07 April 2008

Saturday at Yankee Stadium

Got to go to the Yankees-Rays game on Saturday.

I try to attend at least one Yankee game or two a year with my mom and my wife. Used to be I could afford to go to a few games a year but to get half-decent seats these days, I can usually only spring for one or two a year, especially if I have to buy through a ticket broker, as I did for today's game.
On the plus side, because I bought through a broker, when they didn't have the seats I was supposed to get (Field Box 83, Row D) they were required by policy to give me seats at least as good as the ones I was supposed to get. So I actually got seats in Row A, not Row D, right on the field. In this case, the box happened to be along the first base line, right where the foul line meets up with the stadium wall.
Right here:
On the minus side, the stadium security guard who sat near us said that someone bought those same seats for last night's game for about 1/3 of what I paid. Oh well.

As for the game itself, it was a great day to go, no matter where you were sitting. After raining all week, the weather let up and gave us a very nice day Saturday. It was about 60 degrees and sunny at game time, and we didn't really start to even notice the cold until about the 6th inning, when the sun ducked behind the right field tier. Hard to complain about that too much, especially given how cold it was when we came to this same game last season.

The seats were pretty good, or pretty close, anyway. We were behind the protective netting during batting practice, so we couldn't get a ball, but I was close enough that I could have gotten an autograph from Joba Chamberlain if I'd wanted one.

I didn't want one, and he wasn't really signing for very long anyway, but he did take a few minutes to make some kids happy before the game, which was more than any of his teammates were doing, so I'll give him credit for that.

Of course, the trouble with the seats was that we had a security guard sitting right next to us for the whole game, and kind of blocking the view, not to mention the fact that any time a runner was on first base, there were several people between us and the batter, effectively blocking our view: the runner, the first base coach, the first baseman, holding the runner on, the umpire, and the aforementioned security guard. Good thing I'm so tall.

Still though, I was able to get a decent shot once in a while, like this one of Shelly Duncan's single in the second inning, which loaded the bases for the Yanks with only one out. Sadly, as would turn out to be the case for much of the afternoon, the Yankees could not capitalize on this opportunity, and failed to score.

Much of the game followed this theme. The Yankees had nine hits, two walks and a reached-on-error (Matsui, when his fly ball to the RF warning track was lost in the shadows and dropped by Rays' right fielder Johnny Gomes) - twelve baserunners - but only three runs. I all, the team left nine men on base, but missed 21 opportunities to score.

One of these, perhaps the most disappointing, occurred in the home half of the eighth. The Yankees had a surprising amount of trouble with Edwin Jackson, just 5-15 with a 5.76 ERA last year, and managed only one run off him in his six innings. His replacement, journeyman Dan Wheeler, pitched a perfect seventh, but when they brought in Trever Miller, the Yankee bats came alive. Bobby Abreu, Alex Rodriguez and Wilson Betemit (playing for Jason Giambi, who had been removed in the fifth for a sore left groin) rapped consecutive singles, loading the bases with nobody out.

After Robby Cano struck out, Jorge Posada hit a 2-run single to make it 6-3. Unfortunately, Matsui then worked the count to 0-3. Not exactly what the Yankee Stadium faithful had in mind. The last pitch of the at-bat was a borderline call that had everyone in the House That Ruth Built to Last Exactly 85 Years and No Longer booing the umpire, but as you can see from the picture on the left, it was definitely a strike. Matsui sets up in the back of the batter's box, as most power hitters do, but that ball is above the plate at the moment this photo was taken. It's dropping down because it's a curveball, but it's a strike as it crosses the plate.

Shelly Duncan then grounded out to kill the rally, once and for all. The top of he Yankee lineup gave new closer Troy Percival little trouble in the 9th.

The real story of the day, though, at least for the Yankees, was the return of Andy Pettitte, who had been on the DL with back problems for two weeks, this after reporting to Spring Training late due to the Clemens/ steroids/ McNamee/ HGH scandal stuff. Pettitte has not been an overwhelming pitcher for a long time, but he was particularly rusty on Saturday, allowing eight hits and two walks in only five innings of work. He struck out three batters, but also hit Carlos Pena twice, and allowed a homer to Johnny Gomes, a three-run jack in the 5th that all but ended Pettitte's day. He threw only 86 pitches, but most important, perhaps, he was not immediately placed back on the DL after the game, so hopefully he's healthy and just needs a few starts to get some of his finesse back.

As a team, the Yankees' biggest problem is not the pitching though, Ian Kennedy's disastrous start on Friday night notwithstanding. The elephant in the room is the offense, except the only thing offensive about their hitters this year might be their smell. The team has scored 4 runs or fewer in every game this year, and are averaging just under three runs per game. Through Sunday, they had batted .239 as a team with a 658 OPS and five of the nine regulars were hitting .217 or lower.
Ironically, after six games of the 2007 season, the Yankees had not scored fewer than 4 runs in a game, and were averaging almost seven runs per game. With that said, however, they had the exact same 3-3 record that they have right now, and they did manage to make the playoffs for the 13th consecutive season, so maybe we shouldn't be too worried about the offense just yet.

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