Ohhhhh, those mid-week extra-inning games that so mess up the next day . . .
By which I mean the Astros over the Rockies in 11, Tejada's walk-off.
(Which does raise a point. Again, folks, let new Yankee Stadium settle. This happens with parks. When "Enron Field" opened in 2000, balls flew out for the first season. Last night, in 11 innings, the 'Stros and Rockies combined for five runs, one of them a solo homer. The last name of the Houston starter was Paulino.)
All night, to relieve the tension/boredom, I could look over and see the Yankees pile the runs on the mechanical scoreboard. Seven runs in one inning? Surely a Texiera slammy.
A baseball season is a game in macro-cosm. It is tempting to give everything, in retrospect, an air of inevitability. As the Astros trailed for six of the first nine innings, not only piling up men left on base but men left on base from insane situations, everybody was on the same page: They're blowing it. First inning, first and third, nobody out, with Pence, then Lee, then Puma due up. result: Zero runs. That sort of thing.
In the end, though, you'd say that though the Astros had squandered their opportunities the Rockies had let them hang around. Well, I saw it coming, dummy.
The game of "I knew it right then" is easy to play, so long as you play it after the final score.
I'm saying this because should the Yankees have a successful season (and at this moment nothing less than the World Series would define "success") this will be one of the games we look back on, when the team really started to come together.
This bring us back to Tex. Like the O'Neill/Tino/Scottie bunch who came over to the Yankees in the mid-nineties, a Yankee fan finds out about a new player a day, a game, an at-bat at the time. I had known something about Tex from watching him play maybe ten games a year. Hit, field, power, average--not much else.
When I got a look at him in pinstripes I (along with five million others, I'll wager), took him in. Heighth, build, facial expression--I'll be honest, I put him in the Kyle Farnsworth/Lou Piniella School of Red-Ass.
Well, not so fast. With his military upbringing (didn't known that), his fanaticism for a sharp-looking uniform (didn't know that), and his own personal code of conduct (he has, for instance, vowed never, ever to charge the mound), what we have here is a different cat than what I'd thought.
Tex was the catalyst for last night's big inning. But, as everyone not at the Astros' game knew, not the way you might have thought.
There's a little Pudge Fisk in this guy, a sense of how the game should be played. Right way, wrong way. (Pudge, you may recall, once screamed at Deion Sanders for not running out a pop-up . . . and this was when Sanders was playing for the opposing team, for God's sake.)
Asked about Padilla's headhunting, Texiera gave an answer that revealed something about him: his concern was not merely the danger aspect of a beanball, but how antithetical it is to the best notions of the game. He objected to the way Padilla played when they were teammates, and not just because Padilla's style made his better-hitting teammates (including, of course, Texiera) vulnerable. Anyone who has watched or played baseball knows the line between protecting the plate and attempting to injure someone--it's subtle, but it's there. And Texiera knows it, and suspects Padilla does, too.
So Padilla did what he did, twice, and Texiera did what he did, taking out the shortstop on a rough slide. A double-play was averted, the Yanks scored seven runs in the inning, and down went the Rangers.
Does this portend great things?
Since real life isn't fiction, we will only know in retrospect.
Last night at Minute Maid, so many fans had given up in the seventh, eighth, and ninth (they'd seen this story play out too many times already this season), only a few thousand remained to the end. I thought they were going to ask Astro-Girl and me to hit the lights and lock up when we left. Instead I was able to high-five an usher as we left and shout those magical five words: "Had 'em all the way."