A great three-game series ended on a sour note (unless your a Yankees fan) last night, as Trot Nixon, with the Sox up by one run in the bottom of the ninth, did his best Bill Buckner impersonation letting a routine single to right field go between his legs allowing pinch-runner Enrique Wilson to score from first tying the ballgame and putting the batter, Bernie Williams, on 3rd with no outs. Boston proceeded to intentionally walk Ventura and Mondesi and let reliever Ugueth Urbina go to work on Jorge Posada. Posada won the game by working a nine-pitch walk forcing in Williams.
One could not help but feel sorry for Boston who, flailingly and failingly, tried every stratagem available to no avail. First they overshifted to the right side on Giambi to open the ninth. Giambi ends up hitting the proverbial "excuse me" check-swing single down the thirdbase line. After Nixon's error they walked the bases loaded for the second straight night with the game on the line, and for the second straight night the strategy failed. On Saturday it was a slow roller betwen second and first that allowed the winning run to score on the fielder's choice. Last night, it was the bases-loaded walk that doomed the Red Sox. Even bringing in Lou Merloni as a fifth infielder could not help them (he was listed as right fielder but played like a rover in softball with center fielder Johnny Damon playing left center and left fielder Manny Ramirez played right center with the left-handed Posada at bat).
So the Red Sox leave town four games back when they could very easily have left in a virtual tie, well, with a three-percentage-point lead over the Yankees. One has to wonder if the conventional wisdom of loading the bases is the best strategy. It does leave little margin for error.
By the way, the Yankees' bullpen woes are becoming more accute. As I surmised Mariano Rivera earlier is indeed injured. The Yakees used four relievers on Saturday, including Karsay for three innings, forcing them to keep Weaver in for the seventh inning, a decision that could have cost them the game. In the last week, they have used Karsay in five of their seven games and Stanton in six. Torre seems to have grown disenchanted with the injured Hitchcock, Mendoza (either that they are concerned about his injury), Thurman, and Choate. So if Mendoza is going to be out for a while, (I'll say it again) expect the Yankees to pick up an arm or two in the bullpen. The Yankees should feel good winning two of three, but be warned, there's trouble a-brewing in their once superior bullpen.