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      F I E L D  T R I P S

MAY 14, 2002

April 21, 2002: Toronto Blue Jays at New York Yankees, Yankee Stadium
A Study in Contrasts

Night and day. Those words rattled around my head as I hit the platform at 161st Street. Night and day, as in "the difference between...". The last time I had been to Yankee Stadium before this lazy, overcast Sunday was October 30th, 2001, for Game Three of the World Series. That was the game where George Dubya Bush threw out the first pitch. Or the one which wasn't won by a late-inning homer — whichever you prefer.

My trip to the stadium that fall night had been edgy and intense, a crosstown slog which exposed me to every kind of post-September 11 paranoia on the New York City menu. I'd passed by anthrax-tainted Post Offices upon leaving work, blinking fire trucks and squad cars at Madison Square Garden. Skirting the concrete barriers in front of the subway entry at 34th, I descended into the chaos of a midtown rush hour, one compounded by a Secret Service-induced bottleneck at the other end. For me and my fellow passengers, that meant a 12-block mass pilgrimage through the Bronx, which got us to the Stadium just in time for the World Series of Clusterfuck: standing in "line" for 90 minutes, waiting to get through a metal detector, missing both the President's opening pitch (who gives a rat's ass?) and the first inning (lemme in, damn it!).

Fortunately, this particular spring Sunday enabled a more relaxed approach to Yankee Stadium. No rush hour, no Secret Service, no metal detector, no Dubya. But small reminders of that night kept creeping into the picture. Nick and I had headed uptown early to trade in tickets from games scheduled for last September 10, 11, and 12. My first trip seemed as good as any to shed those dubiously dated tickets, one more way to let go of that strange time. On the train, devoid of any other reading material, I flipped back through my scorebook (the ol' C.S. Peterson Scoremaster, on board for another season) to that World Series game, replaying it in my mind. Yet another reminder: Roger Clemens, who had pitched that night, would be today's starter for the Yanks.

Clemens's opponent for the day, the Toronto Blue Jays, scarcely resembled the team for whom he'd won two Cy Youngs. But sighs of frustration about young arms, they had plenty of those: the Jays, with their rotation decimated by injuries and bad trades, came in allowing a staggering 7.2 runs per game. There would be no confusion about which direction each pitching staff was headed today.

Clemens briskly got down to business against the Jays. Shannon Stewart lined his first pitch sharply to John Vander Wal in right field, Eric Hinske grounded weakly to third on a 1-2 count, and Raul Mondesi grounded out on his first pitch. Three up, three down, on six pitches. Blue Jays starter Chris Carpenter got busy quickly as well—busy digging himself a hole. Alfonso Soriano, the Yanks budding star second baseman, hit Carpenter's second pitch into the Yankee bullpen in left-center for his second leadoff home run in four days. The Jays pitcher buried himself deeper, walking the next three batters to load the bases before Jorge Posada grounded into a 4-6-3 double play, scoring a run (this seems like a good opportunity to introduce my new statistic, the RBI of Shame, applicable in situations like these when a GIDP scores a run).

Carpenter celebrated his good fortune by walking Robin Ventura and running Rondell White to 3-1; all told, it took him 29 pitches (by my count) to get out of the first inning. Clemens didn't give the poor Jays' hurler much time to rest, mowing down the side in the second on an economical nine pitches. For Carpenter, who had experienced shoulder trouble during the spring and was making his first start of the season, the second inning brought more trouble in the form of a John Vander Wal leadofff double. Vander Wal eventually scored, though his course was delayed when, having advanced to third on a ground out, he was fooled into thinking Soriano's single had been caught and retreated to third base. Bernie Williams erased that gaffe by bringing him home two pitches later.

The Jays threatened to get back in the game in the third. Clemens walked the #8 hitter, shortstop Felipe Lopez, and allowed a single to Stewart. Soriano misplayed a grounder to his left into an error, loading the bases for Raul Mondesi. But Clemens struck out Mondesi to end the threat.

Carpenter yielded to Scott Eyre after 61 pitches and three unimpressive innings. After Eyre breezed through the fourth, he caught a case of Carpenter-itis, walking the bases loaded. To be fair, the third walk was an intentional one to Posada, and it was a curious call by the Blue Jay bench, as it brought up Ventura. Not only was Ventura in the midst of an early-season power surge (he entered the day second in the league with six homers), but throughout his career he's been a deadly bases-loaded hitter, with 15 career grand slams (tops among active players) and a .344 average. Ventura responded by singling in the fourth Yankee run, and the fifth soon followed on a Rondell White grounder.

Clemens, meanwhile, settled into a groove, walking two and striking out five from the fourth through the seventh. He didn't yield his second hit until Lopez led off the eighth, with a double down the leftfield line. Two batters later, Lopez scored on a Shannon Stewart double which finished Clemens for the day. Steve Karsay came on and induced two grounders, with Stewart scoring. With the score now 6-2 and a runner on first, lefty Mike Stanton came on to face the fearsome Carlos Delgado. Stuck behind the struggling Raul Mondesi, Delgado had led off the inning in each of his three previous at-bats, so he must have been itching for an opportunity to hit with runners on base. But Stanton quickly got the upper hand, as Delgado took a strike, fouled one off, and suddenly found himself in an 0-2 hole. He fouled off another one before Stanton got him swinging to end the inning.

The door had been opened slightly for the Blue Jays, but the Yanks slammed it shut in the bottom of the eighth. With two outs and two strikes, Jason Giambi rocketed a Corey Thurman pitch into the rightfield stands for his second home run at Yankee Stadium in pinstripes. Thurman broke down and walked the next two batters before Rondell White slapped one into the right-center gap for a two-run double.

Jays manager Buck Martinez, eager to prove his facility at locking the barn door after the horse had run off (or content to let the Yankee fans get wet waiting through yet another interminable pitching change) brought in his sixth pitcher to protect a 9-2 deficit. Now that's managing! Then again, maybe he just wanted to end the day on a positive note. After all, if you had to watch your pitching staff throw an astounding 192 pitches (less than half of them for strikes) while walking 12 and allowing 10 hits, wouldn't you?

Final Score: Yankees 9, Toronto 2. Four hot dogs, 2 cokes, 2 bags of sunflower seeds, 2 free adjustable Yankees caps courtesy of a health-care company, several sprinkles of rain, and one pitching-change-induced state of catatonia. BOX SCORE