Over at River Ave Blues, our friends have come up with a series outlining the Yankees’ 10 best pitching performances and hits of the 2009 regular season.
Since I lack a single original bone in body body, I thought I’d come up with a similar list–except, of course, for the postseason, and one that combines hits, pitches and all-out instincts. See if you agree or disagree–comments are always welcome!
10: Jeterian: In the grand scheme of things, Derek Jeter’s ALDS game one game-tying home run may go unnoticed. In a game the Yankees ended up winning by a comfortable margin, Jeter’s hit came relatively early, thus it perhaps lacks the drama of some of the later moments.
Still, until that hit, the Yankees were trailing the Twins, and the feeling of “oh no, not again…” was rampant–after all, these were Yankees that still hadn’t won a playoff series since 2004.
9: Pettitte Pizazz With his team down 3-0 in game three of a deadlocked World Series, the Yankees were in serious danger of going down in the World Series two games to one while on the road. The Yankees, however, got help from an unlikely source–Pettitte himself, who blooped a single off of Cole Hamels that scored the game tying run. The Yankees never looked back, taking a lead in the game (and in the series) that they would not relinquish.
8: Fundamentals 2, Angels 0 It’s one thing to win on a walk-off, another to win because of the other team’s miscues, and still yet another to do both of these in an ALCS game. Helped by an unseasonably cold and wet night, Jerry Hairston Jr. helped the Yankees do just that–scoring after the Angels’ second baseman botched what could have been a double play ball–and the Yankees took a commanding two games-to-none series lead.
7: Halloween Hijinks Pettitte’s game-tying hit in Game Three of the World Series would have gone for naught had it not been for what happened almost immediately beforehand. Alex Rodriguez (who else?) hit a long fly ball that looked, on first glance, as though it bounced off of the top of the wall in right field for a long double. His teammates, however, saw differently: the ball actually hit a camera that was hanging over the fence, and would have likely gone into the stand otherwise. After a brief protest, the umpires conferred, watched the first-ever World Series replay, and issued their ruling: two-run home run.
6: David Robertson, Miracle Worker Although A-Rod’s game-tying home run in Game 2 of the ALDS (see below) may have been the biggest moment at the New Yankee Stadium at that point, the home run did, alas, only tie the game. Thus, as the Yankees proceeded to extra innings and Girardi burned reliever after reliever, he was eventually left to call upon David Robertson to come in and do the impossible: get out of a two men on, no one out situation without giving up a run.
Robertson did not help his own cause at first–allowing a base hit–but the ball was hit so hard that Minnesota could not score, and instead was left with the bases loaded (and still no one out). Let the miracle begin: a line-out to Teixeira, a ground ball hit hard enough for Teixeira to make the out at home, and a lazy fly ball to center field. The Yankees won the game in the bottom of the same inning.
5: CC, completely in control Heading into the postseason, one of the biggest question marks the Yankees had was the ability of Sabathia to pitch on rest as short as three days–he had done so in Milwaukee, but done so so often in September that there was nothing in the tank in October.
Yankee fans, however, needn’t have worried. Sabathia excelled on short rest–and perhaps not more so than in game four of the ALCS, which the Yankees would win 10-1. Sabathia allowed just five hits over eight innings, and the not-so-hidden benefit of his dominant performance was that the Yankees were able to employ a ready and rested bullpen in the wake of a poor performance from AJ Burnett in Game Five.
4: Matsui go Boom–The only thought going into Game Six of the World Series for Yankee fans (and one presumes the Yankees) was simple: don’t go to Game Seven. No one, it seems, heeded that call more than designated hitter Hideki Matsui, who got to work quickly, with a two run home run, two run single and two run double. The six RBI night was enough to crown Matsui World Series MVP in a series with no clear-cut winner–and as far away as crowded bars in Manhattan, you could hear the chants of MVP! MVP! reverberating just as Matsui’s double (and RBI 5 and 6) landed, missing being a second home run by only a little. Godzilla, indeed.
3: Johnny Damon takes the 2-1 special: Keith Olbermann called this the smartest play in World Series history, and while you may debate this, the fact is that this play illustrates why sabermetrics, though important, cannot be the be all and end all–that an acute awareness for one’s surroundings can be as, if not more, important.
In the ninth inning of a tie game on the road, with two out and Phil Coke (!) warming in the bullpen, Johnny Damon worked a miracle at-bat against Brad Lidge, finally singling after what seemed to be an eternity. Then, with Teixeira at bat, the Phillies over-shifted–something of perhaps little consequence in a regular season game, but made all the difference in this situation. After stealing second base, Damon noticed that no one was covering third base–so he took it. The decision, which had to be made in hundredths of a second, meant that if successful, Damon could score as easily on a passed ball or wild pitch as on a base hit.
2: AJ and an Empire State of Mind AJ’s postseason can be explained very simply: when he pitched at home he was great; when he pitched on the road he was awful. Fortunately for the Yankees, his most important pitching performance came at home–Game Two of the World Series. After having being beat soundly by Cliff Lee in Game One of the Series (which many Yankee fans will tell you did not feel like Game One of the World Series), the Yankees were at risk of going down two games to none, and then having to go to Philadelphia to try to salvage the series.
Philadelphia’s surprising Game Two starter–Pedro Martinez–pitched better than most expected, but it was Burnett who had the endurance to outlast him. Burnett went seven innings, allowing just one run on four hits–and impressively (for Burnett) walked just two. In a game that the Yankees won by a low score of 3-1, Burnett’s performance was nothing short of exactly what the Yankees needed.
1: It’s an A-bomb, from A-Rod You might disagree about where this home run is placed, but after having seen it in person, I admit I am biased.
It’s not just that A-Rod’s home run was a bottom of the ninth, game-tying blast, or that it happened in the postseason, or that it happened after the Yankees’ vaunted set-up and closer duo of Phil Hughes and Mariano Rivera faltered, just a bit but enough to give Minnesota a 3-1 lead, or that A-Rod had long been the scapegoat for Yankee postseason woes, or that the entire 2009 season seemed to be about A-Rod’s redemption after admitting he used steroids, or that the way the season started and ended for him–first and last pitch home runs was an incredible story, if not a bizarre coincidence–
–It was the fact that A-Rod’s home run was an aggregate of all of those, coming in a game that itself was incredibly close and well-played.
It’s not often that you can say one hit changes everything–but this time, you can.