Usually, in these recaps, I just dive right into the nitty gritty and stick to my format. But this was no ordinary series. Seriously, I can't wrap my head around the game I just watched. In the same game, I saw a rookie pitcher go toe-to-toe with one of the most dominant pitchers of this generation. I saw Tony Clark - filling in for a guy with parasites - crush a two-run home run, I saw Jorge Posada - who is generally owned by Pedro Martinez - take Pedro deep. I saw Manny Ramirez hit towering home runs twice, I saw gutsy performances from every single relief pitcher that walked out of their bullpen doors. I saw A-Rod think he had a triple play, only to find out that you can't get the same runner out twice. I saw Derek Jeter absolutely dive head first into the stands and into the hearts of every single Yankee fan that had turned their back on him with another game-saving play.
I saw Gary Sheffield play third base for the first time in 11 seasons because the Yankees had used up their entire bench. I saw Jason Giambi pinch-hit with that parasite because he had to. I saw both teams fail to score the go-ahead runs with the bases loaded on several occasions.
I saw Ruben Sierra, Miguel Cairo and John Flaherty come through with hits with two outs in the bottom of the 13th inning to steal the game back from the Red Sox, who had so unmercifully stolen it from the Yankees in the top of that inning. I saw both teams empty their benches top to bottom, with the only remaining position players being Boston's backup catcher and a disgruntled Nomar Garciaparra. I saw the Yankes put their designated hitter into the field, causing them to have to use the pitcher in the lineup. And I saw the Miguel Cairo score the winning run in the bottom of the 13th inning to win one of the greatest games I've ever seen.
And that was just one of the games in the series.
Tuesday: Yankees 11, Red Sox 3. WP: Javier Vazquez LP: Derek Lowe
Wednesday: Yankees 8, Mets 1. WP: Tom Gordon LP: Mike Timlin Sv: Mariano Rivera
Thursday: Yankees 11, Mets 6. WP: Tanyon Sturtze LP: Curt Leskanic
Season Series Standings: Red Sox 6, Yankees 4
Fun Facts: Everything mentioned above... Halsey became the first Yankee rookie to start three games since Ramiro Mendoza did it in 1996... Sheffield played third base for the first time since 1993 in a game in which he made three errors. He made an error in his only chance in this game on a nice pick, but a bad throw... Boston made five errors (all in the first two games) and basically handed the Yankees the first two games. The Yanks only made two, both in the last game, one by Sheffield and the other on a bad throw by Bubba Crosby... The Yankees scored 20 runs in the series. Of those 20, only 14 were earned... The Yankees stole eight bases during the series, and were caught stealing two more times... Tony Clark's home run to the black section in centerfield during Tuesday's game marked the first time a player had ever hit a homer there as both a Yankee and as a member of a visiting team.
What We Saw:
Tuesday: The Yankees, like the Yankees of 1998 and that dynasty, capitalized on several Boston mistakes, including a pair of costly errors. Before Boston could recuperate, the game was well out of hand. Derek Lowe surrendered nine runs - only five earned - including home runs to Gary Sheffield and Tony Clark. Johnny Damon crushed two home runs off of Javier Vazquez - who also allowed a home run to David Ortiz - to provide the offense for the Red Sox, but he couldn't make up for all of the mistakes. Jeter and A-Rod pulled off a double-steal that put them both in scoring position for Hideki Matsui's two-run single in the third. At the time, it game the Yankees a 4-2 lead. Nomar committed both of the Boston errors, including one that prolonged an inning long enough for Sheffield to hit his three-run homer. Clark's home run, similarly, came after Pokey Reese bobbled a ground ball and failed to turn what would have been an inning-ending double play. This game was all Yankees as Vazquez - other than the three homers - shut down the Sox offense.
Wednesday: Boston's defense cost them the game again, this time on an eerily familiar groundball to first base. Tony Clark's sharp grounder got through David Ortiz's glove in the seventh inning and allowed the tying runs to score in a 2-2 game. The next inning, Gary Sheffield drove in the go-ahead run with a double and then scored an insurance run on Matsui's single. Tim Wakefield held the Yankees down with his knuckle ball all night long, but he came out in the seventh after walking Matsui to put two men on. That set up Clark's game-tying at bat. Jon Lieber looked terrible but worked out of trouble in the first and second innings allowing just one run. He settled down afterward and finished with a good performance, though he didn't earn the victory. Tom Gordon was credited with the win and he and Mariano Rivera, who picked up his 29th save, are quickly becoming the best 1-2 bullpen combo in the majors.
Thursday: I think I've covered everything in the earlier commentary. But the main thing we witnessed was the revival of the Yankee mystique. This is how things were when the Yanks were winning World Series like they were going out of style in the late 90's. Capitalizing on mistakes, clutch pitching performances, clutch defensive plays, clutch hitting from unlikely heroes (Miguel Cairo and John Flaherty can now join the ranks of Luis Sojo, Chad Curtis, Jose Vizcaino and so many others), a whole lot of luck and, above all, an indomitable spirit. This is how Yankee baseball has been and always should be. Personally, this game ranks second on my all-time personal favorite games (among those I've watched), right behind Game 7 of the 2003 ALCS and right in front of Mike Mussina's near-perfect game back in 2001. It's no coincidence that all three of those games have come against the Boston Red Sox.
Next meeting between these two teams: July 23 - 25 at Fenway Park.
On deck for the Yankees: Round two of the Subway Series. I know it's the Mets, but how can any series live up to the precedent that this one set? That's why I love baseball, because hey, it could happen.