Tonight's game clocked in at nearly four hours of lead-changing, pitcher-swapping, teeth-gnashing baseball. This was exactly the kind of game you'd expect from a "duel" featuring Gavin Floyd and Freddy Garcia. Some of us were wise to make other plans. Alas, the starting duel itself was relatively short-lived, as the Yankees jumped ahead early and beat up a susceptible and noticeably hairless Floyd.
The top of the first inning led off with a bang - you know, the type of bang that rocks you into an early evening nap - as Floyd threw 31 pitches and gave up two runs on a combination of two hits, two walks and a hit-by-pitch.
Dewayne Wise led off the bottom of the inning with a single, followed by a deep Kevin Youkilis fly that was just shy of tying the game. Wise then stole second and a wild pitch by Garcia advanced him to third before Dunn walked to put Sox at the corners for Paul Konerko. Captain struck out swinging and the inning ended with Dunn foolishly getting thrown out at second base on the dropped pitch.
The second inning didn't go much smoother for Gavin, even after getting the first two men out on grounders. Nick Swisher singled to right field and then Robinson Cano followed with another hard hit to right. Alex Rios fielded the ball well and held Cano to a single and Swisher stopped at third. Mark Teixeira then walked to load the bases for a Curtis Granderson single that scored Swisher from third. Rios' overall fielding efforts prevented Gavin's gash from gushing too much; including an inning-ending throw to get Cano at home plate. After six outs, Floyd was already up to 50 pitches and barely half of them were strikes.
The Sox threatened again on offense with a Rios single and stolen base to start. AJ Pierzynski made the first out with a soft grounder to Freddy, and Rios moved to third on the play. And that is where Rios comfortably remained and watched as Dayan Viciedo lined out, Alexei Ramirez walked, and Gordon Beckham ended the inning whiffing at a slider. Wheeee!
And the fun had merely just begun its slow-drip into the third! Floyd's fourth walk in seven outs was enough for Robin Ventura, as well as the collective Sox fan base. At 58 pitches (29 strikes), Floyd was pulled after only 2.1 innings. Hector Santiago relieved him and quickly finished the third with a groundout and a strikeout.
In the bottom of the third, Freddy found his rhythm and struck out Wise, then struck out Youkilis on six pitches - none of which were in the strike zone. Dunn grounded out to first and the Sox were back on defense quicker than Oprah on a ham. The Yankees had men on base soon thereafter thanks to a Derek Jeter single and a Swisher walk. Cano just missed putting the game into more laughable territory, with a deep fly ball to Viciedo. Then, with runners at the corners, Teixeira grounded into a double play to end the inning.
Despite striking out the side in the 4th inning (bringing his Ks to seven), Sweaty Freddy was at 71 pitches and began the 5th with what should have been a lead-off double for Alexei. The third base ump immediately called the ball fair as it soared over the bag and Alexei easily made it into second, as the other umps convened to discuss the call. By some ridiculous twist, they decided to overturn the fair ball call and send Alexei back to the plate, where he promptly struck out.
While Hawk was busy birthing an angry hyena in the booth, Beckham hit a single past Jeter, and Wise followed with a long ball to right-center. Finally, the Sox had runs on the board; but the remorse remained for the runner that wasn't there, as the Sox still trailed by a run. Regardless, Freddy was losing his stuff - and quickly. With one out, Youkilis singled sharply past third and then Dunn walked on Freddy's 92nd pitch. Five more pitches to Paulie was the finish of Freddy, resulting in a walk to load the bases.
Cody Eppley came into the game and Rios grounded into a force at second, as Youkilis crossed the plate to tie it. Clay Rapada replaced Eppley and AJ singled up the middle to give the Sox the lead at 4-3, before yet another pitching change put Joba Chamberlain on the bump for the Yanks. Joba followed accordingly, allowing a single to Viciedo, and the Sox lead stretched to 5-3 before Alexei appropriately ended the very inning he began with a double-turned-strikeout, with a fly ball to center, four pitchers later.
Wasting no time, Jeter sailed a solo shot over the left field wall with one out in the 6th inning. (Fuggin) Swisher walked for the third time of the game and then advanced to second on a wild pitch. Cano walked after that and both runners advanced on another wild pitch. Santiago was evidently past his prime and Donnie Veal replaced him as soon as the Sox lead transformed into a tie game, as Swisher crossed the plate on a Teixeira bloop single to center. Granderson struck out, but pinch-hitting Casey McGehee singled to left to score Cano and give the Yanks the lead again at 6-5. Two Yankee walks turned into two Yankee runs rather
quickly slow and molasses-y.
Beckham took care of the newfound deficit as he stepped to the plate in the 6th and launched an opposite-field homer. Boone Logan reported to the mound after Youk was hit by a pitch square in the arm-meat. Nothing came of the baserunner and the tie game crawled along into the 7th; where the Sox nearly completed a defensive stint without a baserunner.
Almost! OOH SO CLOSE. With two outs and Brett Myers on the mound, Jeter punched a double over the head of Rios for his fourth hit of the game. Luckily the damage stopped there and the tie game continued into the bottom of the inning. Bored with all this nonsense, AJ made it to first on a piddly roller up the third base line that McGehee chose not to field in hopes of a foul turn. Then with two outs, Alexei came to the plate and launched a signature missile to left field to put the Sox ahead by two runs.
Matt Thornton started the 8th and made it through the inning without a single Yankees baserunner. This was the first time of the game that the Sox retired three in order; and it only took them until the 8th inning and about 3.5 hours into the game. It felt like Christmas for that alone and then Dunn gift-wrapped another run with a solo shot to left field in the bottom of the inning. The Sox lead widened to 9-6 and suddenly, for the first time, the game didn't feel so much like a four-hour trip to the dentist office.
Reed came in the 9th and registered the first two outs before Ichiro singled to keep the game kicking, like a cat that's been trapped in a box affixed to your running tailpipe and JUST WON'T DIE. But Russell Martin finished it off and the Sox fans rejoiced while the scoreboard exploded for the hard-fought victory. I must say this painstaking win was especially gratifying after the long weekend at Kaufman. Tomorrow Liriano will take the mound against Nova in Round Two.
Sox record: 66-55