Jul 28, 2013; Bronx, NY, USA; New York Yankees former player Hideki Matsui speaks during a press conference before a game between the New York Yankees and the Tampa Bay Rays at Yankee Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

Matsui-Mania: My Yankees Moment


Jul 28, 2013; Bronx, NY, USA; New York Yankees former player Hideki Matsui speaks during a press conference before a game between the New York Yankees and the Tampa Bay Rays at Yankee Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

Jul 28, 2013; Bronx, NY, USA; New York Yankees former player Hideki Matsui speaks during a press conference before a game between the New York Yankees and the Tampa Bay Rays at Yankee Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

They say that you never forget your first New York Yankees game. That statement is ever true for myself. As a 10-year old kid, I knew little about the game of baseball, but what I saw on July 30th, 2005, would cause me to fall in love with the sport forever.

It was an 88-degree day in the Bronx with the sun shining bright – a hot but perfect day to watch a game. On this day, the Yankees took on the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, who came into the game with a record of 60-43, which was six more wins than the Yankees had at the time.

The Yankees, who were short on pitching at the time, sent out the newly acquired Shawn Chacon to make his first ever appearance with the team. The Yankees came under scrutiny at the time, as many people did not see Chacon as a solution to a somewhat weak rotation.

The Angels countered with Paul Byrd, who was more-or-less, an average pitcher.

The Yankees would strike first in the bottom of the second inning when Derek Jeter doubled to left field, driving in both Bernie Williams and Tony Womack.

Chacon would give a run back in the top of the third when a passed ball allowed Chone Figgins to score from third. This would count as an unearned run, and would be the only run that Chacon would give up in the game. He pitched a very solid six innings.

The score would remain 2-1 until the top of the seventh when the Yankee bullpen began to falter. Felix Rodriguez came in to replace Chacon and he walked Jeff DaVanon, the first batter he faced. As quickly as he came in, he was gone after that, replaced by Alan Embree. After an error that would allow DeVanon to score, Embree was taken out with two men left on base. The Yankees brought in Tom Gordon, who was their set-up man at the time. Gordon would allow a couple of hits, and then all of the sudden, the score was 5-3 in favor of the Angels.

In the top of the eighth, with Gordon still on the mound, Juan Rivera would hit a two-run home run off of him, giving the Angels a 7-3 lead, Gordon was quickly replaced after that with Wayne Franklin.

What looked to be a solid Yankees’ win at one point turned in to what could be a very disappointing loss. However, there was one thing about the 2005 team that a lot of people don’t remember – they were very power heavy in the middle of the order.

In the bottom of the eighth, the Yankees began to work at overcoming the deficit. Hideki Matsui would reach base on a single, and then on a 3-1 count, Jason Giambi hit a two-run home run. The score was 7-5, and things were looking up.

However, the Angels, in attempt to win the game brought in one of baseball’s top closers at the time – Francisco Rodriguez. They needed him to get a five-out save.

The Yankees would counter by bringing in their own closer in the top of the ninth – Mariano Rivera. He pitched a scoreless inning to keep the score where it was.

Finally, the bottom of the ninth. People were on the edge of their seats. After a walk to Womack, and a walk to Jeter, the Yankees brought up a young Robinson Cano to pinch-hit… He struck out. There was one out with two on. Rodriguez would then walk Gary Sheffield, and then the bases were loaded for Alex Rodriguez. K-Rod would then walk A-Rod, allowing a run to score. The bases remained loaded after for “Godzilla”.  With his confidence already shaky, it was easy to tell that K-Rod was about to crack.

He did.

On the very first pitch of the at-bat, Matsui took advantage of a mistake-pitch, and lined it into center field for a double. Two runs would score, and the game was over. The Yankees would win 8-7 in a thriller.

Aside from a baby throwing-up on my hat, it was – to this day – the best Yankees game that I have ever been to.

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