Billy-Ball Daily: 2006-5-17

5/17/2006
Billy-Ball Daily
Bill Chuck (Billy-Ball his own self)

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Coming tomorrow – your “Game of Shadows” winner

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Top of the 1st
WELLS WAS PERFECT
“To pitch a perfect game wearing pinstripes at Yankee Stadium, it’s unbelievable. Growing up a Yankee fan, to come out here and make history, it really is a dream come true.” David Wells

Anybody who has ever read anything about David Wells knows that he is far from perfect. Yet on this date in 1998, just three days shy of his 35th birthday, facing the Minnesota Twins, Wells achieved perfection.

There was a crowd of 49,820 at Yankee Stadium that day, most looking forward to receiving a free Beanie Baby, however the ended up seeing the 13th perfect game in modern major league history as the Yankees beat the Twins 4-0. The last perfect game at Yankee Stadium had been thrown by Don Larsen. Larsen and Wells both attended Point Loma High School in San Diego.

Wells struck out 11 and was dominant. The Yankees fielders made no exceptionally tough plays. Bernie Williams had three hits including a home run. Wells (5-1) went to a three-ball count on four batters, coming back from a 3-0 on Matt Lawton in the 4th. ”I had a pretty good at-bat working,” the 21-year veteran recounted. ”I laid off some close pitches. We got to 3-1. I was taking because we were down, 2-0, at the time. I was trying not to concern myself with the no-hitter. I figured if I got on base, we’d get the tying run to the plate.”

Wells had thrown two curveballs and two fastballs in getting to 3-1. On the fifth pitch, Molitor said, ”he painted me a good fastball away.” Tim McClelland, the plate umpire, called the pitch strike two even though Molitor said it was ”very similar” to the third pitch Wells had thrown him, which McClelland called a ball.

But now it was 3-2, and Wells had another chance to give up his perfection. ”He came back with another pitch out there that might have been borderline,” Molitor said. But Molitor was taking no chances. He swung at the fastball, but missed. ”I didn’t want to take a pitch that was that close,” he said. ”I don’t think anybody wanted to take anything too close with two strikes today. He certainly had an aggressively umpired game. I’m certain the way the game was going, it would have been difficult for him not to call a strike.”

Harvey Frommer writes that between innings, Wells sat next to David Cone (who would pitch a perfect game 14 months later) who was a calming influence. “In the seventh inning, Cone told him: “It is time to break out the knuckleball,” Wells laughed, a big if nervous one. “I started getting really nervous,” Wells recalled. “I knew what was going on, I was hoping the fans would kind of shush a little bit. They were making me nervous.”

The Twins made it easy in the 9th. Rookie Jon Shave flew out to Paul O’Neill in right. Javier Valentin struck out. And moments after Pat Meares popped a fly to right that O’Neill caught. Wells pumped his left fist twice at the ground and he was swarmed by his teammates and was carried off the field. ”This is great, Jorge, this is great,” he yelled to catcher Jorge Posada, over and over.

”We let some fastballs go, we chased some curveballs in the dirt,” an admiring Manager Tom Kelly said. ”To pitch a perfect game, you have to have the pitches working. It’s not by accident. We were trying to get an icebreaker, something to get us going, a little hit here or there. But he was ahead of the count mostly on everybody. We were cheering and rooting for each other, but nothing good happened.”

Kelly said he didn’t see Wells getting any help from umpire McClelland. ”He worked for it,” Kelly said. ”This guy has the charisma for something like this. He doesn’t have the most picturesque frame to look at, he’s left-handed, his shirt’s half open. Give the guy an awful lot of credit.”

For the record, MSG Network announcers Jim Kaat and Ken Singleton from the 6th inning on, uttered the words ”perfect,” ”perfect game” or ”no-hitter” 28 times. Five times in the 8th and 9th innings, a camera zoomed in on the outfield scoreboard to show the Twins’ 0-0-0 line. Twenty times while the Yankees were at bat in the 7th and 8th innings, the camera found Wells in the dugout.

Bob Wolff, who called the last four and a half innings of Don Larsen’s World Series perfect game in 1956, backed the decision by MSG Network’s Ken Singleton and Jim Kaat to speak openly about the perfect game, and not hide behind language. Wolff recalled the reaction to Red Barber’s letting the obvious cat out of the bag during a no-hitter. ”A cascade of mail came in criticizing him, but he said he was being an honest reporter,” Wolff said. For the Larsen game, Wolff used his language carefully, conveying what was happening without saying the magic words.

”I watched the last three innings, and I was excited as if I were calling it myself,” Wolff said. ”In both cases, all of a sudden, you see a pitcher in so much command, he makes it look easy. Larsen had a lot of easy ground balls and one tough flyout to Mantle. Wells was just breezing along, like Larsen.” ”When I was watching Wells, I wasn’t so concerned about him losing the no-hitter as I was about the perfect game. When he got behind a few hitters, I was hoping he wouldn’t be so fine and walk anybody.”

It was to be a magical season for Wells and the Yankees. Wells ended up setting an American League-record 38 consecutive outs over three games. Wells went 18-4, including going 11-1 at home, with a 3.49 ERA and through five shutouts as the Yankees won a league record 114 wins. Wells was perfect in the post-season going 4-0 as the Yanks won the World Series.

Wells wrote in his autobiography that he was half-drunk for this game, but later amended it to “hung-over”. He misquoted himself.

Billy Crystal walked into the clubhouse after the game, walked over to the ecstatic Wells and asked: “I got here late, what happened?”

After he emerged from the dugout to acknowledge one last and long salute from the crowd, a phone call awaited him. Don Larsen was on the line.

Larsen said: ”He won’t forget it. He’ll think about it every day of his life, just like I do.”

Wells threw 82 pitches in a simulated game yesterday. Barring any complications, he will have a rehabilitation start Sunday for Triple-A Pawtucket and pitch on May 26 versus Tampa Bay.

Check out the boxscore to Wells’ Perfect Game – http://billy-ball.com/documents/DavidWellsPerfectGame.pdf

Coming tomorrow, we celebrate the anniversary of Randy Johnson’s Perfect game

Top of the 2nd
THESE STARTERS WERE FAR FROM PERFECT
Curt Schilling was the winning pitcher in Boston’s 13th straight victory over the Baltimore Orioles. Schilling earned his sixth win despite giving up three home runs in the 6-5 victory. Schilling (6-2) allowed five runs and nine hits in 5 2/3 innings. On the side of the field, Baltimore starter Bruce Chen gave up four runs, five hits and two walks in four innings. The two homers he allowed raised his season total to 13 in only 35 innings. Batters are hitting Chen at a .351 clip and he is winless in eight starts with an 8.23 ERA.

Then there are the starters in New York’s remarkable 14-13 victory over the Texas Rangers last night. Yankee starter Shawn Chacon was chased after getting only four outs, giving up a season-high eight runs, seven earned, and six hits before being booed off the mound. Handed a 9-0 lead in the 2nd, John Koronka failed to last five innings for Texas. He lasted 4.2 giving up 5 runs on 8 hits.

Wandy Rodriguez, of the Astros, made his first career start against the Giants memorable; he was done after 3 2/3 innings. Rodriguez gave 11 runs, 6 earned on 10 hits as the Giants defeated the Astros, 14-3.

The Mariners’ phenom, Felix Hernandez (2-5) gave up career-highs of 10 runs, five earned, and 11 hits in four innings as the A’s defeated Seattle, 12-6. It was his shortest outing of the season for Hernandez and his second-shortest in 20 career starts.

Brandon McCarty gave up three Tampa Bay runs in just four innings of work but reliever Boone Logan gave up five, four earned in just and 1.2 innings as the devil Rays defeated the White Sox 10-7. Rays starter Scott Kazmir (why can’t the Mets get pitchers like him?) left with 10-1 lead after 7 innings. The 22-year-old Kazmir became the youngest AL pitcher with six wins on May 16 since Oakland’s Vida Blue in 1971.

Reds starter Aaron Harang gave up seven runs, three earned, in 4.1 innings as Pittsburgh beat Cincy, 9-3.

Top of the 3rd
WALK-OFFS
The Yankees won on a two-out, two-run walk-off homer by Jorge Posada. Matching the biggest comeback in Yankees history, the Yankees overcame a nine-run deficit for the fourth time in their history. The last time was a 12-11 win in 10 innings against the rival Red Sox on June 26, 1987. Boston’s starting pitcher in that one was Roger Clemens.

The pitiful Kansas City Royals led 4-3 heading into the bottom of the 9th inning, but Grady Sizemore tied the game with a home run and, three batters later, Travis Hafner won it for Cleveland with a two-run blast. It was the first time in the major leagues this season that a team had a game-tying and a game-ending home run in the final inning. One team did it last year: the Reds (Adam Dunn and Joe Randa) on Opening Day against the Mets.

Top of the 4th
STATS DU JOUR
The Angels have a 4.23 ERA through 38 games. Last year with Bengie Molina starting 100 games, they finished with a 3.68 mark, the team’s lowest in 16 years.

Ryan Drese, currently on the Nationals’ disabled list, has not given up more than one home run in his last 48 starts, the longest streak in the majors.

Barry B*nds was hit by a pitch for the 97th time in his major-league career, the second-highest total for any of the 20 members of the 500 Home Run Club. The top three: Frank Robinson (198), Bonds (97) and Reggie Jackson (96).

Highest Pct. Of Total 2006 Losses That Were Blown Leads
Team Pct.
New York Yankees .714 (10 of 14)
Tampa Bay Devil Rays .609 (14 of 23)
Atlanta Braves .600 (12 of 20)
Texas Rangers .588 (10 of 17)
Chicago White Sox .583 (7 of 12)

Top of the 6th
YANKEE PAINS
The Yankees are without corner outfielders Hideki Matsui and Gary Sheffield and centerfielder Johnny Damon has a chipped bone in his right foot. Damon chipped the bone on April 18 when he crashed into the wall in Toronto. X-rays revealed nothing more than a bruise. He re-injured it last Wednesday, though, robbing Boston’s Doug Mirabelli of an extra-base hit by crashing into the Yankee Stadium wall.

Shawn Chacon was rocked last night by the Rangers but didn’t blame his badly bruised left shin as the reason. “No, what affected me was I hit too many [bat] barrels tonight,” Chacon said. “He is banged up,” Jorge Posada said of his batterymate. “He has a bad bruise on his shin and is not able to land the way he wants to.”

Gary Sheffield will eligible to come off the DL and play Sunday night at Shea Stadium, but probably wont. “I don’t think he will be back by Sunday,” Joe Torre said.

Yankees slugger Jason Giambi was not in the starting lineup last night because of his strained neck.Giambi is considered day-to-day and should not miss much time with this injury, which was suffered on Monday. Andy Phillips was the Yankees designated hitter.

Since Carl Pavano experienced stiffness in the biceps after throwing 63 pitches Friday night in his second rehab start, Torre figures the right-hander needs one more outing after tonight’s game for Trenton (Double-A).

Tanyon Sturtze will be examined by Dr. James Andrews in Birmingham today. An MRI of Sturtze’s right shoulder, taken Monday, uncovered a small tear in the rotator cuff. Surgery is likely and could end the 35-year-old’s career.

Top of the 7th
BILLY-BALL-A-GRAM – 5/16/2006
Happy birthday to the first Dominican to play in the majors.
LIZZIE VIGOR

BILLY-BALL-TRIVIA – 5/16/2006
Who holds the record for most home runs in a decade?
Send your answers to Bill@billy-ball.com

Bottom of the 7th
BILLY-BALL-A-GRAM ANSWER – 5/16/06
Happy birthday, Billy-Ball.
My brilliant – Billy Martin

BILLY-BALL-TRIVIA-ANSWER – 5/16/06
Who holds the record for most home runs by three brothers?
Joe DiMaggio, 361, Vince 125, Dom 87 for a total of 573

Top of the 8th
DID YOU KNOW?
The Phillies are one of five National League franchises with at least 1,000 all-time victories against the Reds. The others are the Cubs, the Dodgers, the Cardinals and the Giants.

Top of the 9th
WHY WE LOVE JAKE PEAVY
For his first pitch last Saturday to Chicago Cubs leadoff man Juan Pierre, San Diego right-hander Jake Peavy went to a double-pump windup reminiscent of Negro Leagues star Satchel Paige, who was no longer playing in 1981, when Peavy was born. It was Peavy’s way of saluting the Negro Leagues, which the Padres were doing that night, and which the Hall of Fame is doing this July. Peavy said, “It just seemed like the right thing to do. We were wearing old-style uniforms. And Satchel Paige is a Mobile (Ala.) guy like me. I just wanted to say, ‘I know what you guys did and who you are.'”

Bottom of the 9th
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Information provided in Billy-Ball has been gathered from A.P. reports, espn.com, sportsline.com, mlb.com and numerous other e-sources. Opinions expressed in Billy-Ball are obviously solely the opinions of the author of Billy-Ball and do not reflect those of source material no matter how off the wall they may be.