I can't remember the last game this season where I had sweaty palms in the eighth inning, butterflies in the stomach in the ninth.
Tim Wakefield threw a masterpiece yesterday, striking out a career-high 12 batters. His only blemish was a cheap home run down the right field foul line by Jason Giambi in the first inning. He allowed three hits and one walk in his second consecutive complete game, but unlike his last start, the Sox couldn't pull out a victory.
Randy Johnson was similarly impressive. Boston managed only one hit against The Big Ugly in seven innings, a semi-bloop single to left center by Kevin Youkilis. Once Johnson left the game, the Sox quickly rallied.
Tom Gordon began the eighth and gave up a single to Tony Graffanino. Adam Stern went in to pinch-run, and was erased when Doug Mirabelli's popup fell in the middle of the diamond. One of the YES announcers mused that Derek Jeter had purposely let the ball drop in order to get a force at second, replacing the speedy Stern with the immobile Mirabelli on the bases, but that was pure Yankee spin.
The big question was: Why did Terry Francona pinch-run for Graffanino (and for David Ortiz when he walked later in the inning) but not for Mirabelli? I guess it was the Personal Catcher crap, as if Jason Varitek couldn't have caught Wakefield for two innings.
Ortiz's two-out walk (against Mariano Rivera) moved Belly to second -- I had horrible thoughts of Dale Sveum waiving Mirabelli around third on a hit -- but Johnny Damon grounded to first in a 10-pitch at-bat. (The 8th pitch was a fly ball that landed about four inches foul down the right field line, thisclose to being a game-tying double.)
In the ninth, Edgar Renteria's first-pitch line drive was speared at the mound by Rivera and Trot Nixon, batting for Yook, grounded out. But then Manny Ramirez walked and Kevin Millar singled to right center. With Manny on third, John Olerud struck out to end the nailbiter.
Having 2004 in my mind makes this one easier to take -- as does being the chasee and not the chaser -- and New York needed it way more than Boston. Joe Torre is calling these last few weeks his team's post-season. It was an amazing game.
The Red Sox lead is back down to three games with 20 to play; the Yankees trail Cleveland by 1.5 in the wild card. New York heads to Tampa Bay and Boston is in Toronto.
Arroyo / Lilly at 7:00.