...Brother J called Bubba Crosby's 9th inning walk-off shot, by the way.
But let's back up, first. The Yankees came into tonight's series opener against the Orioles on a huge downer. On Sunday, the Yanks lost an incredibly winnable game, 6-5. Now, you can't win them all, but the "music" from this loss was all wrong. It came on the same day as a Boston loss, so it was a missed opportunity. It ended with Derek Jeter at the bat and the tying run on base, something which is never supposed to happen, I guess.
The defense was bad. Please someone stop Ruben Sierra before he takes the field with a glove again! Sierra on defense was a bad idea eight years ago--Sierra's lateral movement is pretty bad, but the true horror comes if you ask Ruben to move forward or backward to get to the ball.
But the worst part of Sunday's loss, is that the Yanks looked beat up afterward. During the game, Jaret Wright managed to get nailed with a broken bat--not a shard of broken bat, but a fairly intact barrell came flying right at Wright, the second time a comebacker has hit Wright on the mound this season. Watching this on TV, it was absolutely scary: you couldn't tell if the bat made contact with Wright, but as he went down he was cradling that pitching arm of his.
I thought for certain something in that shoulder went snap.
As it turns out, Wright's elbow is bruised and bloodied; we don't yet have an idea of what that means, long-term. This is disquieting because Mike Mussina's bullpen sessions haven't gone too well, and Alan Embree sucks. The Embree part isn't injury-related, it's just reality.
But wait, there's more! Jason Giambi left Sunday's game with back spasms. Gary Sheffield revealed that he might not play the field again this season--and sadly, that has nothing to do with his love life, and everything to do with his strained thigh muscles.
It's enough to get anyone down, and over at Baseball Primer, the Yankee haters were having a field day.
Which brings up our pre-game time silver lining. For all the kvetching, going into tonight's game the Yanks had won seven out of their last nine. They'd taken three straight series from division rivals. The complaints against the Yanks have been of the "well, they're not in first place, yet!" variety.
I'm bizarrely comforted by this. Rationalization seems to precede failure (remember when we were trying to convince ourselves that it was OK that the Red Sox won ALCS games 4 and 5 in Fenway, because that meant that we could clinch at home). Last weekend, when the Red Sox sounded like they were happy not to get swept by the Yankees, I detected a whiff of loser in the rationalization.
Which brings me to tonight's action. I missed most of the game, but looking at the box I'm heartened to see Tiger Wang back in the groove, A-Rod keep up his RBI thing, and Cano continue his hot hitting. But most of all I'm glad to see Bubba Crosby out there, rescuing the Yankees from the defensive stylings of Ruben Sierra. Hanging in there against a mediocre lefty can't hurt, either. Some help from the Devil Rays puts the Yanks within 1/2 game of first place in the East, holding steady for the Wild Card.
Whoa, the American League sure plunged into chaos, didn't it? I mean, there are bonafide divisional races in each division, the Wild Card is packed pretty tight, and the White Sox--set on cruise control a month ago, are in danger of seeing their playoff hopes dashed against the rocks.
In other words, good times. I just wish all of this excitement weren't likely to bite the Yanks in the petard.
Aiming a little higher than the rear end, the profile of Rickey Henderson in last week's New Yorker is just heartbreaking, some of the best sportswriting I've read this year. I wish it were available online so that I could link it.