For the last few days, all I've been hearing about is how afraid we should all be. How very afraid. Our pitching is billed, as usual, as questionable. The Red Sox are billed, as usual, as the indestructible wild card.
Talk is cheap. This year's Yankees aren't cutting corners to sneak wins in. They're where they are not because of any one player, but because they adapt their game based on the challenges they face. Our team demonstrated that tonight when they left Boston reeling with an unrelenting attack that barely gave their division rivals a chance to come up for air.
It took me about 4 innings to realize what was going on with the pitching performances. Joba Chamberlain and his unprecedented unpredictability were zipping through innings with such economic deftness that I was starting to think he either had a date waiting for him, or just really needed to use the bathroom. Conversely, Jon Lester was uncharacteristically awkward, uncomfortable, and stilted. I think it's pretty obvious what happened here...
Other game notes:
- Michael Kay waited a whole 3 innings before he broke out the "perfect game" jinx. My Red Sox buddy noted this and texted me: "I almost feel bad for Yankee fans. Girardi should just pull him now."
- Though I wasn't listening to the 880 broadcast, I can only imagine the rampant application of "You know, you just can't figure baseball" observations from Sterling, once Lester was literally knocked out of the game from a screaming liner off the bat of Melky Cabrera, into the knee cap of RSN's noble ace. But it was the reaction of posters on the game thread that really struck me: immediate, unqualified concern for Lester spilled out in droves. Indeed, we truly have the best fans in baseball.
- Pitching lines for the night:
Joba--6 IP, 5H, 3R, 5K, 1BB
Lester--2.1 IP, 8H, 5R, 3K, 3BB
If I hadn't seen the game and read that in the next day's paper, I'd honestly think the writer accidentally flipped the names.
Bullpen lines for the night:
Yanks--2.3 IP, 3H, 2R, 3K, 2BB
Sox--5.2 IP, 6H, 4R, 5K, 6BB
You gotta give our pen credit; they've been the subject of an unfaltering dismissal of their legitimacy for what seems like forever. And like ARod's non-clutch reputation, this preconceived notion becomes less and less substantiated with every game.
- Jonathan Albaladejo (still can't spell that right in one try) gave the Sox their only respite of the night, giving up 2 runs in about 45 seconds of work. Alfredo Aceves, Damaso Marte, Phil Hughes, and Phil Coke were all remarkably effective out of the pen. I guess old habits die hard. Even with Joba going 6, everyone under the kitchen sink was brought in to fill in the remaining innings. I'm not complaining--I think Girardi handled it perfectly. (Did I just actually say that?)
- Boston's bullpen is like a freaking clown car at a circus. I really thought I had seen all of em during the 15-inning marathon last month. But tonight, some guy named Hunter Jones relieves Lester, then Michael Bowden after that. My sister texts me, "Who ARE these pitchers? Did they Jorge Bogey? That sounds like a name dad would make up. Like 'Yeah Frank Staboonch is coming in next.'" (Jorge Bogey=Michael Bowden)
- Stat of the night: Yankee batters saw 213 PITCHES. This is one of my proudest moments of the season. Lester threw 78 pitches in less than 3 innings. Joba threw 86 in 6 innings. Unbelievable.
- 2nd best stat of the night: 7 STOLEN BASES. In 7 tries, off Jason Varitek. The most SBs in a game since they stole 8 in 1996. (At what point is "stolen base" no longer an automatic cue to cut to Dave Roberts reels?) They never stopped running, and the Sox were constantly left scrambling on defense.
- The Sox offense was spotty, at best. Their only highlights were a solo shot from Victor Martinez (to "break up" Joba's perfecto, just like Kay wanted) and a 2-run bomb from David Ortiz (who's the king of meaningless homeruns now, RSN?)
- No element of their game was underplayed. The pitching was tremendous, the running game was extraordinary, defense tight as always, and offense was overwhelming. 14 hits, only 1 of which was a long ball (the record-breaking 127th ding of the year was off the bat of Alex Rodriguez, who went 3-for-3 with 4 RBIs). The Yankees manufactured runs all. game. It was like they never stopped to look at the score, just put their heads down, hit, got on base, and kept going. The Sox never knew what hit 'em.
No one who watched that game can say that this meant nothing. I've been seeing them play all season, and this showing even took me by surprise. They chased one of the best pitchers in the league, they asphyxiated one of the best line-ups in the league. They exploited the Sox's weaknesses, and maybe tomorrow, people will be less quick to lionize Boston, and more inclined to recognize how strikingly stalwart the 2009 Yankees really are.