Tuesday, October 11, 2005

October 11th, "1969"

Orlando Hernandez Born

That's El Duque's story, and he's sticking to it. And he doesn't know anything about that photo of him and Che shaking hands. Today is, officially, Hernandez's thirty-sixth birthday, although some (including BaseballReference.com) would tell you that the next time El Duque takes the hill he'll actually be over the hill, a fact which is probably closer to the truth. But really, who cares? Whatever age he is, as Game Three of the ALDS demonstrated, El Duque can still come through in the clutch, a trick he perfected for the Yankees. A case could be made, actually, that Duque pitched, and pitched brilliantly, the most crucial game of the entire season for the 1998 Yankees, the Greatest Team of All Time: ALCS Game Four.

The Yankees regular season legacy was complete, but without a World Series title, they would be doomed to the 1954 Indians Scrap bin of History (since renamed the "2001 Mariners Scrap bin of History"). The Yankees had swept
Texas in the ALDS and won Game One easily, shelling then-nemesis and now-teammate Jaret Wright for five runs in two-thirds of an inning. However, they would blow Game Two with major help from Chuck Knoblauch's infamous gaffe and Andy Pettitte was ineffective in Game Three. The Yankees were down two games to one and pitching El Duque who hadn't throw an inning in more than two weeks and had never appeared in the post-season.

El Duque was masterful however, pitching seven shutout innings against a
Cleveland team that averaged five and a quarter runs a game. The Yankees' playoff run having been reinvigorated, they wouldn't lose a game the rest of the way, winning the next two from Cleveland and sweeping the Padres in the World Series. El Duque would go on to pitch brilliantly for the Yankees in the playoffs in 1999--he was MVP of the ALCS that year--and with his heroics in Game Three for the White Sox he has now reduced his post-season ERA to a sparkling 2.57.

So Happy Birthday Orlando, however old you are, and thanks for the memories.

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