Even retired, Kevin Millar makes the game of baseball more amusing. Last year he was with the Blue Jays, and they brought up a pitcher from the minors named Mark Rzepczynski, one of those great unpronounceable names you see occasionally in sports. (For the record, it’s pronounced zep-CHIN-skee.) Asked on the radio how that name was pronounced, he replied, “We just call him ‘Ski’.” However, with Rzepczynski making his first start of the year, Millar, now working for MLB Network, revealed that he and Bryan Butterfield gave the pitcher a different nickname: Splamitovich. Which Rzepczynski now has on his glove. Kevin, man, I love you. Don’t ever disappear from the spotlight.
On another note, yesterday looked like an anomaly for the Year of The Pitcher II. 47 home runs were hit yesterday, including 3 by Adam Dunn, two each by Casey Kotchman, Martin Prado, and Buster Posey, and an inside-the-park homer by Jose Bautista, whose 22 homers lead the majors. The only game without a home run was the Angels-White Sox game. But back to Bautista: Where’s all of this power coming from? Bautista never had more than 16 home runs in a year prior to this year, and suddenly he’s the biggest bomber in the league. Do you remember what we used to assume when players set new career highs for home runs by the end of May? Yeah, exactly–“Must be juicing.” (Okay, so Bautista was only tied for his career high at the end of May–and, of course, my example had already set a new career high by the end of April. Still valid.) I want to believe that the game is really completely clean now, but…when there are still players putting up anomalous numbers like this, I can’t be sure.
Of course, it could just be that Bautista is having a breakout season. The aforementioned Brian Roberts had only played more than 100 games in a season twice prior to 2005, when he set a new career high for home runs by the end of April, but he tailed off and ended that season with fewer than 20 home runs, and while it’s still a career high, he has reached double digits three more times. The performances you really have to worry about are when players can’t replicate them afterwards–think Brady Anderson, whose only season with at least 25 home runs was 1996, when he hit 50. Only time will tell which is the case for Bautista.
Final note: The Cardinals blew a five-run lead to the Rockies, their first time blowing leads of at least 5 runs in back-to-back games since 1930. Chris Iannetta hit a walkoff home run to lead off the bottom of the ninth off of Evan MacLane, who was making his major league debut and now currently has a career opponent’s slugging percentage of 4.000 (not that they keep track of these things) and an infinite ERA (1 earned run in 0 IP) as well as an 0-1 record. Not the best start.
I think I’m just going to live-blog this, Bill Simmons-style. Probably should’ve started that earlier, actually…
PM: I tune in as Bernie Williams is getting a huge ovation. Apparently
they’ve been introducing Yankee greats across time, including the
starting lineup from the first game ever played at Yankee Stadium. Now,
Bob Sheppard with the starting lineup. In centerfield, #18, Johnny
Damon. At shortstop, # 2, Derek Jeter. In right field, #53, Bobby
Abreu. At third base, #13, Alex Rodriguez. At first base, #25, Jason
Giambi. In left field, #22, Xavier Nady. At second base, #24, Robinson
Canó. The designated hitter, #55, Hideki Matsui. Catching, #26, Jose
Molina. And pitching, #46, Andy Pettitte.
Okay, now that we can
get out of stuffy serious mode, let’s take a look at the rest of
baseball. As I said, a Yankee loss will give the Red Sox a playoff
spot. For tomorrow, Florida is out of the NL East with a loss or a
Philly win. The Cubs will clinch home field up until the World Series
with a win or Philly loss.
8:13: Special guest to catch the
ceremonial first pitch…okay, it’s Jorge Posada, who’s been on the DL
all year. Nice. Throwing out the first pitch is Julia Ruth Stevens, the
8:15: There’s going to be a “special postgame
celebration” after the game. If Baltimore wins, there’s also going to
be such a celebration in Boston. The Sox may even be back in town in
time to see it, depending on when their plane left/leaves Toronto.
Speaking of Chicago Cubs, it looks like ESPN may have rush-delivered
Lou Piniella to New York. Oh, wait, that’s right, the Cubs have a
four-game series at Shea starting tomorrow. Okay, so that makes a
little more sense, but it still seems like they must have gotten the
team to NYC pretty quickly.
8:25: Jon Miller asks, “Who will hit
the last home run at Yankee Stadium? Jeter? A-Rod?” I hope it’s an
Oriole. Preferably Kevin Millar.
8:26: Joe Morgan says it’s not
a must-win game for the Yankees. He later qualifies it by saying that
they will be eliminated from the playoffs this year. I still disagree.
You don’t eliminate yourself, and you definitely don’t close out your
home ballpark by handing a playoff berth to your most hated rival.
break means we can discuss more eliminations and stuff. Okay, actually,
we don’t have any more for tomorrow. We have the Phillies clinching a
playoff berth with two wins and a Milwaukee loss…we probably have
others. The game is coming back. 8:30 PM already, and still no pitches
besides the ceremonial one.
8:31: They’re scrolling Yankee
Stadium history across the bottom of the screen. Gag. Now we’re on
all-time Yankee Stadium leaders. Mickey Mantle leads in Games Played
and Home Runs; Jeter leads in Hits, Gehrig in RBI. Now we’re in
“Events”, such as notable boxing matches and concerts. Concerts! I wonder why I’m doing this.
Finally, Pettitte takes the mound, to the tune of “Boys of Summer”.
Miller tells us about “the roll call”, that despicable part of the game
when everyone chants the players’ names until they respond, then
wonders if that tradition will move with them to the new stadium.
Morgan, thankfully, tells him that because of the fans’ fervor, a lot
of things will be moving over.
8:37: Oh, no, they’ve got one
camera on those fans and another on whatever player’s name they’re
calling out. Abreu has to ignore them momentarily to catch a fly ball
from Brian Roberts, then Nick Markakis singles to center on the first
8:39: Morgan talks about the roar of the crowd, something
I can appreciate, having once identified a classic game on the radio as
being at Yankee Stadium just from the crowd noise. Mora flies out to
Nady, and Huff grounds out to Jeter.
8:41: Was there a commercial there, or just more Yankee Stadium reminiscing? Chris Waters is pitching for Baltimore.
The recorded Bob Sheppard introduction of Derek Jeter. Was too busy
looking up Waters’s numbers to see how Damon got out. Waters debuted
with 8 innings of one-hit, shutout ball, and in his most recent start,
had a complete game shutout.
8:44: Apparently Jeter got an award for breaking Gehrig’s record. Tonight, though, he’s out on strikes.
Morgan reminds us that Jeter’s playing hurt tonight. My hands can’t
move quickly enough for this…how does Simmons do this? Another
backwards K, and it’s 1-2-3. You don’t think…Nah, there’s no way that
would happen, right? 😉
8:49: Miller tells us the Orioles have a
potent offense. They also tell us that Pettitte is on a personal 5-game
losing streak. Sounds good to me.
8:50: Hernandez is down on
strikes. For the second time tonight, we’re told that Ruth said he’d
give a year of his life to hit a homer in the first game at Yankee
Stadium, and that he did. Oh, and that was career strikeout #2,000 for
8:51: Adam Jones triples off the top of the wall
in right. Millar comes up with a chance to drive in the first run in
the last game at Yankee Stadium.
8:52: Pettitte’s considering retirement, apparently. Allegedly. You know how long southerners’ retirements last, though.
8:53: Full count.
It’s a walk. Jay Payton comes up and drives in the run with a
broken-bat grounder to short, too slow to turn the double play.
8:56: Juan Castro flies out to Damon.
Okay, so maybe giving a play-by-play is too much. Best to focus on the important stuff, and on Miller’s inane comments.
bizarre. In spite of their OT loss to NC State, East Carolina is still
ranked. Oregon was knocked out by Boise State, and with OK State idle,
they were unable to capitalize on the other losers…so Vandy and TCU
are in. To review: there are only 19 teams from BCS conferences in the
AP Top 25. And one of them is Vanderbilt. And one of those non-BCS
teams is all the way up at number 11.
9:04: A-Rod reached on a walk and is at second with two outs. So, yeah, it’s still possible.
9:04: Whoa! Brian Roberts gets a Web Gem for a diving catch. 2 innings done.
Yogi and Whitey are in the booth. Miller calls Ford the greatest
pitcher in Yankee history, then asks Yogi to confirm. Yogi, jokester
that he is, says, “He’s okay.” One on, didn’t see how. Roberts then
steals second. Ford gives a story about warming up in the late innings
of Larsen’s perfect game because “Don gets tired in the late innings.”
Still scrolling facts.
9:14: Showing highlights of Jackie
Robinson stealing home in the World Series off of the Ford-Berra
battery, a call they didn’t agree with. Mora drives in Roberts. Ford
relates a story of Phil Rizzuto saying that he could see from shortstop
that Robinson was safe, but years later, they found out that Scooter
wasn’t even playing that game.
9:19: Finally, inning over.
9:23: Matsui gets the first hit for the Yanks, a single. Now showing, the final pitch of Larsen’s perfect game.
9:26: Three-run homer, Johnny Damon. ****.
9:27: Jeter hits one to almost the same spot, but not far enough; running catch, Markakis.
9:33: Has there been a game going on here? Two walks have given them first and second with two outs.
Fly ball to left, ends the inning. Whitey told the story of when he
gave up four hits on his first four pitches and Casey Stengel came out
and asked Yogi if Whitey had anything and Yogi responded, “I don’t
know, I haven’t caught anything.”
9:37: There really was only one commercial there, then a return with “New York, New York” playing. I think it was the Sinatra version, but it didn’t really sound like either of the main versions.
9:42: One-out double for Millar.
Now talking about 1976, Chris Chambliss’s home run, the Big Red Machine
and Reggie Jackson as a guest star on the telecasts, saying that the
Yankees needed “a big hitter”–and they would acquire Jackson that
offseason. Tie ball game on a two-out RBI single by Roberts. Inning now
9:54: Two-run homer, Jose Molina. Argh.
Brief mention of John Sterling. Yes, I’ve more or less lost interest.
Sterling and Michael Kay were apparently the emcees of the pregame
ceremonies. The official closing of the Stadium is in November. Isn’t
that a bit early for an outdoor hockey game?
10:16: Peter Gammons with David Wells and David Cone, talking to them about their perfect games.
Pettitte leaves with one on and none out in the sixth. This means he’s
eligible for the win, and not eligible for the loss.
10:20: Jose Veras on to pitch.
Sounds like a “Boston Sucks” chant. Also, celebrities in the stands. We
have Val Kilmer, we have Bobby Knight…do we have others?
10:26: Pinch-hitter? Oscar Salazar comes out to pinch-hit for Juan Castro.
Now showing: Reggie’s heroics in the ’77 World Series. Oh, he’s in the
booth. You can tell that I’ve lost interest in this game, can’t you?
Seventh inning stretch. Ronan Tynan’s there, of course. Also, a couple
more pitching changes. Phil Coke replaced Veras with two out in the
sixth, Lance Cormier replaced Waters with two outs in the bottom of the
sixth, and Joba–the one and only–replaced Coke with one out in the
top of the seventh. When did Joba return and why is he a reliever
again? I take it he’ll also take care of the entire eighth, then hand
it off to Mariano. It’s the only right way.
11:01: Back again.
While we’re thinking of closers (we knew that regardless of score, Mo
would be pitching the ninth), K-Rod had save number 60 yesterday
Michael Kay is taking over in the broadcast booth. ESPN normally shuts
out local coverage, so it’s really nice that they’re handing the mic
over to the YES play-by-play man.
11:06: Abreu singles and steals second. A-Rod’s up, 0-for-1 with two walks tonight.
11:07: Abreu to third on the fly out.
11:09: Pitching change. Cormier replaced by Jamie Walker.
Pop-up, bad communication, no one catches it, Abreu scores. Dropped by
Brandon Fahey. Wait, when did he enter the game? Brent Gardner
pinch-running for Giambi, Rocky Cherry replacing Walker.
11:14: Oh, right, Castro left the game. Fahey pinch-ran for Salazar and took Castro’s place at shortstop. We’re back.
11:17: GET FAHEY OUT OF THERE!!! He boots the ball, and Gardner, running on the play, makes it to third.
11:19: Sac fly Canó, Nady to second. Gonna take quite the comeback for the O’s to pull this off…
11:20: Pudge pinch-hits for Matsui and grounds out.
Defensive changes: Gardner stays in at center, Damon to left, Cody
Ransom comes in to play first base, batting in Nady’s spot.
11:25: Two outs already. Damn, that’s quick.
First-pitch flyout for Jose Molina, the first time he’s been out this
game. He’s been declared the Chevrolet Player of the Game, though I’m
hoping that will change.
11:31: Fahey finally catches one, but
collides with Alex Cintrón in the process. Someone rescue this poor
idiot. Cintrón then throws out Jeter for out three. We’re not even
cutting to commercial, instead focusing on the bullpen. Mo throws a
couple more pitches before entering.
11:34: Wow, that was a long
montage of calls. Every no-hitter and perfect game, a few major home
runs…”Enter Sandman”. Payton, Fahey and Roberts due up, but Luke
Scott is in the on-deck circle. So Fahey is given a little mercy, after
11:36: Count is 1-1. Yes, we’ll be going play-by-play for the ninth.
Another foul; 1-2. Miller points out that it’s not a save situation,
“not that anybody cares on this night.” Payton grounds out to Jeter.
11:38: Yep, Scott will pinch-hit. Good. Very good.
11:39: Two down. Oh, now this
is cheesy. What do you think this is, an All-Star Game? Jeter leaves
the game, then comes out for a curtain call at the crowd’s request.
Bullsh*t move by Girardi. I hope that the final out, whenever it comes,
goes to shortstop, just to rub it in Girardi’s face.
11:41: Nope; grounder to first ends it. No clinch for the Sox.
11:45: They’ve finished up playing Frankie’s version of “New York, New York”…and started it again.
11:47: Jeter’s got a mic in his hand. Let’s see what he’s got to say.
too much to write verbatim. It’s very nice, though, and he did a great
job at quieting down the crowd–although you can still kind of hear the
crowd roar. Big cheers when he calls them “the greatest fans in the
world”. It ends with the organization saluting the fans. Cool, I guess.
Is that even the Stadium PA playing the song this time? Yeah, I think
it is. Of course, it sounds like it’s out of sync with itself. Bad
camera wiring? Is it something recursive, it’s recording itself? Or are
different speakers just playing it at different times?
11:52: Okay, how many times are they going to play that damn song?
12:01 AM: A retrospective of the night.
The Yogi Berra commercial…no, wait, it’s different this time. Yogi’s
had a commercial for this final game, but this one is different. Even more
poignant. Oh man…I may be trembling again. Okay, so it’s just an
extended version, here’s the ending I remember. Finally, the full
12:04: SportsCenter begins. This is Passed Ball, signing off.
12:05: Spoke too soon. They’re playing it again!!!