Thursday, August 13, 2009

Finally Feeling Like Home

Moving sucks. It's not only the packing and unpacking and general disruption to your life, but that uneasy feeling once you get into the new place. Even though you quickly settle in, the new place, though shiny and great, just doesn't quite feel like home.

For about four months, that's been the new Yankee Stadium ... but not any more.

Robinson Cano singled in Alex Rodriguez in the 11th Wednesday to lift the Yankees to a 4-3 victory over the Jays to remain 5-1/2 games ahead of the Red Sox in the AL East and complete a homestand during which the stadium finally found its voice at 6-1. It was the Yankees' 11th walkoff win this season, their most since 1998.

When the stadium opened in April, it just wasn't home, yet. Many ... not all ... of the people who went to the games, went to check out the stadium. It was a novelty and people were spending a significant amount of time exploring out the facility. The game was secondary and that was to be expected. Every new stadium experiences that.

Even the players, especially the pitchers, needed time to adjust. Though the field's dimensions were roughly the same as the old one's, players needed time to figure out the sun field in left and how the ball carries, specifically with the ridiculous jet stream in right.

But the Yankees have made their adjustments and they have quickly established quite the homefield advantage. The Yankees are 20-6 since the All-Star break, including going 15-2 at home. For the season they have a major league-best home record of 41-18.

And while the stadium is still giving up plenty of homers, Yankee pitchers have figured out how to pitch in the stadium and minimize any damage.

In the 17 games since the break, they've given up 15 homers, while opponents have allowed 28. In addition, the Yankees have allowed three or fewer runs in 10 of those home games, including two shutouts and three one-run efforts.

But with this most recent homestand, the fans finally made it feel like home. The stadium finally got loud and that electricity that regularly flowed through the park across the street was finally present, especially when the game was on the line, as it was Wednesday.

The Yankees jumped out to a 3-1 lead after three innings as Jorge Posada drove in a run with a groundout in the first and Johnny Damon and Cano homered in the third and fourth innings, respectively. In the second, the Jays pushed across a run on Randy Ruiz's leadoff homer to left-center.

Unfortunately, Derek Jeter was hit on the foot with a pitch leading off the second and forced to leave the game. X-rays showed no broken bones, and Jeter likely will play tonight, though I think the wiser course of action at this point is to take off a game or two. We all know how tough Jeter is. We all also have seen him get banged up on occasion and then struggle offensively.

I hope Joe Girardi will be able to talk some sense into the captain.

But with A.J. Burnett on the mound and a 3-1 lead, a victory seemed all but assured. Burnett, however, had one of those breaking balls going that was so sharp that is exceedingly difficult to control.

He allowed three runs on 10 hits and two walks in six innings. He struck out seven and threw 68 of 107 pitches for strikes. But he also threw three wild pitches -- giving him 17 this season -- the last of which allowed the tying run to score in the sixth.

With one out, Ruiz and Edwin Encarnacion singled. A wild pitch moved them up and Raul Chavez brought in Ruiz with a single. Burnett then struck out Joe Inglett, but threw another wild pitch with Marco Scutaro hitting to score Encarnacion to make it 3-3.

The bullpens took over from there, matching zeros. And when the game went to extras, the Yankees had reason for concern because Mariano Rivera was unavailable with his normal August arm soreness.

But starting in the 10th, Chad Gaudin pitched two scoreless innings in his Yankees debut.

Alex Rodriguez then led off the 11th by getting hit by a pitch on the elbow. He was able to stay in the game and X-rays after the game were negative, and when Posada followed with a single, you sensed the end was near, even though Cano, who is hitting just .207 with runners in scoring position, was coming to bat.

Cano delivered by lining the first pitch he saw from Shawn Camp into the gap in right-center, earning the whipped cream pie to the face ... and putting a fitting cap a homestand that was filled with tight, dramatic games.

Runners In Scoring Position
1-for-8 (.125)
277-for-1,067 (.260)
First Half
217-for-819 (.265)
Second Half
61-for-246 (.248)
Since A-Rod's Return May 8
212-for-795 (.267)
Vs. Red Sox
20-for-126 (.159)

Up Next
Thursday at Seattle, 10:10 p.m., YES
CC Sabathia (12-7, 3.76 ERA) vs. Ian Snell (2-8, 5.42)

The Yankees begin a big, seven-game West Coast swing through Seattle and Oakland tonight. Snell has struggled with is control since being acquired from Pittsburgh and Sabathia is coming off his best start as a Yankee, shutting out the Red Sox for 7-2/3 innings on Saturday. The good news for the Yankees is that they won't have to face Felix Hernandez in this series.


Jimmy T said...

I agree the new place feels like home, although they do need to speed up the removal of our first house, the remains of which keep staring at me when I walk into the new place.

One other thing i'd like to see is "them" start filling the front rows and behind the plate. It sucks to look at that on the TV broadcasts. drop the prices already Hal!!

Aviv said...

Unfortunately, the removal of the old house is going to take a while because implosions are not allowed in NYC and because of all the memorabilia being removed, preserved and sold.

As for the front rows and further changes to the pricing (they did cut the prices of the expensive seats earlier this season), that will have until next season. The thing is, I expect a price increase in the cheaper seats will be coming along with the cut in the expensive ones.