Phelps was good, but Weaver was even better.
As the Angels front office and a largely pro-Yankee crowd at the Big A French'd the Jeter on Monday night, Weaver put English on the ball and, just like Mexican General Zaragoza at Puebla, reminded an old evil empire what a little Western start-up resistance can do. Say hello to my little arm-y, boys!
And it would be fairly apt to trot out the diminutives when talking about Weaver's arm tonight. Like my Spanglish, "muy poquito", equal parts funky and practical, he spewed largely junk, with his two-seam fastball averaging 85-86 mph most of the night. But his "no seamer" showed more movement than we've seen previously this season, and his offspeed stuff was often on-target, inducing some ugly swings, especially with the 77 mph change he managed to place both high and low in the zone. "Late action" and great satisfaction, through eight wickedly-woven innings.
David Phelps, Yankee swingman, was impressive through five and a third. He gave up only three hits, and his first run didn’t come until the fifth, when the Angels drew first blood on a Howie Kendrick triple and an Ian Stewart groundout. That would be enough to chase the erstwhile New York reliever, 87 pitches in, and leave the Bombers' fate in battle to their generally solid (tied for 3rd in the MLB in pitching WAR) relief crew.
It would take until the top of the seventh before the Yankees would return the favor, but score they did. Jeter led off the seventh with a double down the leftfield line on the first pitch he saw. The crowd went wild, and one would have thought the momentum was all Yankees now. Sure enough, Ellsbury hit a 71 mph curveball to second and advanced Jeter to third. Weaver goes to the full wind-up, and the ever-amusing MLB Gameday Scout drops the best one-liner of the night: "Jered Weaver has thrown 80 pitches but has plenty left in the tank, with his fastball sitting at 86 over the past 10 pitches." Haha, indeed. Next pitch, Weaver leaves a 78 mph changeup up in the zone, and Teixeira doesn't miss it. Linedrive, and Jeter is plated.
But it wouldn't be enough. The Angels wore 'em down down the stretch.
For folks watching in the eighth, it didn't necessarily look like it'd play that way from the start. Weaver looked tired and a wee bit wild in the top of the inning. The Yankees got their leadoff man on in Kelly Johnson immediately with a single to right. Howie tried to make a superman catch, but couldn’t stretch out enough, and one could feel the blame game coming on in its windup phase. Things got worse when Aybar nearly made an amazing play on Brian Roberts, gloved the ball, and then lost it on a circus somersault. Two men on, no outs, and things are looking pretty grim. Then, crap bedone, Ian Stewart blew the bunt retrieval (looking surprised that Ichiro would bunt!), and the bases are suddenly loaded with the old men of the North coming to the plate. I don't mean Robert Redford, but all indeed looked lost at that moment.
But no. Weaver the Elder took the mound, chin up, and with a plan to be had and hatched. After throwing a dazzling array of offspeed muck to the Yanks all evening, Jered threw only fastballs to Brett Gardner (0-for-4 on the evening), topping out at an unprecedented 88 mph, and struck him out on four pitches. Then whaddya know, it's the pre-scripted hero of the night, Sir Derek "Let You Paint Me a Portrait" Jeter, marching up to the plate to bust the game open for the Yanks as any honest Angels fan expected him to. But, as my one-year-old daughter says when she's trying to demonstrate something nifty and ta-da the crowd: "ta-ta!" Goodbye, good sir.
The Yankee captain hits into a double play on the first pitch he sees. The crowd goes wild, for the Angels this time (and for the first time on the night) and so does Weaver, roaring like a lion. A really pottymouthed lion.
And. F*cking. A.
You can light it up, because it really doesn't matter what happened in the bottom of the eighth. The game was won right there.