Making Moves

Wow, I’ve all but neglected this blog since late August. I feel so horrible about neglecting the seven people who read this Mickey Mouse blog I work on.

So what have I been up to since my last entry on August 18th? Take a look:

SCHOOL: I went back to school on 9/13, spending most of my hiatus buried in schoolwork. Normally I’d be complaining about the million other things I’d rather do, but I actually like my classes for this semester (only taking three classes instead of four). I’m looking to have a strong semester this Fall, and it requires my full focus as I go for that degree.

WORK: I’ve also spent a good amount of time making that money at the Stadium. From the epically awesome Jay-Z/Eminem concert (cool to see Em bring out Dr. Dre and Jay bring out Mary J. Blige, as well as B.O.B. blazing the stage) to this past Saturday’s ALDS clincher, it’s been a crazy month and a half — and hopefully we’ll be celebrating World Series #28 in November. Don’t I look excited?

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INTERVIEW: For those of you that don’t follow me on Twitter or Facebook, I gave an interview for Craig Mahoney’s Pinstriped Podcast (one of the better Yankee podcasts on the internet) in preparation for the playoffs. I talk about how I got hired to work at the Stadium and give my thoughts on how the postseason will play out. You’ll wanna check this out for the pure entertainment value — it also features fellow Yankees fans and bloggers Vinny Milano from Bronx Bound with Bald Vinny and Ross Sheingold from NYY Stadium Insider.

And how can I forget the two awesome tweet-ups* I was involved with in the span of a week? Although the first one saw the Yankees-Red Sox game get postponed a day, it was still cool to see so many Yankees fans root for the Royals against the Rays and enjoy each others’ company (this one was my creation!). The second one brought a comeback win in Game 2 this past Thursday to put the Twins on the brink heading into the weekend. Fun times.

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I’ve been making moves in my personal life — and the Yankees are doing the same in the mission for #28. Even with the Yankees laboring into October — the Twins, Rangers and Rays did the same — they continue to make the Twins their ALDS b*tch with a three-game sweep. Andy Pettitte and Phil Hughes answered the critics’ concerns about the rotation after CC Sabathia (they outpitched CC, for heaven’s sake), and the offense finally decided up thanks mostly to the bottom half of the lineup featuring Curtis Granderson, Lance Berkman and Marcus Thames.

Yeah, life has been crazy over the past month-plus. And I love every minute of it. The hustle and bustle of school & work, NFL action in full swing, NBA starting up again soon (GO NY GO NY GO!) and the Yankees’ quest for a repeat. October truly is the best month for sports, isn’t it?

Stay tuned to the blog: I may be doing another WhatIf Sports simulation as a preview for the ALCS. Until then, keep up with me on Twitter and become a fan of the blog on Facebook!

*A tweet-up is a gathering that takes place between various Twitter followers for a specific event.

A Night of HOPE

There have been many occurrences in my life that have made me happy, but very few have brought me pure, authentic joy. Graduating high school, the 2009 Yankees and the Giants winning the Super Bowl to end the Patriots’ bid for a perfect season would be the three that stick out in my mind the most.

You can add Tuesday night’s game to that list.

Yes, CC Sabathia had another effective start to improve his case for Cy Young. Yes, the offense woke up after a two-day slide to beat Justin Verlander and the Tigers. Yes, Nick Swisher used a New York hip-hop classic for his walk-up music. But there’s a better reason why Tuesday night ranks among my favorites at Yankee Stadium:

I got to see the Yankees honor a woman who has made my experiences as an usher/security officer worthwhile.

For those who don’t know, HOPE Week was started last season as a way of recognizing, via Yankees.com, “remarkable stories to provide hope and encouragement to the recipient of
the gesture and inspire individuals into action in their own
communities.” On Tuesday night it was Morris Plains, NJ, native and Yankees die-hard fan Jane Lang who was being honored for her determination to not let the fact that she was born blind keep her from having a positive outlook on life — and the Yankees in particular.

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Jane often refers to Yankee Stadium as her second home, one of the few places outside of her Morris Plains home where she feels safe. Fans and staff alike have become part of her extended Yankee family. Learning the game of baseball from her father using checkers, Jane has perfected her travel from Morris Plains to the Stadium with the help of her guide dog, Clipper. It starts with a 20-minute walk to the local NJ Transit station, followed by a 70-minute ride into Penn Station. From there, it is a short walk to the D train at Herald Square for a 30-minute ride to the Bronx and her sanctuary on 161st Street & River Avenue. Using eight pieces of candy, she moves the candy from one pocket to the other at each train stop. One candy left means Yankee Stadium is next. This commute is tough of any ABLE-BODIED individual, and Jane goes through it like clockwork. Simply remarkable.

What makes Jane’s story even more amazing is her sunny personality. Seeing her smile can only make you smile. Even when you may be going through rough times, Jane can say one thing that will put the biggest smile on your face and temporarily make you forget your troubles. In many ways she reminds me of my late great-grandmother — the sweetest lady you will ever met who would give anything to see others around her happy.

“It’s not how much you can gather, it’s how much you give,” she told Tim Britton of MLB.com.

If that quote doesn’t embody HOPE Week, I don’t know what does.

As I said in the beginning of this post, it takes something really special to bring my pure, authentic joy. Seeing Jane’s family and friends cheering her as she took part in the pre-game ceremonies as well as rounding the bases with Joe Girardi’s assistance after the game truly warmed my heart. It was great to see someone I care about get the recognition she deserves … even if she doesn’t think she deserve it.

Thank you, Jane Lang, for making these last two seasons so much fun for me. Even though you may not think so, you deserve every bit of the recognition you got Tuesday night.

Championship Baby-Makin’

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I’ll just come out and say it:

Why do we give two flying you-know-whats about when our top players’ wives give birth?

If you haven’t already heard, Amber Sabathia (wife of CC) and Leigh Teixeira (wife of Mark) each gave birth to sons in the past week. Carter Charles is the Sabathias 4th child, and William Charles is the 3rd for the Teixeiras. Mrs. Sabathia gave birth to her son on August 5th and Mrs. Teixeira gave birth to her son on Monday, thus causing Mark to miss the start of this six-game road trip against the Rangers and Royals.

If you’re a Yankees fan on Twitter, you’d think the Steinbrenners sold the team to this guy …

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I will admit that it was refreshing to see not as many tweeps jumping off ledges about splitting the four-game series vs. Boston. But to express dislike of Mrs. Teixeira because William Charles just happened to be born on game day? And even worse, to condemn our first baseman for actually taking time off to ensure the health of his wife and newborn son? It made me thoroughly disappointed to be associated with certain fans — those familiar with my fanhood know that doesn’t happen too often.

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Quite simply: y’all done f***ed up.

There’s no question that I would rather have Mark Teixeira hitting in front of Alex Rodriguez than Marcus Thames. Hell, I’d rather have my mother hitting in front of A-Rod than Marcus Thames. But I’d bet half of my next paycheck that had Tex stayed with the team you all would have KILLED him for abandoning his wife. It’s rare that we see athletes do right by their better halves, and this is the time to commend, not condemn, our star first baseman for putting his family first and his career second.

I send my congratulations to the Sabathia and Teixeira families and hope that all is well with the wives and newborn sons.

A lot of you should do the same.

Winner, Innovator, G.O.A.T.

Now entering … the Pearly Gates .. The Boss … George M. Steinbrenner the 3rd …

We can only imagine that Bob Sheppard welcomed George Steinbrenner into heaven with those words.

With this morning’s passing of Mr. Steinbrenner, there is obvious reason to mourn the loss of someone who meant so much to not only the Yankees and their fans, but Major League Baseball and the rest of the sports world.

However, as Texas Rangers hurler C.J. Wilson reminded us on his Twitter page: “To all the Yankees fans- do not mourn the Boss, celebrate his legacy. He revitalized the franchise and at times, the entire industry.”

Truer words were never spoken.

Under the philosophy “Lead, follow or get the hell outta the way”, Mr. Steinbrenner did everything in his power to follow through on his promise to restore the winning tradition that made the Yankees revered and reviled around Major League Baseball. With seven World Series titles (1977, 1978, 1996, 1998, 1999, 2000, 2009), it’s safe to say that The Boss followed through on his promise.

In addition to on-field success, Mr. Steinbrenner turned the Yankees into one of the biggest global brands in the world. The $97 million Adidas deal, the $500 million deal with MSG Network, the creation of the YES Network, various deals with Japanese companies (spurred by the 2003 acquisition of Hideki Matsui)  — you name it, he’s done it. Say what you want about his ruthless attitude, The Boss was dedicated and determined to further enhance the Yankees franchise and turn it into the $1.2 billion juggernaut it has become today.

In spite of this, Steinbrenner was not perfect. He ruled the daily baseball operations with an iron fist, scaring away players/managers and alienating fans during the 1980s. He was suspended twice during his run as Yankees owner — a fifteen month ban in 1974 for making illegal contributions to President Richard Nixon’s re-election campaign, and a then-lifetime ban in 1990 for hiring gambler Howie Spira to find dirt on Dave Winfield (he was re-instated in 1993). In somewhat of an ironic twist, it was the 1990 ban that became the turning point for a struggling Yankees franchise.

How so, you ask?

In Mr. Steinbrenner’s absence, general manager Gene Michael and other front-office staff began to put stock in homegrown talent such as Bernie Williams, Andy Pettitte, Derek Jeter and Mariano Rivera. Smart free agent signings and trades helped to build a team in the true sense instead of a collection of All-Stars. By the time George was re-instated in 1993, he came to the realization that he could scale back the abrasive, militant attitude and still command respect from his employees.

George Michael Steinbrenner III was a winner.

He was an innovator.

He was the true definition of G.O.A.T. — the Greatest of All Time.

Cliff of Insanity

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(Very original title, I know)

Why is it that every year when someone who is headed for free agency after the season is rumored to be on the trade market, Yankees fans want Brian Cashman to sell the farm for the guy then sign him long-term?

As you may have heard by now, Seattle Mariners pitcher Cliff Lee is set to become a free agent at the end of the season (which sort of explains why he’s on his third team since the start of last season). Of course there’s the possibility that he will be traded, and of course everyone expects the Yankees to be involved in potential trade talks one way or another — perhaps none more than Yankees fans themselves.

It’s times like this where I wish I wasn’t associated to certain Yankees fans. You know, the ones who recklessly want our team to trade for players like Lee without a set plan as to what it would take to obtain him in a trade. The ones who would gladly trade away top prospects (see Montero, Jesus and Romine, Austin) if they were in Ca$hMoney’s shoes. The ones with no sense of baseball realism and believe that Major League Baseball is like a Yahoo! fantasy baseball league.

Now don’t get me wrong: I think Cliff Lee is a very talented pitcher who will definitely get his money in free agency. I just believe Cashman shouldn’t mortgage the farm system further for these reasons:

1. It will all but destroy the farm system. Aside from Montero and Romine, there isn’t much talent in the upper minor league levels for the Yankees after trading Austin Jackson for Curtis Granderson. Is Lee really worth reverting back to the not-so-glory days of the late 80’s to early 90’s and 2002-2008 where all the top prospects were sent off for major league talent that wound up flopping?

2. With Javier Vazquez finally pitching well, there are no weak links in the rotation. There are no indications that any of the current starters will be made available in any trade scenario, and there’s no guarantee the Mariners will take back Vazquez along with Montero or Romine. Plus, it seems like overkill to have CC Sabathia, Andy Pettitte AND Lee in the same rotation.

3. The Yankees have bigger needs that can be addressed in the trade market. With Nick Johnson out for an extended period of time, one would believe that acquiring a bat would be the main priority at this time. Who that player will be is anyone’s guess — Royals OF David DeJesus’ name has been kicked around a lot, and former White Sox OF Jermaine Dye remains a free agent. I’m not pushing for either guy, just saying that they are possibilities.

4. Take a look at the Mets. They gave up the world and ponied up the cash for Santana before the 2008 season, and while he has paid dividends for them the minor league system has yet to recover. The minor leaguers they gave up (most notably Philip Humber and Carlos Gomez) would likely have helped them in 2009 when half the team was on the disabled list. Do us Yankees fans really want Ca$hMoney to follow the Mets lead in this case?

All in all, I would like to see Cliff Lee in pinstripes if and only if Andy Pettitte retires after this season. While he is immensly talented and has had success in the American League, Yankees fans need to slow down with trading for him midseason, which will put us in a tough position prospect-wise and money wise.

If it ain’t broke, DON’T FIX IT!

C’MON SON! (Open Letter to Mark Teixeira)

Dear Mark Charles Teixeira:

When Brian Cashman swooped in and signed you last offseason, we knew what we were getting — a tremendous talent on both sides of the ball who notoriously started the season slow. Last season was no exception, and the absence of Alex Rodriguez in April didn’t help. But once A-God came back and the calendar turned to May, you took off and … well, you know the rest. Now we’re in 2010 — another slow April. Again we were not too concerned because it always happens, similar to beloved center fielder Bernie Williams back in the days of the most recent dynasty.

But a slash line of .211/.326/.363 heading into the second week of June?

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Yes, the power numbers are still there (8 HR, 34 RBI). Yes, you continue to play Gold-Glove defense night in and night out. But that does not excuse these terrible at-bats you’ve been having this season. I mean, you had five strikeouts on Saturday. FIVE. It’s rare enough to strike out four times in a game, let alone five. If that ain’t rock-bottom, I don’t know what is.

Now, I’m just a brother with a fan blog on the outside looking in. But something needs to change to light a fire under you. Maybe it’s physical (need a haircut?). Maybe it’s mechanical (timing not perfect?). Or maybe it’s something else. This is all speculation, of course. But whatever needs changing, change it. I still have the utmost faith in you that things will turn around soon. We need “The Teixecutioner” back … SOON.

We love ya, Tex. We still believe. Don’t make us start looking for another first baseman.

Love,
Christopher J. “Nino Smoov” Johnson

Some kind of season

Back from another short hiatus, here’s the month of May in a nutshell:

Robbie and Swish continue to hit …

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But Tex still thinks it’s April …

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Javy needed a rain-out in Detroit to get the Bronx faithful on his side …

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And Mo had us in cardiac arrest for a couple games …

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A-God continued to make opponents pay for purposely walking Tex to get to him …

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And Marcus Thames showed why Ruben Rivera needs to steal his glove and sell it on eBay …

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Granderson returned to strengthen the lineup …

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While Cousin Nick went down with a wrist injury (yet again) …

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Andy keeps defying the odds …

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But CC wasn’t at his finest …

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And the Captain? He makes it do what it do — just keeps on hitting …

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Like the Batting Stance Guy would say: It’s a long season, but it’s a fantastic season.

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I wanna give an official send-off to the man who was the Michael Jordan/Tiger Woods of Major League Baseball in the prime of his career. He was the first of many players expected to surpass Hank Aaron’s 755 career HRs, and was well on his way before injuries derailed him. Like Jordan, he constantly tormented my team with his immense talent and burned us time and time again when it mattered most. Although his career ended on such a sour note, he is still a first-ballot Hall of Famer whose legacy will never be forgotten.

Enjoy retirement, George Kenneth Griffey, Jr. I can’t wait to hear your Cooperstown HOF induction speech in 2016.

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Subway Series Sim — Games 6 and 7

NOTE: I initially intended to post this before last night’s game, but running errands all day killed that and I couldn’t bring myself to post it last night after that debacle of a game.

In continuing with the post from this morning, I’m posting a Subway
Series-themed simulation courtesy of the talented folks at WhatIf Sports. The previous
simulation that I ran featured the 1996 Yankees and the 2009 Yankees;
this one pits the 1996 Yankees against the 1986 Mets. After two games we
find this series tied at one game apiece headed to Yankee Stadium for
the next three games (click
here
to see the results of the first two games, and here for the next three games).

And now, the exciting conclusion of our Subway Series simulation:

Game 6 @ Shea Stadium (click to view box score)

Back home for the remaining two games of the series, the Mets were widely believed to easily finish off the Yankees and wrestle bragging rights. But the Yankees offense jumped on Bob Ojeda early with 3 1st-inning runs (helped by a crucial Wally Backman error) and cruised to a 5-1 victory to even the series at 3-3. Tino Martinez continued his torrid hitting, notching his 3rd HR and pushing his average to .409 against Mets pitching. Jimmy Key rebounded nicely from his Game 2 disaster by throwing 7 innings of 1-run ball, and Mariano Rivera chipped in two perfect innings to close it out.

Game 7 @ Shea Stadium (click to view box score)

We find ourselves in the most exciting moment in baseball — a Game 7. Anything — and I mean ANYTHING — can happen. Heroes are made, goats are remembered. David Cone and Ron Darling were tapped by their respective teams to bring home the bacon. Again on a strict pitch count, Coney allowed just 1 hit in 3 innings and would likely have pitched well enough for a win had Joe Torre let him go deeper into the game. Darling, while not as sharp as usual, was still effective, limiting the damage to a 3-run 4th inning in giving Davey Johnson 8 strong frames. OF COURSE, the game came down to the performance of the bullpens — strengths of both teams. Jesse Orosco pitched a perfect 9th; the combo of Brian Boehringer, Mark Hutton, Mo Rivera and Jeff Nelson did their part in holding the Mets scoreless in relief of Cone.

Unfortunately for the Yankees, John Wetteland — the man paid the big bucks to finish off the win — did not do his job and cost the Yankees bragging rights. Three Wetteland walks in the last inning spurred the Mets to an improbable comeback, and back-to-back singles by Keith Hernandez and Gary Carter off of Jim Mecir gave the Mets the 4-3 victory and series win.

What a tough way to lose a series.

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That was one exciting series for me to simulate. Many thanks goes out to the people at WhatIf Sports for running this simulation, and watch out for the next one in June to commemorate the upcoming series in LA against the Dodgers!

Subway Series Sim — Games 3, 4, and 5

In continuing with the post from this morning, I’m posting a Subway Series-themed simulation courtesy of the talented folks at WhatIf Sports. The previous simulation that I ran featured the 1996 Yankees and the 2009 Yankees; this one pits the 1996 Yankees against the 1986 Mets. After two games we find this series tied at one game apiece headed to Yankee Stadium for the next three games (click here to see the results of the first two games).

Let’s see how the Yankee Stadium games fare, shall we?

Game 3 @ Yankee Stadium (click to view box score)

After splitting the first two games in Shea Stadium, the series shifted to Yankee Stadium for Game 3. In spite of his recovering from aneurysm surgery, David Cone was tapped by Joe Torre to start opposite the Mets’ Ron Darling. Coney was solid through 3 innings on a strict pitch count, allowing only two hits. Unfortunately the bullpen did not build on his performance as Brian Boehringer took the loss in the 7-2 defeat at home. While not overly dominant like they were in Game 2, the Mets were able to jump on a bullpen forced to be used way earlier than expected thanks to a Kevin Mitchell HR and wild pitches from Boehringer and Jim Mecir. Darling was masterful in 8 shutout innings, allowing only 5 hits. The Yankees’ only offense came in the 9th inning on a 2-run HR from Darryl Strawberry, and it wasn’t nearly enough as the Mets regained home-field advantage.

Game 4 @ Yankee Stadium (click to view box score)

Never in a million years would Yankee fans have thought Kenny Rogers would pitch in a game of this magnitude, let alone succeed. Yet he did exactly what was asked of him: keep the Yankees in the game, which they ended up winning 4-3. “The Gambler” scattered 8 hits and allowed 3 runs over 8 innings. His counterpart, Sid Fernandez, fared better in allowing only two hits in 7 scoreless innings. The Mets’ bullpen, however, did them in as Roger McDowell and Jesse Orosco blew the 3-0 lead in the last two innings. Bernie Williams drew walks in the 8th and 9th innings that brought home the first and last runs of the game. With this win, The Yankees pulled even at 2-2.

Game 5 @ Yankee Stadium (click to view box score)

Anyone looking for a repeat of Game 1 was highly disappointed. Andy Pettitte looked atrocious in the 16-7 loss, allowing home runs to Keith Hernandez and Kevin Mitchell and 6 total earned runs in two-plus innings. The bullpen did not fare any better as seven different relievers (Mark Hutton, Brian Boehringer, Jim Mecir, Bob Wickman, Mariano Rivera, Jeff Nelson and John Wetteland) combined for a DISGUSTING 10 earned runs and 17 hits in seven innings. Hernandez and Gary Carter combined to go 6-for-10 with 9 RBIs, and Lenny Dykstra & Mookie Wilson threw in 4-hit games of their own. The Yankees offense did not roll over against Doc Gooden, scoring 6 runs in 8 innings. Tino Martinez contributed with a HR and 2 RBIs and Darryl Strawberry added three hits of his own, but it was not enough to overcome a horrendous performance by the pitching staff. The Mets now stand one win away from claiming cyber bragging rights.

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Looks like the ’96 Yankees are in danger of losing bragging rights after dropping two of three games at home. Can they come back in Shea and take the final two games? Or will the ’86 Mets finish them off in six? Wish I could tell you now, but you’ll just have to wait until tomorrow to find out!

Subway Series Sim — Games 1 and 2

As I stated in my previous post, I’m posting a Subway Series-themed simulation courtesy of the talented folks at WhatIf Sports.You may remember the last one I did featuring the 1996 Yankees and the 2009 Yankees; well, the ’96 squad is making another appearance, this time against the 1986 Mets team that stunned the nation by further extending the Red Sox’ infamous World Series drought.

Without further ado, I bring you the ‘WhatIf Sports Subway Series Sim”!

Game 1 @ Shea Stadium (click to view box score)

We start off this series with a couple of young fireballers toeing the rubber — Andy Pettitte and Dwight Gooden. Neither pitcher was great, but both kept their teams in the game and ended with no-decisions in the Yankees’ 6-3 victory. “Doc” wound up going seven innings, allowing 9 hits and 3 earned runs while striking out 6 Yankees. Pettitte fell victim to a relatively high pitch count, only going 5 2/3 despite allowing 7 hits and 3 earned runs. This game was decided late, with the Yankees coming through thanks to a fielder’s choice by pinch-hitter Tim Raines in the 8th and back-to-back RBI singles by Darryl Strawberry and Joe Girardi in the 9th. Girardi and Tino Martinez combined to go 7-for-10 with three RBI and three runs scored, including a Tino HR. And as was the case so many times, the Rivera-Nelson-Wetteland combo shut the door on the Mets and closed it out.

Game 2 @ Shea Stadium (click to view box score)

There’s nothing like seeing two veteran left-handers face off following the young bucks. Unfortunately for the Yankees, Jimmy Key did not fare well at all in the 6-2 loss. He failed to make it out of the third inning, surrendering all six runs in the second and third innings. Mookie Wilson provided most of the offense by driving in three of the runs, and run-scoring hits from Gary Carter, Ray Knight and Rafael Santana provided all the offense Bob Ojeda would need. Ojeda silenced the Yankees bats all game, going six innings and allowing 6 hits but only one earned run. The Bombers stranded a total of 22 runners — half of those by Paul O’Neill and Bernie Williams, who combined to go a measly 1-for-8.

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So after two games, we find this series tied at one as the series shifts to Yankee Stadium for three games. Can the Yankees take advantage of home-field? Will the Mets build on the last game and take control? Stay tuned to find out later today!

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We haven’t been able to say this all too much this season, but props to Javier Vazquez on a terrific pitching performance last night. Yes it was the Mets and he’s only been winning on the road, but it doesn’t change the fact that he held the other NY team to one hit over six innings before leaving the game with a bruised right index finger in the 7th inning on a sacrifice bunt (x-rays were negative, according to all the beat writers).

And how about some more props for New York-born Kevin Russo? A natural infielder, the guy gets called up due to Marcus Thames’ sprained ankle and gets his first two ML hits, including the run-scoring 2B which provided the Yankees offense in the game. Well done, Kevin — here’s to many more hits in your big-league career!