Posted by: JoeD2133 | April 14, 2008

4/12: Red Sox 4, Yankees 3

                Again, I didn’t watch this game.  I had to check my Blackberry for updates between a countless, seemingly endless supply of cold beers, find ESPN on the hotel room TV at 2:00 A.M. for extended highlights, and of course, scan the back pages of the Big Three daily newspapers in New York – the Post, the Daily News and Newsday – to find out early this morning what everybody else already knew.

                This game came down to two key moments, and the Yankees lost out on both.

                Of course, the big question mark of the evening was an easy one to ask: why would Joe Girardi allow Mike Mussina to pitch to Manny Ramirez with the game on the line, bottom of the sixth inning, Red Sox runners standing confidently at second and third base.  There were two outs, Joe, first base was open, and the Moose was hanging tenuously to the slippery ledge of a 2-1 lead in Boston.  Why was there even a conversation on the mound concerning NOT intentionally walking Manny Ramirez?

                As it is beginning to feel like more and more in this storied rivalry, the outcome was written before it was ever decided.

                First pitch, a hanging breaking ball inside the black of the outside corner, and Ramirez did what he does best with mediocre pitching, especially when that pitching comes by way of the New York Yankees: he ripped a screaming, lead-changing double deep into the Fenway triangle in centerfield, a blast from which the Yankees would never recover.

                Now, I know Mike Mussina was pitching well up to this point, and I know he had just struck out the struggling yet still-freakishly-intimidating David Ortiz, but this was Manny.  The same Manny who is hitting north of .350 in April, the same Manny who always hits the Moose well (he had already hit a ridiculous home run over the Monster in his first at bat), and the same Manny whose career numbers against the Yankees are too extensive – and thus depressing – to list.

                Joe Girardi, well known already for his tireless studying of statistics, pitcher-to-hitter match-ups, and his overall aptitude for situational baseball, made his first mistake of the 2008 season.  No big deal, right?  The problem, of course, is that the mistake came against the Boston Red Sox, giving an excited, disgruntled push in the back to the swarm of negative media attention in today’s headlines.  However, whether the Moose asked to pitch to Manny, or player and manager agreed to be careful with the pitch selection, or both men genuinely forgot who was digging into the box at home plate, there is no excuse.

                You pitch to Kevin Youkilus with the game on the line, not Manny Ramirez.

                The second key moment of the night involved none other than Alex Rodriguez, but that is hardly a surprise anymore to fans hailing from New York.  His chance to produce a pivotal, game-changing hit came in the top of the eighth inning, with two-outs and runners in scoring position.  The Yankees trailed by only one now, prompting Boston skipper Terry Francona to go to his young, enigmatic, flame-throwing closer, Jonathan Papelbon.

This was a match-up worth watching, wasn’t it?  This is the reason fans like you and I can never have enough of the Yankees-Red Sox eternal grudge-fest.  This is a pitcher Alex can mash, we all thought, as memories of last season’s game-winning, top of the ninth inning homerun into the Boston bullpen came flashing back to life.

Alright.  Here we go boys.

                The problem, of course, was a two-and-a-half hour rain delay, an exceedingly unfortunate, frustrating circumstance that sucked all of the life and intensity out of this classic power-versus-power confrontation.  When the heavens cleared, the tarp rolled, and the players re-took the field, it didn’t take long for Papelbon to strike-out A-Rod, adding a satisfying notch to his side of the ledger in this growing battle with No. 13.

                Young Jonathan then struck out two in a one-two-three ninth, as effortless and efficient as can be, and the game was in the books for good.  Not for the good of the Yankees, but recorded nonetheless, another chapter to add to this engrossing, dynamic anthology between rivals.

                And what did Joe Girardi learn from re-reading his second chapter of work?

                My guess is that it has something to do with Manny being Manny.

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