In three words, David Robertson perfectly described life in Yankee Stadium when you earn your living throwing the baseball and not hitting it, when you are guarding against the short porch in right field and not taking aim at it.
“It stinks, yeah,” Robertson said.
Maybe 30 minutes earlier, in the 11th inning of a 3-3 game against Atlanta, Robertson had hoped to bury an 84-mph knuckle-curveball at the feet of Ronald Acuna Jr., the gifted left fielder for the Braves. It didn’t dive on command, hung up a little in the strike zone, and Acuna put a good swing on it.
If he’d put a great swing on it, the righty-swinging Acuna might have pulled a blast to left field that might’ve traveled about 390 feet or so and still landed softly and easily in Brett Gardner’s glove. But this is Yankee Stadium. And so the fact he was a little late with the swing meant the ball was heading the other way.
The wrong way, if you’re a pitcher like David Robertson.
“When he hit it,” Robertson would say, “I thought it was an out.”
So did Aaron Judge, who was drifting back to the right-field fence, right by the auxiliary scoreboard and an advertisement for Pepsi.
Judge, of course, spends most of his time on the other side of the Yankee Stadium velvet rope. In the first inning, in fact, he had lofted a ball about 325 feet deep and about 50 feet to the right of where he was sprinting toward now. It landed in the first row. Such is the boon of hitting here for a living.
And such is the peril if you don’t.
“I thought I had a good chance at it,” Judge said.
Funny thing? The folks in the outfield seats did just as you would expect from a cluster of Yankees fans: they stayed away. They saw it drifting toward them, and saw Judge drifting too, and they know he is 6-foot-7 with a reach that could bring a ball back from the wrong side of the 8-foot fence to the right side, with some hops that could help the task at hand.
So Judge didn’t have to worry about other mitts getting in his way. And here’s another funny thing: The Yankees have been winning so many games in so many ways, two out of every three they’d played heading into this one, in fact, so there was actually a buzz of expectation as the ball began to descend toward the Pepsi sign, toward Judge’s glove, toward what all that remained of the 43,792 surely believed would be one more signature moment in a season already bearing the look of a petition.
The Yankees had squandered a bases-loaded, one-out opportunity to end the game in the 10th? Braves lefty Jesse Biddle had struck out Greg Bird and Austin Romine to strand the winning run at third? This isn’t Queens, where bad omens seem to lurk around every turn. This is the Bronx. This is 2018. Good things happen here, even when bad things get in the way.
“I thought he had a pretty good bead on it,” manager Aaron Boone said. “I know he looked like he had a chance at it the whole way.”
Robertson: “I just wished it would’ve stopped drifting.”
Judge has made this play before. He’ll make it again. This time, as he started to hop, he found he was a little too close to the wall so his back collided with the fence ever so slightly. And that was enough. The ball ticked off the top of his glove, bounced over the fence, then bounced back.
Acuna punched the air with his fist.
Robertson would have liked to punch something else.
“It’s a short porch,” Robertson said. “He’s a strong kid. It just happens.”
That homer made it 5-3, Braves. It ended 5-3, Braves. In Washington, the Red Sox won because Rick Porcello struck a blow for DH-haters everywhere by hitting a three-run double off Max Scherzer, of all people, so they’re back in first place.
The Red Sox have already lost games this year because someone in the wrong uniform lost a ball over The Wall at Fenway. It’s called home-field advantage, after all, not home-field assurance. This time it bit the Yankees. This time it bit Robertson.
“There’s no other words,” Robertson said, before finding one other word: “It sucks.”
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