September 2009

Miranda Is The Latest Yankee With A Walk-Off Win

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Carmen Miranda was a Brazilian singer/dancer/actress in the ’40s and ’50s. She was famous for wearing fruit on her head. 
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But I’m talking about this Miranda.
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Juan is a Yankees farmhand who was called up earlier this month, inserted into tonight’s game and – with two outs in the bottom of the ninth – singled off the leg of Kyle Farnsworth to score Hinske and give the Yanks a thrilling (yes, I know the game didn’t matter) 4-3 win over the Royals – the team’s 15th walk-off victory. Naturally, he earned a face full of whipped cream.
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What is going on with the Yankees? Even when they play less than perfect defense, even when they can’t generate much offense against a tough pitcher, even when their starter is just back from his father’s hospital bedside, they find a way to win. Speaking of AJ…
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Three hits over six-plus innings with eight strikeouts? Not a bad tune-up for a guy people were so worried about a couple of weeks ago. He looked great and I can’t wait for him to make his first postseason start against them…
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or them.
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The offense against Lerew, the Royals promising starter, amounted to solo shots by Swisher and Tex. The two runs might have been enough if Phil Coke hadn’t come into the game in the seventh suffering from a brain cramp.
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First he spazzed out trying to field Gordon’s bunt. Then he threw wildly on Anderson’s fielder’s choice. Then he completely blanked on Maier’s grounder; he should have thrown home to nab the runner scoring but instead went to first for the out. Oh, Phil.
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With the Yankees down a run, it was nice to see Robertson and Bruney hold the Royals scoreless in the eighth. But it was even nicer to see Farnsworth take the hill for KC in the ninth. Ah, the memories.
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Poor Farnsy. Cervelli singled off his glove/hand/someplace. Hinske singled off him too. Cano clocked one of his pitches for a deep sac fly, scoring Cervelli. Hinske stole second on him – HINSKE! – and went to third on the catcher’s error. And up stepped Miranda, who got the winning hit when the ball caromed off Farnsy’s shin. The indignity.
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Maybe the night had the happy ending it did because of the pre-game ceremony spotlighting Jeter for being the all-time Yankees hits leader, Melky for hitting for the cycle, and Mo for getting his 500th save and receiving his plaque from Yogi.
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The expression on Mo’s youngest son’s face says it all for me right now.

Baby Bombers Rock!

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For the Yankees’ opener against the Royals, Girardi rested the vets and played the kids. I figured we’d get clobbered. Wrong. We did the clobbering. Well, the kids did.
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How? With the score tied 1-1 in the fifth, Ramiro Pena smacked his first major league homer. It was hilarious when, as per custom, he walked into the dugout and all the vets turned their backs and gave him the silent treatment.
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When the score was knotted at 2-2 in the sixth, it was Shelley who came through with an RBI single to put the Baby Bombers up 3-2. I guess he can hit major league pitching after all.
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Then we moved into the seventh inning, and the kids broke the game wide open. How?
Cervelli: doubled. 
Pena: singled in Cervelli.
Gardner: singled.
Melky: walked.
Cano: hit a grand salami.
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It was Robbie’s second career grand slam and it shut me up about his inability to hit with runners in scoring position. It was also his 25th homer and set a new Yankees record for players with 25 or more dingers in a season (there are five).
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The Yankees won the game 8-2, and it wasn’t all about offense, obviously. Chad Gaudin went six-plus and held the Royals to only four hits. I admit I wasn’t thrilled about him at first, but his last few outings have been more than decent and I think he could help the Yanks in the playoffs as a long reliever or emergency starter.
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Marte got Alex Gordon to foul out (wasn’t Gordon supposed to be The Next Great Thing?) and Aceves was perfect the rest of the way. And so the Baby Bombers picked right up where the guys who just won the division left off. Nice job, kids. You deserve a treat!
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Partying in the Bronx

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It was such a happy day. Yes, there was a one-hour rain delay. But the Yankees swept the Sox with a 4-2 victory, notched their 100th win of the season and clinched their 16th division title. And it was all because:
* Pettitte was solid for six innings.
* Bruney was as effective as he’s been all year.
* Mo recorded his 44th save.
* Cano got his 200th hit.
* Melky homered to put the Yanks on the board.
* Tex started the offense going with a single in the sixth.
* A-Rod fouled off what seemed like a dozen pitches before singling – and ending Bryd’s day.
* Matsui battled Saito, then singled home Tex and A-Rod to put the Yanks up 3-2.
* Tex homered off Bard in the eighth for insurance.
There were some nifty defensive plays too, but bottom line? The Yankees were down early and came back late – yet another display of how this 2009 team rolls, even when the conditions are less than ideal.
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Winning the division and getting back into the playoffs feels great, especially after having missed out on the fun last year. I realize that “there’s still a lot of work to do,” as Jeter said. But I’m savoring the moment with some other Yankee she-fans.
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I thought I owed it to the Yankees to speak to them personally. It was the least I could do to show my appreciation. So no lectures this time, only gratitude and congratulations.
I realized after I finished my chat that I forgot to mention Dave Eiland. Wang too. CMW? Can you read English? Wherever you are, I hope you’re doing well and I expect to see you back with the Yankees in 2010. OK, if you can’t read English, here’s what I said:
无论哪里您是,我希望you’ 再做的井和我在2010年期望看您与美国人。

The Best Laid Plans

Sometimes, things really do work out the way they’re supposed to. Take today’s 3-0 win over the Red Sox. If the Yankees had drawn it up, it couldn’t have gone better.
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In a nutshell…
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#1) Would CC be the ace of the staff yet again, throwing seven innings of one-hit ball and notching his 19th win?
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#2) Would Phil Hughes preserve CC’s gem, pitch a scoreless eighth inning and confirm his status as a superb set-up man?
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check_mark.jpg#3) Would Mo take the mound in the ninth, retire the top of the Red Sox order and earn his 43rd save of the season?
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#4) Would Cano continue his torrid hitting, slice a solo shot into the left field corner in the sixth and end the Yankees’ futility against Dice K?
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#5) Would Damon step up with bases loaded in the eighth, slap one of his patented bloop singles to right and send two runners home with insurance?
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#6) Would Brett Gardner be inserted as a pinch runner for Swisher in the eighth, wreak havoc on the base paths and induce an error by the Red Sox shortstop?
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#7) Would Mark Teixeira, whose play at first base has dazzled even the most jaded fan, make a diving stop of Drew’s liner in the eighth and save a possible leadoff double?
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#8) Would Melky and his yellow sunglasses go all the way to the center field wall and be able to grab Lowrie’s shot in the third?
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#9) Would Jeter, the master of the “little things,” execute a neat leap on Youkilis’ pop up to end the fourth?
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#10) Would I jump around my house cheering that the Yankees’ magic number is down to one and that the Sox will not be celebrating their Wild Card berth on Bronx soil?
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Until tomorrow….
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Round 1: The Yankees in a Knockout

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There was a lot to like about tonight’s 9-5 win over the Red Sox. Yes, the victory reduced our magic number to three. And yes, it’s always fun to beat Boston, even if the games do take a zillion hours. But this one was full of genuine baseball pleasures. I’ll go around the horn and mention a few of my favorite moments.
#1) Joba didn’t suck.
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I don’t know if it was the “stern” lecture Girardi gave him before the game or if my video chat had an effect on him. Either way, it was his most effective and efficient start in a long time. He worked quickly, threw strikes, and – best of all – didn’t unravel after a few mistakes.
#2) The Bombers stole seven bases.
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They got great jumps and were able to move runners up, make things happen. Very small ballish of them, wouldn’t you say?
#3) A-Rod put on a hitting clinic.
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Not only did he steal three of the seven bases, but he’s really stepped it up in the RISP department lately, knocking ‘em in with singles, doubles, homers, you name it. An impressive performance tonight.
#4) Cano’s back-handed flip to Jeter to start the DP and end the game made me faint.
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Talk about a smooth move. I watched the replay over and over and applauded each time.
#5. Phil Huuuuughes is a beast.
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He only pitched to Bay, but he got the strikeout and continues to be a great eighth inning guy for the Yanks.
And now for the not-so-wonderful parts of the game:
Melky’s comebacker that hit Lester (glad he’s OK).
Damon’s moronic error.
Leadoff walks by Albaladoodoo and Coke.
Otherwise, a good time was had by me. More, please.
 

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My Message To Joba

Yes, we clinched a playoff spot. But nobody’s celebrating until the division title is assured. So it’s essential (and will be way more fun) if the Yankees beat the Red Sox silly on Friday night. I’m not saying it will be easy. Not with Lester on the mound for them. And not with Joba on the mound for us. Poor dear.
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He’s been up. He’s been down. He’s been upside down.
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But Friday night’s outing – whether it lasts three innings or six – could be his last shot at making the postseason roster. I thought it was time I spoke to him. I hope I got through. We’ll find out soon enough.
Oh. While I’m on the subject of Yankees-Red Sox, author and diehard Yankee fan Paul Keck alerted me to his book, “The Greatest Comeback Ever,” about the 1978 season, also known as the Bucky Dent season.
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Check it out and GO YANKS!

Another Hair Raiser in Anaheim

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Well, one thing is for sure: last night’s victory over the Angels wasn’t a fluke. The Yankees came back and beat them again today 3-2. It was yet another game featuring a near heart attack by me.
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The Yanks took the lead in the fourth – Cano singled with runners in scoring position! Shocking! – and the burning question throughout the rest of the game was would they hold onto the lead or do a disappearing act?
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AJ had dominating stuff – 11 strikeouts – but found himself in a jam in the sixth, allowing the Angels to score a couple of runs. Marte got Figgins to fly out and ended the threat, which was major, but he needed Coke to help him shut down the Angels in the seventh. Meanwhile, the Yankees offense had been lulled to sleep, and no insurance runs were forthcoming. Maybe that was because Girardi went with the “B” lineup today?
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All I know is that with Huuuughes and Aceves unavailable and Bruney and Edwar undesirable, the job of pitching the eighth inning was left to…..Ian Kennedy?
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The same kid who couldn’t win a game last season?
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Talk about a pressure situation for Kennedy, who is fresh off surgery to repair an aneurysm. I wouldn’t have blamed him for being rusty, nervous, crappy or all of the above. But, aside from hitting Kendrick and walking Matthews and Figgins (OK, so he was rusty, etc.), he came back to dispose of Aybar and pitched a scoreless inning. I was sooo relieved. Sweaty too.
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Mo appeared for the ninth and took care of business. The Yankees fly back to New York, having beaten a team they needed to beat. Yes, some of the players got battered on this trip – Posada and his toe, Swisher and his leg, Hairston and his wrist – but Pettitte seemed healthy, AJ looked back on track and Gaudin didn’t make me hide under the bed.
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Will the Yanks be able to clinch the division title during the Red Sox series this weekend? That would be so sweet I can taste it.
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Getting The Monkey Off My Back

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On July 11th, I went to see the Yankees play the Angels in Anaheim. The Bombers lost, naturally. But while I was there I walked up to a souvenirs concession, picked up a darling little rally monkey toy and proceeded to choke it. I hoped it would be an omen.
Fast forward to tonight when the Yanks finally beat the Angels 6-5 in what can only be described as a roller coaster ride.
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The Yankees grabbed a four-run lead in the third on two-run homers by A-Rod and Posada and tacked on another run on Matsui’s solo shot in the fifth. So far, so good. But Gaudin, who had pitched well for four innings, ran into trouble in the bottom of the fifth, gave up a couple of runs and found himself in the dugout.
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He was replaced by Alfredo A-Save-Us, who didn’t save us. Instead, he coughed up two more runs, pulling the Angels to 5-4. The situation could have been much worse, but A-Rod made a great play on Guerrero’s grounder to end the threat.
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I figured all would be well when Huuuuuughes took the mound in the eighth, but he was victimized by errors by Cano and Posada and a curious non-throw by Gardner, all of which resulted in the Angels tying the score at 5-5. I was so nervous I thought I might throw up.
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Would this game be yet another descent into misery and frustration?
Would the Yankees be thwarted in their latest attempt to beat the Angels in Anaheim?
Or would they display the “comeback-y-ness” they’ve shown all season long?
In the top of the ninth, the Yankees out-Angeled the Angels. Sure, they used the long ball to score the first five runs. But here’s what happened next:
Gardner: singled and stole second.
Jeter: walked.
Damon: sac bunted. (Yeah, I was surprised too.)
Tex: intentionally walked. (Yeah, I was really surprised. You walk him to pitch to A-Rod?)
A-Rod: sac flied, scoring Gardner with the go-ahead run.
Yankees led 6-5.
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Into the game came Mo to secure the save. And that’s what he did. Game over. Angels vanquished at their house of horrors. Rally Monkey fired.
Oh, and by the way? The Yankees were the first team in the majors to clinch a playoff berth. I love clinches.
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AJ will wrap things up tomorrow, and the Yanks have a chance to take two of three. My brain is ready for another contest, but I’m not sure my heart can handle it.
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Owned in Anaheim

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There’s something about this place. Something sinister, unsavory, possibly even toxic. 
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Yes, the Angels are a very good ball club, but the Yankees just beat them in the Bronx. So there must be a reason why Figgy, Vladie and company bring us to our knees every time we play them in Anaheim.
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In tonight’s 5-2 loss, Pettitte was solid in his first outing since complaining of shoulder fatigue, but Girardi seemed to throw in the towel when he brought Bruney in for the seventh.
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The offense didn’t do much, except for solo shots by A-Rod and Matsui. Jeter and Posada came ready to play, but the others?
Damon: 0-for-4
Tex: 0-for-4
Swisher: 0-for-4
Cano: 0-for-4.
You can’t win games when your bats are missing in action.
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That said, things always go wrong for the Yankees in Anaheim. So what’s the cause? Seriously. WHAT IS IT? Here are a few theories.
#1) The Yankees are allergic to the grass at Angel Stadium.
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#2) The Angels’ chef poisons the food in the visitor’s clubhouse whenever the Yanks come to town. Phil Coke was diagnosed with “acute gastritis” today and was confined to his hotel room, so it could happen to any of them.
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#3) There are too many hot blondes in the O.C., making it difficult for the Yankees to concentrate on the games. (The Angels are used to the distraction.)
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#4) There is entirely too much red, both in the stands and on the field. It makes the Yankees go temporarily blind.


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#5) Mike Scoscia hires an old gypsy guy to cast a spell on the Yankees. (All things are possible when you’re only a freeway ride away from Hollywood.)
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Are any of the above the root of the problem? I don’t know, but if the Yankees don’t pull off a win tomorrow night, I’ll be asking MLB to launch an investigation.

Five Ways To Rehabilitate Joba

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Joba lasted his usual three innings in Sunday’s 7-1 loss to the Mariners, and they weren’t pretty: seven earned runs on six hits, including a three-run dinger to Griffey. The Yankees couldn’t muster any offense, either; only Tex had a pulse. The bright spot was Mitre, who threw five scoreless innings in relief.
So what’s the real reason Joba has baffled everybody with his ineffectiveness this year? Could it be that he never pitched a full season in Triple A? That he shouldn’t have been moved from the pen to the rotation? That the Joba Rules messed with his mind? That he’s injured and not telling anyone?
All of the above are plausible answers, but I’ve come up with some other possibilities that, if implemented, could salvage his season. Here we go.
#1) Joba Should Take Back His Birth Name.
As everyone knows by now, his little niece couldn’t pronounce his real name, Justin, and the nickname “Joba” stuck. But pitchers named Justin do extremely well in baseball, as in this guy. Change it back.
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#2) The Yankees should put Harlan Chamberlain, Joba’s father, on the payroll.
Joba went home to Nebraska during the All-Star break and pitched great when he first returned to the team. Whatever Harlan said or did worked miracles. Make Harlan an “advisor” and let him coach his son. He’d be better than Dave Eiland.
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#3) Joba Should Hang Out With Roger Clemens.
No, really. When Clemens was with the Yankees in ’07, he mentored Joba and preached throwing strikes, being aggressive, attacking the zone. Whether the Rocket also taught him about Icy Hot liniment treatments I couldn’t tell you, but what harm could they do?
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#4) The YES Network should produce a “Yankeeography” about Joba.
I realize that Yankeeographies are reserved for players who’ve been been with the team awhile, not to mention excelled as Yankees, but it would give Joba confidence to know that the organization still believes in him, despite his suckitude.
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#5) Joba should come over to my house while he’s in SoCal.
He won’t be pitching in the Angels series. He’ll have plenty of time on his hands. He should get in his rental car, drive up to Santa Barbara and let me explain the facts of life to him over a nice home-cooked meal. And then I’ll pop in the DVD of “Bull Durham” and make him watch the scene between Crash Davis (Kevin Costner) and Nuke LaLoosh (Tim Robbins) that goes like this.
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Crash: “You’ve got a gift. When you were a baby, the gods reached down and turned your right arm into a thunderbolt. You’ve got a Hall of Fame arm, but you’re pissing it away.”
Nuke: “I ain’t pissing nothing away. I got a Porsche already. I got a 911 with a quadraphonic Blaupunkt.”
Crash: “You don’t need a quadraphonic Blaupunkt. What you need is a curveball. In the show, everybody can hit a fastball.”
Nuke: “Well, how would you know? You’ve been in the majors?”
Crash: “Yeah, I’ve been in the majors. I was in the show for 21 days once – the 21 greatest days of my life. You never handle your luggage in the show. Somebody else carries your bags. You get white balls for batting practice. The ballparks are like cathedrals. The hotels all have room service. The women all have long legs and brains.”
Nuke: “They’re really hot, huh?”
Crash: “Yeah, and so are the pitchers. They throw ungodly breaking stuff in the show – exploding sliders. You could be one of those guys.”
I hope Joba takes me up on my offer. There are lessons to be learned from baseball movies, whether you’re a pitcher named Nuke LaLoosh or Joba Chamberlain.
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