8, 2003: Toronto Blue Jays at New York Yankees, Yankee Stadium
vs. the Incredible Chulk
Sometimes it just
looks simple. The Yanks spent the weekend struggling for runs against the Boston
Red Sox, scoring just six over the course of three games and at one point putting
up 17 straight zeroes. But by the time the fourth inning of Monday's ballgame
against the Toronto Blue Jays had ended by the first out of that inning,
actually they'd topped their weekend's meager output.
Not that very many
people saw it. A Monday afternoon makeup game is a tough draw regardless of the
circumstances, but on the first day of school it's a recipe for a hollow ballpark,
Hideki Matsui bobblehead doll or not. The official attendance at Yankee Stadium
was reported at 8,848, but if there were 2,000 people there by first pitch then
I'm the Yankees' fifth starter. My pal Nick was anxious to get to Yankee Stadium
early enough to get a doll, sweating it after he'd missed a noontime 4 train.
By the time we took our seats, we joked that everybody in attendance could have
gone back for seconds.
The Yankees rolled
from the get-go against Toronto starter Kelvim Escobar, taking their approach
back to basics. Alfonso Soriano, never the most patient hitter, led off with a
seven-pitch at-bat, spraying foul balls down both sides before lining a single
to left. He took second on a wild pitch, Nick Johnson walked, and then Derek Jeter
beat out a perfect bunt to load the bases.
Though he was falling
behind just about every hitter, it looked as though Escobar might dodge a bullet
when he induced a comebacker from the struggling (1-for-40) Jason Giambi. But
the pitcher bobbled the ball, and his throw home was too late to catch Sori. After
Bernie Williams struck out, Matsui celebrated the day in his honor with a two-run
single. When Aaron Boone and Karim Garcia ended the inning with K's, it meant
that Escobar had struck out the side on 35 pitches.
For awhile, the
Jays looked like they might make a game of it. After Mike Mussina mowed them down
in the first, they scratched out two runs in the second. A one-out Josh Phelps
single put Moose into his stretch move, the one I not-so-affectionately call the
Bird. Mussina looked hapless as he walked Eric Hinske and then gave up a two-run
double to Orlando "O-Dog" Hudson, the number nine hitter.
Escobar took care
of the Yanks in the second, but he was wobbly again in the third. Giambi led off
with a single, a good sign that he may yet emerge from his slump. Williams forced
Giambi at second, and then Matsui hit another double, with Bernie stopping at
third. Boone slapped an RBI single to left, 4-2 Yanks. But with first and third
and only one out, the Yanks failed to capitalize further. Garcia struck out again,
and John Flaherty popped one to short rightfield, where Hudson made a diving catch
that drew a respectful ovation from the Stadium crowd.
was up in the fourth. Three straight singles by Soriano, Johnson and Jeter added
a run. Giambi walked to load the bases, still with nobody out. Bernie Williams
hit into a fielder's choice, forcing Giambi at second but beating the throw to
first to avoid "The RBI of Shame" (which actually isn't an RBI at all), and making
the score 6-2. That was Bernie's day in a nutshell; a day after providing the
Yanks with a much-needed power boost, he slid back
into his funk.
again for his third hit of the young afternoon, scoring Jeter, upon which Jays
manager Carlos Tosca mercifully pulled the plug on Escobar. But the comedy of
errors continued, literally. On new pitcher Brian Bowles' first batter (Aaron
Boone), Eric Hinkse mangled a grounder beyond recognition, then threw it into
rightfield, as Williams scored. Bowles settled down and did the one thing Escobar
was able to do consistently: strike out Karim Garcia. By the fourth inning, the
Yankee rightfielder was wearing a silver sombrero. The 8-2 margin wasn't enough
for my pal, who took Garcia to task for once again failing to plate a runner at
third with less than two outs.
Karim made up for
his transgressions in his next trip to the plate. After a Boone double, he singled
up the middle on the first pitch, capping the Yankee scoring for the day at nine
runs. Meanwhile Mussina had settled down admirably, with only Hudson and Vernon
Wells gave the Yankee pitcher any bother at all. In the fifth Hudson doubled for
the second time, later scoring on Wells' single, his third hit of the ballgame.
Besides that, Moose pitched well, especially to Carlos Delgado, who he K'ed three
times. He's owned the fearsome slugger, having limited him to 2-for-18 with 11
strikeouts this year, and 10-for-61 with 22 K's overall. On the day, Mussina pitched
seven innings, allowing three runs and striking out eight (including all three
outs in the seventh) while walking only one, winning his 15th game. A nice outing
for the Moose.
A couple of interesting
relievers made the scene in the late innings. A Toronto rookie named Vinnie Chulk
made his major-league debut and threw two shaky but scoreless innings. We immediately
dubbed him "The Incredible Chulk," noted that as a rookie he was quite green,
and marvelled when he bested Matsui by striking him out in the seventh. Hey, how
often do you see Godzilla battle the Incredible Chulk?
On a more serious
note, the Yanks brought in recently-acquired lefty Felix Heredia to clean up the
mess Antonio Osuna made in the eighth. With men on first and second and two outs,
Heredia calmly disposed of Hinkse on three pitches. He set the Jays down 1-2-3
in the ninth, something Yankee relievers seem to have a hard time doing these
days. Given Gabe White's struggles since returning from his groin injury -- hell,
given every single goddamn Yankee reliever's struggles since March 31 -- Heredia
may end up being a very useful acquisition. He's no angel (he's got a year-old
assault with weapon
charge whose outcome is still pending), but the Yanks aren't really in a position
to be picky.
Yanks 9, Blue Jays 3: One jumbo hot dog, one Coke, several handfuls of
sunflower seeds, one bobblehead doll, one green rookie with a great name, and
several jokes at the expense of the O-Dog. BOX