I was luckily able to attend the Yankees game on Thursday night against the Tampa Bay Rays, thanks to Kieran, enjoying it very much, even though they lost 15-8 in a game that the Bronx Bombers rested many regulars.
When we settled into our seats it was obvious that the Yankees had clinched the division crown the night before. The crowd was not quite as loud as normal during player introductions and it seemed like the Bleachers’ roll call was not as emphatic as usual.
However, I always get a kick out of hearing the Bleacher Creatures shout the fielder’s names and watching each individual Yankee respond in their own unique way. It seems like when all the starters are playing both sides are more into it but this was probably only about 10 percent less than normal.
The major benefit of this game is that as a result of the 15-8 thrashing to the Rays, Tampa improves by half a game in the Wild Card race as a result of Boston not playing. In other words, the Yankees impressive wins the previous three games against Tampa helped Boston not nosedive out of the Wild Card.
Nothing was working for Bartolo Colon as he allowed seven runs, but only five of them were earned as a result of two errors in the first two innings, on seven hits and a walk in only three innings pitched.
This lackluster performance by Colon, which raised his ERA from 3.81 to 4.02, might be a result of the long celebration after the win on Wednesday and knowing that the team had the division locked up. The Yankees need to be able to put this game behind them as they play the Red Sox for three games in an effort to knock them out of the playoffs and wrap up home-field advantage.
Nick Swisher failing to field a routine ball hit to him on the ground in left-field and Derek Jeter telegraphing his throw to first as he almost threw it into the stands surely did not help.
Jeter almost always makes the routine play, which proves that this game was purely a letdown game for the team. In addition to this error by Jeter he would make another one later on, but I would miss it since I was on line for some “gourmet” Carl’s cheese-steak, but this one was almost even more unexpected than the first.
In the fourth inning, the Rays former All-Star third baseman Evan Longoria hit a grounder that Jeter would field cleanly 99 out of 100 times but this time he let it go right through his glove allowing Longoria to score on Johnny Damon’s homer two batters later. The Yankees fourth error was committed by back-up outfielder Chris Dickerson, in the seventh, with the home team losing 13-2.
The highlight from my perspective from the first six innings of play was without a doubt the two run homer by Andruw Jones to deep left center (12), in the bottom of the sixth. This is because it was the first time the fans had a reason to get loud and cheer for something positive. Dickerson would also somewhat cancel out his error by making a beautiful running catch and he even dove at the end for style points.
With the game all but in the books, the Yankees were able to tack on some garbage time runs, to use a football phrase, and keep the remaining crowd interested. We moved down at this point as I had the idea of exploring the 100 level section, which I had never really done before, and also looking for two people.
Rookie sensation Jesus Montero was able to have a perfect night at the plate, truly looking composed and ready to attack the baseball. He went 3-3 while hitting a double to deep center scoring Ramiro Pena and Jones, in the seventh. Pena, who is a reliable fielder but usually a weak hitter, chipped in with a shallow RBI single followed by a single by Jones that scored rookie Austin Romine, which capped of Jones’s productive day at the plate.
This would add up to four runs making the score Tampa 13, New York 6, which was a little more respectable. Each team would add two more runs but they were more because of sloppiness by the pitchers and fielders and not any noteworthy offensive execution.
Matt Moore, the starter for the Rays, was expected to feel some butterflies as he was making only his fourth appearance of his career, while making his first start in the Bronx. However, he did not let the big city get to him as he looked poised on the mound hurling five shutout innings, while striking out 11.
The two players that got the loudest ovations from the fans were Jorge Posada and the previously mentioned Montero.
This is because Posada hit the two RBI double on Wednesday night that was the difference in the Yankees division clinching win and he has always been a fan favorite since 1998. Montero received loud ovations when coming to the plate because Yankees fans have been looking forward to his promotion as a result of his vast offensive potential and once he was called up on September 1st he has given the team a spark. He has an impressive .313 average so far with three homers and eight runs batted in and the only knock against him is that his catching skills could use a little improvement.
In addition to seeing a home run, something else that I was hoping to see came to fruition and that was the much publicized rookie hurlers,Andrew Brackman and Dellin Betances, making their debuts. These are two of the three “Killer B’s” as the three pitching prospects for the Yankees with the most potential are Manny Banuelos, Betances and Brackman.
The 26 year-old Brackman, who has had some serious injuries, is a mammoth 6’10 and played basketball and baseball in college at North Carolina State University. His late start in the majors is due in part to attending college for three years as well as undergoing Tommy John surgery. There were six Yankees pitchers and he was one of only two to keep the Rays off of the scoreboard.
It was a highlight seeing Betances make his first appearance of his career even though he allowed two runs on four walks, while only recording two outs. He was probably feeling a lot of nerves because he was pitching in front of friends and family since he grew up in Washington Heights and has lived in the Lower East Side as well as Brooklyn.
I remember Betances, who went to the Grand Street Campus high school, in Bushwick, Brooklyn, likely being the best pitcher in the city when he was a senior. To be able to make his debut in the Bronx must have been a very special feeling for him even though he was very wild.
I was even able to find some Rays fans who flew up just for the day to watch this game and then will be flying back to Florida on Friday morning. They surely enjoyed their introduction to Yankees Stadium and being able to move half a game closer to Boston.
It is likely that the reason the Yankees did not show up to play was because of the long champagne celebration the previous night but it was great to see some of the rookies like Montero, Brackman and Betances in person. It was also a thrill to see the homer by Jones because that prevented the Yankees from getting shutout.