The lights were on and the music was blaring from the old Yankee Stadium speakers in center-field, as the crowd filed in slowly on this middle-July evening. After tossing warm-ups in the bullpen prior to the game, Jose Contreras made the long walk from the bullpen to the visitor’s bench, to a mild chorus of boo’s as bitter Yankee fans showed that there was very little “love" lost from his underachieving days as a Bronx Bomber. Randy Johnson was next to come out from behind the walls of the Yankee Stadium outfield, and he was treated to gracious cheers from the fans, probably due to The Unit having quality outings (6 IP, 3ER or less) in four of his last five starts. The players from both sides finished stretching and warming up, as they took to the dugout; after the national anthem was played, we would all be ready for baseball.
Randy Johnson took to the mound, and although not all of the crowd had filled the stadium as of yet, the atmosphere seemed to have a bit more juice to it. Johnson pitched well in the first, with the highlight of the inning being the strikeout of Jim Thome. The Yankees then came to the plate and couldn’t muster up any runs themselves. The White Sox struck first with a shot by Joe Crede over the wall, which gave the White Sox a 2-0 lead early on. The Stadium had now become full to the brim, and were just taking their seats as Johnson gave up the bomb; many Yankee fans started to voice their displeasure with Johnson. Randy settled down and wouldn’t give up another run until the 7th inning. The Yankees struck back in the fourth with a bases-loaded single by Jorge Posada, and then a sacrifice fly by Bernie Williams. The game was now tied up at two a piece, heading into the fifth. This game had all the elements of a playoff atmosphere, timely pitching, hitting, and fielding, but unlike playoff games, the time was flying. It must’ve been only 8:00PM or so by the time the game was into the fifth.
Johnson worked a perfect fifth, and the Yankees would now come to the plate in the home half of the inning. Miguel Cairo was the leadoff hitter and he started things off with a triple. The crowd was roaring after every step as the fans knew this could be the deciding run in this pitcher’s duel. So the Yankees had top of the order up with no outs and a runner on third. Johnny Baseball was up at the plate, and he struck out on three pitchers; Jose Contreras made Damon look absolutely silly. D. J. was up next and once again, Contreras had the upper hand on a Yankee, striking him out on four. Ozzie Guillen then made an interesting move, intentionally walking Giambi to pitch to A-Rod. The crowd then rose to its feet and began cheering for Alex Rodriguez; A-Rod quickly went down 1-2 and the dissapointment began to grow. Just as fast as he went down in the count, it was all wasted by Contreras as a curveball slipped out of Contreras’ hand, and hit A-Rod in the head. Jorge Posada came up with the bases-loaded and two outs; the crowd was roaring and cheers of “Hip, Hip Jorge!" rained down from the upper decks of the Stadium. Posada grounded out to Juan Uribe and ended the threat.
The Yankees would take the lead in the home half of the sixth with a lead-off homer by Aaron Guiel, to make the score 3-2. The Sox struck back with a run in the seventh, with a sac. fly off the bat of Juan Uribe to Melky Cabrera. The game would be 3-3 heading into the bottom of the 7th. The crowd rose for the singing of “God Bless America", as little did the fans in the bleachers know, that they would not be sitting at all again for the rest of the game. Damon, Jeter, Giambi did nothing in the seventh for the Yankees, who would now have to bring in Farnsworth for the eighth, who worked a surprisingly perfect inning for the Yankees.
(story continued in “Friday Night Lights: Part II")
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