The Yankees and Indians were battling in a tight, tense pitcher's duel yesterday evening when a Hitchcock movie broke out. Moments later the game was tied and Travis Hafner singled in the game winner in the 11th inning to give the Indians a 2-1 victory and a commanding 2 games to none lead in the ALDS.
An oustanding pitching performance by Andy Pettitte was lost in the shuffle. The big lefty had left the game in the 7th inning with a 1-0 lead, 2 on, and 2 out. Joe Torre turned to his rookie phenom, Joba Chamberlain, who quickly dispatched Franklin Guitierrez and Casey Blake to preserve the lead. But that's when the science non-fiction stuff showed up.
A swarm of "midges", annoying gnat-like creatures, swarmed the field in the 8th inning. It was difficult to watch the game so you can imagine what it must have been like to try to hit or pitch or field under those conditions. And for the 1st time in his Yankees career, something rattled the kid. Players and umpires broke out the cans of Off to try to combat the pests that were apparently drawn by the water temps and high humidity (not to mention sweaty ball players).
Chamberlain walked the lead off man, Grady Sizemore, and wild pitched him to 2nd. An Asdrubal Cabrera sac bunt moved Sizemore to 3rd and forced the Yankees to bring the infield in. Travis Hafner hit a bullet, but it was right at Doug Mientkiewicz for the 2nd out. You started to think Chamberlain would get out of it. But then he uncorked another wild pitch, which took a hard bounce off the backstop. Jorge Posada hurriedly tossed the ball to Chamberlain covering home, but Sizemore slid in safely, wiping out Chamberlain in the process.
Clearly shaken up by the situation, Chamberlain hit Victor Martinez and walked Ryan Garko. Only then, inexplicably, did Torre finally get Luis Vizcaino up in the pen. But the rookie bounced back to strike out Jhonny Peralta looking to end the inning.
Mariano Rivera threw 2 scoreless frames before turning things over to Luis Vizcaino in the 11th. Vizcaino got off to a bad start by walking Kenny Lofton. Lofton has gone 5-7 with 2 walks and 4 RBI in the series thus far. Guitierrez failed to get a sac bunt down, but then singled through the left side. Blake successfully sacrificed and the Indians were set up, 2nd and 3rd with just 1 out. The Yankees elected to intentionally walk Sizemore to load the bases to set up a force at all bases. Vizcaino made a big pitch to get Asdrubal Cabrera to pop out to Shelley Duncan at 1st for the 2nd out of the inning.
That brought up Travis Hafner who had failed in 3 previous attempts with runners in scoring position. Hafner worked the count full before lacing a game winning single into right-center and set off a wild celebration in the Jake by the buggy Lake.
More pesky than the bugs was the hard off-speed pitches thrown by Indians starter Fausto Carmona. Carmona, making his 1st playoff appearance, dominated the Yankees for 9 innings. He allowed just 3 hits, making only one mistake, a pitch left up in the zone that Melky Cabrera hit out for a solo home run. It would be about the only ball the Yankees would lift off Carmona all night.
The 23-year old threw 113 pitches, 77 for strikes. He issued 2 walks, but both were erased by double plays. In the 4th, Derek Jeter singled and moved to 2nd on Bobby Abreu's ground out, but Alex Rodriguez struck out and Hideki Matsui grounded out. A-Rod had a chance to be the hero again in the 9th, when Abreu reached on a 2-out infield single and stole 2nd, but Carmona struck out the soon to be AL MVP for the 3rd time.
Left-hander Rafael Perez gave the Yankees no breaks either, retiring all 6 men he faced to pick up the victory.
In addition to his home run, Melky Cabrera had the defensive play of the game. He threw a strike to home plate to nail Peralta trying to score from 2nd on a single by Lofton.
The Yankees are hitting .121 as a team. That's all that needs to be said.
photos courtesy of AP