The day was June 15, 2007. My 20th birthday. My teenage years were now behind me. I was going through some rough times back then, but it was my birthday and I was going to enjoy it.
Up late the night before, my dad (I suppose) felt obliged to come into my room and wake me up at 7:00 a.m. He said there were a couple of birthday gifts downstairs for me, so I managed to drag myself out of bed, still half asleep, and make my way down to open my gifts.
First I unwrapped a framed, personalized Yankee photo; a thoughtful gift that I loved. Today it hangs in my room directly under my framed Derek Jeter Prodigy poster.
Then my dad reached into his pocket to reveal an envelope–two tickets to the Yankees vs. Mets game at Yankee Stadium that night. It was really the only gift I had asked for that year and I was ecstatic that we were going.
“We’ll go watch old Roger pitch tonight, son. Happy birthday!” is what my dad told me.
Roger Clemens and Oliver Perez were the probable pitchers, and I was fully expecting the Yankees to dismantle their cross-town rivals. Perez had showed inconsistency entering that game, posting a (slim) winning record of 6-5.
For Clemens, it was only his second start in his second stint with the Bombers, and in his homecoming game on June 9, he beat the Pittsburgh Pirates and looked on top of his game. In his first start back against the Bucs, the Rocket gave up three runs on just five hits over six innings of work. He walked two and struck out seven.
Not bad, if you ask me. I was expecting more of that on my birthday.
We made it to the stadium early to catch batting practice. It was nice to see Jeter and Jorge Posada go over to Orlando “El Duque” Hernandez during batting practice, as the once-Yankee pitcher, who was a vital part of the Championship years in the late ’90s, was now a starter for the Mets.
I smiled as they embraced and shook hands; it reminded me of those old days when the three were teammates. I realized at that moment that baseball players really don’t forget where they came from; I know those three didn’t.
The game eventually got underway and Clemens quickly got into trouble; he put Jose Reyes and Carlos Beltran on base to lead off the game. He soon settled down, however, getting Paul LoDuca to groundout and end the frame avoiding any damage.
The game was moving rather slowly up until the top of the third. Reyes was able to tap a single through the middle into centerfield to score Carlos Gomez, who would later play a pivotal role in the outcome of the game. It gave the Mets a 1-0 lead and I was none too happy about it.
In the fifth, Reyes struck again, belting a solo home run off Clemens. This is what I saw:
From my seat, I saw the ball hit off Reyes’s bat. I looked and saw right fielder Bobby Abreu drifting back. I saw the ball bank off the Modells sign on the facing of the upper deck. And then I looked back and saw Reyes rounding second base on his way home after it was officially ruled a goner.
I could hear the Mets fans in attendance overpower the Yankee fans’ jeers. They screamed in unison, “JOSE! Jose-Jose-Jose. Jose! Jose!” in place of “Ole! Ole-Ole-Ole” as the tune actually goes.
“Where am I?” I remember thinking. “Shea Stadium?!”
Reyes’s homer gave the Mets a 2-0 lead. His home run was hard to watch, but believe it or not it wasn’t the biggest play of the game.
The inning before Reyes left the yard, Miguel Cairo stood at the plate with Robinson Cano on first and Hideki Matsui on second and one out. He smacked a long fly ball to left, unquestionably destined for the seats.
But Gomez leapt for the ball at the wall, reached his glove over the fence and made a spectacular catch to rob Cairo of a big fly. Not only did Gomez snatch the ball, he had the wherewithal to gun it back to second base and double up Matsui to end the frame.
I was beside myself. I could not believe I saw that. I thought to myself, “Cairo needs to call the NYPD, because Gomez stole his homer!”
And that robbed homer proved to be the difference in the ballgame, because the Mets went on to win, 2-0. The Yankees couldn’t generate any offense the rest of the night. Even Alex Rodriguez, who was having the season of his life, could not save the Yankees on that night.
Rodriguez went on to hit 54 home runs that year, knock in 156 runs, and win the Most Valuable Player Award. I knew he was having an amazing season and the crowd was behind him when the eighth inning approached.
The 2007 MVP stepped into the box with two outs and Jeter on third. The capacity crowd went absolutely insane! It was almost like they expected him to hit a home run and tie the game. When I say the crowd was going nuts, believe me, they were going nuts.
Unfortunately A-Rod grounded weakly to his counterpart David Wright and ended the inning. And basically ended the Yankees’ hopes of coming back to win.
Win Perez, loss Clemens. Save Billy Wagner, loss A.J. Martelli.
Yes, I was upset but I cannot say I didn’t have fun. I did what I wanted to do on my birthday and got the opportunity to watch my favorite team play. It was a good night, despite the loss. For as bad as the Yanks struggled, Carlos Delgado struggled just as much.
The Mets’ first baseman recorded the golden sombrero: four strikeouts in one game, three of those four times he was fanned by Clemens. Even though the Yankees lost, it was a legitimate pitchers duel, which are usually the best games to go to. The Yankees just happened to be on the wrong end of it.
And for that I blame Gomez for his thievery; I can’t take anything away from his athleticism, but man did I wonder: if he hadn’t caught that ball, the complexion of the whole game might have been so much different.
I wasn’t only amused by the action on the field that night, either.
What I also recall from my 20th birthday was the yapping that I overheard between two fans. Believe it or not, a Phillies fan was seated next to me, rooting for the Yankees against the Mets. A Met fan was sitting next to him and the two began discussing the National League East.
“Who’s your best guy?” the Mets fan asked. “Chase Utley…I’d say Utley. Or Ryan Howard,” the Phillie fan replied.
The conversation continued.
“Who’s your closer?” the Met fan asked. “(Antonio) Alfonseca!” the Phillie fan answered.
“Yeah. We’ll see you in October,” said the Met fan mockingly.
The irony was absurd.
If that Met fan had only known what was going to happen at the end of that year–the Mets blowing a seven game lead in the division with only 12 left to play–I’m sure he wouldn’t have opened his mouth at all that night.
When the Mets missed the playoffs in 2007, I immediately remembered that conversation. “Yeah, I bet that Met fan is kicking himself right now!” I thought as I witnessed the epic collapse.
I’ll bet he was also crying the next two days. Following the Mets’ 2-0 win over the Yankees on my birthday, they lost to the Yankees the next two games and ultimately lost the weekend series.
I watched the third game with some of my family members who are Mets fans. Rodriguez homered in that game, Chien-Ming Wang struck out 10, and the Yankees won 8-2. It was refreshing to see the Yanks win and in a way it made up for the loss on my birthday two days before.
But I’ll never forget that birthday. Every time someone speaks of the Mets’ 2007 collapse, or I see Gomez, I think of that night.
Wow. WOW. That’s pretty much all I can say. Just another instance in my life when I am speechless.
Game two of the ALDS was one of the craziest games I have ever witnessed and that is definitely saying something as a lifelong baseball fan. It was most likely the craziest (Yankee) playoff game since game seven of the 2003 ALCS.
Tonight was one of those games where I just kept saying to myself, “I can’t believe what I just saw.” I said it several times during the game.
A lot of craziness, but the Yankees won, 4-3 in 11th outrageous innings. One hell of a win, for sure!
There’s so much I can say about this game, but I’m going to start with Alex Rodriguez.
In one of the biggest at-bats of his career and the game on the line in the bottom of the ninth, the Yankee slugger delivered a mammoth, game-tying, two-run homer to knot the game at three.
I’m sure not many people expected it, but like I said on Wednesday, I think A-Rod learned the Heimlich maneuver. It was a pressure situation and he did not choke! He did what he was brought here to do–hit big time homers in pressurized, late-game situations. And he did not disappoint tonight.
You can look at some of his other big time homers as a member of the Yankees. The walk-off grand slam vs. Baltimore on April 7, 2007, the walk-off tater to beat Cleveland on April 19, 2007, but this was different.
Tonight was postseason. And against Joe Nathan, a closer who slammed the door 47 times during the regular season. And that home run…was a bomb!
Rodriguez has been excellent these last two games, driving in five runs and going 4-for-8. That’s better than we have probably ever seen him in the playoffs, certainly the best we’ve seen him since before they blew it in 2004 (I still don’t want to talk about that!)
“When I came back in May I felt I was off to a new start and it was great to have Mark Teixeira there,” Rodriguez said to the press after the game.
“It just felt really good, we needed it, and nothing’s changed. This is the way we have been playing all year. It was a lot of fun and I am doing the best I can.”
Rodriguez also drove in the Yankees’ first run in the bottom of the sixth with an RBI single to score Derek Jeter, answering the Twins’ run they posted in the top of the frame.
Alongside Rodriguez with some big hits tonight was Mark Teixeira.
Not only did “Big Tex” smash the game-winning, walk-off homer in the bottom of the 11th inning, he kept the Yankees alive in the ninth with a double to set up A-Rod’s glorious homer.
Without Teixeira, the Yankees would obviously be going to Minnesota with the series tied 1-1, so it’s safe to say he did his job tonight. At the beginning of the season, I heard some fans say Teixeira has never had a big at-bat in his life.
Well he answered those fans, coming up big time tonight in a clutch situation.
Now onto A.J. Burnett, who was pitching in his first postseason game of his career. I have to say, he looked a little off tonight, but still managed to turn in an acceptable outing and a quality start.
The lanky right-hander went six innings, giving up an earned run on only three hits. The walks were a little much, he walked five, but he also struck out six. Burnett’s breaking ball and fastball both looked great tonight, hopefully a sign of good things to come from him.
I also have to hand it to reliever David Robertson. The young man out of Alabama was “Harry Houdini” tonight, getting out of a bases-loaded, no-out jam in the top of the 11th. He got the win and deserved it. An awesome showing from him and most of the bullpen tonight.
Now that I’ve examined the good of this game (and it was a good…great game) I have to look at the bad.
By all means, the Yankees should have won the game in the 10th. With Brett Gardner on third base and one out, the game was all but over. All Johnny Damon had to do was hit a fly ball anywhere. Left field, right field, center field–it didn’t matter. Gardner was going to score.
Instead Damon lined an old “at ’em” ball right to Nick Punto, who was able to double up Gardner at third base. It was a bad play on Gardner’s part, but in all honesty, I have to give him the benefit of the doubt.
What happened was Gardner thought the ball was tipped off the pitcher’s glove and he thought he could score. But much to the surprise of Gardner, the ball was in the air. So a mistake on Gardner cost the Yanks a win in the 10th, but it didn’t come back to hurt them. No harm, no foul.
Then on the Twins’ part, they shot themselves in the foot in top of the fourth. Carlos Gomez slipped past second base, running on a single from Matt Tolbert. The stumble (or I guess just error in judgment) enabled Nick Swisher to gun him out from right field before Delmon Young–the lead runner–was able to score.
That play was crucial and may have cost the Twins the game. If that run had scored, who knows what could have happened.
Another mistake that might have cost the Twins was the error on right field umpire Phil Cuzzi. Joe Mauer hit a ground-rule double that was ruled a foul ball in the 10th inning. That was a real mistake and I was happy he made it. By all means, the Twins were cheated out of a baserunner.
My overall feeling on game two: dramatic. As my fellow blogger Virginia would say, it was a “drama club win.” Both sides fought and wanted it badly, but in the end it was the Bronx Bombers who came out on top.
Now onto game three on Sunday night.
It will be big-game pitcher Andy Pettitte squaring off against former Yankee Carl Pavano. Now the Yankees have a chance to punish him for all the money they wasted on him. I think it would be so poetically just to beat Pavano to win the series. He was supposed to help bring us a Title, but wound up doing nothing.
It would make complete sense.
Well, I said back on June 7 after the Yankees battled back to beat the Tampa Bay Rays that “they are seriously a group of warriors that do not quit.”
And tonight just proved that point even more, if they didn’t prove it with the 15 walk-off wins they had. Tonight also marked the 11th walk-off postseason win in the Yankees’ history–they have the most postseason walk-off wins all-time from any team.
Well, that does it for tonight. I’ll be back after Sunday’s game for more playoff analysis.
Until then, Go Yankees!!!