Lee-Sabathia in Yankee Stadium? It's been done before
While sitting around, waiting for The Monster to show those Ducks who’s boss, a baseball thought struck: Does everyone realize the World Series pitching matchup for the first game Wednesday is a rematch of the first game at the rebuilt Yankee Stadium?
Back in mid-April, the $1.3 billion pleasure palace was opened with Cleveland’s Cliff Lee taking on C.C. Sabathia. It was a match of the past two American League Cy Young Memorial Award winners.
So much has changed since then, obviously. The Indians won it 10-2, scoring nine runs against the Yankee bullpen in the seventh inning – and where have you gone Jose Veres? – after Sabathia left. He threw 122 pitches in 5 2/3 innings, which almost certainly will be more than he throws Wednesday.
The Yankee third baseman that day was Cody Ransom, not Kate Hudson's boyfriend, and Lee, wih the Indians long since gone into the tank, would later be traded to the Philadelphia Phillies, for whom he dominated, as most good AL pitchers do when they get to the National League.
One last look back at the ALCS before turning attention to the World Series and understand it is my experience that good teams, which the Yankees surely are, often look lucky, too. That just seems to be the way it works.
That clinching game Sunday night included two of the more memorable moments that could have turned the game around entirely if they had gone the other way. Both went exactly the way the Yankees needed them to go.
In the top of the seventh, Yanks leading 3-1, the Angels had a runner on first and manager Mike Scioscia pinch-hit Maicer Izturis for his hottest hitter, Jeff Mathis. That in itself is worth a question or two, but Andy Pettitte had just been lifted for reliever Joba Chamberlain. Izturis hit a hot smash to short, where it bad-hopped off Derek Jeter’s chest. What initially looked like a double-play ball now looked like the tying runs on base and none out. Except the ball bounced off Jeter’s chest right toward second base, where Robinson Cano simply reached over and picked it up with his foot on the bag for a force play. Big break there.
Cano was at the centerpiece of the next huge momentum-shifting play, in the top of the eighth, with Mariano Rivera on and not entirely looking like his dominant self. With Chone Figgins at second and one out, Torii Hunter hit a low liner up the middle. Off the bat, from the centrefield camera angle, it looked like an RBI single because Jeter never gets to this kind of hit.
But here was Cano – on the shortstop side of second base – to field it on the hop and flip to first for the second out. Figgins never even advanced to third base, although he would score when the next batter, Vlad Guerrero, singled to right.
What on Earth was Cano doing there? It turns out he was holding Figgins at second and was just retreating back toward his normal position when Hunter hit his rocket. That was another huge break for the Yankees; how many times have you seen second basemen on that side of the bag make a play to first base? If it gets through, Guerrero’s single makes it 3-2, first and third and one out.
Mind you, the Angels then self-destructed. They screwed up two bunts in a row in the bottom of the eighth when everybody in the place knew a bunt was coming. Howie Kendrick dropped an easy toss, then Scott Kazmir airmailed a 45-foot throw.
Earlier, too, Guerrero had been doubled off first on a routine fly ball to right field. That’s inexcusable and later on, when Guerrero trotted halfway to first base after ball three, he was telling the world his head wasn’t entirely in it.
With all this terrible baseball, the Angels have no one to blame except themselves, really. They made eight errors in six games, plus let a popup fall, and never did get around to making their speed advantage count for much. But they didn’t get many breaks at critical moments, either.