By Neil Keefe
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I thought about updating the postseason rotation odds from last Thursday today, but with A.J. Burnett starting on Friday night in Baltimore, I figured it would be better off to wait until the weekend to try to update them. You never know if Burnett will go out and throw a gem (unlikely) or get devastated by another last-place team (likely) or if Brian Cashman will come out and tell everyone to take a few more rips from the objective pipe (also likely).
A.J. Burnett no longer controls his own rotation destiny, but he keeps getting help from Phil Hughes and Bartolo Colon and Freddy Garcia’s DL stint, so he has kept his rotation dreams alive the way the Jets kept their 2009 postseason dreams alive. Everyone else keeps losing to give him another chance. But if he goes out and dominates the 51-77 Orioles, it will be a sigh of relief, but also it’s the Orioles! And if he goes out and lays an A.J. egg, it will be and should be off to the bullpen for the $82.5 million man.
It’s not good that Phil Hughes has now made two starts against the A’s in the last month in which the Yankees have scored 17 and 22 runs in the two games and he failed to qualify for a win in both. And it’s not good that if Hughes had even pitched decently then the Yankees would be more inclined to pull A.J. (though they still might). But Hughes was terrible on Thursday. It reminded me of his April 14 start at the Stadium that I was also in attendance for when he gave up five earned runs on seven hits in 4 1/3 innings.
Thursday’s game was maybe the craziest I have ever been to at the Stadium. I say “maybe” because there was June 21, 2005 when the Yankees trailed 11-7 against the old Devil Rays before hanging a 13-spot in the eighth inning. That eighth inning featured four home runs including back-to-back-to-back bombs from Gary Sheffield, Alex Rodriguez and Hideki Matsui. Matsui’s home run went into the black seats in center field and fans from the right field bleachers poured into the black seats chasing down the ball in a scene you would only see on Yankees Classics game from the 70’s. It was as close to pandemonium in the Bronx as it can get in any other month than October.
Randy Johnson started that game and got lit up by a Devil Rays lineup that wasn’t exactly stellar of Carl Crawford, Julio Lugo, Jorge Cantu, Aubrey Huff, Eduardo Perez, Johnny Gomes, Damon Hollins, Kevin Cash and Alex Gonzalez (and not the Alex Gonzalez that still plays in the majors).
Here is Johnson’s line from the game:
3 IP, 8 H, 7 H, 7 ER, 1 BB, 3 K, 3 HR
On Thursday, Phil Hughes faced a lineup that has had trouble scoring runs all season, and here’s his line:
2.2 IP, 7 H, 6 R, 6 ER, 0 BB, 5 K, 0 HR
Hideo Nomo started for the Devil Rays in that game and like Rich Harden on Thursday, he had little trouble through the first four innings (4 IP, 2 ER), but in the fifth inning is when he started to unravel.
Here is Hideo Nomo’s final line:
4.1 IP, 10 H, 6 R, 6 ER, 3 BB, 1K, 1 HR
And here is Rich Harden’s line from Thursday:
4.1 IP, 10 H, 6 R, 6 ER, 1 BB, 6 K, 2 HR
Very similar and nearly identical lines for both sets of starting pitchers in both games.
I was with three of my friends at the June 21, 2005 game and we had decided entering the bottom of the eighth with the Yankees trailing 11-7 that if they put up at least two runs we would stay for the ninth. What did they do in that epic eighth inning?
Cano – Single
Jeter – Single
Sierra – Groundout
Sheffield – Single
A-Rod – Single
Matsui – Double
Giambi – Intentional Walk (Russ Johnson pinch runs)
Williams – Triple
Posada – Home Run
Cano – Flyout
Jeter – Single
Sierra – Single
Sheffield – Home run
A-Rod – Home run
Matsui – Home run
Johnson – Flyout
It was the craziest inning I had ever seen including the consecutive home runs. (Little did I know just under two years later I would be at Fenway Park when Chase Wright gave up four consecutive home runs to the Red Sox on Sunday Night Baseball. That was fun.)
The one at-bat I really clearly remember is Bernie’s triple and him swinging on the first pitch with the bases loaded and clearing the bases. We were sitting down the first base line and the ball just kept going and going before hitting the top of the wall in center field on line drive. Baseball-Reference says it was hit to “Deep CF” but it should say “Deepest CF.” The bases-clearing triple gave the Yankees a 13-11 lead. I didn’t think they would be scoring seven more times in the inning.
The difference in the craziness of the two games is that in the 2005 game, the Yankees sent 16 hitters to the plate. On Thursday, the Yankees didn’t put up a 13-spot in one inning but they did send 40 guys to the plate in four innings from the fifth to the eighth.
I had a chance to see the Yankees hit three consecutive home runs. Then I had to see the Red Sox hit four against the Yankees. I now have had the chance to see the Yankees hit three grand slams in the game. I hope the Red Sox don’t plan on one-upping this feat. And if they do, I hope it’s not against the Yankees and I hope I’m not in the Stadium or at Fenway on that day.
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