Entering the Great Hall at yesterday’s game, I had one thing on my mind. With CC Sabathia opposing Justin Verlander, I could only hope it was a classic pitcher’s duel. “I hope the only run in the game is a home run,” I said to my friend. “By A-Rod. In the first inning.” Things didn’t go exactly that way, but it was close enough. Both pitchers went seven strong, but the Yankees’ offense was able to muster more than the Tigers’, leading to a 2-1 victory.
Early on, a pitchers’ duel did not appear on the horizon. Justin Verlander had his A-game, which CC Sabathia struggled, throwing 51 pitches in the first two innings. He didn’t appear to be long for the game. A 10-pitch third certainly helped out, as did Joe Girardi’s willingness to let him start an inning with 100 pitches already thrown. In the end he finished seven without allowing a run. He handed the ball off to Aceves and Mo, who had enough cushion to finish off the game.
One thing about pitchers’ duels — perhaps my favorite part — is that there’s not much left to say afterwards. Both pitchers pitched well. Verlander made his pitches most of the day, and Sabathia made pitches when he needed them. They actually allowed the same number of baserunners, eight, but the difference was that Sabathia kept the ball in the park, and got grounders and short flies with runners in scoring position. Verlander faced fewer of those situations, which was to his advantage, and allowed just one hit with at least a runner on second. Unfortunately, that one hit cost them the game.
It was a strange hit, Melky’s in the seventh. Upon first appearance it seemed like a routine grounder to short. Once Everett fielded it, though, it was clear that the grass had slowed it down, and that Nick Swisher had caused some soft of diversion by tip-toeing over it. How much he had to do with that play I don’t exactly know. But the throw was low, and by the time it landed in Miguel Cabrera’s glove, Melky had already touched first base. The umpire called him safe, and the Yankees had a 2-0 lead.
(Two minor comments on the play: 1) the replays that I saw showed that he was safe, and 2) one has to wonder, if Mark Teixeira was at first, would he have made a better scoop? Cabrera’s one-knee act might help him keep balls in the dirt in front of him, but it doesn’t appear to be the optimal setup. In other words, playing first base leaves his defense less exposed, but he’s still pretty bad in the field.)
Some will surely say that A-Rod’s homer was a New Stadium Special, and it’s tough to argue with that. We know the walls are in and down a bit compared to the old home, and it’s questionable whether his homer would have left the park across the street. In the same way, though not exactly, Marcus Thames got lucky with his homer in the eighth, which left the park with about as much clearance as Alex’s.
More than anything, yesterday’s game put on display the effect of luck in baseball. Both teams got lucky with homers that squeaked out of the park. The Yankees got lucky on a slow grounder to short which Melky just happen to beat out for an RBI single. The Tigers were in that position a few times, too — runners in scoring position and two outs — but couldn’t catch that lucky break. LIke many other elements, it’s what separates baseball from the other sports.
Hopefully you’re reading this on Sunday morning after celebrating the fine summer evening. It’s Old Timer’s Day tomorrow, and the festivities begin quite early. Gates open at 10, ceremonies begin at 11:45, and the actual game — Joba Chamberlain vs. Edwin Jackson — starts at 2:05. Yanks go for the sweep, and Joba goes for redemption. Should be a nice afternoon cap to Old Timer’s Day.
By the way: I went down to the Mohegan Sun bar for the last inning of the game. The view from there is incredible. They also have Bass and Newcastle on tap, so it’s a nice break from the Bud and Miller Lights you see all around the concourses. I’d definitely recommend it to anyone who can score tickets, but whether it’s worth the price is up to personal preference.