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Sometimes Baseball is a Game of Inches

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    NEWSLETTERS

    You can't go a Sunday in the fall without hearing some announcer tell you that football is a game of inches.

    Baseball has more than its fair share of cliches, but that one has never made the leap to the diamond from the gridiron. That's probably for the best -- again, we've got plenty of cliches to call our own -- but that doesn't mean there isn't a place for it in the national pastime. We learned that in vivid fashion last night.

    You wouldn't think that a game ending with a 12-4 score could turn completely on two throws by outfielders, but that's just pretty much what happened in the Bronx last night. The first came with the score tied at four with two out in the bottom of the fifth inning. Andruw Jones singled to left and Josh Hamilton came up firing to get Alex Rodriguez at the plate.

    The throw was slightly off-line and Rodriguez slid past Yorvit Torrealba to give the Yankees a lead. There's not much more Hamilton or Torrealba could have done as it would have taken a perfect throw and/or plate block to get A-Rod, but the failure to get either led to a crooked number when Derek Holland couldn't get the third out until the Yankees ran themselves into a third out after scoring another run.

    The Rangers had a chance to get back on the board in the top of the sixth. They knocked Ivan Nova out of the game and had two on with two out when Elvis Andrus singled up the middle. Curtis Granderson fielded and make a perfect peg to Francisco Cervelli to complete the first half of the play. The second half was Francisco Cervelli's perfect positioning as he fielded it and allowed Torrealba no access to the dish.

    Just like that the inning was over and Josh Hamilton was left without a chance to put some more runs on the board. You could quibble with sending Torrealba on the play, but it is hard to get too upset about trying to force a perfect defensive play in that spot. Credit the Yankees for coming up with one when it mattered and sigh about the Rangers' inability to do the same an inning earlier.

    With the Rangers bullpen imploding and Holland posting an ugly line, it might seem strange to boil the game down to these two plays. Nova wasn't much better than Holland, though, and he would have been out of that inning with a bad, but less ugly, night if Hamilton's throw was true. And maybe it is the Yankee bullpen that loses control of the game if Torrealba finds his way to the plate in the sixth.

    We know what you're saying. "If ifs and buts were candies and nuts we'd all have a Merry Christmas."

    We also know that doesn't make it any less true.