The Yankees beat the Blue Jays yesterday 10-9 in a wild game in which both starters were gone by the end of the fifth, there were twenty walks (7 by Tanyon Sturtze of the 26 Yankees he faced), and three errors. The Yankees gave up twice as many hits as they collected and they still won.
There was one play that was long forgotten by the end of the game, but it led to the first run of the ballgame and it impressed the heck out of me. It was in the first inning that Alfonso Soriano manufactured a run all by his lonesome (almost). First, he was hit by a belt-high trailing fastball to lead off. He then stole second. Incidentally I thought he might have been out with a high tag being applied on the tailing throw from the catcher, but YES! never gave us a definitive angle.
Then came the play that impressed me. Nick Johnson hit a routine grounder to third baseman Eric Hinske. Hinske threw to first and Soriano went to third and later scored on a Texas League single by Jason Giambi.
Hinske, contrary to what the YES! announcers said, did look Soriano back to third on the grounder. He just did perfunctorily which made it clear to Soriano that he wasn't going to second and allowed Soriano to get a great jump. Soriano read it perfectly.
It reminded me of the old Wahoo Sam Crawford and Ty Cobb plays that I read about in my youth. In the movie Little Big League the kid-manager used an old Tiger play to manufacture a run: he had a batter who had just been walked run through first and attempt to get to second with a runner at third. The pitcher, I believe, got so confused that both men were safe. Those sorts of surprise plays don't typically work today because fielding defense has improved to the point that they are no longer surprises. Major-leaguers know what to check for before the play develops. Coaching, positioning, the gloves, and the quality of the average fielder have improved so greatly that trick plays have become very low percentage gambles. By the way, here is Wahoo Sam:
It's like watching an old detective show as compared to The X-Files, NYPD Blue, or Alias today. In the old days, it seemed that half the time a police officer was shot, it was by his own gun that he lost when the crook karate chopped from his hand after taking him by surprise. Or the bad guy tries to surprise Superman by hitting him with the gun after emptying its contents in his mid section (and yet Superman still has to duck to avoid the incoming gun). Now there is no surprise: these cops cover all the angles and check blind spots before they enter a room.
So Soriano found a way to use surprise and manufacture a run in today's game. It's just a nice thing to see.
One other note on the game: The YES! announcers are perhaps the biggest homers ("D'oh") in the game. Raul Monsesi booted a ball in right allowing Shannon Stewart to get to third base and later score on a sac fly. Bobby Murcer, I think, covered for Mondesi saying that he thought that Stewart, who had stopped at second, was going for third and hurried the catch. It was a routine ground ball. He booted it. Why make excuses?
Before the next batter starter Andy Pettite was pulled and Murcer then opines that Pettitte's ankle was hurting him. Pettitte had pitched all right before the fifth. He allowed two runs in the third but had a 1-2-3 fourth. Why did his injury flare up in the fifth? Players have off games; no one expects them to be perfect. The announcers don't have to sugarcoat every misstep by the team. It's embarrassing.
Murcer did point out that Jose Posada's footwork had improved behind the plate and that was apparent on his quick throws. I guess those homers do serve some purpose, if only to pass on what the coaches are working on with the players.