Friday, May 05, 2006

The Big and Small of It

Wow. What a meltdown. I was losing my mind during the Bottom of the 8th inning, as the Yankee bullpen conspired to destroy the most dominating start of the season by any Bombers pitcher. My heart is still racing. Yanks win 8-7.

I say that it was the most dominating start of the season because it took place in a hitter's ballpark, against one of the most talented offensive teams in baseball. Mike Mussina continued his absolutely brilliant season by holding the Rangers to 2 hits and no walks over 7 full innings. The Texas club only scratched across a run against Mussina thanks to a deep fly ball that Damon couldn't catch up to and couldn't throw into the infield, turning a tough double into a triple. No skin off Mussina's back. He was thrilling to watch. He also picked up his 5th win in 7 starts, all of which have been quality starts.

Top of the 8th, no one out. Mussina back in with only 85 pitches thrown on the evening, and Kevin Mench knocks out a nice little single. No problem. Mussina will get a double play, right? Well, Joe Torre decided that it was time to get Aaron Small a little work. Last year's Cinderella story needs to shake off some rust from his time on the DL, and a 7 run lead ought to be enough to make this game a spring training affair. That had to be on Joe's mind. At the time, I didn't like it, because I thought it was unfair to bring Mussina out to the mound if you were only going to give him a hitter to prove he was able to continue.

If Joe wanted to bring in Small, why not bring him in with no one on base, and let Mussina finish things off cleanly? If you were going to put Moose back into the game, let him pitch until he got into real trouble. He could probably have finished off the 8th, handing the ball to Small in the 9th. That's enough time to get Small some work. Anyway, it shouldn't have been a debatable decision by Torre. We should simply be sitting around in the glow of Moose's win, wondering why he couldn't have finished the 8th, but relaxing with a coffee.

Small's gilded coach is quickly turning into a pumpkin, and while I loved what he did for us last season n such a poised fashion, I can't enjoy seeing him ineffective against a slugging team like the Rangers. One lesson for the future: rusty or shaky relievers should not get in extra work against good offensive ballclubs on the road. The Rangers' 6 run rally against Small, Farnsworth, and Mariano turned a feel good laugher into a nail biting frustrate-a-thon in a matter of 10 minutes. Thank goodness that Mark Texeira showed why he's so "unclutch" twice in the 8th and 9th innings, or we'd be crying in our beers. (That was a joke.)

On the positive side, Mussina is the Yankees MVP so far this season and looks about as good as he ever has in pinstripes. A-Rod strung together a few good at bats to get back on track. Sheffield is back in the lineup, although he popped up 3 times showing poor timing after his time away. And, finally, Mariano Rivera nailed it down in the end, while the other "Sandman" Billy Wagner gave up the lead run in the top of the 10th on a home run to pinch hitting Wilson Betemit. Cliff Floyd saved his bacon with a bottom of the 10th blast to keep the game going. The "overrated" Carlos Beltran homered again tonight, and scored the winning run in the bottom of the 14th inning at Shea. That mean the 3 most "overrated" players in baseball tonight, in their two teams' wins, went:

Derek Jeter (2 for 5, 2 runs, 2RBI)
Carlos Beltran (2 for 6, 1 HR, 1 2B, 3 runs, 2RBI, 2 walks, the game winning run)
Alex Rodriguez (2 for 4, 1 2B, 3 RBI, 1 walk)

I hope more New York players are that overrated, so I can spend the rest of my life enjoying overrated wins.