Tonight, as many of you know from my constant comments, I attended the Tigers-Yankees ALDS Game 2 in the Bronx. I went into the game expecting to get an average between my three previous playoff games: 2007 ALDS Game 4, 2009 ALDS Game 2, and 2010 ALCS Game 3. A loss, a walk off win, and a blowout. Tonight, the Yankees lost a close one in the end, but the experience I had is something I will never forget.
I arrived at the game at 2:00 p.m. for a 3:07 start. I ate, sat down, and watched the players frantically perform their pregame rituals. By the time Andy Pettitte's wife sang the National Anthem, I was just ready for the game to start. Andy Pettitte came out next, and I saw him at Yankee Stadium for the first time since his last appearance in a Yankees uniform, 2010 ALCS Game 3. It occurred to me that I was at his last appearance; I told my friends that, and they proceeded to mock me for my love of random facts about games I have attended.*
The fans piled in slowly as the game started, and Freddy Garcia got off to a rocky start. Miguel Cabrera deposited a home run right under our seats, and while we all assumed the hit was just a double, Cabrera's trot around the bases proved us wrong. Garcia settled down, and Max Scherzer was up next.
Scherzer struggled in the first inning, as those of you who watched the game know. Mark Teixeira came up with runners on first and second to deafening applause, only to let down those that created the noise. I shook it off and prepared for the next few innings. Inning by inning the Yankees went down without a fight. Finally, when Robinson Cano singled in the bottom of the sixth inning, I let out a giant roar, screaming "LET'S GO!!!!!!" The Yankees apparently didn't hear me.
Going back a bit, when the Tigers scored two runs in the top of the sixth the crowd was deflated. It felt like a regular June game, and despite my attempts to cheer up the crowd, the fans remained quiet until Boone Logan struck out two.**
In the bottom of the seventh, the Yankees put runners on first and second with no outs. Russell Martin flied out, and then I saw one of the worst sites a Yankees fan can ever see. A Joe Girardi managerial special. Eric Chavez walked slowly to the plate***, swinging the bat for practice. If only the practice had worked. The aging defensive specialist struck out, and the crowd once again grew restless.
The eighth inning brought hope to the fellow fans and I, as Curtis Granderson led off the inning with a shot over the right field fence. I jumped and high fived random fans, praying for more runs. The Yankees went down one-two-three after that, and I believe this was when Alex Rodriguez was booed.****
Then came the ninth.
I have never experienced such extremes one after another like I did in the ninth inning of this game. Luis Ayala entered the game***** and I sat there knowing the deficit would grow. It did. Oh well, onto the great part.
Bottom of the ninth inning, down 5-1. Most fans left, but my section was surprisingly full. Maybe I motivated the fans to stay, or maybe the fans in my section were so amused by my random screaming that they stayed. I hope it was the former, though it probably was the latter. Nick Swisher lead off with a solo home run over the right field wall. I jumped, screamed, and slipped on sunflower seeds dispersed across the floor all at once. I turned around and high fived as many fans as I could find. 5-2.
Then, for the first time I successfully started a "Hip Hip Jorge" chant. The few fans behind me joined, then the entire section joined. I know it sounds childish, but that got me pretty pumped. Jorge launched a ball into left center field, and the next thing I knew, the aging legend was on his way to third. A Jorge Posada triple?! Can't be! It was. Screaming, high fiving, slipping, the usual.
Next thing I knew, I was the unofficial chant starter for my section. I lead the crowd in chants of "Let's Go Yankees," losing my voice in the process. My hands were numb, and I thought I was actually going to lose the ability to clap or speak. Luckily, I did not.
I felt a tap on my shoulder, and the fans behind me whispered a chant in my ear. They had told me to chant "Let's Go Yankees" again. I did, and the crowd followed. Russell Martin walked, and Andruw Jones hit a sacrafice fly. 5-3.
Derek Jeter almost single handedly destroyed any confidence most Yankees fans at the game had. Curtis Granderson walked, and the fans behind me started chanting in Spanish. I asked what the chant was, and chanted along. I don't remember the exact words, but at the time it was the only words I could think of.
Robinson Cano grounded out to end the game. Game over, experience over. I sat with my two friends for another five minutes waiting for the call to be changed somehow, knowing it wouldn't be. Finally, we went down to the subway.
While waiting for the subway, I had smoke blown in my face by two Yankees fans, and saw another Yankees fan taunt a blind Yankees fan for not being able to walk down the stairs very easily. I realized that during the game, this was my family. It amazes me how baseball unites people. I hear over and over again how baseball is boring, or not as intense as other sports.
For the game, it may not have been the greatest experience of all time. For that one inning, however, I was able to forget about all the bad people and bad things that are out there. It was just me and my fellow Yankees fans, and one Tigers fan wearing a Brandon Inge jersey that was hilariously taunted.
Before the game I said the words "this is the Yankees time" to my friends. Maybe it wasn't today that was the Yankees time. Maybe tomorrow, maybe in late October. Either way, as long as there are October days and nights in the Bronx, I will be there, chanting, and loving every minute of it.
*A few facts include that I was at Kei Igawa's MLB debut, which is also known as the A-Rod walk off grand slam game. I was at the last ever playoff game at the old Yankee Stadium, and also Joe Torre's last game as Yankees manager.
**How about Boone Logan? If he has his best stuff, that will be extremely helpful.
***What the heck was Girardi thinking? Awful decision.
****I did not participate in the booing, but sadly the majority of fans did. A-Rod does need to step it up, though.
*****It is unbelievable and absurd to me that Luis Ayala pitched in this game. Joe Girardi might as well have waived the white flag while he was at it. Luis Ayala is for games that are at least eight runs margin one way or another. I'm liking Girardi less and less each day.