For all of the pomp and circumstance there was to open the $1.5 billion new Yankee Stadium in the Bronx, so many people forgot there was an actual baseball game to be played between the New York Yankees and the Cleveland Indians. Unfortunately for Yankee fans, some of those people seemed to reside in the New York bullpen.
A wise man once said “the bullpen is the great equalizer,” and yesterday certainly showed that statement to be true. The Indian bats jumped all over Yankee relievers Jose Veras and Damaso Marte to the tune of nine runs in the decisive seventh inning and ruined the grandiose New York opener 10-2. Jhonny Peralta’s RBI double scored two to break a 1-1 tie with nobody out and chased Veras, the losing pitcher who faced three batters, failing to retire any of them (walk, double, double). In came Marte who promptly hit Shin-Soo Choo and then butchered Ben Francisco’s bunt into a botched fielders choice.
Kelly Shoppach followed with an RBI single (his second RBI hit of the game) to stretch the Tribe lead to 4-1. After a Tony Graffanino pop out, rookie Trevor Crowe, who looks better and better each time he plays, worked Marte for a bases loaded walk, bringing Grady Sizemore to the plate. You all know what happened next – Grady took Marte’s 1-1 offering over the short porch in right and the game was broken wide open. Victor Martinez’s titanic blast to the second deck in left finished off the nine-run seventh and the Yankees for the day.
SIDE NOTE: Isn’t it nice to talk about a failing Marte not named Andy?
This was the exact type of situation that the Indian attack has failed in so many times this season. With the opportunity for a big inning, starting with two on and nobody out, they have either failed to even move runners over, or even deliver a sacrifice fly. Heck, their first sac fly came Wednesday afternoon in their eighth game of the season! But this day was different. That big inning we have been waiting for finally happened, in Yankees Stadium on opening day of all places.
The key to the game for the Red, White, and Blue actually didn’t happen in that seventh inning, it occurred during the first 5 2/3. Knowing their enemy better than anyone, the Indians hitters did their best to patiently wait out new Yankee and former Tribe ace CC Sabathia. During his five-plus innings of work, CC walked five, gave up five hits, and threw 122 pitches. New York manager Joe Girardi had no choice but to turnt he game over to his gas-can of a bullpen. Make no mistake; the Indians knew exactly what they were doing.
“He’s an emotional pitcher,” said Kelly Shoppach. “When he gets like that, he tries to throw too hard and gets wild. We know what he’s trying to do. We’ve all seen him pitch for a long time.”
Going back to game one of the 2007 ALDS, you remember a too-amped up CC barely making it through five innings and over-throwing. The same thing happened this year on opening day in Baltimore. Once CC left the game, the flood gates were opened.
Credit also must go to Cliff Lee, who looked much better than he did during his first two starts this season. Though he was in and out of trouble all day, he kept the Yankees at bay, pitching six innings of one run ball, allowing seven hits, walking three, and striking out four. It wasn’t the completely dominant, 2008 version of Cliff, but this was definitely something to build on.
Unlike Sabathia, Lee seems to be able to keep his complete focus on his task at hand, rather than what is going on around him (i.e the circus atmosphere of yesterday). ”After the fact, it’s kind of neat to know I started the first game at Yankee Stadium and got the first win,” Lee said. ”But I didn’t need to put more pressure on myself because I’m facing CC and pitching the first game at Yankee Stadium. You could feel it wasn’t a normal game, but you had to filter all that out.”
Cliff did just that, earning his first win of the season and giving the Indians their first back to back wins of this young campaign. They look to bulid on yesterday’s momentum today at 1:05. Anthony Reyes looks to go 2-0 against Yankee phenom Joba Chamberlain.
-I am stunned by the gross mis-calculation by Yankees GM Brian Cashman in such a high-impact area of a ball club like the bullpen. Take Mariano Rivera out, the rest of the Yankees pen reads this this:
Phil Coke, Damaso Marte, Brian Bruney, Jose Veras, Edwar Ramirez, David Robertson, and Jonathan Albaladejo.
Not exactly the Nasty Boys of Cincinnati Reds in the early 1990′s.
Something was wrong with having an untouchable Chamberlain in front of Rivera? Its classic Yankee arrogance and stubborness. The Red Sox for example, had always been grooming Jonathan Papelbon to be a starter, but he took off as a closer in 2006. It was supposed to be a one year plan. However, the success of Papelbon in the back of the pen was so great, the Red Sox decided it was best for their team to keep him in the pen.
How has that worked out so far?
Meanwhile, Chamberlain may become a great starter, but the Yankees have nobody to get the ball from the starters to Rivera and it will be their undoing this season. Mark my words.
-If GM Mark Shapiro and Manager Eric Wedge bring David Dellucci back on this roster at the expense of Trevor Crowe, they should both be fit for straight-jackets. I know Crowe is only hitting .211, but he was 2-4 yesterday and is showing the kid of speed and versatility the Indians outfield needs. He played Center the other night to give Grady a rest (he was the DH) and is showing he belongs up here. Tell me what good DD will do?
-I know it is early, but the Indians MUST get Rafael Perez straightened out.
-Anyone else wonder why Rafael Betancourt was pitching in the ninth up by 8 runs?
-The AL Central has started in brutal fashion, which is good news for the Tribe. Three teams, Detroit, Chicago and KC, are 5-4. Minnesota is 4-7. 84 wins can win this division folks.
To quote Eric Wedge – “Keep Grinding.”