7:18: Alright! Time for the crazy multi-sport all-night live blog! About an hour ago, my general state of being was somewhere between tired and excited. Tired because alcohol and “Friday Night Lights” have kept me from sleeping the past three days, and excited because it’s a great night for sports. Then, at 6:45, my roommate Angela opened her bedroom door. I turned, and the awful sight I beheld in the threshold has really rattled my sense of sanity.
Apparently, she’s dyeing her hair tonight, and I caught her in the preliminary stages. Her normally-blond locks were matted on her head, covered in dark black goop, looking more or less like the top of Adolf Hitler’s dome on a rainy day (I finally understood that Radiohead lyric about a Hitler hairdo making you feel ill). Her eyebrows were also greasy and thick with black dye, slanted downward in a near uni-brow. She sort of resembled that creepy baby from The Simpsons. Her white fuzzy bathrobe was splattered in black, like a crazy person who somehow broke into a newspaper printing press and got weird with the ink.
I tried to look away, but that wasn't happening. Nor could I speak. “It’s that time again,” she said as she walked by, throwing me a hideous smile (for the record, she's normally a nice-looking person). I think the words were meant to assure or self-deprecate or something. But when she met my stare, looking like a demented, possibly violent Serbian peasant from the 1920s, the words sounded more like a threat. So if the rest of this blog sounds oddly traumatized, you know why.
7:28: I have my sandwich and my milk. Time to turn to the YES Network and see if the Yanks have already blown it. Tonight’s game features A.J. Burnett against his old team, the Blue Jays, who are sending the great Roy Halladay to the mound. This could be an old fashioned pitcher’s duel. I’ll be switching back and forth between that and Celtics-Magic game 5. Maybe some hockey, but probably not. Let’s do it.
7:31: The game is on WWOR, apparently, but I’m there. Tuned in just in time to see Toronto’s shitty Skydome turf field cause an error. A-Rod misplays a high artificial hop and there are men on first and second with no out. Scoreless game.
7:33: Ken Singleton and John Flaherty are in the booth. AJ works out of the jam when Ramiro Pena backhands a hard ground ball at short. Where’s Jeter tonight? I hope he’s hurt, or I’ll already have my first Girardi gripe two minutes into the game. Why does he always seem to rest his best hitters against the best pitchers? It’ll be hard enough to hit Halladay as it is, and now we’re throwing Pena into the mix?
7:37: Apparently Jeter’s hurt with a strained oblique. Ugh. They say it’s not serious, but who the hell knows at this point. Everyone on our team gets hurt, it's not even worth marveling at anymore. Meanwhile, the 7-8-9 personnel for the Yankees, who have the highest payroll in major league baseball by a ridiculous margin, goes like this: Melky Cabrera, Kevin Cash (our 4th string catcher), and Ramiro Pena. And guess what? Halladay just retired them in order, using about seven pitches! 0-0 going into the bottom of the third.
7:39: Remember that blog a couple weeks ago, when I ruined A.J.’s no-hitter, and promised I’d never jinx him again? Psych!
A.J. Burnett has a no-hitter through two.
7:41: The YES/WWOR radar gun is hilarious. All of A.J.’s fastballs register at about 64mph tonight. A few games ago, Jon Lester was throwing 105mph pretty consistently.
7:44: Kevin Cash, despite my insult two posts above, makes a hell of a play on a little nubber in front of the plate, nailing the fleet Marco Scutaro by a step. Aaron Hill flies out, and IT’S A NO-HITTER THROUGH 3!!!!! Seriously, though, AJ looks really good.
7:47: I just refilled my milk glass, and saw my lonely green cup sitting in the dish rack. I almost hate to tell this story, but it’s so sad and weird that I'm compelled. That green plastic cup has come with me a long way. I bought it for probably fifty cents sometime in college, and it looks like a "safe" object you’d give a little kid who had a tendency for throwing things. And then, this weekend, a friend of mine was over for a barbecue. While the rest of us were on the roof, he came down to use the bathroom. Apparently it was occupied and he couldn’t wait, so...he fucking used my green cup.
He told me the whole story with a dumb grin when he came back to the roof, I almost killed him, and he hurriedly claimed to have washed it thoroughly. Under normal circumstances, I’d use a giant pair of prongs to throw it out the window, but there’s some sentiment at play here. Say what you will. My current strategy might be worse than my friend’s original crime; I’m waiting for one of my unknowing roommates to use it, and sort of 'eliminate' the urine stigma. I feel like once they have a drink, it might be okay to bring it back in the rotation. So far, no takers. I’ll have to feature it in a more prominent position, or go out of my way to pour someone a glass of water. (Who am I kidding? I can never drink from that cup again.)
7:50: Johnny Damon hits a liner to second, snared nicely by Aaron Hill. Up comes Mark Teixeira, batting .196. If I could read that last sentence before the season, in some kind of future vision, I’d probably have renounced my fandom and you'd be reading a Mets blog. The 'human disappointment' watches a clear third strike without moving a muscle. Halladay is dealing. So far, we’re living up to the pitcher’s duel hype.
7:53: Ha! Ken Singleton barely, and I mean barely, gets done telling us that eight years ago, to the day, AJ threw a no-hitter for the Marlins, when Rios smashes a lead-off double into left-center. “And...there goes the no-hitter for today,” says a despondent Singleton. Now we’re even, Ken.
7:55: The Toronto fans start a mocking, protracted “AAAAAAA-JJJJJJJJJ” chant, and boo the shit out of him when Kevin Cash trots out for a conference. Aren’t they supposed to be polite in Canada?
7:58: A good at-bat by Vernon Wells elicits a walk. So far, I have been thoroughly unimpressed with AJ’s response to trouble. The most obvious example is when the last no-hitter was broken up, and he gave up a couple runs in a classic let-down. Two on, none out, let’s see how he responds.
8:01: Flaherty makes the good point that it would be easy for AJ to press now, since mentally he has to be thinking that Halladay won’t concede much. A run here could mean a loss. Adam Lind walks on a curve that just misses. Hate to say it, but AJ looks frazzled. Bases juiced, still no outs. Scott Rolen up, and the fair-weather Toronto “fans” are in a lather.
8:03: AJ inexplicably throws a curve over the plate on a 1-2 count, and Rolen rips it past A-Rod for a double. 2-0 Blue Jays. Those charming Canucks start up an “AJ Sucks” chant. Almost basketball time...
8:06: With first base unoccupied and one out, Rod Barajas steps up to the plate. I’m going on record and saying I think Girardi is messing up by not walking him. Todd Snider is up next, batting .247, while Barajas is at .316. Snider’s a lefty, but the talent disparity is enough for me.
8:09: NO! Barajas hits a looper to right, Melky catches it on the run and has Lind dead to rights at home. It’s a tough short hop, though, and Cash drops the ball. 3-0 Jays. It’s a long game and all that, but this really feels like a huge, huge deficit against Halladay. AJ makes Snider look silly on an inside curve to end the inning.
8:12: Channel change to Celts-Magic. I had a moment of Disassociative Sporting Adjustment Syndrome (DSAS) when I saw the score. “Wow,” I thought, “the score is already 6-4??” Forgetting, of course, that I’m no longer watching baseball.
8:14: Rafer Alston, aka ‘Skip To My Lou,’ has the greatest nickname in professional sports, bar none. He drives left side for a lay-up, 8-6 Boston early. Former Dukie JJ Redick is getting some PT. Cool? I say yes!
8:15: Back to the Yanks, and there’s already one down. Halladay is not fucking around tonight. Swisher Ks, and Your Boy Roy has thrown only 43 pitches so far, here in the 5th inning. Make that 44, as Robbie Cano chases a terrible first pitch for the second time tonight, and grounds out to first. Inning over, 13 straight batters retired. Remember those Yankee teams from the late 90s who would work the count and frustrate even the best pitchers? That was nice.
8:19: Commercials all around, so I went looking for hockey. Apparently it’s on “Versus,” which I don’t get. I’m really not clamoring to see the Wings game tonight (although tomorrow night’s Pens-Caps game 7 would be nice), but it's kinda sad, from the historical viewpoint, that even ESPN2 won’t pick it up.
8:21: I mistakenly turn to YES, forgetting they aren’t carrying the game, and there’s a Bernie Williams concert on. Bernie Baseball is a classical guitarist, and a pretty good one at that, but it’s still funny to me that a team's network would go out of their way to carry the concert of one of its former players. As though Yankee fans are going to suddenly become huge music aficionados because of Bernie. Did they all start doing crosswords because of Mike Mussina, or masturbating in bullpens because of David Cone?
8:23: Melky makes a running catch that takes him to the stands, where two gorgeous girls hold out their hands for the ball. He can’t oblige, since there are only two outs and a man on base, but he pauses and watches them for a second, considering. I can read his mind: “Maybe it’s worth it...we’re not scoring off Roy anyway...”
8:24: “Every time he throws to first, the crowd boos,” scoffs Singleton, demonstrating the same disdain I’m feeling for the Toronto crowd. Maybe they’re all riled up because the last Canadian hockey team was eliminated from the playoffs last night, making this the 16th year in a row that an American team will win the Stanley Cup. AJ gets a ground-out. 3-0 after 5.
8:27: Basketball. JJ hits a three, and Orlando is leading after one. The Celtics have been tough as hell all post-season, but a loss at home, and facing an elimination game on the road in game 6, might be what finally breaks their old, damaged backs. They need this one to give themselves a shot in an emotional game 7.
8:29: The fearsome trio of Melky, Cash, and Pena are up against Halladay. I’m gonna go out on a limb and say 1-2-3.
8:30: Two minutes later, I’m right, although Pena managed to hit one hard. Sixteen in a row retired by Halladay, and although he gave up a first-inning hit to Johnny Damon, he’s faced the minimum number of batters, since Damon was gunned down trying to stretch his single to a double. Not a no-hitter, not a perfect game, but pretty damn impressive.
8:33: Back to basketball for a second, Brian Scalabrine is hilarious. He looks like the kind of guy who puts a leg up on a chair, Captain Morgan style, when he speaks to women. Is he actually a basketball player, or is it a joke I missed? Did he win a contest after that Will Ferrell basketball movie? He just nailed a three, and his pumped expression is pretty classic.
8:34: Baseball. The difference in this game right now is that AJ lost his cool after he gave up a lead-off double in the 4th. He’s looked great the last two innings, but it doesn’t mean much when you’ve given up three. Against Rolen in that inning, with the bases loaded, it looked like he made it personal and tried to get an intimidation strikeout. He could have wasted a couple pitches and sought the east K, but he went right down the middle, and he paid.
8:37: This is the shit that doesn’t make sense: with Rolen on first taking basically no lead, the Yanks decide on a pitch-out. Surprise surprise, he’s not going.
8:38: WOW! One of the prettiest double plays I’ve seen this year. Robbie Cano darts to his left, fields, spins, and throws in one motion, and Ramiro turns it with style coming across the bag. Fluid, fast, and slick. Defensive gem. Not to hammer too hard on the “Jeter sucks in the field!” talking point, but you could tell that wasn’t Derek on the turn.
8:41: Glass half full approach: at least we don’t have to watch the Yankees fail with runners in scoring position tonight; we haven’t had anyone on second all game.
8:42: Gardner grounds out to first. It’s time to start focusing on every at-bat, because Halladay is freakin’ masterful tonight. Johnny Damon, who has the only base hit, and was robbed in his second at-bat, is in the box.
8:43: A double! This man is really hitting the ball. Come on Yanks, manufacture something here...
8:44: Teixeira at the plate, infuriating me just by appearing on my television. Halladay gets him 0-2 with an inside pitch that no lefty could put in play, and a low cutter that Teix chases. I’m ready to eat my words, but it really seems like Mark is easy prey here. It's like watching Posada vs. Pedro back in the day, before Jorge got the huge hit that helped destroy the Sox in '03.
8:46: Halladay puts a beautiful curve on the outside corner, and Teixeira can only watch. (Well, I guess technically he could have tried swinging, but we could talk semantics all night..)
8:46: A-Rod is 0-for-the-season after his opening home run last Friday. We need him to go yard here. It’s the only way we get back in this game. Smartly, Roy is pitching around him.
8:48: Base hit left side! Damon scores. Halladay hangs a curve, his first real tactical mistake. Swisher steps up as the tying run. By the way, you may have noticed that Swish looks to the sky conspicuously before every pitch. Here’s the story, from the NY Daily News:
Betty Swisher died of brain cancer on Aug. 14, 2005, and Swisher's beloved grandfather, Donald, died last November. Both are a part of his daily life, though, in part through a series of baseball rituals that any Yankee fan has probably noticed.
He has both of their initials scrawled on the bottom of the handle of all his bats and he usually kisses that spot before he goes to the plate. Then he looks upward to recognize them again.
"A lot of people ask me if I'm looking up at the sky, but the one thing that really helped me get through the tough times of losing those two were to give them the best seats in the house," Swisher says. "In my mind, that's the top of the stadium. At Yankee Stadium, it's actually the top of the Megatron (scoreboard screen), so I visualize them sitting there, watching me play. I know they're cheering for me. I just wish they could be here in person to see all this.
He also has his grandmother’s initials tattooed across his chest, and plans to get his grandfather’s on his back in the offseason.
8:50: Swisher works the count like nobody else, but Ks on a pitch that looked high to me. Still, an impressive inside out fastball that utterly confounded the lefty. Where Burnett broke down, Halladay stayed resolute under pressure. 3-1, seventh inning stretch.
8:55: Another hit against AJ, but Robbie turns a neat double play to end the threat. Six more outs for the Yanks to get two runs, and it doesn’t look like we’ll get to see the Blue Jays pen today; Halladay’s pitch count is too low.
8:58: This game is speeding by. Not even the two-hour mark, and we're nearly history. Cano hits a looper that Scutaro gobbles up at shortsop, but Melky slaps a single to center field. Gotta give the Melk-Man credit. I hated him last year, and took at lot of that bad feeling into ‘09, but he’s had some big hits.
9:00: Big fucking surprise, the light-hitting Kevin Cash hits into a 5-4-3 double play, and the 8th is over. Why no pinch hitter, Joe? You’ve got Cervelli ready to catch, so you can basically choose anyone.
9:03: I’ve made a decision: the AL East is too good. We have to leave the division. I’m thinking the West is the best place to go. I miss the old days when Toronto, Tampa Bay, and Baltimore all stunk, and Boston was just kinda good.
9:04: AJ is back for the 8th, and Aaron Hill (batting .353) smokes a home run to left. High fastball with no movement, easy pickins. 4-1 Jays, and that should be more than enough for Doc Halladay. The “AJ Sucks!” chant starts up anew.
9:06: “The Yankee bullpen is getting busy,” says Singleton. Too late as usual, Joe. AJ walks Alex Rios on four pitches. It’s official: the dude is a shrinking violet when things get rough.
9:08: Vernon Wells drills one to deep left, but Melky is on the case. Girardi sits on his hands in the dugout, despite the fact that AJ’s last eight pitches have been a home run followed by seven balls out of the strike zone.
9:10: Rios takes off, and it saves the Jays from another double play. Good call by Cito. Rolen, who has owned AJ all night, is back up, but still we’re not going to the pen. This is getting ridiculous.
9:12: Here’s the thing: I’m an idiot. I love baseball, but I’m pretty damn far from being a master strategist. So when I can identify an obvious move, or two, or three, and the manager can’t? That manager should be fired. Girardi is a moron, precisely because he makes me, of all people, look like a guru. Rolen gets a base hit, Rios scores, and it was just too predictable. I know the bullpen is suffering, but come on, Joe...Rolen has been locked in on AJ all night. That’s his third hit! His third! And AJ was at 109 pitches, struggling all inning! Seriously, what the hell?
9:18: To compound the mistake, Veras, a right-hander, comes in to face the 9th batter, which is obviously a spot to pinch-hit a lefty. He could have faced Rolen, a righty, but instead Girardi Genius brings him in late, and the result is Lyle Overbay. Unreal. And yes, he gives up a single. I call my stepfather, and his take is that Joe G. has that tentative personality where he’s afraid to succeed. “He and our pitching coach are minor league bullshit,” he says. Can’t disagree right now.
9:22: Ramiro Pena gets a lead-off double to right off Halladay.
9:27: Gardner pops out to center. Damon grounds to short. The crowd is on their feet. I have to respect the passion, but I have serious doubts they’ll maintain it for a full season, which is why it’s so aggravating. At least the old Montreal Expos crowds were honest: 5,000 fans, 80% of them American, and the collective energy of a funeral.
9:28: Who better to make the last out than Teixeira? This should cap off a perfect night. At the end of the day, Girardi’s mistakes didn’t cost us this game; Roy was too good. But they certainly didn’t help, and if nothing else, they prove that he’s out of his element with the Yankees.
9:29: Ground out to first, game over. You made us look silly, Roy. Congrats.
9:43: Back. I promised a blog to carry us through the Celts-Magic, and I shall deliver, even though I’m furious at Girardi. FOCUS! Two minutes left in the third, Boston down seven. Very low scoring game.
9:44: Someone named Pietrus makes a three for Orlando. Ray Allen gets to the line on the next trip. My brothers and I have a fantasy playoffs thing going, which I mentioned in an earlier blog. Basically, we drafted one player from every postseason team, and we’re tallying the points throughout the playoffs. My brother Thomas has Lebron, I have Kobe, and my brother Keegan is out of the running. Lately, though, I’m losing too much ground. I need Ray Allen to score a ton, and I need Dallas to lose pronto (Thomas has Dirk, I have Josh Howard, and it’s killing me).
9:47: Pierce with a nice three-point play, but Turkoglu strikes back. Orlando seems to have all the answers tonight, but that could change with fourth quarter road pressure. As the third winds down, House nails a three...but it’s a second too late. 67-59 Magic. Should be a fun ending.
9:52: Call me an old-fashioned fuddy duddy, but it’s still weird for me to watch coaches or managers be interviewed during a game. Doc Rivers gives the usual boring sound bites, but he sure looks dignified. When you have that kind of personal gravity, you can basically say anything and sound respectable.
9:53: A three point play by Dwight Howard, getting mugged by Scalabrine, extends the lead to 11. Do the Cs have a run?
9:54: For the record, even though I normally root against Boston teams on principle, I really, really don’t like Stan Van Gundy. Everything about him annoys me, from his shitty jacket and t-shirt look to his frantic sideline emoting. Also, the most despicable Celtic, Garnett, is out. Also, there’s no championship at stake since Lebron will single-handedly decimate Boston if they make it past this round.
9:57: Boston looks way out of sorts. Their only offense right now is a forced fade-away jumper by Pierce or Allen. 14-point lead for Orlando. Beginning of the end for the defending champs?
10:00: I told my friend Brian today that the Orlando-Boston series bored me, and this game is one long validation. I’m feeling like AJ in the 8th inning; I don’t have the juice to finish, but nobody's arround to relieve me. It’s 10pm, a nice even number, so cue the fat lady. Stephon Marbury hits a couple shots to bring Boston within 9. Check out this hilarious Marbury-related Onion article. Goodnight.
Epilogue: The Celts make an unbelievable comeback, and Orlando proves they have no character. Boston will win this one in 7, but King James might get his 4-4-4 in the east. Girardi should be fired. Happy Wednesday.