Monday, May 11, 2009

I love my Mom ... and Johnny Damon

The Yankees needed to figure out a way to get out of Baltimore with a series win on Mother's Day. They just had to.

The vibes emanating from the club had taken on Final Destination-like proportions of late. A five-game losing streak will do that to a team of course, but it was Saturday's loss that was particularly grim. Sloppy defense made you wonder if some players hit the Inner Harbor too hard the previous night, while Phil Hughes put Johan Santana in Yankee fans' nightmares once again. It was an effort pathetic enough to effectively erase any positivity gleaned from Friday night's A-Rod/CC gem.

Things started off well enough on Sunday. Mark Teixeira provided a clue that he may actually be alive in the first inning with a solo homer in the first, but the Yankee lineup proceeded to go into hibernation against the (apparently) masterful Koji Uehara for the next five innings. Particularly sleepy was Nick Swisher, who fanned three times (twice vs. Uehara) and suddenly looks very much like the .219 hitter he was last season in Chicago.

O's manager Dave Trembley did the Yankees a favor by pulling Uehara after just 92 pitches, and New York quickly took advantage of the tactical error. Robinson Cano, mired in a mighty slump of his own, started the game-winning rally with a solo homer off slop baller Jamie Walker. After Melky flied out, the unheralded play of the game went down.

Francisco Cervelli, who could teach some of his older teammates a thing about hustle, beat out a grounder to second played poorly by Brian Roberts. I don't know if Cervelli can hit, but there's something about the way he approaches the game that is refreshing. Jeter followed with a swinging bunt single. Two infield hits, and you could almost feel it coming. "It" came in the form of Damon, who cranked a 3-2 fastball by Jim Johnson deep into the seats in right-center to put the Yanks ahead, 5-3.

Unfortunately, with the sad state of the Yankee bullpen these days, the game was hardly over. In fact, me and my buddy Howie agreed that the game was nothing less than a toss-up at that point. Joba had managed to hold the O's to one Aubrey Huff three-run homer (and subsequent dick-y fist pumps) over six innings, but now we needed nine outs from the 'pen.

Joe Girardi understood the importance of the game. We knew that because he was determined to use the only two relievers he trusts to get those final outs. Phil Coke responded to his manager's faith with two shutout innings. Mariano then quieted some fears with a scoreless ninth. Jose Veras finished the game exactly where he should be ... off the field of play.

It was an important win for the team, one that should certainly help them as they head to Toronto to take on the first-place Blue Jays. With the Jays in first and Cito Gasten on the bench, there's going to be a very '92 vibe at Sky Dome Rogers Centre on Tuesday. I'll be wearing my Paul Tsongas T-shirt.

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