On July 5, 2008, I got lucky. My uncle had seats to the Yankees v. Red Sox game, and he invited me to join him and his son and daughter. I was excited. The seats were spectacular, on the third base side halfway between third base and home plate in the hot sun. It was a pitchers duel, my favorite type of matchup. We sat close to the field, close to where the scouts sit, where you can feel the heat of the fastballs and you can see the break on the curveballs. You feel everything.
It was Mussina and Masterson, and both were spectacular. Mussina went 6 innings, giving up 4 hits, walking 1 and striking out 5. Masterson was no pushover either. At 6’6″, 250 lbs, Masterson seemed to be releasing the ball halfway to home plate. He was intimidating, but we were able to get two runs off him somehow, on a Melky single that scored Giambi and a Brett Gardner sacrifice fly that scored Wilson Betemit.
Going into the seventh, the Yankees led 2-0. Jose Veras and Kyle Farnsworth manned the seventh and eighth inning capably, much to my amazement, and into the ninth inning we went. The familiar tones of “Enter Sandman” rang out and #42 came running in. I went crazy, the crowd went crazy, and I thought the game was over.
JD Drew led off the top of the ninth inning and singled to center. Next up was Manny, and Rivera promptly plunked him. Now there were runners on first and second with no one out and a thin two run lead. I was worried. Brandon Moss pitch ran for Manny, and Mike Lowell came to the plate and singled to right field, scoring JD Drew and moving Brandon Moss to third. Now there were runners on first and third with no one out and a 2-1 lead. Youkilis came to the plate, and Rivera plunked him. Based jacked. No one out. 2-1 Yankees, top of the ninth.
Coco Crisp stepped to the plate and I was beyond nervous. Don’t get me wrong, I have very little respect for Coco Crisp as a professional hitter, but Rivera was suddenly hittable and had no control. He had hit two batters and allowed two hits, and there was still nobody out. But something happened. Maybe Rivera found his control, maybe he remembered that he was Rivera, maybe he decided to stop screwing around. But he somehow got “it” back, and struck out Coco Crisp.
Next up was Jason Varitek. It was 2008, but his decline was already in full bloom. Rivera got him to pop out and there were two away.
Julio Lugo came to the plate, and the place was rocking. The bases were loaded, and with two outs Rivera sized Lugo up. And then he struck him out. The place went nuts, and “New York, New York” came over the loudspeakers. I was standing near the Red Sox dugout and I was feeling euphoric. As Kevin Youkilis began his slow walk to the dugout from second base, I yelled at him. I don’t remember what I said, but I do remember wanting to properly escort Youkilis back to the dugout and out of my stadium. I wanted him to know that I gloried in our victory, and gloried in his defeat. I wanted him to know that the Yankees weren’t dead, and that I didn’t care that the Red Sox were defending champs. We’re the Yankees, not you. We’re making our way back to the top, and you’re not going to stand in our way.
Kevin Youkilis strikes me as someone who doesn’t take things well on the field. He reacts to called third strikes like the umpires are out to get him. He cries to the umpire when Joba knocks him in the dirt, but he never charges the mound to fight. He’s odd. I really, truly dislike him. I dislike his facial hair, his ridiculous batting stance, and the stilted way he runs. And one of the reasons I don’t like him, apart from the crying and the whining, is that as he walked from second base to the dugout he saw me taunting him. And he took of his helmet, and he looked me in the eyes and he held up four fingers.
We were in fourth place.
And then he disappeared into the dugout.