Grady Little is the former Boston RedSux manager who left Pedro Martinez in during the Yankees' game-tying rally in game 7 of the ALCS. His curse -- now managers will yank starters too EARLY.
That's what current RedStanx manager Terry Francona did tonight. You see, the Yanks flat-out cannot touch knuckleballer Tim Wakefield. He stymied the Yanks all last season, won both his ALCS starts against them and beat them in the first Yanks-Redstifs meeting this year. Tonight, he had a 2-0 lead and had coughed up all of three singles going into the bottom of the seventh. After a hit batter, strikeout, stolen base, passed ball and walk, the Yanks had first and third with one out and Wakefield still looking OK. But Francona yanked him. One out, one walk and one more pitching change later, Tony Clark ripped a grounder that literally tore through David Ortiz's glove for a two-run error and tie game. In the 8th, the Yanks tacked on two more thanks to a single-and-error, sacrifice and a great battle by Gary Sheffield against Mike Timlin that ended up with a Sheffield double and Yankee lead. Ultimately, the Yanks won 4-2 and Rivera torched the RedSawx by whiffing the side in the 9th.
Three notes: (1) I like the attitude Sheffield brings -- fiery, tough, he whipped that game-winning double down the line, slided into second base, popped up and pumped his fist. Sheffield is the fire in the locker room that this team has needed for the past couple of years -- he's the only Yank to publicly acknowledge what everyone knew going into yesterday's game -- the Yanks needed to reestablish some pride in this series.
(2) Nice to see John Lieber straighten out a bit -- after five shaky games, he got his usual DP grounders, righted himself after giving up five hits to the first seven batters he faced and pitched credibly. Kudos to Felix Heredia who came in with bases loaded and none out in the 7th with the Yanks down 2-0 and getting a force-out at home, a too-short-to-score flyout to left and a whiff of Ortiz. Nice for the Yanks to win against the Sax when they throw their #5a pitcher against the Stanx #3.
(3) Good call by Jim Kaat and I wonder if Tony Clark had the same thought. Bottom 7, Timlin came in to relieve an injured Scott Williamson and because it was an injury replacement, Timlin could take as many warm-ups as he wanted. Kaat noticed that Timlin threw a bunch of practice sliders that were off-target so he guessed Timlin would start Clark off with a fastball to get strike one. Clark ripped that first-ball fastball through Ortiz's glove and now the Yanks are up 7.5 games.