M's Game: All Good Things
Ben Gamel after his seeing-eye single plated two. He looks a little like Treat Williams, doesn't he?
On Sunday, June 11th, the New York Yankees beat the Baltimore Orioles to sweep the three-game series in the Bronx, then won the next day against the Angels in Anaheim to run their record to 38-23—15 games over .500. They looked to be a lock for the AL East title. Yankee fans were already talking 41st pennant and 28th world championship.
That Sunday was also the day I returned from 2+ weeks in Europe. Just sayin'.
For the next six weeks the Yanks didn't win another series. They played 10 series and went 0-8-2. Last Thursday night they limped into Seattle with a 48-45 record, barely hanging onto the second wild-card spot. A good blow could end their season.
Instead, the Yanks won the first two games, then lost the third in extra innings Saturday night. My friend Jim and I went to Safeco yesterday for the finale. With a victory, we could keep their winless series streak alive.
Staring for the Yanks was 25-year-old Caleb Smith, making only his second Major League appearance. Last week against Minnesota, he'd pitched 3 innings in relief, giving him 4 hits and 2 runs and getting stuck with the loss. This would be his first Major League start. That was the good news.
The bad news? We were starting Yovani Gallardo and his 5+ ERA and he didn't exactly look sharp. On the second pitch Brett Gardner rocketed the ball into the right-field stands for a 1-0 Yankees lead. An inning later, Didi Gregorious did the same for a 2-0 Yankees lead. Every ball the Yankees hit (with the exception of catcher Gary Sanchez) seemed well-struck, sailing toward the stands. Most died on or by the warning track. A few were tracked down by centerfielder Guillermo Heredia. After 3 1/2 innings, we were down 3-0 but it seemed like we should've been down by more.
Then, in the bottom of the 4th, Danny Valencia singled for only our second hit of the game. Cano followed with a bloop single over the second baseman's head, and Nellie Cruz walked to load the bases. With no outs. This was our chance.
But Seager struck out and Mitch Haniger fouled out.
“We can't load the bases with nobody out and come away with nothing,” I said to Jim.
We didn't. Ben Gamel poked the ball to the right-side that seemed almost comically out of reach of both the first and second basemen. That plated two. Then Herredia lined a double into the left-field gap to plate two more. And just like that we had the lead.
And just like that we sat on it.
In the top of the 6th, with one out, reliever James Pazos lost control, walking two batters. Then he gave up two singles, and the game was tied and the bases were loaded. Tony Zych came in and promptly gave up a double to Clint Frazier, and it was 6-4 Yankees. And who was coming to the plate? 6' 8" phenom Aaron Judge, who nearly hit one out, literally nearly out of the park Friday night. He was given a pass, of course. The Yankee fans around me thought it was a dumb move, since now they faced Sanchez, but I argued it was smart. Sanchez hadn't looked good, and Judge was getting out of his post-HR Derby slump. Plus it set up the double play.
We didn't need it: Zych got Sanchez to pop out and Matt Holliday to ground out to end the inning. Still, we were down by two.
We didn't get another hit until the 9th, by which time Jim had left and Yankee closer Aroldis Chapman was on the mound. First man up, Nellie Cruz, lined a shot that went off Chapman's thigh for an infield single. Manager Scott Servais then removed Cruz for pinch runner Taylor Motter, who promptly got picked off. Of course Kyle Seager followed that debaccle with a double, then Sanchez allowed a passed ball. So it could've been 6-5, nobody out, tying run on third. Instead, with one out, we were still down by two. Of course Seager died on third. A pop out and strike out ended the game. File home, everyone. File home.
So after six weeks the Yankees finally got their series win. They're now 5 games over. 500 and in the lead for the wild card race by one game. They have new life thanks to my team. Apologies to Yankee haters everywhere. Which, as 538.com recently confirmed, is most of us.