Getting back to normal in the Bronx
New York City-based Yankees super-fan and espnW contributor Amanda Rykoff will be sharing her thoughts on the Yankees playoff run. Today she provides her reflections on the Yankees ALDS Game 1 win over the Detroit Tigers.
I've been to a lot of Yankee playoff games just like Saturday night's 9-3 win over the Tigers in Game 1 of the ALDS. A huge, fired up crowd of over 50,000 fans. A cold October night with the wind whipping the flags out in right field. Solid starting pitching. Yankee batters patiently working the count and wearing down the opposition. A clutch defensive play by Derek Jeter. A monstrous game-breaking home run. A Mariano Rivera shutdown appearance in the ninth inning. In many ways, this was just your typical, run of the mill Yankees playoff win.
But in many other ways, Saturday night at the Stadium was completely bizarre. Let's start with the game being a continuation of one suspended 24 hours earlier on Friday night. There was no National Anthem and no ceremonial first pitch, since those had both taken place the previous night. Yankee Stadium PA announcer Paul Olden introduce the starting lineups, as if they had somehow changed overnight (they had not).
Doug Fister and Ivan Nova were also announced as "tonight's pitching matchup," though they were actually relievers, stepping in for Justin Verlander and CC Sabathia, respectively. And Mariano's ninth inning appearance - a three pitch strikeout of Wilson Betemit - came with two outs in a 9-3 game, the result of an ineffective Luis Ayala appearance.
But most bizarre of all was that the game resumed in the bottom of the second inning with the Yankees at bat. Stranger still, Jorge Posada, the team's 40-year old designated hitter, led off the inning. When Olden announced, "Leading off, the designated hitter, Jorge Posada," my brain nearly exploded. Of course he wasn't actually batting leadoff, but it did feel like he was leading off the game.
The Bleacher Creatures did a new roll call in the top of the third inning instead of the usual top of the first, waiting until the Yankees took the field. My friend Jodi and I needed a couple of innings before we adjusted to the rhythm of the game, referring to the fourth inning as the second at one point and constantly checking the scoreboard to orient ourselves.
Late in the game, after Nova had pitched six superb shutout innings, we wondered if he would come back out for the complete game, temporarily forgetting that this final inning was the seventh of his appearance. When CC showed up in the post-game highlights on the Yankee Stadium scoreboard, we chuckled. This game ended up being so much more about Ivan Nova than about the Yankees' ace who pitched two strong innings the night before.
Of course I have to talk about Robbie Cano, the Yankees' superstar second baseman who is having an MVP-caliber season that nobody seems to be talking about. Curtis Granderson got the "MVP" chants from the crowd when he stepped to the plate; Cano did not. Did you know that Robinson Cano is the only second baseman in MLB history to reach 40 doubles, 25 home runs, 100 runs and 100 RBI in consecutive seasons? Now you know (thanks to the Yankee Stadium scoreboard for that incredible factoid.)After Fister, who pitched well through five innings but ended up with a bad line (4.2 IP, 6 ER), loaded the bases and was removed from the game, Cano stepped to the plate in the bottom of the fourth - I mean, sixth - inning against Tigers reliever Al Alburquerque. Alburquerque (yes, people sitting behind me who hadn't heard of him before, that is really his name) had not surrendered a home run in 43.1 innings of relief this season.
Cano crushed the second pitch he saw deep to right field for a grand slam. The ball was gone from the moment he put his sweet swing on the ball, disappearing deep into the cold October night. My group (me and three girlfriends), along with everybody else at the game, went absolutely insane.
Thanks to the grand slam, we momentarily forgot we were freezing thanks to the devastatingly cold wind throughout the upper deck of the Stadium. We forgot that this game had started more than 24 hours earlier. The Yankees were on their way to taking a 1-0 series lead, the team's seventh straight ALDS win over an American League Central champion.
Game-breaking home runs in playoff games have a way of making Yankee fans feel like things are back to normal.