Thursday, May 10, 2018

May 9, 2018 Game Recap by David Lippman

May 9, 2018
      I started listening to this game early, and when Masahiro Tanaka gave up the two-run home run to Mitch Moreland in the second, I said, “Time to get dinner, this will be a long night.” I was right. When I came back, the Yankees were ahead, though.
         The most annoying thing about a hitter being in a slump is that he is in a slump when he is most needed to produce. The Yankees have loaded the bases in the bottom of the fifth on  a sloppy throw, a walk, and a hit batsman, bringing Gary Sanchez to the plate. Fortunately, he hit the ball. Unfortunately, it is merely a sacrifice fly, so the Yankees are up 5-3 in the bottom of the fifth inning. Sanchez must be walking back to the dugout, wondering if he’s succeeded (with the RBI) or failed (with no hit). But it wasn’t enough…the Yankees loaded the bases, but only gained one run. If you load the bases with nobody out, you should score runs. Not good enough.
       Tonight has been an interesting struggle for the pitchers. Rick Porcello has given up walks and doubles, while Masahiro Tanaka has given up two home runs. It’s a wild and woolly game, and I expect that it will be decided by the bullpens.
   Giancarlo Stanton has clearly declared war on the Boston Red Sox…he homered twice against them last night to both fields and doubled in two runs today.
    While the Yankees are struggling to hold their 5-3 lead, the other New York team is trying to hold onto its composure. Their manager, Mickey Callaway, submitted a lineup , and his players batted out of order. The Reds took advantage of this botch. Callaway should not feel too bad: Frank Robinson made the same blunder when he first managed the Indians, as did Joe Schultz in the year he managed the Seattle Pilots, their only year of existence. Robinson’s career suffered temporary embarrassment – Schultz never managed again. The Mets have lost eight of nine, and I have seen the Mets caps disappear when I walk around my city of Newark, replaced by Yankee caps.
       Xander Bogaerts led off the sixth inning with a double to center, which has Chad Green up in the Yankee bullpen. Tanaka has been laboring all game, and he will be gone soon.
      Bogaerts is the fifth native of Aruba to play in the majors, and he has a twin brother, who plays in the Cubs’ system. He speaks four languages: English, Spanish, Dutch, and Papiamento, a Portuguese-based Creole language that is one of the official languages of the Netherlands Antilles.  The Governor of Aruba, acting in his capacity as the “Fount of Honor” for Aruba, made Bogaerts a Knight in the Order of Orange-Nassau, which presumably comes with a coat of arms. The other Arubans in baseball are Sidney Ponson, Calvin Maduro, Gene Kingsale, and Radhames Dykhoff.
      All this, of course, I am writing while Mitch Moreland hit a grounder to move Bogaerts over to third, which drove Tanaka from the game, and brought in Chad Green to restore order. The Yankees have brought the corners in but not the shortstop and second. The first pitch to Nunes is a 95.5 mph fastball up that becomes a liner to center. Bogaerts trots home, there are two out, and the score is 5-4, Yankees. Once again, the Yankees are in a nail-biter.
     Green now faces third baseman Rafael Devers, batting .263. Doubtless both teams will send in a number of bullpen artists. Devers strikes out on a foul tip, flings his bat on the ground in disgust, and the top of the sixth is over.
      Jacob Ruppert once said that his idea of a fun Yankee game was one where the Yankees got a 12-run lead in the first inning and slowly pulled away. So do I, but they don’t happen very often. This is certainly not one of them, as the Sox have a pretty good bullpen.
      While I write this, I am entertaining one of our two pet birds, Kimmy the Conyure, who comes from Central America. Well, her species does. She’s captive-bred. Her favorite hobby is prowling around me while I type, and preening my skin for imperfections. Her second favorite is to bite my fingers when I try to type.
     Miguel Andujar swings at a Porcello 1-2 pitch for the first out of the bottom of the sixth. He isn’t hitting as many extra-base hits any more. Clearly the “Great American Pitchers Union” that Whitey Ford wrote about five decades ago has kicked in. According to Ford, pitchers on rival teams discuss their mutual enemies between games.
      Porcello, however, hasn’t got the word on Gleyber Torres. Nobody has figured him out yet, as he’s betting .321. Porcello runs up a 3-0 count on the likely Rookie of the Year and Torres raps a single to left field. Watching Torres has been fascinating. He seems completely at ease in the majors – unfazed by major league pitching, able to turn double plays with skill and speed, very calm in the spotlight of New York. Since his arrival, the Yankees have exploded with velocity and force. John Sterling says that he and Didi Gregorius will be the Yankee double-play combination for the next 10 years. I hope so.
       Torres’ single drives out Porcello, and in comes Jeremy Johnson to face the Yankees, and batters are hitting .307 off of him, not a good number for Mr. Johnson. He faces Gritty, Gutty, Brett Gardner, who has had two doubles to break a mammoth slump. Johnson is the only lefthander, so he may be here to face Gardner, and then Carson Smith to face the righthanded Judge and Stanton.
    Johnson also has a 6.00 ERA, which is not something any major league pitcher or manager wants to see, but an opposing hitter does. However, he quickly works a 1-2 count on Gardner. Both pitchers have gone 5.1 innings.
   Gardner fouls off two pitches, and I can hear that canned “Dayo” sound effect the Yankees use for foul balls. I have always been puzzled by that. The next pitch is in the dirt, 2-2. Why do the Yankees do this “dayo” for foul balls? Next is a breaking ball for a 3-2 count.
     Johnson takes his time for the 3-2 pitch and Gardner promptly grounds it to short for a 6-4 force – his speed prevents the double play. Not a very successful at-bat for Gardner. The Red Sox’ pitching coach comes out to convene with Johnson. John Sterling theorizes that Johnson is being told to pitch around Judge and face the slumping Didi. Furthermore, Judge might swing at a pitch off the plate and end the inning. Another chapter from Sterling’s book “Inside Baseball Strategy” is followed by a Sterling pitch for the Hebrew home.
     Johnson works a 1-1 count to Judge after the spot, and the theory works – Judge swings and misses, 1-2. Judge hits the next pitch to right center to end the inning. Sterling should write that book.
     Kimmy the Conyure only says four things: her name, “Bad Bird,” “Hah, hah, hah,” and “B, B, B,” a reference to our dog Bodie, who we often call by saying, “B,B,B.” She screeches “Bad Bird” in my ear as Brock Holt pinch-hits for the catcher to open up the top of the seventh inning. Holt is fresh off the Disabled List. He is 14-43 off of righties, but he pops up the third pitch to Didi for one out, which seems a bit of a waste.
  Up comes Mookie Betts, who is a menace to all things round and spherical. Green quickly works a 1-2 count, then the usual slider in the dirt on 1-2. Chad wants to make his living off the hungriness of Betts, but it’s ball two. Seconds later, it’s ball three, and then Betts drives a screeching liner (they all “screech”) and Gardner, as usual, hustles over and snags it before it hits the ground for the second out.
      Here’s Benintendi, who hits well in Yankee Stadium, has homered earlier, and hits the Yankees extremely well. I wonder which is more relevant – his love of hitting in Yankee Stadium or his love of hitting the Yankees. If it’s the former, perhaps the Yankees should acquire him someday.
    Green works the count to 2-2 with efficiency, and Benintendi leans away from a 95-mph fastball for ball three. Green’s next pitch is low, ball four. The boos roll out. I expect that Green is showing respect for a hitter who uses Yankee Stadium as a dartboard.
       Henley Ramirez is the go-ahead run, and the outfield plays deep. He’s batting .288, with three home runs. Kimmy stands between my hands, preening her own feathers. Green deals the 1-1, at 95 mph, down the middle of the plate. It goes deep to left, into the second deck, and the Red Sox now lead, 6-5. Tanaka and Porcello are off the hook, Chad Green has a blown save, Jeremy Johnson a chance to win, and the Sox have had their third home run of the night. Walks are always fatal. Green puts his hands on his hips and closes his eyes. The fans are roaring – there must be a lot of Red Sox fans in attendance. The homer went 431 feet.
  This inning has become disastrous, and J.D. Martinez comes to bat. Green goes 0-2 and then fires the obligatory 0-2 slider away for a ball, and another one after that. Martinez hits the next pitch into center field for a single, and Larry Rothschild bounces out of the dugout to dispense wisdom to Green. Usually, that consists of “Throw strikes, dammit.”

           Rothschild departs, Bogaerts comes to bat for the honor of Aruba, and Green goes back to work. Chasen Shreve starts warming up in the bullpen. Green goes 1-2 on Bogaerts. Then he strikes out Bogaerts to end the inning, but two batters too late. Everyone rises to honor a veteran and sing “God Bless America” along with the tape of Kate Smith. I actually like Ronan Tynan’s rendition better, which includes the rarely-sung first stanza, but he made an anti-Semitic crack in 2009, and that ended his singing career in a city that has more Jews than all of Israel.
        The Yankees now have nine outs to regain the lead and win the game. Brock Holt departs, and Christian Vazquez comes  on to catch. Johnson is still in, to face the lefthanded Gregorius, and Carson Smith will then face Stanton and the other right-handers. They only need to survive two innings to get to Craig Kimbrel, their ace closer.
      Gregorius hits a 1-0 pitch to left for the first out, and Alex Cora emerges – the pitcher with the 6.00 ERA and .300 opposing batting average has done his job. Carson Smith will come on. Kimmy flies up from my computer keyboard and onto the row of DVDs above for a moment, looks at me quizzically, then flies down again, to preen my hands.
  Smth has a 4.09 ERA, and he is facing Giancarlo Stanton, who has been teeing off against the Red Sox. Smith has given up 11 hits in 14 innings and hitters are batting .250 against him.  So this should be an interesting battle.
   The first pitch is low and inside for ball one. Stanton hits a grounder to short and Bogaerts disposes of Stanton in short order for two outs. Sanchez is next.
   Sterling does the power report from Indian Point Power Plant, which is glowing with pride. Smith works a 2-1 count to Sanchez. Chasen Shreve and David Robertson warm up in the bullpen. Sanchez hits a liner to left for a base hit. Applause all around. Aaron Hicks comes up. He has walked and sacrificed flied, and grounded into a fielder’s choice.
     Hicks has the advantage of being a switch-hitter, but falls behind 1-2. The next pitch is low for 2-2. Smith is slowing down the pace of the game because of the tightness and the next pitch is ball three. But the next pitch is strike three called, and that ends the seventh.
    Lefty Chasen Shreve faces lefty Mitch Moreland to lead off the eighth inning and is quickly 1-1. Jonathan Holder starts getting loose for the Yankees. Shreve goes up to 3-2. He doesn’t challenge hitters – he throws too many pitches. And sure enough, he walks Moreland. Shreve,, as Peter Shaffer’s Emperor Josef says of Mozart in “Amadeus,” is offering “too many notes.”
     Next is Eduardo Nunes, who hurt the Yankees as a Yankee with questionable defense and is now hurting them as a Red Sock with powerful offense. Leadoff walks are fatal, and this one is, too. Nunez rips a line drive down the left field line that puts runners on second and third with nobody out. The Yankees bring the infield up, Rafael Devers comes to bat, and Shreve is in serious trouble.
      I’ve watched Shreve pitch, and I can see him on the radio, a skinny kid with a skinny face. When he had trouble against Cleveland and came out of the game, he stood in the dugout, chewing on a paper cup, held in place by his teeth.
    He works 0-2 on Devers, then the usual outside pitch to make it 1-2. It is very difficult to get out of runners-on-second-and-third-nobody-out situations, but Shreve gets Devers on a swinging strikeout.
    That’s enough for Aaron Boone, who summons Jonathan Holder from the pen. Suzyn Waldman tells us this call is sponsored by “Kars-for-Kids,” which means we’ll hear that ghastly commercial and even more ghastly song. Holder’s ERA is a whopping 6.23, so it’s hard to imagine things getting worse. Tommy Kahnle and Adam Warren are both still on the disabled list, sadly.
When Shreve reaches the dugout, he hurls his glove and other kit onto the bench in fury and disgust. Despite the money, or perhaps because of it, today’s ballplayer is as ultra-competitive as those 100 years ago.
   Christian Vazquez comes up, batting .196. A ground ball to the right side or a fly ball scores the run. Next is Mookie Betts. Holder has to pitch to Vazquez or face destruction at the hands of Betts. Holder works the count to 2-2, and strikes him out swinging with the slider.
    With first base open, Boone orders the intentional walk to Betts rather than face him, bringing up Benintendi, who is no improvement from the Yankee point of view. The first pitch to him is a strike. Benintendi has seen Holder twice. Both players are therefore facing scouting reports. The next pitch is a ball. Another ball follows. The “Let’s Go Yankees” chants are replaced by solid booing. Benintendi hits a one-hop liner to Didi, who fires it to first to end the inning. The Red Sox rally is stalled. The Yankees have another chance in the eighth. I hope Shreve feels better.
       Neil Walker and his .191 average leads off the eighth inning against Matt Barnes and his 2.51 ERA. Kimbrel starts warming up to get the two-inning save, if necessary. Barnes starts off with two balls, but then evens the count. Walker lines a ball all the way to the wall, and Walker gets another double. In spite of his .191 batting average, he has been getting timely hits. The Yankees have the tying run on second and nobody out. Up comes Andujar, two of the bottom-of-the-order guys who are making the Yankees go. 47, 000 fans start screaming their heads off as Barnes goes 2-0 on Andujar.
   The Red Sox do not play Andujar to bunt. He grounds the ball to second and moves Walker to third – it’s a sacrifice without the credit. Andujar gets patted on the back as he goes to the dugout. The Sox’ pitching coach goes to the mound for another Geneva Convention – this one to discuss whether or not to intentionally walk Torres and face Gardner. They decide to pitch to Gleyber and move the infield in. The first pitch is high, 1-0. The next pitch is a bouncer in the dirt, 2-0. The fans are yelling “Let’s Go Yankees.” The infielders have their feet on the infield grass. The third pitch is low, 3-0. It’s pretty obvious that the Sox are pitching around Torres, theorizing that Gardner is an easier out on a double play. Torres takes the next pitch for a strike. The last pitch is a breaking ball for ball four. Torres trots down to first. Craig Kimbrel jogs in from the bullpen for a five-out save, sponsored by “Kars for Kids.”
    And that horrible song immediately starts playing. Kimmy screeches at the song in response. She doesn’t like it, either.
     Kimbrel has nine saves, 21 strikeouts, and a 1.23 ERA in 14.2 innings. Gardner comes up, and the first pitch is a ball. So is the second, which puzzles me…Kimbrel is better than that. Kimbrel’s third pitch is low, 3-0. He hasn’t come close to the strike zone. On deck is Judge. Sterling muses on whether Gardner should swing on the 3-0 pitch. Aroldis Chapman is up in the pen for the ninth.
       The next pitch is a 97-mph strike. The 3-1 pitch does not arrive…Kimbrel throws to first to hold Torres. Kimbrel faces Gardner again. Gardner grounds it foul for a full count. Vazquez looks to the signs from the dugout. I am reminded of how John J. McGraw, managing the Giants in the 1920s, personally called every pitch. My computer tells me that the Giants have lost 11-3. They have run out of gas.
   Gardner fouls back the next pitch. Clearly GGBG will try to make this a quality at-bat. Kimbrel is relying on his patented fastball, which is fair. Gardner hits a ball to deep left center, off the left-center field wall, 399 feet away, over Betts’ head…..Walker goes home easily, and Torres slides home head first, ahead of the throw. Gardner steams into third base. The Yankees lead, 7-6.
    Judge comes up next and fouls Kimbrel’s first pitch. Craig is still relying on fastballs. A good major league hitter can hit a fastball…it’s a matter of timing. If you can’t time the incoming heater, you lose. Judge stands in, and the count goes to 1-2. Everyone in Yankee Stadium is on their feet.
   Judge hits a ball to deep center….the ball goes into Monument Park. Gardner trots home. Judge thunders steadily around the bases in his typical fashion. The fans are roaring. The score is now 9-6. The Red Sox’ closer has not blown the save, though…the go-ahead runs are on his predecessor’s tally sheet. But for a certainty, Kimbrel has poured gasoline on the fire.
    The bases are empty now, with one out, and Kimbrel regains his composure to strike out the slumping Gregorius. The home run is Aaron Judge’s ninth of the year. It’s his 65th as a Yankee, putting him in a tie for 58th place on the team’s all-time list with Scott Brosius.
   Kimbrel strikes out Stanton to end the eighth inning, but the mystery is why he was left in after Judge’s shot…he may not be available tomorrow. The Yankees have blasted the Red Sox’ best relief pitchers for four runs in the inning, with a double, a triple, and a mammoth home run. They go to the ninth with a 9-6 lead.
The Sox will send up Ramirez, Martinez, and Bogaerts in the ninth. None of the three are slouches, and Chapman is coming on in a save situation, but with a three-run lead. This will be a test of talent and timing at its very best. Chapman can fire his heat fairly accurately at 100 mph or more. The Red Sox have proven hitters.
Chapman and his 1.69 ERA come on. Chapman wears 54, and I wonder why that number hasn’t been retired for Rich Gossage. Chapman quickly goes 0-2 on Ramirez. Ramirez fouls back the next pitch. Sterling plugs Workmen’s Circle Quality Care, which sponsors save opportunities, whatever that means.
  Chapman’s 0-2 fans Ramirez, swinging. 102 mph. Ramirez could not time that. J.D. Martinez comes up next. Sterling points out that tonight’s overlooked hero is Jonathan Holder, who slammed the Red Sox down in the eighth when they had runners on second and third and one out. He will get the win, deservedly so.
  Chapman works the count on Martinez to 1-2. Just outside, 2-2. Martinez fouls back the next pitch. The Sox refuse to go out…they are determined. Martinez grounds it to first and past Walker. This is doubly annoying, because it puts a Sox runner on and can jar the Yankees’ concentration. The Sox now have the tying run on deck, if Bogaerts gets on. This game is getting too dramatic.
  Chapman gets the count on Bogaerts to 1-2, and takes his time, like most closers. Mariano was just as deliberate and utterly emotionless. I always wanted to be like him. I never could.
    On deck is Mitch Moreland, who homered earlier. Chapman waits as Bogaerts digs back in. Fouled back. I expect the at-bats now will become epic duels. I’ve seen many. Another foul ball, grounded off first. Chapman delivers a slider, and Bogaerts swings ahead of the pitch. Two out. Chapman worked on his slider and change all through spring training, to overcome his deficiencies of last year, and they are paying off.
  Mitch Moreland steps in, with two out. Gary Sanchez goes to the mound to discuss their next move, and umpire Cory Blazer breaks up the chat. It’s interesting how quickly those conventions go. I often wonder what they say.
The first pitch is a strike. The second pitch is way inside and Moreland has to move out of the way. The infield plays back – if Martinez steals second, it’s irrelevant. Moreland fouls off the pitch as Martinez goes, making it 1-2. The Yankees are one pitch away. That last pitch is the longest. I have a book about the 1986 post-season that points out that very subject.
Chapman delivers the 1-2 and strikes out Moreland swinging. The Yankees have gone into first place. They have also taken the series, and come back from being down 2-1 and 6-5 to win the game.
  Suzyn Waldman grabs her star of the game, which is Aaron Judge, for his diving catch and two-run home run. Judge promptly gives credit to Brett Gardner, who got him “fired up.” Humble and modest. It works for Judge. It sounds believable and real. Judge calls Gardner “the leader of the team.” He also calls Walker “incredible for what he’s done for us all year.” And Judge honors Holder. “He went in strong and tough and had command of his pitches.” On being in first: “Gotta keep it rolling. Tomorrow is a new day.” In a few years, Judge will be the Yankee captain.
The numbers are in: a loss for Barnes, a blown save for Kimbrel, a blown save for Green, a win for Holder (1-1), and Chapman’s ninth save.
  Two games against the Red Sox are endless drama, but they do end. This game is over, the Yankees have won, and are now in sole possession of first place and the best record in baseball. But the two teams face off again tomorrow, and the night could end with the teams tied again. We have to continue the fight again.
   The Yankees are sometimes called the “Evil Empire,” and I am reminded of a line by the evil Duke of Gloucester after he has been crowned king in “Richard III,” by William Shakespeare.
  Richard says to his aide, the Duke of Buckingham, “Thus high, by your advice and assistance, is King Richard seated. But shall we wear these glories for a day? Or shall they last and we rejoice in them?”
But that might go over the heads of many baseball fans. Maybe Hall of Famer Stanley Coveleski, who won 297 games in his career said it better, in “The Glory of Their Times” 50 years ago: “The pressure never lets up. Doesn’t matter what you did yesterday. That’s history. It’s tomorrow that counts. So you worry all the time. It never ends. Lord, baseball is a worrying thing.”

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Sorry for the Capatcha... Blame the Russians :)