In the clubhouse after tonight’s game, someone asked Derek Jeter how smart Johnny Damon is. “Well, he called himself an idiot,” Jeter said.
It must be a lot easier to make jokes when the team’s one win away from a title than if this series had been tied at two games apiece.
Tonight obviously hinged on Damon’s mad dash to third base. It was one of the smarter, more heads up plays you’ll see in baseball. The Yankees were on their toes, the Phillies were not, and that was the difference. With the infield shifted for Mark Teixeira, either the pitcher or catcher is supposed to cover third base on a stolen base. That didn’t happen.
“I think what I had to see before I could start running to third base was how Pedro (Feliz) caught the ball,” Damon said. “So I knew it drug him off some. I’m just glad that when I started running, I still had some of my young legs behind me… You know, it worked out, because I felt like being on third base, it possibly takes away a slider, a tough slider in the dirt that I may be able to score on. Alex got two fastballs. Hopefully it, well, it did work out for us.”
Third-base coach Rob Thomson said taking third base when the infield is shifted is something the coaching staff has talked to the players about, but he said he never told Damon to go for it tonight. The heads up sprint was the highlight of a rally that started with Damon’s nine-pitch at-bat, which forced Lidge to throw extra pitches. Getting to third put even more pressure on the Phillies closer.
“Against this outfield, they all throw pretty good and they play very shallow, even with two outs a lot of times it’s tough to score (from second) on a base hit,” Thomson said. “Just getting him to third base, now I know we’re going to score on a base hit or a wild pitch or a passed ball. A huge play.”
The view from the dugout was quite different. Jeter said he knew exactly what Damon was doing, but Joba Chamberlain said he had a “mini heart attack.”
“He stole two bases in nine seconds, I don’t know if that’s ever been done before,” Brett Gardner said. “That’s Johnny for you. He knew that Feliz was over there playing Tex to pull and he covered second. He got an opening and took it. I’ve never even thought about it. When he went to third I said, ‘Oh no.’ All of us did, because as soon as you see him get up and go, you assume that Johnny thought the ball got by him and went into center field. It didn’t obviously. When he took off and we realized nobody was at third base, it’s just heads up play. He fooled everybody.”
And put the Yankees one win away from their 27th championship.
UPDATE: Just got back to the hotel. The status of Melky Cabrera is that he strained his left hamstring. Won’t know much more until tomorrow. Saw someone else asked about audio. I might have a file or two that’s good enough to upload, but tonight was pretty insane on deadline and I’m not sure either Sam or I has anything that’s especially clear. We’ll check on it tomorrow. For now, I’m heading to bed.