Saturday, October 10, 2009

Demonize This

"I can't believe this," Jason says. "I can't believe we're going to lose to this team."

"I can," I say, sighing. "My luck isn't that good."

We're sitting in luxury suite 32, tickets that were a gift from my father. We've got a view that looks a bit like this:

Only, now it's night time and everyone's in a bit of a state of disbelief. It's not that the Yankees are losing this game that has us baffled, it's that the Yankee offense has only managed one run and that two of Minnesota's three runs were gotten off of Phil Hughes and Mariano Rivera.

Phil Hughes and Mariano Rivera. The back end of the Yankees' bullpen. The reason the team won 103 games. They are going to cost the team the game.



The story heading into the game was whether or not Joe Giradi (#27 below) and his decision to start Jose Molina over Jorge Posada would be cause for concern.

As it would turn out, the decision would be a non-issue. Molina, as we suspected, did not get a hit, but he never came to the plate in a crucial situation, either.

When AJ Burnett was done pitching after the sixth inning, Jose Molina was done catching. And so it went.

The Yankees didn't score a run until late in the game, when Alex Rodriguez drove in Derek Jeter after Jeter hit a double to right field.

We celebrated A-Rod's RBI hit, his third RBI in two postseason games, further strengthening the notion that A-Rod's demons are stuff of myth and slow-news-day media constructs. We didn't know what would happen later.

After Burnett came out of the game, Joba Chamberlain came in to pitch the seventh.

Chamberlain was sharp, getting the first two hitters he faced out before failing to get the third and Girardi, with a quick hook, pulling him from the game.

We were treated mid-seventh inning to Ronan Tynan's stirring rendition of God Bless America.

The entire Stadium sang with him, maybe because it was him, maybe because it was the postseason, but whatever reason, we sang.


In the eighth inning, Phil Hughes fails. The game is a 1-1 tie, and Hughes gets two quick outs, but can't get the third. Minnesota scores one run and Girardi goes to Mariano Rivera, who is more or less the Hammer of God, as multiple sources call him. If Mo can just hold it here, we think, we'll have a chance.

Thing is, Mo does not. The Twins score another run and it's a 3-1 game with only two at bats left for the Yankees.

It gets worse in the bottom of the eighth, when the Yankees go down 1-2-3, not even making an effort of it.

Jason is inconsolable, but the man sitting to my right is stoic.

"They're going to win," he says.


In the bottom of the ninth inning, Mark Teixeira is first up.

"He really needs a hit here," Jason says, "he can't take an oh-fer for the first two games." Jason is right. Teixeira doesn't have a postseason hit yet, and if he doesn't get one here, he'll fast become a goat.

Maybe Teixeira hears us; he lines the pitch into right field for a single. The Stadium begins to sense something and gets a little excited.

After all, Alex Rodriguez comes to the plate.

My thoughts are simple: I just want Alex Rodriguez to get on base without making an out. I even pray: please, G-d, please let the Yankees do this. Please let them win.

Jason's are more elaborate: "This place is going to go ape-shit if Alex hits one out."

We watch as Joe Nathan deals ball one to Alex. Then ball two. And ball three. Nathan gets Rodriguez to a 3-1 count and then...

...A long, high, grand drive. It's going to be pretty darned deep. It's going to be at least a double. It's going to hit off the wall. It's going to be GONE.

One swing, and all of the past Rodriguez playoff demons are forgotten as though they had never existed in the first place.

The Stadium crowd is so loud, so excited that it's literally shaking. A home run. A game tying home run. A game tying home run by Alex Rodriguez. A game tying home run by Alex Rodriguez in the ninth inning.

Whatever happens from here on out, we've all beared witness to this. We'll all remember this. Everything about it. Everything that went into it, and everything that came out of it.

We make Rodriguez take a curtain call.


The Yankees don't win the game in the ninth, and they don't win the game in the 10th although they should have: Brett Gardner, running for Jorge Posada makes it to third base on a bad throw to second while trying to steal, and Derek Jeter is on first base with only one out.

All Johnny Damon needs to do is hit a fly ball deep enough to score Gardner and the Yankees will win.

Damon, however, does not. He lines out, and because Gardner is halfway to home--having gone on contact--it becomes an easy double play.

The Stadium deflates. Minnesota has another chance and the Yankees are running out of pitchers.


Damaso Marte enters the game because Joe Girardi has already used Phil Coke.

Marte hasn't had a good season and none of us have much faith in Marte's ability to get three outs. We'll take just one, and Marte can't even do that tonight.

Girardi has three choices: leave Marte in, go to Chad Gaudin or go to David Robertson. Gaudin is a generally effective long reliever, but Robertson, who has occasionally struggled in high-leverage situations, has the better stuff.

Girardi goes to Robertson.

At first, the choice is disheartening as Robertson allows a single that loads the bases with no one out.

"There is no possible way this can end well," I say, not because I'm Optimist Prime, but because I want to temper my own expectations.

Yet, Robertson gets the next batter to line out to Teixeira, so hard that no one has a chance to tag and score.

After one out, there's a soft grounder that Teixeira throws home for out number two, and all of a sudden, there is a palpable relief of tension. It doesn't matter how the third out is gotten, just as long as there's the out.

There's a fly ball to Brett Gardner, who sets under it, catches it, and runs off the field.


It's fitting that in the bottom of the eleventh, Teixeira is first at bat.

He had the two stellar defensive plays last half inning, and had he not had that single in the ninth inning, Rodriguez's home run would have meant little.

Here, we'd just like Teixeira to get on base. We want the game to end this inning.

So Jose Mijares, a rookie reliever who's not actually that shabby, pitches to a $180 million first baseman.

There's a drive to left field.

We know it's hit hard enough, but we don't know if it's fair or foul.

It stays fair, but we don't know if it's high enough.

It has the height. Just. Barely. It grazes the top of the wall, and if you watch the replay, you can hear a hush as the crowd tries to process what has just happened. Then we realize:

"It went over! It's over! We win!"

We stay for the pie, because you have to. These are the New York Yankees, this is 2009. You stay for the pie.


I had never before been to a game and thought, afterwards, "I'll remember this for the rest of my life."

Never, that is, until tonight.


I was able to meet up with a fair few: fellow bloggers Ben Kabak of River Ave Blues, Amanda Rykoff (@amandarykoff), fellow blog reader Justin Y. and beat writer Marc Carig (@ledger_yankees).

I went to meet Justin while the Twins were taking BP. Justin was sitting in the bleachers, but we'd never met before, so while I was looking for him I wasn't entirely paying attention to what was going on on the field.

This, ladies and gentlemen, is a bad idea. My head was nearly lopped off by a home run ball, saved only by my very innate and well developed instinct to duct.

I attended the game with Jason Rosenberg from It's about the money, Stupid. He has a much, much better camera than I do so please hit him up for some truly amazing shots.