All Things Bubba

Because how can you not love a baseball player named "Bubba"?

Sunday, June 04, 2006

Have no fear, Wanger's here...

June 3, 2006: N.Y. Yankees 6, Baltimore 5

Joe Torre has gotten a lot of criticism, particularly for the way he manages the bullpen. Much of it is deserved. But I have to give him credit today. Last night, he spun straw into gold, using Chien-Ming Wang on his throw day as a make-do closer.

It seemed a terrible idea at first blush. Wang is still playing his first full season in the majors, and doesn't always handle high-pressure situations well. He has almost no experience as a reliever. Throwing the kid into the bottom of the 10th to hold a one-run lead seemed more than a little risky. Not just to the chances of winning, but to Wang's young psyche.

Not that there was much choice. Mo was down due to back problems. Rasner was DLed, and his replacement, Matt Smith, was still on the train from Columbus. Farnsworth had pitched so much over the past week Joe felt he had to rest him. He wanted to rest Proctor, too, but was forced to ask him to get five outs. Instead, he coughed up the lead.

But the gamble paid off. Myers got the lefty out. (Actually, it was Brian Roberts, a switch-hitter who hits much better against right-handers. Bubba's old roommate, and the guy whose elbow he accidentally dislocated last year.) Then Wang came in and got the second out - his typical groundball out - and things were looking up for the Bombers. Then the kid gave up two seeing-eye singles. Yankees fans despaired. Wang has struggled with pitching from the stretch this year - so much so that's becoming a mental thing for him.

But Wang hung tough this time, and got Javy Lopez to fly out to Kevin Thompson (playing his first Major League game). Hallelujah! Chien-Ming Wang gets the first save of his young career.

All in all, a very satisfying win. Randy Johnson got off to a rocky start, but was solid after that. Andy Phillips hit a homer, as did Johnny Damon. (It proved to be the game-winner, and Damon said it was the best swing of his career.) Bernie Williams drove in three runs. Only Scott Proctor was unhappy, because he failed to get Randy the win.

What a thrilling game. I enjoy this type of balanced baseball much more than the K, K, homer, K type of ball we were playing with all the big bats in the lineup. This team is tough and scrappy and playing for love of the game in a way I haven't seen since 1996. And it's a beautiful thing. Can't wait until Bubba gets back. This is his kind of baseball.

posted by BubbaFan, 11:49 AM


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