Hooray. Today marks the conclusion of the "21 in 20" Marathon. The game wasn’t pretty, but we salvaged the series and regained our lead of 6.5 points over Boston (Thank you Mariners!). That’s good news. Jeff Karstens was also good news, earning himself his first major league win and giving up only 3 runs in 6 innings while doing it. He only used up 83 pitches, so I bet he could’ve given us 7 innings, but I suppose Torre doesn’t want to overwork him this early in his career. Karstens gave the Yankees what they desperately needed, an actual "outing" from a starting pitcher. Jaret and Lidle both giving only 3 2/3 innings hardly qualify as "outings". They forced our relievers to log even more innings on what must be a league leading total. Karstens has chipped in two winning performances in Mussina’s absence, but the case with rookies is that sooner or later scouting reports will circulate and they’ll get lit up one game. Hopefully Jeff has a few more good starts in him before that inevitable day arrives.
The offense was awesome today. The 11 runs on 17 hits got started right away when Damon led off with a double and Jeter went opposite field to give us a quick 2-0 advantage. What got into Bernie? Almost went ’77 Reggie on us. His totals on the day were 4 hits and 6 runs batted in. 2 homers and a double that I thought would leave the park. Cano also had 4 hits. Despite striking out 12 times, the lineup put on a show. But during all this A-Rod struck out for the 10th time in the series. Needless to say, when A-Rod slumps, it’s obvious and it’s ugly. Rather recently A-Rod told a reporter that last year he put up great numbers during the regular season, but struggled in the playoffs. He said he’s hoping the opposite is true this year; slump now, play like the MVP in October. If you do that A-Rod, and I’m rooting for you all the way, you’ll create some unforgettable Yankee memories, because Yankee fans know you can inflict some serious damage on another club.
While the offense was running on all cylinders, the pitching after Karstens left was a different story. Proctor allowed a run, but that’s just a footnote compared to what Farnsworth did. Kyle led off the 8th inning with 7 straight balls. After walking Rivera on 4 straight, he fell behind Kendrick 3-0 before working back to a full count, but lost him to put two on with no out. Kyle left after throwing 25 pitches, walking three, surrendering a single and a run, and not recording a single out. Basically the absolute worst he could’ve done. Forced Torre to use Mo for 2 innings. Then the Angels got to Mo the only way you can, and that is through an error commited by someone else. I was eating when Nick Green let that easy 4-6-3 grounder bounce through his legs and I nearly choked and died. I almost died again when Izturis’ chopper was fielded by A-Rod and he missed the tag on Napoli retreating back to third. Lucky for us Napoli was called out for running outside the basepath. Mariano pitched perfectly like usual. He did everything he needed to. 3 infield ground balls and a strike out. Unfortunatly 2 runs scored that shouldn’t have. But it didn’t matter when Mo got the 27th out. The Yankees built up a big lead and pitched well enough to make it count.
I feel bad for Green. I feel bad for players when they’re slumping or make an embarrasing error. If I was in Green’s shoes, I would cry. I don’t know who made up that no crying rule, but I’d break it right there on the diamond. That’s when you love players like Jeter even more, because from all the accounts I’ve read, Jeter is such a friendly and supporting teammate. He’s the Captain and he can’t allow a teammate to get down. Speaking of Jeter, what about that play he made to nail Figgins at first base? Even if you didn’t watch the game, you know the play I’m talking about. Video replays showed that Figgins was on the bag when the ball reached Wilson’s glove, but I think umpires feel they have to call out the runner to give Jeter credit for one of the most amazing plays you’ll ever see on a baseball diamond. To simply range that deep to the right, backhand the ball on the outfield grass and while leaping backwards execute a perfect throw right on the money in mid-air to a target about 120 feet away is unbelievable. And when Jeter does it with such grace and ease, the umpire only pretends to look at the base and regardless of how the pop of the mitt and the spikes on the bag match up, he’s tipping his hat to a great play and calling in Jeter’s favor.
Well, I’m very pleased where the Yankees stand. We finished the past 21 games 11-10, but gained significant ground in the standings. And that’s what’s most important. All that needs to happen is the bullpen recovering top form and the Yankees should skate undisturbed into October. If the recent trend displayed by Villone, Proctor and Farnsworth doesn’t disappear, we’ll be in trouble because we can’t reasonably expect the Red Sox to scuffle for the last month of the season.