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Yankees Rock Red Sox, Gary Allan-Style

July 26, 2008 - John Whittaker

For the News Gal's birthday in May, yours truly surprised her with tickets to see a concert last night in Canandaigua -- Luke Bryant, Sara Evans and Gary Allan (the News Gal's favorite country singer).

In a startling lack of foresight on my part, it also turned out to be the opening game of a big three-game series for the Yankees against the Red Sox in Fenway Park. Since the game wasn't telecast locally, we figured we'd find out who won after the concert. A good plan, but it didn't happen. Sports talk radio would probably have contributed to me falling asleep at the wheel somewhere near Batavia.

After getting home at about 2:20 a.m., I caught a few hours sleep (though not before at least catching the score on the bottom line on ESPN, so I knew the Yankees won before drifting off to sleep) and got up to watch the Yankees Encore on the YESNetwork on Saturday morning. As best I can put it together, here's sort of a running diary of both events -- call it a late night, early morning doubleheader.

Without further ado, it's Sara Evans and Gary Allan, and Joba Chamberlain vs. Josh Beckett. Next on Fox.


3:30 p.m. -- The News Gal and I leave the Media One Group headquarters on Orchard Road to start the trip to Canandaigua -- about 3 hours away for a concert that starts at 7 p.m. The early part of the trip was fine, except for really slow traffic on Route 60 between Jamestown and Fredonia. There has to be a better way to get to the Thruway from Jamestown.

Meanwhile, in Boston, a day after confirming the presence of naked photos of baseball commissioner Bud Selig -- and how else can you explain Hank Steinbrenner broaching Barry Bonds' name as a possible free agent signee -- Brian Cashman is working the omnipresent cell phone on a trade with the Pittsburgh Pirates. More about this later.


6:20 p.m. -- The News Gal and I have made our way through Canandaigua and are about a mile away from the CMAC Amphitheatre when we decide it's time for a quick dinner at the slowest Subway restaurant we've ever been in. It took at least five minutes for the two people ahead of us to get their subs, and another five to make a six-inch turkey and cheese sub for the News Gal and a footlong Buffalo chicken for me. I have a newfound appreciation for our Subways here, where you can walk in, wait through a five-person line, do the Hokey Pokey and a crossword puzzle and still have your sub in less than 10 minutes. Watching them make subs in Canandaigua was a lot like watching me run a 40-yard dash -- PAINFUL!

Meanwhile, Joe Girardi, I'm sure, was talking to Joba Chamberlain in the locker room at this point.

Girardi: Now, Joba, make sure, late in the game, you do something to get the Red Sox attention so they're really annoyed for tomorrow's game, alright? I want them really p___ed off for Saturday's game.

Joba: I've already got something in mind, Skip.

Girardi: Anything I should know about?

Joba: Just watch the seventh inning. You'll know.


7 p.m. -- The News Gal and I park the car and make our way to the amphitheatre. I brought an old camera from work with us, thinking I'd get some nice pictures for the News Gal. I tried for three days to find out if I would be allowed to bring it into the concert - it's a 15-year-old Nikon D-1 that shoots at 2.66 megapixels, shoots no video and has no flash. And, I had a small lense on it. Shooting a Buffalo Bills game, we were not. Point and shoot cameras are allowed inside, professional cameras aren't. We got no response from the people that run the amphitheatre about whether it qualifies as professional use or not - they have no phone number to call and didn't respond to e-mail. I went to the box office in front of the amphitheatre. ààThey'll tell you at the main gate.' I walked past a security guard, who said nothing about the camera (which wasn't in a bag, by the way. I carried it like a football). We walk the half a mile to the front gate to find out I can't take the camera in. So, the News Gal waits for me there while I hoof it the half mile back to the car. I was not impressed, especially when I saw nicer cameras in the amphitheatre that took video, had focusing 8X zoom lenses (so they're not just point and shoot) and probably shot at 6 megapixels. I love the D-1, but calling it professional use at this point is like calling me the second coming of Shaquille O'Neal.

Meanwhile, back in Boston, we're getting ready for the first pitch. It's 75 degrees and cloudy with a 9 mile an hour wind blowing out to right field - which is perfect, since the rightfield porch in Boston is something like 10 feet from home plate. This one could be a slugfest.


7:15 p.m. -- I'm back from the car. I needed the exercise, apparently. We check our tickets and make our way to our seats. Wait a minute -- this isn't what we were expecting. WOW! We're sitting about 20 feet from the stage, two seats from the left aisle. Amazing seats - I DID GOOD. We catch the last few songs of Luke Bryant, the opening act who is surprisingly not too bad. And, to make matters better, the guy sitting next to me is wearing a Yankees hat and Chamberlain jersey. Perhaps there are score updates in my future! And, most importantly, the News Gal looks happy.

It's a scoreless first top half of the first for the Yankees, and even though I know watching the game on Saturday morning that the Yankees won, I'm worried because Beckett looks like he's dealing. I've seen him dominate the Yankees too many times. Where's the Kahlua for my coffee?


8 p.m. -- Sara Evans is about to start her performance. I'm a little apprehensive. Last year, the News Gal and I got free tickets to a Dierks Bentley and Eric Church concert in Erie where the opening act was Miranda Lambert - who royally sucked. All I heard about was how hot she was, and, frankly, I thought she looked like a potential psycho stalker. Then, she's singing songs about killing ex-boyfriends and lighting things on fire. And, to make matters worse, she can't carry a tune in a basket. Eric Church and Dierks Bentley saved that show.

On the plus side, there are no such worries tonight about Sara Evans - her part of the concert is great. And, since we thought she was the final performer, her playing second in the lineup means Gary Allan will play even longer than we thought. The News Gal still looks very happy.

Right about the same time, the Yankees have runners on first and third with Jason Giambi up. This is a bad matchup for The Magnificent Piece of Fur -- if he cheats on Beckett's fastball, he'll get punched out on a curveball or Beckett's change-up. For some reason, the Red Sox, with runners on the corners, are still playing the shift, with Jed Lowrie, the shortstop, playing behind second base. Beckett throws a high cutter, Giambi check swings and … a ground ball to the shortstop, or, better put, where the shortstop would have been had he not been picking daisies behind the second base bag. 1-0 YANKS! Thank you, Terry Francona, for playing the shift with runners on base.

While Beckett has been strong, Chamberlain has been struggling, bailed out in the second inning by a great diving catch by Melky Cabrera in centerfield and a nifty backhand stab by Robinson Cano at second base to start a 4-6-3 double play to end the inning. I just did a fist pump watching a replay of a game. I might need mental help.


8:15 to 9:15 p.m. -- Sara Evans is still performing. Funny moment during the show. After a few upbeat songs, the stage crew brings out three stools, and Sara Evans sits at the one in the middle before calling her two sisters, Leslie and Ashley, both of whom are backup singers in her band, to the front of the stage. She's talking about her childhood, how the girls became close because, until high school, they had to sleep in the same bed. I think I may have just walked into a bad Skinemax movie, because every redneck in the arena is going nuts at the thought of three pre-pubescent girls sleeping in the same bed. Is this what Mary Kate and Ashley Olson have unleashed upon society? Thank God there are really big security guys around the stage. Then, there is a collective groan when Sara mentions that not only is she recently remarried, but her sisters are each married with children. I think it made one guy barf into his cowboy hat.

Meanwhile, a pitchers duel is developing in Boston. To hell with that wind to right field. After early struggles, Joba rights himself - 1-2-3 third, works around a single to David Ortiz (who still scares the hell out of me) and a walk to Lowell in the fourth, a scoreless fifth via a double play, and a 1-2-3 sixth. Beckett, meanwhile, is just as dominating. Have the Yankees found someone to match Beckett in a short series? The magic 8-ball says it's completely possible.


9:40 p.m. -- After Sara Evans finishes, the roadies clear the stage and set up for Gary Allan. The News Gal is either really excited or really has to pee - it's hard to tell which. I don't think she was this excited the night I proposed. She's really, really, really, really, really happy.

On the downside, the intermission music is so loud I think my teeth just came loose. I checked my ears. Yep, blood, from both of them. Lovely! They're playing "I Fought The Law" so loud I think O.J. can hear it on whichever golf course in the continental U.S. where he's searching for the real killer. Thankfully, the sound is mixed a little better when Gary Allan comes up through the stage singing his latest hit, Watchin' Airplanes. I think the News Gal might have passed out a little bit.

This guy rocks.

In Boston, the pitchers' duel continues. Chamberlain is just getting stronger. For a young kid who spent the last half a year in the bullpen, he's holding the velocity on his fastball really well and his slider has great late break.

Word is also filtering down about a trade the Yankees have made -- giving up minor-league outfielder Jose Tabata and minor-league pitchers Ross Ohlendorf, George Kontos and Phil Coke to get Xavier Nady and Damaso Marte from the Pirates. In my posting Thursday, the Whitless Wonder said he was unsure about trading for Nady, a former top prospect who has been traded three times, including by the offensively-challenged San Diego Padres and New York Mets, who are starting Fernando Tatis and Endy Chavez in their outfield right now.

Apparently, Michael Kay read my blog, because he says the Mets didn't really want to trade Nady, but had to give him up to get a righthanded reliever for the stretch run. Nice try, Michael. Players he's ben traded for include: from the Mets for Roberto Hernandez (he was about 109 years old at the time) and Oliver Perez, coming off a 5.75 ERA with Pittsburgh; to the Mets from San Diego EVEN UP for Mike Cameron - who strikes out once for every two plate appearances; and now for a minor league outfielder, a pitcher who tops out in the high 80s with his fastball and hasn't been a consistent winner in the major leagues, one minor league pitcher who could be good (Ohlendorf) and another who looks a lot like Karstens (McCutchen).

Initially, I don't like this trade, only because Kontos and Coke are tearing it up in Double A -- lots of strikeouts, low ERAs, seem to have good control. It also tells me the Yankees have soured on Tabata and are willing to stick it out with Melky Cabrera and live with the ups and downs of developing an outfielder at the major league level. On Saturday, however, Kontos and Coke were taken out of the trade in favor of Jeff Karstens (who won't pitch in our rotation) and minor-league pitcher Dan McCutchen, who sports a 91-92 mile an hour fastball and solid split-finger fastball and curveball. McCutchen is allright, but I like Kontos' and Coke's numbers and potential a little more. I hate losing Ohlendorf, only because I liked his mid-90s fastball/sinker combination.

This trade also tells me Hideki Matsui and Jorge Posada are probably done for the year. I'd like a little more upside from Nady, but he'll do in place of Matsui.


10:15 p.m. -- Gary Allan is still rocking along - he reminds me a lot of a young, country John Mellencamp. Highlights of the show so far - he belted out a song called 'I'm An Alright Guy' that the News Gal hoped he'd play but didn't think he'd do. It was kind of cool because, after about a half-hour of loud guitars and pounding drums, he played Alright Guy with an acoustic guitar, a backup singer and a snare drum. Sweet. He also did an acoustic song, I think it was 'Life Ain't Always Beautiful,' sitting with his legs dangling off the front of the stage. Allan's songwriting reminds me of a lot of singers I like. Needless to say I'm enjoying the show. And, also needless to say, I think the News Gal might have passed out again when Allan walked over to our end of the stage. I should have brought a defribulator to this show.

Seventh inning time in Boston - wonder what Joba's got in store to get under the Red Sox skin. Uh oh - Kevin Youkilis is leading off. These two have an Ike and Tina Turner history - Joba likes to throw up and in to Youkilis, the Greek God of Bad Goatees. After missing with two pitches away, Joba wants to go inside - and throws a high-and-tight 93-mile-an-hour fastball that actually hits Youkilis' bat while it's behind his head. That'll make them happy.

Two thoughts about this. I love the way the Red Sox handled this - Youkilis gets mouthy, then strikes out. After the game, he didn't talk to the press. But, I love Mike Lowell's comments after the game.

"It could be a coincidence, because I really don't think 2-0 in that situation, up 1-0, you want to hit Youkilis. But it's actually four times. Back-to-back pitches in New York [last year] and another one [this year], and then this time. That guy throws hard. If anything, look at the replay, it's going right at his head. You're more concerned. One of them gets him in the head, it could be something very serious. I think that's more the concern than anger or the rivalry or anything like that."

1. I don't know if Joba is throwing at Youkilis, but I do think he's doing something Yankee pitchers have needed to do for about five years -- THROW INSIDE TO THE RED SOX. Manny Ramirez and David Ortiz make their living hitting outside pitches and turning on mediocre inside pitches for home runs. Pitch inside. Back them off the plate. Maybe the pitch shouldn't be that up and in, but, you know what, a pitcher has to work inside.

2. Remember, a few years ago, when the Yankees were rolling along and then Pedro Martinez threw inside to Alfonso Soriano and Derek Jeter, hitting them both in the hand, knocking Soriano out of the lineup and wrecking Jeter for a couple of weeks? If it's alright for Pedro to do it then, it's alright for Joba to throw inside now. Jeter just took his base, like a class act. Youkilis acts like a four-year-old with a skinned knee. Whiner.

I love Lowell's short memory. There's concern because Joba throws inside to Youkilis. There's no concern when Pedro Martinez hits everybody but the batboys and the pace car, but Joba, who has yet to actually hit Youkilis, generates concern. I love this game!

Two games this weekend, both on national television. This is the recipe of something, um, um, just something might work here. Moving on.


11 p.m. -- Gary Allan is wrapping up his show. That guy is fricking unbelievable. I don't know the words to his songs by heart or anything, though I've gotten so I recognize most of his songs when I hear them on the radio. But, live, he's great. Also, his lead guitar player, drummer and piano player are awesome. One of the best live acts I've seen, with unbelievable energy, and I'm sure the News Gal and I will be seeing him again.

After playing his last song, Allan comes back out for an encore, launching into a well-done, rocking version of Breakdown by Tom Petty. As they're wrapping up, the News Gal and I start heading for the exits, figuring the encore is only the two songs, and you can hear the music all the way in the parking lot. He played two more songs, so we heard it all on our way to the car.

After the seventh-inning histrionics (which ended with Joba striking out Lowell and getting J.D. Drew to fly out deep to right) Girardi turns to Kyle Farnsworth, who gets a pop out and gives up an infield hit before Girardi goes to the bullpen again for Mariano Rivera. Wonder if he wants to win this game?

Mo gets a double play to end the eighth, and then all hell breaks loose in the ninth again. After an Ortiz flyout and a Youkilis single, Lowell gets tossed for arguing a called third strike on a perfect tailing fastball on the inside corner. Then, Drew gets called out on an outside fastball to end the game.

All I'll say is, after you get called out on a pitch you didn't agree with earlier in the game, wouldn't you swing at a pitch close? You never put the umpire in a position to be the difference maker. Especially not with Mariano Rivera pitching. He's going to get the benefit of the doubt more often than not.

In all, a great concert and a Yankee Classic that will be shown ad nauseum on the YESNetwork for the Yankees.

For Sara Evans, Gary Allan, Joba Chamberlain and Kevin Youkilis' temper, I'm the Whitless Wonder. You stay classy, Planet Earth.



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