Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Finally, game between New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox lives up to expectations of fall battles

By Mike Lupica
The Daily News
Tuesday, May 18th 2010, 4:00 AM

New York Yankees outfielder Marcus Thames is the victim of the season's first cream pie as his Yankee teammates. (Sipkin/News)

This was the great moment of the Yankee season. Two of them, actually. This was like something out of last fall, when the Yankees finally won No. 27. The Yankees had blown big leads Monday night, blown the 5-0 lead they had after the bottom of the first and the 6-1 lead they had after the bottom of the second. The Yankees were down two runs and two outs away from losing to the Red Sox, 9-7. And then something happened. A ninth inning at Yankee Stadium is what happened, mostly. The Red Sox against the Yankees happened.

Jonathan Papelbon was in for the Red Sox and he had an out and Brett Gardner on third and then it was Papelbon against Alex Rodriguez. Who took Papelbon out of the place, hit this huge, high shot to left-center.

Now it was 9-9 in the ninth.

Now the Stadium sounded the way it is supposed to for the Yankees and the Red Sox, after moments earlier in the game when they had to beg for noise on the message board. On a night when they couldn't sell the place out. Now it had become all the Yankee-Red Sox night you could want.

Papelbon got the second out but then he hit Francisco Cervelli. The Red Sox closer wasn't out of the ninth, not even at 9-9. Not Monday night. It was him against Marcus Thames, an old Yankee farmhand who has come back to them, who hit a home run out of the old Stadium off Randy Johnson in his first major league at-bat.

And now Thames had a much better moment, here across the street, best of his life. Now he made this the night of the young season to remember, one of those nights when you wonder how anybody gets those last three outs against the Yankees. Thames turned on a fastball from Papelbon and it was a no-doubter to left from the moment Thames hit it. It was gone and now it wasn't the best Red Sox win of the season, it was the best one for the Yankees.

"I knew I had that one," Thames said. "I've hit a few and that one felt pretty good."

It was 11-9 in the ninth and the Yankees came running from the dugout like the seventh game of the season between these two teams was a different kind of Game 7.

You want to know how crazy the night was? Javy Vazquez, who wasn't allowed to get a start against Boston, came out of the bullpen to get the last out of the top of the ninth with runners on first and third and the Red Sox trying to extend their lead. The guy who couldn't get the start getting the win. Oh, yeah. That kind of night.

"A great come-from-behind win," Joe Girardi said.

Then he smiled a winner's smile and said, "Javy gets the win.

"Our bullpen was a mess," Girardi said. "I needed a long guy for the day." Trying to explain away Vazquez not getting a start against the Red Sox.

It was suggested to Derek Jeter the other day that the rivalry, as great as it still is, is not what it used to be, not what it was like back in 2003 and 2004 when the battle between these two teams and two cities was rejoined. Back when Aaron Boone hit his home run against Tim Wakefield in Game7 of '03. And then the next year, when the Red Sox won the most famous seven-game series ever played in anything, coming all the way back from 3-0 down and being three outs away from being swept to win their first World Series in about 9,000 years.

"How could it be what it was back then?" Jeter said. "What, if we play them again in the playoffs it's going to be best-of-nine this time?"

Jeter said, "I mean, how could anything be like that? If the Mets moved into our division?"

But there have been some games to see this season, starting with when the Red Sox came from behind to beat the Yankees at Fenway on opening night. There was another one to see Monday night at the new Stadium, the first time in there for Boston this season.

This time the Yankees couldn't hold 5-0 or 6-1 leads, behind the guy, Phil Hughes, who has been their best pitcher this season and as good as anybody in baseball. This time the Red Sox got all those home runs, the last two from Kevin Youkilis and Victor Martinez in the top of the eighth, Martinez's shot to right-center not just over the "DKNY" sign out there but nearly out of the month of May.

This time, when the Red Sox were two outs away from their best win of the season, after a season that has seen so many bad losses for them already, A-Rod hit one out to left-center, a huge shot that was like something out of October and November last fall, when he finally became the postseason player - and Yankee - he had always dreamed of being. Desperately wanted to be.

He hit one and then Thames hit one and just like that, a night that had started right for the Yankees ended right. Just like that it was a Yankee night, even after Hughes didn't have it, after Chan Ho Park tried to cough up the game once and for all in the eighth.

Another Red Sox-Yankee game chased 11 o'clock Monday night, chased four hours in length. Sometimes it makes you crazy waiting for the end. Sometimes you get an ending like this. Something happened Monday night. Red Sox-Yankees, mostly. Seventh game of the season. Felt like a real Game 7.

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