The four-game series against the Red Sox has been a nightmare for the Yankees, but it has mercifully ended on a good note for the Bronx Bombers. With his team leading 3-2 in the ninth inning, Yankees closer Mariano Rivera surrendered a lead-off game-tying solo home run to Will Middlebrooks, his seventh save of the season. Rivera had blown seven or more saves just twice previously in his career: seven in 2001, and nine in 1997.
Fortunately for Rivera, the Yankees were able to manufacture a walk-off victory against Red Sox reliever Brandon Workman. With one out, Ichiro Suzuki singled to center, then promptly stole second base. Vernon Wells flied out to right for the second out of the inning, but Suzuki tagged and went to third base. On the first pitch to Alfonso Soriano, Workman threw a 94 MPH fastball neck-high over the plate to Alfonso Soriano. Catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia, positioned to catch the pitch low and away, couldn’t grab it and the ball sailed to the backstop and caromed towards the first base side, allowing Suzuki to saunter home for the walk-off victory.
The Yankees were on the verge of suffering a four-game series sweep at the hands of their bitter rival. Despite scoring eight runs or more in each of the past three games, the Yankees’ pitching could not get the job done. Rivera blew his sixth save on Thursday, the entire bullpen imploded on Friday, and starter David Huff was tagged for nine runs yesterday.
With the Rays in progress, the Red Sox temporarily drop to eight games ahead in first place in the AL East, and the Yankees move to two games behind them for the second Wild Card.
As you get ready for Memorial Day weekend and whatever it entails for you and yours, take some time to read an excellent article from Mike Bates over at The Hardball Times.
The article is about Eddie Grant. You probably never heard of him. He was a journeyman infielder — often a backup — from 1905 through 1915. If you have heard of him, it was likely not for his baseball exploits, however: it was because he was the first active baseball player to die in combat, killed in the Battle of the Argonne Forest in October 1915.
Michael tells us about more than Grant’s death, however. He provides a great overview of his life and career. And notes that Grant didn’t even have to go to war if he didn’t want to. He was 34, had the chance to coach or manage and had a law degree and the potential to make a lot of money following his baseball career. He volunteered, however, for both patriotic and personal reasons. And it cost him his life.
Must-read stuff indeed. Especially this weekend.
The Cleveland Indians will unveil a Frank Robinson statue at Progressive Field on Saturday.
Robinson’s tenure in Cleveland was not long, but it was historic. On April 8, 1975, he became the first African-American manager in Major League history. He was a player-manager. One of the last ones, in fact. He spent two years in that role and then a third year — a partial year anyway — as a manager only. Robinson would go on to manage the Giants, Orioles and the Expos/Nationals, compiling a career record of 1065-1176 in 16 seasons. He is now a top MLB executive.
Robinson was, of course, a Hall of Fame player as well, lodging 21 seasons for the Reds, Orioles, Dodgers, Angels and Indians. He won two MVP awards and hit for the Triple Crown in 1966. Overall he hit 586 home runs – 10th all time – and was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1982. For an inner-circle Hall of Famer with that kind of resume he is still, strangely enough, underrated. I guess that happens when your contemporaries are Willie Mays, Hank Aaron and Mickey Mantle.
Anyway, congrats to Frank Robinson for yet another well-deserved honor in a career full of them.