Tuesday, June 29, 2010

The Empire Strikes Back: LA Series in Review

I must admit, seeing Joe Torre in Dodger blue still rubs me the wrong way.

In the highly anticipated matchup of two legendary teams, the New York Yankees and Los Angeles Dodgers squared off in Chavez Ravine for a 3-game set this past weekend for the first time in 6 years. Not only have the Yankees and Dodgers met in the world series more times than any other combination of teams (11 times, Yankees winning 8), but the Dodgers swooped in and stole the coach that led the Yankees to 12 playoff appearances, 6 pennants and 4 world championships, Joe Torre.

As we all know, Torre wrote his widely criticized book, “The Yankee Years”, and unleashed clubhouse and behind the scene secrets that left some fans with a bad taste in their mouths. Others still love Torre and appreciate the winning mentality that he brought back to the franchise that was seemingly lost in the 1980s and early 1990s. No matter what, he is a talented manager and a winner that should never be forgotten in New York.

With that being said, let’s take a look back at the series that was.

Friday evening pitted CC Sabathia against Vicente Padilla and it certainly was a pitchers duel. Although Sabathia was not on his A-game to open up the evening, he would suffice.

Stop me if you’ve heard this before, “walking the lead-off man will come back and get you”. Sabathia walked Rafael Furcal, Furcal stole 2nd, and Manny Ramirez would eventually single to give the Dodgers a 1-0 lead.

Padilla would allow and Alex Rodrigez double and Jorge Posada single to tie the game in the top half of the 2nd. After this, Sabathia and Padilla would exchange zeroes for quite some time. It seemed like a battle of wills as they sat down hitter after hitter, making few mistakes. Finally, Padilla cracked. Alexander “Emmanuel” Rodriguez smashed a famous “A-Bomb” deep into the leftfield seats to give the Yankees a 2-1 lead.

Sabathia would not give back the lead and continued to flash his brilliance all night. His final line was 8 IP, 4 H, 3 BB, 1 ER, 7 K. And of course everyone in the stadium knew that when Colin Curtis came to the plate for CC in the 9th, they would be seeing the great Mariano Rivera put on a show. And boy did he ever. Rivera came on and struck out Manny Ramirez, Matt Kemp, and James Loney to preserve the 2-1 victory.

On Saturday, Dodger fans would have the pleasure of watching A.J. Burnett trot out to the hill to pitch against Hideki Kuroda. This game showed immediate promise for the Yankees as Derek Jeter and Curtis Granderson both reached base on walks and Mark Teixeira blasted a 3-run dinger. Burnett had a lead and hadn’t even touched the ball yet! The joy would soon depart.

Manny’s RBI double and Loney’s sacrifice fly would immediately put 2 runs back on the board for the Dodgers as Yankee fans popped Prilosec and prepped for the show. The Yankees would push across their final run in the top of the 3rd when Jeter scored on a fielder’s choice play to give the Yankees a 4-2 lead.

Burnett loaded the bases with Dodgers in the bottom half of the 3rd and Loney tied it with a 2-run single. Russell Martin would ground into a double-play, but Manny scored to put the Dodgers on top 5-4. Burnett would escape without further trouble, but the first two batters of the 4th reached and Joe Girardi had seen enough. Burnett only lasted 3 innings allowing 6 hits and issuing 6 walks. 12 base-runners in 3 innings was just another horrible outing for Burnett.

Boone Logan would not help matters. Loney singled to bring home Furcal (Swisher gunned Kemp at the plate) and Casey Blake had an RBI double to break the game open 7-4. Chan Ho Park allowed two more runs in the 7th inning to make the game 9-4. To be fair, the Yankees had 12 opportunities with RISP and only came through twice. Overall, this was a night to forget.

However, the Sunday Night Baseball primetime game was truly UNforgettable.

In a battle of two great southpaws, Andy Pettitte and Clayton Kershaw took the mound in the rubber game of the set.

In the bottom of the 3rd, the action started. Reed Johnson doubled to leadoff the inning and then the “Bad News Bears” made an appearance. The Dodgers dropped three, yes three, straight bunts and reached base on ALL of them. Kershaw was safe on a throwing error by Pettitte and Johnson would score. Furcal bunted up the 3rd base line and A-rod couldn’t get him. Ronnie Belliard bunted to Pettitte and was safe after Pettitte looked to 3rd (A-rod wasn’t there) and fired another throwing error at Robinson Cano to score Kershaw. Yup, 2-0 just like that. Andre Ethier hit a sacrifice fly to extend the lead to 3-0. Thankfully, Pettitte would escape further trouble.

Maybe I spoke too soon… Reed Johnson doubled again, Kershaw moved him to 3rd, Furcal hits a sacrifice fly and Belliard hits a homerun. The Dodgers led the game 5-0 due to horrible defense and a less than stellar Pettitte.

Yankee bats looked lost at the plate due to the funky shadows falling on the field in awkward ways as Clayton Kershaw continued to dominate them. Finally, in the top of the 6th, Derek Jeter singled and Alex Rodriguez dropped an A-bomb in “Mannywood” to put the Yankees on the board.

Unfortunately, Joba Chamberlain would surrender an RBI double to Furcal and the Dodgers had their sights set on closing the series win on the Yankees.

Well, Joe Torre should know best that the Yankees are a resilient team. This is exactly why he put in his closer, Jonathon Broxton. Joe Torre wanted to beat not only the Yankees, but Steinbrenner and Cashman.

Teixeira looked baffled at the plate as he struck out swinging. Rodriguez singled on the first pitch of the AB to give the Yankees a small glimmer of hope. A-rod took 2nd on defensive indifference and Cano smoked a double into the gap to make it a 6-3 game. Jorge Posada, in an unbelievable 10 pitch AB, stroked a single to right. Men on the corners for Curtis Granderson and he worked a 9 pitch walk. The bases were loaded for the rookie Chad Huffman.

Believe… believe… believe… come on Chad!!!

Huffman ropes a single over Loney’s head into rightfield! Cano and Posada score and the Yankees trail the game 6-5! I’m not sure what they put in the water down in Scranton, but Colin Curtis had a tremendous 10 pitch AB before grounding to 1st. Loney stepped on the bag and fired home but it was too late. Granderson scored and the Yankees, seemingly snatched by the claws of defeat, were saved by Baby Bombers and came ALL the way back to tie the game! Broxton threw 48 pitches and his ERA jumped from 0.86 to 1.87. Dodger fans sat in disbelief. Francisco Cervelli would ground out to end the top of the 9th, but everyone in that stadium knew who was winning that night.

Mariano Rivera came on in the 9th and retired the side with 12 pitches. The frustration was mounting as Garrett Anderson was tossed for arguing balls and strikes. I’d say Torre misses having Mariano Rivera.

Teixeira singled to open the 10th and A-rod grounded into a force-out at 2nd. Torre summoned George Sherrill to face Robinson Cano. Cano was 0-11 lifetime against Sherrill despite hitting .304 against lefties thus far in 2010. On the 2nd pitch of the AB, Cano drilled a 2-run no doubter over the left-centerfield wall to give the Yankees an 8-6 lead, their first lead of the night. Joe Morgan asks, “Did you know Cano will win a batting title one day?”

Rivera trotted out for the 10th and the stadium was erupting with Yankee fans. Loney reached on an infield single and the tying run approached the plate. Russell Martin struck out looking and Reed Johnson struck out swinging. Johnson was abruptly tossed for creating a tirade over the strike-zone. Carroll would end the game by grounding out to Jeter.

Just like that, the New York Yankees had finished off the Dodgers and gone 4-2 on their road-trip after playing like a 2-4 team. Although he didn’t show it, Joe Torre was crushed that the Yankees had yet again gotten the best of him.

Notes from the series:

1) Alex Rodriguez and Joe Torre exchanged pleasantries Sunday before the game.
2) The Yankees finished interleague play with a record of 11-7.
3) Jeter, who has the most IL hits all-time, only hit .222 during IL play this year.
4) Rodriguez sits on career homerun #594.

The Yankees travel back home to take on the Seattle Mariners and Toronto Blue Jays during their last home-stand before the ASG. Tonight’s matchup is Phil Hughes vs. Cliff Lee. First pitch 7:05 and can be caught on YES Network or WCBS 880.

Yankee stats from the weekend:
  • Record: 2-1
  • BA: 26 for 109 (.239)
  • RISP: 6 for 25 (.240)
  • Homeruns: 4
  • Runs scored: 14
  • ERA: 5.00
Dodger stats from the weekend:
  • Record: 1-2
  • BA: 25 for 94 (.266)
  • RISP: 8 for 24 (.333)
  • Homeruns: 1
  • Runs scored: 16
  • ERA: 4.67

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