Timeline Tightrope

Bronx, N.Y., August 11, 2018; Yankees 5, Texas 3 — This is a timeline of an ugly, tense, terrifying, but ultimately terrific, day. I entered Yankee Stadium at noon despite rain prediction percentages hovering near the exit velocity of an Aaron Judge-struck ball. The infield was covered, but the grounds crew removed it, smoothing the dirt and laying the foul lines in time for a 1:10 Lance Lynn first pitch.

By 1:32, the intermittent light raindrops had gotten nothing on me in my uncovered seats, as Gianyard-o gave the home fans an early lead, and Du and Birdie doubled it up, 2-0 Yanks. Pinstriped bats jumped all over veteran righty Drew Hutchinson, and new Yankee and fellow righthander Lance Lynn had four K’s in two frames.

By 2:04, we had climbed from row 3 to row 10 for the third inning under growing rains, and the hit count, three to one in the Yanks’ favor earlier, was now five to three Texas. Elvis Andrus had closed the game score to 2-1 with an rbi single; and the game may have been tied but for Kyle Higashioka having thrown him out stealing on the next pitch. Still, the rain had now all but stopped, we were back in row 3. And Lynn held the visitors to just one run through the fifth, even though it cost him 98 pitches, 20 more than Hutchinson required to get 15 outs. Still, Lynn had eight strike outs of 15 outs, and if mounting pitch numbers were the price of that, well that was OK.

By 3:15, Greg Bird had delivered a huge double, and Neil Walker singled him in for the insurance run one and all knew was going to be needed. This came in the bottom of the sixth, lifting our spirits, even if we needed to retreat from the rain again, this time to row 11, while David Robertson was turning in a nifty one-two-three inning in the top half.

Lefty Zach Britton came on for the seventh five minutes later, and retired two on grounders with just four pitches. We retraced our steps to row 3 as Zach jumped up on Shin-Soo Choo 0-2, but four pitches later his slow hopper bounded over Britton’s head, and he reached on an infield single. Hope continued with lefty hitter Rougned Odor coming to the plate, but he singled sharply to right, and spirits sagged as eight of the next 11 pitches missed the zone. Back-to-back walks scored a run, and Aaron Boone called on Dellin Betances to put out the fire.

And the tall righty was up to the task, sort of, because he would strike Jurickson Profar out on four pitches. But Odor danced off third on the 1-1 offering, causing Dellin to flinch for a balk at 3:37 pm; the game was tied, 3-3. Betances would pitch a flawless eighth, but by that time, in yet another reversal, things were looking up.

Once Brett Gardner lined to center to start the bottom of the seventh, one-time Yankee righthander Chris Martin came on. Chris started the 2015 season by pitching well in the Bronx pen, but following an injury, he was ineffective and was released. And he has just this season re-emerged with the Rangers, with a 1-2 record but an era a run lower than the one he posted in pinstripes in ’15.

Martin had the thankless task of facing Stanton, who had homered and walked with a fly out to this point, and Giancarlo singled sharply up the middle. Didi Gregorius lined hard but too high to right center, and emotions in the stands were surging and sagging all at the same time. There was nothing ambiguous, however, about the direction they took when Miguel Andujar homered to right on the next pitch. Hallelujah! 5-3 Yankees. Marshall Dellin set down the Ranngers on 11 pitches; Alex Claudio coaxed three ground outs on just seven tosses, all of them strikes. It was time for the grand finale.

With the game exactly three hours old, Aroldis Chapman started pinch hitter Isaiah Kiner-Falea with a ball at 4:10, and walked him on seven pitches. It’s no secret that Chapman has been struggling to throw strikes of late, and an audible crowd sigh seemed to say, “You’re messin’ with my buzz, dude.” It got better, then worse, then better, then worse. Complicating both the game prospects and the worn-out despairing, then rejoicing, atmosphere, it was now raining in earnest, and the thought of a potential rain delay was a depressing outcome no one wanted to consider.

Aroldis whiffed Choo, but Odor singled to left against the shift. Andrus popped out harmlessly on an 0-2 pitch to Bird at first, one out from victory. Chapman was suddenly dealing, up on Adrian Beltre 1-2, when he hit him with a pitch to load the bases. With the tying run on second, Profar took ball one, and was up 3-1 on the count when the Yankee closer got a called strike, then a swinging one. It was 4:26; the Yanks had won. Following a triumphant cheer, the crowd was slow in heading to the exits. I’m sure we all felt we had played that game rather than just watching it. We were wet and tired enough to have done so.

There is not much else to tell. It continued to pour as we headed out. There were big puddles crossing 161st Street, and the walkway to the train was largely flooded on the left. The Yankees won in 196 scintillating minutes in a pivotal game (aren’t they all?) that seemed to last much longer. Paying fans had received a pack of baseball cards entering, and then got more than they paid for in the game that followed.

Oh, and one more thing. My train home? It left at 5:00 pm.