Results tagged ‘ Matt Williams ’

Late-inning magic carries Yanks over D-backs

Watching the Yankees come back for a 4-3 victory Wednesday night over the Diamondbacks brought to mind the 2001 World Series.

No, the Yankees’ late-inning heroics in this game came nowhere near matching those remarkable Series Games 4 and 5 when two-run, ninth-inning home runs by Tino Martinez one night and Scott Brosius the next saved the Bombers from oblivion and headed them in the direction of miraculous, extra-inning victories. True, Arizona prevailed by winning the next two games in Phoenix to cop the World Series, but those final two games at Yankee Stadium that year were a tremendous memory.

These are much different teams today and the venue was merely an inter-league series not one for a championship. There was one constant, of course, and that was Mariano Rivera, the only player from that World Series who was on the field Wednesday night (Andy Pettitte was in the Yankees dugout and Matt Williams on the Diamondbacks’ coaching lines, however).

Unlike that Game 7 of the 2001 World Series that still haunts him, Rivera notched the save Wednesday night in preserving the lead that Travis Hafner’s pinch home run in the eighth inning off righthander David Hernandez gave the Yankees and CC Sabathia on an otherwise frustrating night.

Sabathia did not have his best stuff, except what was in his head and heart. The lefthander gave up two first-inning runs on an opposite-field homer by Paul Goldschmidt. After a leadoff triple in the fifth by Josh Wilson, who scored on a sacrifice fly by A.J. Pollock, Sabathia allowed only one base runner and no more runs through the eighth.

D-backs lefthander Wade Miley gave the Yankees fits for six innings, limiting them to two hits, one walk and a hit batter. Miley, who finished second to Nationals outfielder Bryce Harper for the National League Jackie Robinson Rookie of the Year Award last year, got two outs in the seventh inning as well, book-ending a single by Ben Francisco, his first hit with the Yankees.

A double down the left field line by Brennan Boesch served to unsettle Miley, who proceeded to walk the 8-9 hitters, Eduardo Nunez and Jayson Nix, the latter forcing in a run. Brett Gardner, who is starting to heat up, got the Yankees even with a two-run single off lefthander Tony Sipp.

Hernandez retired the first two Yankees hitters in the eighth, but Hafner, batting for Francisco, clocked the first pitch he saw into the right field bleachers for his fourth home run. It was up to Mo to get the final three outs in the ninth for what became an exhilarating victory.

Despite a noted lack in velocity, Sabathia had a sound outing to improve to 3-1. He threw 31 pitches in the first inning but only 77 pitches over his remaining seven. CC is 11-2 with a 2.83 ERA over his past 16 inter-league starts covering 111 1/3 innings and is 10-1 with a 2.97 ERA in 16 career starts and 106 innings against NL West opponents.

After stumbling out of the game with a 1-4 record, the Yankees have won seven of their past eight games, thanks in large part to the rotation that has pitched to a 2.58 ERA in 52 1/3 innings during that span. Yankees hitters are batting a combined .309 with 17 doubles and 14 home runs and have outscored the opposition, 51-19, during that stretch.

Rivera recorded his 70th career save in inter-league competition in 77 opportunities, extending his major-league record. Mo has converted each of his last 28 regular-season save chances at home against the NL dating to June 14, 2001 without allowing a run in any of those games.

How much did Lee lose?

Did Cliff Lee hurt his bargaining power with his two losses in the World Series? Although he pitched brilliantly for six innings Monday night, the three-run home run Lee allowed to Edgar Renteria in the seventh essentially lost the World Series for the Rangers, who will have to dig deep into their pockets, which aren’t exactly Texas size, to retain the lefthander bound for free agency.

The Yankees haven’t made any secret of their interest in Lee, who beat them twice in the 2009 World Series and again in Game 3 of this year’s American League Championship Series. General manager Brian Cashman tried to trade for Lee in July and almost had a deal in place before the Rangers swooped in and grabbed him from Seattle.

Lee was not exactly lights out for Texas during the regular season (4-6, 3.98 ERA) after a terrific start with the Mariners (8-3, 2.34 ERA). That’s a combined record of 12-9 with a 3.18 ERA, which is not all that imposing. Lee is looking for CC Sabathia-type money, but those statistics aren’t CC Sabathia-type numbers.

Speaking of numbers, Lee went from 2-0 with a 2.81 ERA in the 2009 World Series to 0-2 with a 6.94 ERA in the 2010 World Series. Now I’m not forgetting his two victories over the Rays on the road in the Division Series or his Game 3 gem against the Yankees in the ALCS, also on the road. In fact, Lee did not lose on the road or win in Texas in the post-season, so maybe Rangers Ballpark In Arlington is not the place for him.

One thing the Yankees have to be careful about is how they look at a pitcher who has been successful against them (9-4, 3.81 ERA, including post-season play). Not to pick on A.J. Burnett, but his attractiveness to the Yankees two off-seasons ago was based a lot on how he pitched against them. The problem is that if a player goes to his “cousin,” then he doesn’t have that “cousin” anymore.

Don’t get the idea that I’m ranking on Lee. He would be a great addition to the Yankees. I’m just saying his price tag may have to be re-arranged a bit.

For old-time Giants fans, the ones still sore at their leaving the Polo Grounds for San Francisco in 1958, you will have to admit that the Curse of Coogan’s Bluff is over now that the Giants have their first championship in the Bay Area. The 1962 Giants of Willie Mays, Orlando Cepeda, Willie McCovey and Juan Marichal couldn’t do it. The 1989 Giants of Will Clark, Kevin Mitchell and Matt Williams couldn’t do it. The 2002 Giants of Barry Bonds, Jeff Kent and Robb Nen couldn’t do it. Managers as talented as Alvin Dark, Roger Craig and Dusty Baker couldn’t do it.

It came down to the Bruce Bochy-directed Giants of Renteria, Juan Uribe, Aubrey Huff and Cody Ross, plus a string of excellent young pitchers Tim Lincecum, Matt Cain and Madison Bumgarner, plus an exceptional rookie catcher Buster Posey, plus a paint-it-black bearded closer Brian Wilson, not to be confused with the Beach Boy.

Lincecum outpitched Lee in Game 5, which was also characterized by Bochy out-managing Ron Washington. In the sixth inning, Mitch Moreland led off with a single for the Rangers in what was then a scoreless game. Instead of playing for one run against the overpowering Lincecum, Washington eschewed the sacrifice and had Elvis Andrus swing away on a hit-and-run play, but he lined out to center and Moreland had to scurry back to first base. Again, no bunt with one out, and Michael Young flied out to center as well.

In the seventh, when the Giants put their first two runners on with singles by Ross and Uribe on two-strike pitches, Bochy ordered the bunt from Huff, who did not have a sacrifice in a 13-season career.  A pro, Huff got the ball down and put the runners in scoring position. Lee got the second out by punching out Pat Burrell, who had a brutal Series (0-for13, 11 strikeouts).

Again, Washington blundered by not ordering Renteria walked intentionally and let Lee go after Aaron Rowand. Lee appeared to be pitching around Renteria, but why take the risk of a pitch going awry, such as the 2-0 cutter that the Giants shortstop clubbed for a three-run homer? Never mind that Lee didn’t want to walk Renteria; who’s running the club, the pitcher of the manager?

It was the second game-winning hit in a World Series clinching game for Renteria, who won the 1997 Series for the Marlins against the Indians with an 11th-inning single. Only two other players have done that in Series history, both Yankees – Lou Gehrig (Game 4 in 1928 against the Cardinals and Game 6 in 1936 against the Giants) and Yogi Berra (Game 4 in 1950 against the Phillies and Game 7 in 1956 against the Dodgers). Joe DiMaggio also had two game-winning RBI in Series clinching games (Game 4 in 1939 against the Reds and Game 5 in 1949 against the Dodgers), but the latter was not on a hit but a sacrifice fly.

Renteria’s were far more dramatic than the others because in each case the hits broke ties from the seventh inning on. The Giants simply shut down the Rangers after Texas got back into the Series by winning Game 3. The Rangers scored one run (on Nelson Cruz’s seventh inning solo homer off Lincecum) in the last 21 innings and did not get a single runner in scoring position in Game 5.

It was hard to believe this was the same team that had, in Cashman’s word, “manhandled” the Yankees.