NEW YORK -- What is it about young pitchers?
Every single one of them, first time they face the Cubs, the Cubs make them look like Hall-of-Famers.
Only the forgotten Jason Dubois could solve Wang -- smacking a 420-foot homer nearly to the Cubs' bullpen in left field, making the score at the time a hopeful 3-1.
It made no difference. Derek Jeter hit the very first grand slam of his career and capped his 5-RBI day (Jeff and I agreed, it seems obligatory for a Yankee to have a 5-RBI day in this series) with another homer and the Yankees smashed the Cubs 8-1 this afternoon behind another sellout crowd that had a loud, significant minority of Cub fans.
You could hear us cheering loudly at Dubois' homer, before the Yankee fans booed us down. That was the only thing to cheer about this afternoon, though, so let's talk about some other stuff.
Jeff, his friend David from New Jersey, Clay from Ohio, and Mark who flew in from California, and I all had passes to the Yankee Club, which is supposed to be the most exclusive of the private clubs in Yankee Stadium. (I'd include a link, but I can't find it in the mess of the Yankees website.)
It was as advertised. Oddly, even though we arrived at 1:30, they were still serving breakfast-type selections on a "brunch" menu. Nevertheless, it was very good food and not all that expensive, considering the location. I did some nasty carb-loading that I really shouldn't have done, but when am I ever going to get the chance to do this again? It ended with the biggest slab of cheesecake you ever saw -- quite delicious, actually.
There are plasma screens throughout the restaurant showing videos of Yankee history, and one booth in the back is shaped like a baseball glove. We had been told that George Steinbrenner ate lunch in this club every day, but he was nowhere to be seen.
Before all of that, we were subjected to quite a security search. They take this sort of thing seriously in New York -- you are patted down, and if you have anything in a bag (no backpacks!), they make you take everything out of the bag, and put it in a clear plastic Yankee bag. Not quite sure why after they've already looked through everything, but I can surely understand why they are very security-sensitive in New York.
Our seats were in the very last row of the lower deck behind the 1B dugout. You feel closed in because there is a wall behind you, rather than the open concourse or fence in some other ballparks, but the seats have a nice view, and were about 30 or so rows from the field. The worst sight I saw was He-Who-Shall-Not-Be-Named, yes, the human air-raid siren who somehow glommed onto someone to fly him to New York. Ran into him outside, then saw him holding court in a bar across the street from the bleacher entrance, and then, he and a female companion sat down in our section.
New York's finest took care of them -- they clearly didn't belong there and were escorted out. Good.
There was a Yankee fan in our section who decided to lead loud cheers for Jorge Posada each time he came up: "JOR"! he'd say. The rest of the section said "GE"! (pronounced HEY!) This was repeated three times, then "Hip! Hip! Jorge!" three times, then a chant of "Let's Go Yankees!" three times.
Yes, it was as annoying as it sounds.
About the game, the Cubs are starting to lose games the way they did before Mark Prior got hurt and they suddenly woke up. Even though the game stayed close till the fifth inning, the Cubs weren't taking advantage of opportunities, continuing to swing at first pitches with no idea what they were doing (yes, Corey, this means YOU) -- the only one who had a clue was Derrek Lee, who had two hits.
And yes, he was clearly out on the infield single in the first inning. This had no impact on the game in any case, but it was an egregiously blown call.
Glendon Rusch kept it fairly close into the sixth inning, but because the Yankees, unlike the Cubs, take pitches from time to time, his pitch count went way too high -- winding up at 98 through five-plus innings -- and a run scored in the first inning when Corey was over-aggressive in the field and overran a ball, allowing Gary Sheffield to score when he should have been stopped at third.
Seriously -- Corey Patterson has done less with more than almost any baseball player I can remember. He really does have tremendous physical abilities, particularly for someone as small (5-9, 185) as he is. But he hasn't made the adjustments that all ballplayers have to make to succeed, and has in fact seemed to regress. Please don't make the excuse that he's 25. He's nearly 26, and this is his fourth full season as a major leaguer. It's way past time for him.
After Rusch got into trouble in the sixth, the bullpen failed. Rich Hill struck out Tino Martinez on that nice sweeping curveball he has -- if that curveball worked more often, he'd be a really good prospect -- but then walked the nearly un-walkable Robinson Cano (5 BB in 138 AB -- what is it about these guys that Cub pitchers keep walking them?) and then Joe Borowski came in to pitch to Jeter.
JoeBo, we love ya. But your fastball is topping out at 89 MPH. It doesn't seem to be getting any better. If you're still hurt, you should go back on the DL. If you're not, then it's time to retire.
That was pretty much all she wrote, as Jeter's slam made it 7-1. In the 8th inning, Alex Ciepley from CubTown, and Gary Simon, who I've known for years through the Cubs newsgroup, came down from their upper deck perches so I could meet them for the first time. Both of them live in New York, and it's nice to know there are so many expatriates and even native New Yorkers who are Cub fans, keeping the faith here. To put the final insult on the day, ex-Cub Tanyon Sturtze, who wasn't worth anything as a Cub but has become a useful middle reliever for the Yankees, retired the side uneventfully in the 9th.
As we were leaving, the Yankee fans were a bit more hostile ("Cub fans suck!" -- this is a bit different from the "Cubs suck!" we hear from White Sox fans all the time) -- I figure they ought to be happy with all the tourist money we're spending in their town, and the two wins we have so far.
The mad scientist who switched Greg Maddux' mind into Sergio Mitre's body will have to have Mitre save us yet again tomorrow. The Cubs simply cannot afford to be swept.
Finally, apologies for the lateness of this post and also for the fact that you may not have been able to access the site earlier -- I had the same problem! There have been some connectivity problems, and we hope they are solved now. Also note that in the stat corner, I am going to try to list the opposition's TV coverage, since many of you watch via Extra Innings or MLB.TV.
Keep the faith. Ninety-six games left.