First of all, the East Coast start time was 5 am. But here in London, it was 11 am. So I trekked down to the local Sports Cafe near Piccadilly Circus, the only place that I knew had a chance of showing the game. American sports are largely broadcast on the North American Sports Network (NASN) here, by the way. Trouble is, the bar didn't open until noon, so I was stuck watching the first three innings through the window. It was the first time I'd ever had the pleasure of watching a game on television from outside but, ah, the things I do for my love of the game.
As it turns out, I saw the best part of the game while I was standing outside. Jason Giambi hit his first homerun of the season, quieting doubters about his ability to perform this year - for now at least. When I got inside, the Yankees had a nice 2-0 lead and things were looking up.
The Yanks didn't waste a lot of time showing off their new toys either. A-Rod, despite striking out looking in his first two at bats, made the most of his time at third base. His first chance at his new position was on a Damian Rolls chopper that forced him to range far to his left, to the shortstop position. He fielded and made a strong throw to first base to get the speedy Rolls. Rodriguez made another great play in the fifth inning, stopping what likely would have been a double down the line and holding Rolls to a single.
Gary Sheffield had an interesting day. The slugger, reknowned for his power, had two hits. An infield single, and an accidental RBI double. Sheff tried to check his swing, but made contact on a pitch that was around eye level. The ball dropped into right field for an RBI double that gave the Yanks a temporary 3-2 lead.
Thats when things started going south, as Tampa Bay's bats woke up sooner than I had anticipated. Three runs in the bottom of the sixth chased starter Mike Mussina from the game and gave Tampa a 5-3 lead. They would get three more runs off of Felix Heredia in the next few innings and walk away with an Opening Day victory.
A few things popped out at me from watching the game on the telly. For starters, the YES Network is much more tolerable to watch when I don't have to listen to Michael Kay talk. Though the fact that there was no sound made it impossible to hear Joe Girardi's broadcast debut.
The Devil Rays, from where I sat, looked like a good and very exciting, young team. Aubrey Huff, in particular, had four picture-perfect swings in the game, two for hits and two for very loud outs. The Rays put together a whopping 15 hits in the game, easily outnumbering the Yankees' seven. The only Ray without a hit was leadoff man Carl Crawford, who spent most of his at bats trying to bunt the runners over. Tampa looks solid, and their hitting and defense looked excellent. Former Yankee Tino Martinez had a great day, including a diving stab at an Enrique Wilson line drive. Julio Lugo probably made the play of the game, however, running into no-man's land to rob Ruben Sierra of a bloop hit while narrowly avoiding centerfielder Rocco Baldelli.
In all honesty, the Rays looked much more impressive than they much-hyped Yankees. They played cleaner baseball, and their offense was vaguely reminiscient of the 2003 Marlins. I don't expect the Yankees to continue playing this way, swinging at bad pitches and not working the count enough, but they're not off to a good start so far.
For all the hype, these Yankees looked remarkably human. Even from London.