TAMPA, Fla., March 8 — Robin Trower, turning 58 on March 9, played guitar for Procul Harum on the rock anthem alluded to in this column’s title, and I thought of the song, and our pallid expressions upon our arrival in Florida, as we left our last game today. Glistening from the sweat and the sun, and basking in the glory of an end-of-week victory that rescued us from a losing trip, Sue and I braved a traffic jam caused by a concert ushering Spring Break into Clearwater, and made for the Tiki Bar. The soft sand, a mild Gulf breeze, and high but dark clouds shepherded the sun through our last spring 2003 Florida sunset as gulls swooped overhead and a lizard huddled in the corner.
The Yanks beat the Pirates 7-4 at Legends Field today, a hot, humid day under a threatening, but ultimately sunny sky. We fell behind 1-0 in the second on the second of two Ventura errors at third, but took the lead 3-1 on a rally started by Robin and capped, strangely, by Enrique Wilson’s two-run homer to right. Brian Giles had doubled deep to right center in the first, and if he was being showcased leading up to a potential trade to the Yankees, he did not disappoint. Andy Pettitte needed only 29 pitches during the first two innings despite the long double, two miscues and a walk. But he walked Giles (who would line hard to third his next time up) on four pitches with one out in the third, and had thrown 31 third-inning pitches by the time he was removed after getting only two outs along with three walks, two hits, and two runs. Thankfully, the impeccable Mariano came on to whiff Pokey Reese.
Andy’s tough third was the exception today, as Mo blew through the fourth, and Randy Choate had a nice outing despite a leadoff walk (after five fouls) in the fifth and a lead-off, first-pitch homer by Craig Wilson in the sixth. Two scratch infield singles followed, but the first was a bad call at first and Jack Wilson reached on the second only because it was hit too softly for anyone to make a play. Better still, young Chien-Ming Wang got some retribution for his seven-run one-plus-inning outing against the Jays Monday with a one-walk (again, after three fouls) seventh inning, and young lefty Danny Borrell blew through the eighth while surrendering a harmless single.
And it was a good thing the pitchers were dealing, because Pirate pitching retired 10 of 11 through the fifth following Enrique’s homer. But then Brian Meadows walked Bernie on four pitches leading off the sixth, and pinch-running Chris Latham stole second on the second pitch. If Hideki Matsui is confirming some doubts about his outfield play and running speed, he has been stepping up to the plate, so to speak, as an rbi guy too, and he tied it two pitches later with a single up the middle. It was nice, but irrelevant, that a wild pitch and Jorge’s right side grounder got Hideki to third as the go-ahead run with one out, because Robin obviously felt the two errors called for more vindication. He parked the 0-2 pitch with the infield in into a small pond over the right field fence for a 6-4 lead.
Chris Latham continued his effective play and homered to lead off our seventh, which, though it proved unnecessary, was comforting when Juan Acevedo walked the leadoff guy in the ninth (on four pitches!) and Wilson made an uncharacteristically bad choice in trying for a flashy force. His error brought the tying run to the plate and the attention of the shrinking crowd back to the game. Acevedo, whose pitching, along with that of Osuna, is critical with the worrisome shoulder condition of Steve Karsay, then finished strongly with a pair of punch-outs sandwiched around a flyout.
In truth we saw the Yanks go 2-3, and two of the three losses were ugly. But we got a huge kick (and some nice pictures — click yesterday’s report at the bottom of this column) out of seeing el duque pitch to the Phils, and we’re listing that Expo win in our win column. I know you’ve heard it everywhere, but it is only March, and early March at that. Some injuries are worrying, and Wells and Contreras have yet to show much. But Moose has been OK, and Roger and Mariano overpowering. Godzilla’s for real, Bernie looked good today, and Nick lined hard foul before being called out on strikes twice and he singled hard and walked. The Pirate pitchers jammed him all day, and he got around on the pitches he judged to be strikes, with authority. I didn’t see his two for four yesterday, but reports of his demise were obviously premature. Robin’s day ended well, and Jorge continues to hit well, throw well enough, and not stop balls as well as he should.
We’re going to be OK.