19, 2003: Cleveland Indians at New York Yankees, Yankee Stadium
Times, Old Times, Good Times
One of the reasons
we fans watch so much baseball is the chance to see something we've never seen
before a triple play, an odd scoring decision, an unlikely home run. Saturday's
ballgame at Yankee Stadium featured a previously uncharted event for me, and probably
for the other 54,980 people in attendance as well: a three-run single, courtesy
of Jason Giambi.
Entering the fifth
inning, the Yanks trailed the Cleveland Indians 4-2. They had loaded the bases
with no outs against Cleveland starter C.C. Sabathia, but futilityman Enrique
Wilson grounded into a 5-2-3 double-play, leaving runners on second and third.
After falling behind 0-2, Alfonso Soriano then worked a walk to reload the bases,
and Derek Jeter followed with a sharp RBI single to trim the Indians' lead. Giambi,
who's been on a tear lately (something like 19 homers and 46 RBI in his last 50
games), worked the count to 3-2. With two outs and two strikes, and with Sabathia's
pace having slowed to a crawl, the runners took off before the pitch and
not just a little bit. John Flaherty, on third base, crept halfway home, Soriano
was well on his way to third, and Jeter, in a full sprint, had reached second
by the time Sabathia delivered the ball. Giambi fouled off two pitches as the
runners repeated this intimidating dance, but the Indians did nothing to counter
it. Finally on the eighth pitch of the at-bat, Giambi stroked a sharp single up
the middle. By the time centerfielder Milton Bradley's throw reached home, Jeter
had already slid across the plate, clearing the bases and giving the Yanks a 6-4
The Yanks had jumped
out to an immediate lead in the ballgame, with Alfonso Soriano lining a homer
to leftfield on Sabathia's fourth pitch of the day. The blow was Soriano's ninth
leadoff homer of the year, tying the single-season Yankee record held by Rickey
Henderson. Raul Mondesi lashed a solo shot in the second inning, to left as well.
David Wells started
off dominating the Indians, striking out four of the first seven hitters, including
the side in the second. But the Indians came back in the third. With two on, two
out, and a 2-2 count to Jody Gerut, Wells left a curveball in the middle of the
plate, and Gerut launched a three-run homer to right while the crowd groaned.
Five pitches later, Bradley followed with a solo blast to right, giving the Indians
a 4-2 lead.
But Wells gutted
this one out. Though most of the eight hits against him were hard, he helped himself
with a couple of pickoffs, Enrique Wilson made a pair of sparkling plays, including
the start of a 5-4-3 DP, and Raul Mondesi, battling the sun, shagged every fly
ball that came his way (six in Wells' seven innings). And as has become his trademark,
Wells walked nobody he's now allowed only six in 134 innings.
That's like two
outings worth of walks for newly acquired Armando Benitez , who came on in the
eighth and immediately made things interesting. Benitez walked the Indians' #9
hitter Jhonny Peralta in a 10-pitch at-bat. Todd Zeile bailed him out by turning
a nifty 3-6-3 DP, but the pitcher couldn't deal with all this help. He gave up
a single to Casey Blake and then a four-pitch walk to Gerut, at which point Joe
Torre had seen enough. Mariano Rivera came on to retire Bradley on his first pitch
another fly ball to Mondesi. Bolstered by another run in the bottom of
the eighth, Mo worked a perfect ninth, striking out two and nailing down the win.
Prior to the game,
the Yanks held their annual Old-Timers' Day. With player introductions that lasted
nearly as long as the game itself, the two squads of former Yankees (both wearing
pinstripes) nevertheless squeezed in a 3 1/2 inning game, with Gene Michael's
Bombers topping Clete Boyer's Pinstripes 4-1. On hand were five Yankee Hall of
Famers: Phil Rizzuto, Whitey Ford, Yogi Berra, Dave Winfield, and, of course,
Reggie Jackson. On paper, the Bombers had the better squad, with a Don Mattingly-Jackson-Winfield
heart of the order (compared to Cliff Johnson-Mike Pagliarulo-Mike Hegan? You
gotta be kidding...). Mattingly drew the biggest cheers of the day, but Jackson
provided the best moment, with an inside-the-park homer that drew more resemblance
from a Little League hit than from any of Jackson's 563 big-league blasts. Reggie's
shot sailed over the head of centerfielder Duke Sims, who butchered things once
he reached the ball. Jackson, stopping at third, reaccelerated and sailed home.
The crowd ate all of this up, chanting "Reg-gie! Reg-gie!" as they gave him a
The Bombers scored
had scored three runs in the prior inning, on a somewhat contrived matchup. Mike
Torrez, who had already pitched for the Bombers, came on for the Pinstripes to
face Bucky Dent with the bases loaded as the Jumbotron showed Dent's famous
1978 blast. Dent poked a scorcher down the third-base line to score two runs,
and then Michael, the Stick himself, drove in one more.
Rules were something
of an afterthought in this game, with each team shuttling pitchers in and out
every third of an inning and taking multiple turns (I know, because I was probably
the only idiot in the ballpark trying to keep score). Besides the Torrez-Dent
contrivance, the most intriguing matchup was Jim Bouton retiring Reggie in the
first with two men on base, though the Bulldog slipped on his way to the bag.
Also of note was former Yankee reliever Ryne Duren making a cameo appearance.
The coke-bottle-lensed pitcher came in to throw his trademark
warmup toss to the backstop, much to the delight of the crowd, before yielding
the mound to Stan Bahnsen.
The game featured
several Torre-era Yanks, including Luis Sojo (who drove in the Stripes' only run),
Wade Boggs, and Jim Leyritz (who's looking for a
return to the majors. Also playing were three of Torre's coaches: Lee Mazzilli,
Mel Stottlemyre, and Willie Randolph, who made several shining plays at second
base. The guy can still pick it.
Yanks 7, Indians 4. Four
and a half hours of baseball, one Reggie Jackson "homer," one Bulldog
sighting, and one three-run single.