May 13th: Called on to protect a 2-1 lead in the top of the eighth, Brandon Morrow strikes out Alex Rodriguez with two on and two out.
After so many years, I think it's silly that some Mariner fans still boo Alex Rodriguez in Seattle. He did what anyone would've done, and while it's charming in a way that so many people felt personally hurt after being naive enough to take Alex at his word, it's time to find a new axe to grind. This one's worn to a nub.
With that said, though, I can't deny that A-Rod always seems to bring more drama to a game. I don't sit here and boo my computer screen when he comes up to bat, but in a critical situation, he gets my blood pumping more than any other player. Part of that's obviously just because he's really good, and good players make big situations more intense, but that's not all. With A-Rod, it's like every at bat is an opportunity to show that we're doing just fine without him. I know, I know, it sounds so high school. But there you go. I shouldn't have to justify my feelings to you sons of bitches.
On this particular day, the Mariners were getting the best of the Yankees through seven innings, as the score stood at 2-1. They were also getting the best of Alex Rodriguez, who so far only had a meaningless single and a throwing error that led to a run. In a showdown between the soulless goblin Horacio Ramirez and the venerable Andy Pettitte, fans were delighted to find that, in the later innings, not only were the Mariners in it, but they were actually winning. This was both entirely unexpected and a lesson in why it's stupid to place a wager on an individual game.
But we weren't out of the woods. Not yet. The Yankees still had six outs and a terrifying lineup to play with, and there wasn't any shortage of guys in there capable of changing everything with one swing of the bat. This wasn't a comfortable one-run lead against the White Sox. This was among the most agonizing one-run leads a guy could imagine. How badly we wanted the bullpen to make this easy.
The late George Sherrill started the eighth and promptly fell behind Robinson Cano 2-0. Yeah, this is exactly what we need to do, struggle with the Yankees' 9 hitter. Thankfully George got his act together and forced Cano to fly out. Got Damon to hit a grounder to short, too, only Damon beat it out for an infield single. It always feels cheap when the Yankees get an infield single. They have so much ability to hit the ball wherever they want that it seems like they shouldn't be allowed to reach base in the blue collar ways like the rest of us. But sometimes they do, and it sucks. At least George got Abreu to strike out. That made things a little less awful.
Still, there were only two down, and with a pair of tough righties coming up, that'd be it for George. And it wasn't JJ walking in through the bullpen gate.
Brandon Morrow. For a guy with one pitch, he sure was hard to predict. And in a situation this tense, you knew people weren't going to respond well to any dicking around. This was no time for Morrow to play Jackson Pollock with the strike zone canvas. He needed to get an out. There was no other way around it.
Strike one. Good.
Strike two. Terrific. Not messing around with Jeter at all. Just coming right after him.
Jamie Burke came out to the mound to have a little chat and try to calm Morrow down. I doubt Morrow heard a single word he said.
Strike one. Fastball, swinging. Nice of you to join us, Brandon.
Ball two. If the only pitch you ever throw is a fastball, and you can't control where it's going, how the hell are you in the Major Leagues?
Strike two. Fastball, swinging. Oh yeah, you're in the Major Leagues because when your fastball's in the zone, no one can hit it.
Ball three. Honestly dude, this is ridiculous. IT'S A FASTBALL. YOU'VE BEEN THROWING FASTBALLS YOUR ENTIRE LIFE. YOU SHOULD KNOW HOW TO THROW A STRIKE WITH IT.
Big pitch on the way. The runners'd be going, but that didn't matter; there wasn't a chance of this pitch being put in play. Either Morrow would miss and JJ would have to inherit a clusterfuck, or A-Rod would miss and Safeco's roof would blow off. There were no alternatives.
Strike three. Fastball, swinging.
I'd say Brandon couldn't have picked a better spot, but for all I know he was aiming somewhere else.