October 2009

She-Fan and Amber Go Trick or Treating

It’s Halloween and it’s scary out there.
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It’s especially scary if you’re the Yankees and you’re in Philadelphia looking at costumes like this.
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But not everyone is dressed like a monster. I met up with Amber Sabathia, and – surprise! – we both had the same idea for Halloween. Take a look.
Back in California, I went in search of Bill, the guy who owns the Surf Dog concession at the beach. Last time he gave me a free hot dog, along with his thoughts about the Yankees. This time he presented me with my very own Surf Dog shirt. I do love swag, but what I love even more is a Yankee fan willing to let his freak flag fly, so to speak. Here’s Bill hoisting the pinstripes.
GO YANKEEEEEEEEEEEEEES!

World Series Game 2: AJ Handcuffs Phillies

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The above photo is of Ryan Howard after AJ struck him out three times tonight. OK, no it isn’t, but I’m sure that’s how Howard felt – especially after Mo struck him out too, making him eligible for this.
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Everybody was so nervous (including me) about AJ and whether he’d be able to control his emotions, avoid the wildness that’s plagued him in the past and perform on the big stage.
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Obviously, he performed so well that the Yankees beat the Phillies 3-1.
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He wasn’t just good. He was masterful, working seven innings and only giving up a run on four hits. After the game, he told the media: “It’s the funnest I’ve ever had on a baseball field.” So what if “funnest” is not an actual word. It was AJ’s night and if he wanted to say “funnest,” then “funnest” it was!
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Pedro was keeping the Yanks off balance in the early innings, and when the Phillies jumped out to a 1-0 lead I thought, Please don’t let this be a repeat of Game 1. But Tex came to the rescue with a solo shot in the fourth to tie the score and break out of his slumber.
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After Matsui put the Yanks ahead with his own blast into the seats, I decided it was safe to eat dinner. The “lucky” turkey club sandwich had lost its effectiveness during the ALCS, so I turned to the only food that was deliverable to my house at that hour.
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The pizza was delicious, but then – after Posada knocked in Gardner in the seventh for 3-1 – the umps made that questionable ruling on Damon’s “double play ball” and I needed some of these.
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Not to beat a dead horse, but is the umpiring bad or what? Seriously. These guys….
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…were reminding me of these guys.
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With AJ done after seven, Girardi went right to Mo for the six-out save and got it – Mo’s 38th career postseason save. It’s staggering how many times Yankee fans have witnessed this scene over the years.
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Other plays of note:
Molina’s pickoff of Werth in the fourth.
Singles by Hairston and Melky in the seventh.
Jeter getting the Clemente award and Fox not showing it.
Ditto for Paul O’Neill’s first pitch.
Alicia Keys’ purple boots.
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Oh, and Pedro’s post-game press conference during which he wore a dark pinstriped version of this.
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“If I was on the Yankees, I’d probably be like a king over here,” he told the media.
The man is never dull. And he can still pitch. But AJ was better, and the Yanks evened the series at 1-1. Now they’re off to Philly by train. All aboard, boys.
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World Series Game 1: Lee Mows Down Yankees

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Chase Utley hit a couple of solo shots off CC, who otherwise pitched seven solid innings and was more than good enough to win on any given night. There was just one problem: Cliff Lee. The guy was lights out.
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Jeter had three hits and scored the Yankees’ lone run in the 6-1 loss. But Lee took care of everybody else. He could have been pitching in his backyard in Arkansas, not a care in the world, especially on Damon’s pop up in the sixth. He hardly moved a step to catch it and was like, “Oh. Yawn. I think I’ll just stick my glove out and see what happens.”
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I don’t think I’ve ever seen a pitcher so relaxed. Even on Cano’s tricky eighth-inning comebacker, which Lee corralled from behind his back, he could just as easily have been doing this.
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So I’ll simply tip my cap and say: “Good job, Cliff. Now get back on that Amtrak train so I never have to see you again.”
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The Yankees didn’t play badly, but I’m concerned about the bullpen. Marte was effective, but Robertson, Bruney and Coke? Stinkeroo. And Phil Hughes? What happened to Mr. Setup-for-Mo? He hasn’t pitched well in the postseason and I want to know why. Is it some mechanical problem? A glitch in his delivery? Or just playoff butterflies?
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There really isn’t much else to say about the game, except that the Stadium looked beautiful all decked out in its World Series finery, even with the steady drizzle. And I loved seeing Yogi walk out to the mound during the pre-game ceremony, flanked by two heavy-duty she-fans.
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But my favorite moment was right after the ceremonial first pitch. I snuck into the Yankees clubhouse, stole one of those nifty World Series sweatshirts/jackets/whatever they were, and rushed onto the field – just as Jeter was approaching Yogi and the others. What a thrill it was when Jeet leaned over and planted a kiss on my cheek!
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Talk about a World Series to remember.

She-Fan Exclusive: How To Beat The Phillies

Yes, they’re the defending champions. Yes, they have an excellent team. Yes, Ryan Howard is big. But there are ways to deflate their confidence.
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In other words, they can be beaten and they must be beaten. While it’s true that my tarot card reader already declared in the pages of The New York Times that the Yankees would win the 2009 World Series, I figured I’d better do a little scouting as backup. Here’s what I’ve unearthed about certain players in the Phillies lineup. (Full disclosure: I went to grad school at the University of Pennsylvania, lived in downtown Philly and loved it. But there’s no conflicting loyalty going on. None. I swear.)
#1) Jimmy Rollins
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Last year he led all NL shortstops in fielding percentage (.988) and he finished the season with 295 career stolen bases – the most by any Philly in the modern era.
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So he’s fast and he can play short. What’s more, he’s a switch-hitter who’s had three postseason leadoff homers. But here’s the good news: he only batted .250 this season. And another thing: he’s single. Tip to Yankees: Put some good looking women near the Phillies dugout and try to distract him.
#2) Shane Victorino
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Another switch-hitter, the “Flyin’ Hawaiian,” as he’s affectionately known in Philly because he hails from Wailuka, Hawaii, is batting .361 in the postseason. And how about this little tidbit to tie my Yankee fan stomach in a knot: He hit the first grand slam in Phillies playoff history in Game 2 of the NLDS last year against – guess who – CC Sabathia. Scary, right?
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But he only hit 10 homers all year with 62 RBIs. Not scary. And his bio lists his favorite hobbies as fishing and diving. Tip to Yankees: Pitch him low and outside and make him fish and dive.
#3) Chase Utley
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Chase Cameron Utley had 31 homers this season, and he’s batting .303 in the postseason. He can steal a base and he’s patient at the plate. (Last year he became the third player in NLCS history to walk four times in a game.) His other claim to fame in ’08 was that he led the NL in HBP; the guy was plunked 27 times!
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But he made two errors in Game 2 of the NLCS against the Dodgers. Tip to Yankees: Pitch him away, away, away. He can’t get hit by a pitch if the ball is outside. And hope he makes more errors at second.
#4) Ryan Howard
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OK, so he has 45 home runs and 141 RBIs this season. And he already has a couple of dingers in the postseason, not to mention 14 RBIs. He’s a beast with the happy-go-lucky personality of a puppy.
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But he’s struck out over 190 times in ’09. That’s a lot. Tip to Yankees: Forget about the intentional walks and just let him swing and miss.
#5) Jayson Werth
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The right fielder has 41 homers this season. And he has quite the pedigree. His grandfather, Dick “Ducky” Schofield, played in the majors for 19 years. His uncle, Dick Schofield, played for 14 years. And his mother, Kim Schofield Werth, competed in the U.S. Olympic Trials in the long jump.
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But despite all that athleticism in the family, he only batted .268 this year. Tip to Yankees: Don’t sweat it. He’s good but not that good.
#6) Raul Ibanez

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He’ll be DH-ing for the games at Yankee Stadium, and although he’s 37 years old he can still hit – 34 homers in the regular season and another one in the postseason. He was a Yankee killer when he was with the Mariners.
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But nobody remembers him from his three years with Kansas City. Tip to Yankees: Pitch to him the way you did when he was a Royal.


#7) Pedro Feliz

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The Dominican born former Giant had the second best fielding percentage among NL third basemen in ’08. Oh, and he drove in the winning run in the seventh inning of the Phillies’ World Series clincher against the Rays.
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But he had back surgery in November. Tip to Yankees: Bunt the ball in his general direction and make him bend over.
#8) Carlos Ruiz
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The Phillies catcher made his major league debut in 2006. His biggest hit to date was his walk-off infield single in the bottom of the ninth in Game 3 of last year’s World Series against the Rays. He’s from Panama, the land of Mo, so he must be good.
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But he only threw out 14 of 79 potential base stealers in ’08 for 17.7 %. Tip to Yankees: Run! Run! Run!


#9) Ben Francisco

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I don’t know anything about him except he’ll probably be playing left field instead of Ibanez. Oh, and he was with the Indians in ’07 and ’08.
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Like Rollins, he’s single. Tip to Yankees: Try the distraction tactic as discussed in #1.


#10. Cliff Lee

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The Phillies’ Game 1 starter is the reigning Cy Young Award winner. And his full name is the intimidating Clifton Phifer Lee. In 2002 he was named the Hog Nation Minor League Player of the Year.
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Tip to Yankees: You can beat the Hog Nation Minor League Player of the Year, can’t you?


GO YANKEES!


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Missing The Empire State

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I’ll focus on Yankees-Phillies in my next post, complete with an exclusive “She-Fan Scouting Report,” but today I was feeling mopey. People kept asking me if I was going to the World Series and I kept having to say no. Even my best friend from high school, a Red Sox fan, called to say, “So are you flying to New York?” I told her I was staying in California. I was so ashamed.
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If I hadn’t been so busy with work, I might have hopped on a plane so that I could be in attendance for at least one game. But I didn’t make any plans, so now I’ll just have to watch on TV and deal with it. Still, it’s times like this when New York seems far away and I miss it. I miss my family. I miss New York accents. I miss people walking fast and elbowing each other out of the way. And here’s what else I miss:
* Fall foliage in Central Park.
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* Mickey Mantle’s Restaurant.
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* Cheesecake.
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* The subway.
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And I miss everything having to do with Yankee Stadium:
* Freddy.
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* Frank Sinatra.
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* The fact that they’ve already painted the field with this.
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* The fans….
  Big ones…
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  Small ones…
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  And “artistic” ones.
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I was so down in the dumps this afternoon, wishing there were other Yankee fans in Santa Barbara, that I left my desk and went for a beach walk. It was a gorgeous day, and this was my view as I did my five miles.
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Nothing to complain about, right? I was starting to perk up until my Yankees cap began to attract some unfavorable attention. You could tell people wanted to shake their fists at me and demand, “Why aren’t you a Dodgers or Angels fan? What’s wrong with you?”
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And then a mirage….or so it seemed.
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No, it wasn’t a hot dog concession in the Bronx, but close. It was the Surf Dog cart owned for 16 years by Bill Connell – a local celebrity for having won a major case against the state of California last week.
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A 55-year-old disabled veteran, Bill fought for an exemption for street peddlers like himself who wer
e being forced to pay sales tax on their wares. It was a victory for disabled vets and it made him a hero. And – just my luck – Bill turned out to be a huge Yankee fan. When I told him I was a fan too, he not only handed me a free hot dog but let me interview him on the She-Fan Cam – a happy ending to my day.

To The Winner Goes The Champagne

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Oops. They did it again.
The Yankees clinched their 40th American League Pennant tonight with a 5-2 victory over the Angels in Game 6. They won because they pitched better, hit better and played better defense. It was a formula that worked for them all year long.
* Pettitte earned his 16th career postseason “W” – a new MLB record.
* CC was named the series MVP, going 2-0 with a 1.13 ERA.
* Mo notched his 37th postseason save – another record.
* Joba threw a scoreless hold.
* Cano singled, walked twice and made three terrific plays at second.
* Swisher broke out of his slump with a hit and a bunt.
* Tex had a huge sac fly/RBI and dazzled at first base.
A-Rod seemed to be on base every inning.
* Jeter got his walks.
* Melky got his hits.
* Everybody contributed.
* Girardi made it to the World Series in only his second year as Manager.
* Hal Steinbrenner accepted the trophy on behalf of his father.
* Mike Scoscia was gracious in defeat.
* Torii Hunter said he’s rooting for the Yankees to win it all.
When the champagne started flowing in the clubhouse after the game, my phone started ringing. Friends were congratulating me, as if I’d actually done something. Even an Angels fan friend called to say, “Your team played better than mine. They deserved to win.” And my Florida friends, Paul and Judy, called just so they could scream, “WE WON! WE REALLY WON!”
I was so excited that I decided to celebrate the way the players were celebrating.
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I put on my husband’s snorkeling goggles and had him shake up a bottle of ginger ale and pour it on my head. (I didn’t have any champagne, and I thought red wine would make me look like Carrie.) Here’s the result.
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Terrifying, isn’t it? It took me a half-hour to wash and dry my hair. But it was so worth it. Your team doesn’t win a pennant every day. 

Waiting….

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I’ve never been any good at it. Waiting, I mean. Not for the phone to ring. Not for a red light to turn green. Not for the woman ahead of me at the supermarket checkout to fish around in her purse for her debit card.
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I was OK with Friday’s day off from Yankees-Angels, figuring I could use the time to drive to LA and get some work done, but to have to wait until Sunday for Game 6? That’s just plain torture.
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I’ve been reading all sorts of speculation about which team the postponement helps and which team it hurts, and to me the question is silly. The team that plays well on Sunday night will win. Period. The delay gives them both more time to “think about it” – but it also gives the media more time to write nonsense. I went out and did some real reporting. I checked in with various Yankees to see how they were spending their free Saturday night.
(Pettitte lives pretty well, doesn’t he? Those contract incentives paid off.)
(That was Mo. He said he was staying loose by the fire in case Joe called for him in the sixth inning.)
(I’m glad Damon and Swisher are having fun, but could they please get some sleep?)
(That was Hideki. He said he just finished having both knees drained in case Joe wants him to steal a base or two.)
(Wouldn’t you think A-Rod would have a personal chef to cook dinner? What if he cuts himself with that meat cleaver and can’t play?)
(That’s me, trying to get a comment from Jeter. He never likes to make himself the story, so he wouldn’t talk. I still love him.)
OK, the waiting is over. As Mariano Duncan used to say, “We play tomorrow. We win tomorrow. Das it.”

There’s No Place Like Home

I was trying not to think about the playoffs, I really was. I drove down to LA on Friday for a lunch meeting arranged by my agent with a woman producer who is interested in my novels for TV movies. We were sitting in the restaurant, talking business, when I slipped and said the word “Yankees.” I expected her to roll her eyes or stare blankly at me or launch into a speech about her love for the Angels or Dodgers, given that we were in SoCal. Instead, she beamed and asked, “Are you a Yankee fan?” Well, forget the TV movies. All we did for the rest of the lunch was discuss Jeter, A-Rod and everybody on the roster. She said Andy Pettitte was her favorite Yankee and I said wouldn’t it be great if he nailed down the victory at the new Stadium, and we went on and on about the Bombers. It was an omen; I had found yet another she-fan in the last place I expected to find one, and it had to mean the Yankees would beat the Angels in Game 6. She and I decided that it all boiled down to home field advantage.
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And so, with Hollywood and the Bronx in mind, I’m posting this video to remind everybody that we’re home. We’re in our house. We survived the Wicked Witch and her flying rally monkeys, and are now safely back where we belong, just like Dorothy. The pennant will be ours.
  Go Yankees.

Yankees-Angels Game 5: Way Too Much Stress

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They say that baseball breaks your heart, but what they don’t tell you is that it gives you heart attacks. Seriously, it should come with a warning label.
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With the exception of Tuesday night’s 10-1 blowout, the ALCS games against the Angels have been as nerve-wracking as they’ve been exciting, with the outcome never clear until the final out. Tonight’s 7-6 loss was a case in point, and I’m exhausted.
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AJ was so astonishingly bad in the first inning that I was ready to jump off a bridge. He had nothing. His pitches didn’t dive and dart. They just sat there, begging to be eaten, like some balls of mozzarella.
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At the same time, the Yankees offense looked lifeless against Lackey (is there any Yankee batter who can hit a curve ball?), so I figured it just wasn’t our night – especially after yet another blown call; Damon was clearly safe at first and, instead, was ruled an inning-ending out. I’m beginning to think the umps should use these.
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But then a funny thing happened: AJ settled down. He held the Angels scoreless for five innings, giving the Yanks a chance to come back – and they did. Lackey became unhinged in the seventh after he gave up a double to Melky and a bitterly contested walk to Posada. He walked Jeter to load the bases, and Scoscia had seen enough. Lackey didn’t want to leave the game and practically had to be dragged away.
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In came Oliver, who helped Tex break out of his slump by serving up a three-run double. Then he intentionally walked A-Rod and allowed an RBI single by Matsui to tie the score at 4-4. Suddenly, we had a brand new ball game. When Cano tripled off Jepsen, the Yanks went ahead 6-4 and I got up from my couch and started dancing around the living room.
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No, I didn’t think we had the game won. Not with three innings left to play. But I was feeling a whole lot better about our chances. Should Girardi have brought back AJ to pitch the bottom of the seventh – with a rested bullpen available, not to mention the best closer in baseball? Probably not. But it was Hughes who threw mozzarella balls to Guerrero and Morales, and the Angels took a 7-6 lead and kept it. Where was Dave Robertson? That’s what I’d like to know. When it became clear that Hughes didn’t have it, why not bring in D-Rob, who has shown such great strikeout-potential? Why, Joe? Why?
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And then in the top of the ninth, after A-Rod walked against Fuentes, you pulled him for Guzman. So my question is…..What if the Yankees had tied it up and we’d gone into extras? Why would you want your best hitter out of the lineup? What’s more, why didn’t you have Guzman try to steal, since his speed is the only reason he’s on the roster? Why, Joe? Why?
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And just one more thing, Joe. Gardner should be in the lineup and Swisher should be playing this.
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Just a suggestion. Anyhow, the series moves back to New York for Game 6. I’m sure Fox is thrilled. I’m not. Well, my heart isn’t. It’s still recovering from tonight.
 

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About Last Night….

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That’s me off to the left looking impatiently at my husband Michael. I was dying to get inside to watch the Yankees take batting practice, but he was stopping to shoot pictures. The nerve! Actually, I was the one who was stopping in the parking lot to meet Yankee fans. I kept whipping out the She-Fan Cam, hoping to get some words of optimism from my fellow followers of the pinstripes. Here’s one fan who didn’t seem to be nearly as nervous about the game as I was.
It was my fault that we missed batting practice. I was too busy being Jeanne Zelasko. By the time we got inside the stadium, it was too late for food/beverages too. The game was about to start and we needed to find our seats. We were in the section just above the press box – way up there but with a great view of the action.
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I was heartened that, despite the sea of red surrounding us, there were Yankee fans sitting directly behind us. It was just like being in the Bronx. Well, except for these.
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One diehard Angels she-fan even clutched her rally monkey while she settled in with her radio and scorecard.
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I figured there must be something to the whole thunderstix thing, so I blew one up.
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I know. It looks….wrong.
With no score in the third inning, I turned around and asked the Yankee fans for their game predictions.
6-2? I could live with that. But I needed another opinion. Two more opinions, as it turned out.
Fourth inning. Time to focus. A-Rod singled to lead off. Posada doubled. Matsui K-ed. (Hideki, come back to us. You looked half dead last night.) A-Rod sprinted home on Cano’s fielder’s choice and made a great slide past Napoli. If I ever have to have hip surgery, I want A-Rod’s doctor doing it.
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Melky’s two-run single was enough to make me relax a little, but a 3-0 lead wasn’t nearly enough. And then came that bizarre out call on Swisher for allegedly leaving the bag too early. Just a bad, bad call. A-Rod’s homer in the fifth was a thing of beauty and a nice greeting for Bulger after Kazmir departed. But what was up with Posada in that inning? He didn’t score on Cano’s double and then got caught in that rundown? (More terrible officiating.) On top of that, Jorge forgot how many outs there were and A-Rod had to run in and cover home. I know JoPo has gotten hit in the mask a lot over the course of his career, but hello?
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After Morales put the Angels on the board in the fifth to make it 5-1, I said to the Angels fan next to me, “Do you think your team will come back?” He smiled and played more drums with his thunderstix.
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Damon’s homer for 7-1 took the crowd out of the game. And when Abreu airmailed that throw in from right field, allowing A-Rod to score in the ninth, many fans started filing out. Melky’s double to put the Yanks up 10-1 made the place feel like a funeral home. Even the fan next to me conceded defeat by doing this.
But I’ve left out the best part of the night: CC. I kept thinking he would run out of gas. Instead, he seemed to get stronger as the game went on. It was such a pleasure to watch a pitcher in his prime, performing well on the big stage.
Feeling exhilarated by the win, I headed out and ran into similarly ecstatic Yankee fans. First came Brian, who was waiting outside the men’s room. Perhaps he forgot to take his Avodart.
Next, I met a woman named Cathy, who said her father had been an usher at Yankee Stadium so he could make extra money for her piano lessons. She and I got into it over a certain Yankee.
As we made our way down the ramp, I heard a she-fan yelling “Let’s go Yankees.” Naturally, I went over to say hi. It was dark out there, but her enthusiasm came through loud and clear.
And finally, back in the parking lot where it all began, I spoke to Mark, the father of the adorable four-year-old girl from the previous post.
It was a very good night for Yankee fans of all ages.
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