Solid starting pitching, clutch hitting, aggressive coaching. Tonight’s formula for success. The Yanks pushed their streak to 8 straight wins, cut the deficit in the A.L. East to 8.5 games and moved to within 4.5 games of the Wild Card with their 7–2 win over the sliding Diamondbacks.
I have a confession to make. I was pissed when I saw the starting lineup tonight. Melky was out. He was the end result of a chain of events caused by Mike Mussina’s desire to pitch to Wil Nieves (Jorge to DH, Damon to center). I would’ve liked to have seen Posada get the full day off, or Damon at first and Cairo on the bench, or Posada at first and Damon at DH. As I’ve said before, this team is fueled by the Melk Man’s presence. If Melky is in center, the first run Arizona scored doesn’t score. Simple as that. Damon had no chance at throwing out a runner at the plate on a shallow sacrifice fly. I doubt he even tries to score if Melky is out there. Luckily, it didn’t make a difference tonight.
This offense is clicking on so many different levels. Let’s take a look at how the Yanks scored their runs tonight, this is a perfect example of what I’m talking about. Jeter led off the bottom of the third with a walk, Abreu hit into a fielder’s choice. With a man on first, A-Rod hit a shot off the facing of the upper deck in left field (more on this later). OBP + Power = Runs.
In the bottom of the fourth, the first two batters make quick outs, then Abreu comes up. Abreu grounds a single up the middle, then steals second. A-Rod scores him with a single to left. A-Rod moves up to second on the throw home to get Abreu. Posada then walks. Matsui follows this with a home run to right. The first run was manufactured, the next three a result of power and patience, again. This versatility is what the Yanks need to maintain, especially in the post season, if they hope to beat the better teams, and best pitchers when it really matters. Things are going well right now, but when things aren’t, they seem to rely too much on waiting for the long ball. Maybe the cause and effect here is backwards, I certainly think it is.
Back to A-Rod’s home run. This was a blast. I can only remember one other Yankee flirting with the upper deck in left, and that was Jose Canseco in a day game in 2000 I believe. The ball A-Rod hit tonight was a shot, no doubt about it, but the ball Canseco hit was, by far, the hardest ball I’ve ever seen hit in my lifetime. I was at the game with a friend, he turned his head to talk to me, and missed it. It got out of the park that fast. It was a line drive off the facade right down the line. I seriously think the ball would’ve traveled 600+ feet if it hadn’t hit something. Who says steroids are bad thing? (That’s a joke, calm down.)
Player of the game: Mike Mussina, 7.2 IP, 2 earned, 6 hits, 0 bb, 7 Ks. Moose dropped his ERA to 5.17 (If you can read that last sentence without shaking your head, you’re a better man than I).
You have to read this: Fire Joe Morgan’s take on Wallace Matthew’s latest hatchet job for Newsday.