Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Ladders 'Bout to Fall

Those of us who are baseball fans—is there really anyone who isn't?—know that ballplayers are quite superstitious, and many of us as fans are kind of that way too. Well, that is, we say we don't believe in superstitions, yet we follow the same routines when they seem to produce positive results for our teams.

Personally, I once sat in exactly the same spot on the couch—even though I really needed to go to the bathroom—for over two hours while Mike Mussina pitched a perfect game through 6 1/3 innings of an ALCS matchup with the Red Sox. Despite this, I truly don't believe that a fan could actually jinx a pitcher's perfect game by asking, during the eighth inning, if he'd walked anyone yet...even if that fan was actually sitting next to me at the ballpark. We all know that the actions of fans can't control these outcomes. Of course, we also know that the pitcher's teammates can cause him bad luck by making any mention of what's in progress.

That being said, let me recount my experience with this past weekend's Yankees-Red Sox series. On Friday night, I had a late softball game, so I didn't see any of the Yanks-Sox action until arriving at the bar with two outs in the bottom of the 8th, as Mariano Rivera came on the get the final four outs of a game the Yankees led 4-2. On Saturday, the girlfriend and I were out taking advantage of the summer-like weather, and didn't tune in until the top of the 4th of a game in which the Yankees were lighting up Josh Beckett while A.J. Burnett was dominating, having allowed only one baserunner over the first three innings, and the Yanks were leading 6-0. I then turned on Sunday night's game with two outs in the bottom of the 4th and the score tied 1-1, as Andy Pettitte looked to be engaging in a pitchers' duel with Justin Masterson.

Well, you probably know what happened next in each of these games. Rivera blew his first save of the season Friday night, and Damaso Marte gave up a homer to Kevin Youkilis in the 11th, as the Red Sox won 5-4. Burnett, after retiring 9 of the first 10 hitters he faced on Saturday, then teamed up with the Yankees' disastrous bullpen to give up 16 runs over the final five innings of a 16-11 defeat. Pettitte apparently lost his composure in the 5th inning of Sunday's game, allowing Jacoby Ellsbury to steal home and the Red Sox to score the three quick runs that were all they would need in a 4-1 victory.

So, now I'll summarize. The before: Yankees pitchers allowed three runs—one earned—in 14 1/3 innings, for a 0.63 ERA, as they outscored the Red Sox 11-3. The after: Yankees pitchers yielded 22 earned runs over 12 innings (16.50 ERA) and were on the wrong end of a 22-5 composite score. In my defense, I didn't actually witness the Sox four-run 8th inning on Saturday, so the Yanks' team ERA was only 14.72 while I watched. On the other hand, on Saturday, I was also in the other room for both Johnny Damon's two-run homer and Robinson Cano's solo blast, so technically the only runs I saw the Yankees score were the two that came across as a result of Dustin Pedroia's error.

But, of course, I don't believe in these things that I don't understand.

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