullpen screen. I can imagine that Stanton will now proceed to do serious damage to the water cooler.

Sanchez follows. He hits an 0-2 79.2 mph curveball to deep left field, and this one goes OVER Gordon’s head and into the Yankees’ bullpen where Stanton failed, and the Yankees are now ahead, 6-3. Interestingly, if Sanchez gets a triple, he will have nailed the cycle.

Waldman and Sterling do the required ad for Papa John’s Pizza for the Yankees scoring six runs. It’s Sanchez’s 11th HR and 32nd RBI, breaking his tie for 63rd place on the all-time Yankee home run list with the forgotten Nick Etten, the unjustly forgotten Johnny Lindell, and the forgettable Mel Hall. Sanchez now stands tied at 60th place with the memorable Johnny Blanchard, the interesting Kevin Maas, and teammate Didi Gregorius.

Austin takes a called strike three for the inning’s second out, and Andujar comes up, having flied out to right three times, the picture of foolish consistency. This time he breaks it with a groundball through to right for a base hit.

Frazier lines a base hit into the gap to center, all the way to the time, and the Royals fire the relay to home from Jay to Merrifield to Perez, to return the previous play at the plate favor by nailing Andujar at the plate to end the inning. The Yankees consider protesting, study the video, and choose not to.

In the top of the seventh, Chad Green replaces Luis Severino on the mound, and trainers come out to help Torreyes get something out of his eye. Severino’s line is unimpressive: six innings, eight hits, three runs, all earned, six strikeouts, and two walks. He can win, but not lose. With mediocre stuff, he has given the Yankees what they needed and the boys have a four-run lead.

Obviously the Yankees do not want Severino to face tonight’s arch-nemesis, Ryan Goins. Chad Green works up to 1-1. Green fires a 97-mph heater to make it 1-2. He hits it in the air to left center and it goes to the left center field wall – Goins winds up at second. He has had a perfect night, and no Yankee pitcher can get him out.

That brings up Jon Jay, the top of the Royals’ order. Green makes it 1-2, and strikes Jay out with a 97-mph heater for one out.

Soler grounds the ball to third and Andujar’s long throw to first does not get there in time – the speedy Soler reaches first. But this time the Yankees call for the replay. The umpires call for the headsets and the fans start yelling at the replays on the screen. The umpires convene and call Soler out. Two out.

The Moose comes up, and Green quickly goes up 0-2. Moose swings and misses for the third out, and the Royals are stopped yet again. Both teams are showing a lot of resilience.

The Royals send Blaine Boyer to replace Burch Smith. Smith has gone a reasonable three innings, one earned run on the Sanchez HR, and three strikeouts, Boyer has a 12.89 ERA.

However, he induces Torreyes to hit the first pitch pop foul to Dozier for the first out. Dellin Betances gets ready in the Yankee pen for the eighth.

Gleyber Torres comes up, and Suzyn tells us the Orioles have fought back to pull within one run of the Red Sox, 4-3.

Boyer goes 1-2 to Torres. He hits a tapper to Goins, and the Royals get Torres in time. Two out.

Hicks comes up now. The rain has still not materialized. 3-2 on Hicks, and he rips a liner to Soler, who gets down to his knees to make the catch and end the inning.

We go to the bottom of the eighth, and Dellin Betances comes on. His pitching has improved as the season has droned on, and he is closer to his All-Star form.

He faces Salvador Perez, and the count goes to 2-2. Suzyn and John comment on the game being exciting. It has been so, but I have vivid memories of Frank Messer calling games “exciting” when they were not, back in the miserable 1980s.

Perez hits an 0-1 fly ball to right center and Hicks hauls it in for the first out.

Whit Merrifield is next, and he hits a pitch in the air to right. Judge goes back a step and makes the catch. Two out. Now comes Alex Gordon, 0-for-3. Betances works the count to 2-2 with a 97-mph pitch that is just inside. The next pitch is in the same spot, same speed, but is called strike three to end the inning.

Off to the top of the ninth. The Yankees send up their top sluggers: Judge, Stanton, and Sanchez. Neither of the first two have done anything of note offensively. Judge goes 3-1 quickly. He hits a groundball to second for the first out.

Suzyn tells us that Frazier walked seven times in hundreds of at-bats last year: he’s walked twice tonight.

Stanton follows, 0-4. He hits a ball high in the air, deep to center, and finally exacts his revenge on the fly balls to the wall with a mammoth home run to center, his 11th of the season. The cheering and roaring can be heard behind Sterling and his announcement, suggesting that many of the fans here are Yankee exiles. He now has 27 RBIs, and the Yankees have a 7-3 lead. Fourth home run of the night.

Suzyn suggests that Stanton’s HR was because he’d batted against Boyer before and officially notes that the hit is Stanton’s 500th extra-base hit of his career.

Sanchez hits a 2-1 91 mph four-seam fastball high in the air deep to center field. Jon Jay leaps to field the ball, but the ball goes over his head, into the center field seats, and the Yankees now have an 8-3 lead. It’s Sanchez’s 12th homer of the season, and he is now tied for 59th on the all-time Yankee list with Scott Brosius at 65.

Yankee fans (who probably outnumber Royals fans by now) yell “Let’s go Yankees.”

Meanwhile, Tyler Austin grounds out to short for the second out, and Aroldis Chapman gets loose in the pen, even though it’s no longer a save situation – he simply needs the work.

Miguel Andujar hits now, and goes 3-2. Andujar hits it weakly to second to end the inning. The Yankees have pounded 14 hits.

Now we go to the ninth, and Chapman comes in, to get some work for the first time in seven days. It’s not a save situation, but with a five-run lead, it’s critical to avoid giving up walks.

All Chapman can do is lower his 1.50 ERA or create a save situation by putting runners on base – or both. He faces the bottom of the Royal order, but they have caused chaos. Hunter Dozier is first. Chapman goes 2-2 on him. The next pitch bangs the umpire, Jim Wolf, in the mask, and he sags down. Sanchez grabs Wolf to keep the umpire from collapsing, and his colleagues and the Kansas City trainer come out to assist Wolf.

Wolf resumes his position, Dozier asks if he’s okay, and the fans applaud. Chapman’s next pitch is 100-mph Ball Three. The payoff pitch is ball four…Dozier walks. Precisely what the Yankees do NOT want to see. Chapman is not happy.

Escobar comes up. The first pitch is high for ball one. Chapman is showing a week’s rust. Now he gets a strike. He works the count to 2-2. The Red Sox, however, have amassed a 6-3 lead in the ninth.

Chapman strikes out Escobar swinging, and now we see a percentage irony – the lefthanded Goins, who has demolished Yankee pitching all night long, is replaced at bat by switch-hitting Abraham Almonte, who bats right handed. Chapman’s 1-0 pitch is over Sanchez’s head, and bounces off the screen, making a 2-0 count on Almonte and Dozier trots to second. Sanchez fires down to second and Torres tries to nail Dozier as he rises from second base. Chapman is more than a bit rusty.

The Yankees claim that Dozier stepped off the bag. Once again, the umpires huddle with their headphones, while the organ plays mindless music. Umpire crew chief Hal Holbrook takes off the headset and call Dozier out – runner out at second on a wild pitch, 2-4. The ball was thrown so wild and so hard that Sanchez was able to whirl about and fire it to Torres and catch Dozier as he rose off the bag. A weird out, but the Yankees are one out away with the bases empty. The fans cheer and roar. They must be Yankee fans.

Almonte is still up, and now the count is 2-2. Almonte digs in. Chapman fires an inside pitch, 3-2. Almonte grounds to short. Torreyes fields it and fires to first for the final out.

The Yankees have tied the series at a game apiece with an interesting 8-3 victory and five home runs.

Suzyn Waldman’s hero is Aaron Hicks for his inside-the-park home run. He says he is working to make good contact. Suzyn asks if he’ll get a third inside-the-park HR. Hicks laughs, and just says he hopes to hit the ball hard. Suzyn asks if Hicks watched the ball and made the move. Hicks said he first thought it would get caught, but then he saw it fall in and trickle away, and realized he could keep going. He adds that the lineup is pretty dangerous and something different every game. Severino kept the Yankees in the game, Hicks says. Suzyn tells us we need that third inside-the-park home run. If that happens, that happens, Hicks says.

Every time I see or listen to a baseball game, I see or hear something I have never seen before. This time there are several things: five home runs is not common. two men called safe at the plate and then out on replays I have not seen…nor a wild pitch turned into an out. Nor two inside-the-park home runs in one season by one player. But that’s what makes baseball memorable. Every game there is something new.





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