By Steve Silverman
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Perhaps the Yankees’ ghosts wanted to watch the NFL’s opening game.
Those ghosts, responsible for so many Yankees wins over the Red Sox over the years, did not finish the job last night. The Red Sox were dead and buried, and there was just one shovel full of dirt that was left to be thrown on the grave.
There were two outs in the ninth and free-swinging Mike Napoli was up with two strikes. Mariano Rivera was on the mound and he was one pitch away from registering the 650th save of his career. All he had to was throw his cutter over the inside corner to get a pop-up or throw it over the outside corner to get the swing and miss.
Instead, that cutter caught too much of the plate and Napoli drove a deep single to right center. Perhaps the ball could have been caught if the ghost of DiMaggio or the ghost of Mantle had not been watching the Broncos and Ravens.
Napoli was immediately replaced by the Red Sox pinch-running call-up Quintin Berry. He took off for second and catcher Austin Romine’s throw was not a good one. It bounced into left center and Berry picked himself up, dusted himself off and easily made it to third.
Still, the Red Sox needed a hit to stay alive and Stephen Drew had to get it. He had struck out three times during the game and was 0-for-4. Somehow, he muscled a Mariano cutter into right-center and the score was tied at 8-8.
Still, the Yankees had to feel good. They had rallied from a 7-2 seventh-inning deficit to take an 8-7 lead and the Red Sox had merely tied it. When Craig Breslow walked Alfonso Soriano with one out in the bottom of the ninth, the Yankees had their opportunity to win the game.
But Soriano, for all of his home run prowess since joining the Bombers, is something of a goof. He got picked off twice in the bottom of the ninth and brain-locked the Yankees out of a winning rally. He made it to second after Breslow’s pickoff-throw to Daniel Nava clanged off the back-up first baseman’s glove.
But Soriano would not leave well enough alone. He wandered too far off second, took off for third and Breslow threw to Will Middlebrooks. Soriano was tagged out by Dustin Pedroia as he attempted to hot-foot it back to second.
Joe Girardi could not believe what he saw, and he commiserated with the ghost of Casey Stengel. Soriano’s action on the basepaths was the equivalent of high school junior varsity base runner. (Do they even have JV teams anymore?)
In the top of the 10th, Jacoby Ellsbury drilled his third hit of the night and he took advantage of Romine’s troublesome arm by stealing his 51st base of the year. Then, Cowboy Joe West failed to call strike three on Shane Victorino on a check swing, and the Flyin’ Hawaiian delivered the go-ahead hit on the next pitch.
The Red Sox closed out the Yankees in the bottom of the 10th as Koji “Mr. Perfect” Uehara retired the Yankees in order.
If the Yankees had held on to win, it would have been a disaster for the Red Sox. Despite their lead in the division, giving up a five-run lead in the seventh inning would have planted the seeds of collapse.
But when you come back after falling behind by five runs and take the lead late in the and then fail to close the game out, it’s an even worse disaster.
The Yankees are making a charge at a wild-card spot and they have been rolling. But they are still 2 ½ games behind the Tampa Bay Rays for the second wild-card spot.
They can’t afford to be blowing games to anyone, and it hurts even more when it’s the Red Sox.
They have all those ghosts working for them; they just need them stick around for the entire game.
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