Putting aside the obvious delight us Red Sox fans see in what is becoming a welcome and regular sight – the Yankees losing in the playoffs – Friday night’s Tigers-Yankees game was one of those playoff games. You know, the ones you’ll still be talking about ten years from now, the same way true baseball fans remember Randy Johnson coming in for Seattle to whiff Wade Boggs in ’95. The same way we remember Tony Womack’s double for the Diamondbacks in the ’01 World Series (Luis Gonzalez won it, but Womack’s double was the key). This one will survive time.
You have 41 year-old Kenny Rogers, a very serviceable pitcher whose career ERA against the Yankees was like 234 or something. Suddenly, on this night, he becomes Sandy Koufax, dropping 12-to-6 curves and locating his fastball with pinpoint precision. The Yankees were simply befuddled, falling victim 8 times to strikeouts, managing just five hits and get this – they never even reached second base. This game was Kenny Rogers World Series.
The normally calm Rogers (with the exception of that strange cameraman incident last season) was a completely different person on the mound. Physically demonstrative, he was arm-pumping and chest-thumping all night. With every throw back from the catcher, he’d SNAP his glove on the ball. With every big strikeout or important out, Rogers wouldn’t just yell, he’d scream. It was like his little version of Plastic Ono Band. I was half-expecting him to scream “I don’t believe…in YANKEES!”
All said, the next day Jeremy Bonderman turned in a beauty of his own and the Yankees are gone, just like that. Tuesday, the Tigers turn their attention to Oakland, and my only worry there is that it will feel less like the playoffs for the young Tigers and more like a hangover, after the emotion of the weekend.
This is why I don’t miss playoff baseball games.