Whew! That was the most exciting night in baseball I can recall when the Yankees had absolutely nothing at stake.
Completing the Sweep
I predicted it yesterday and it came to pass. The Yankees stuck to the plan and got in the work for everyone they wanted to and shelved the guys they wanted to rest. You might say it’s unfair to the Red Sox, but the Yankees first duty is to get themselves ready for the playoffs and the BoSox have no one to blame for the fact that they’re headed for the golf course but themselves.
The Harder They Fall
Again, I predicted it yesterday and it came to pass. The Red Sox just didn’t have enough left – or rather, Jonathan Papelbon didn’t have enough left after the Orioles worked him over hard on Tuesday night and put on great at bats last night. Again, The Red Sox have no one to blame but themselves – but what else can you say after a 6-20 September?
Be careful What You Wish For
I think it’s an easy bet to pick the Texas Rangers over the Tampa Bay Rays in the first round, but you never know. Tampa has mostly Boston’s ineptitude to thank for their playoff spot (and the Yankees, who were getting their house in order for October), but they might surprise us and take the Rangers down. Assuming the Yankees can navigate Justin Verlander, it could make for an interesting ALCS, bu we’re a long way’s off for that.
Brrr… Justin Verlander in a short series. This is why I wanted the Yankees to face the Rangers in the first round, but here we stand. On the other hand, if the Yankees can win game one, that puts Detroit in a pretty serious hole.
I Bet You Didn’t Know
A.J. Burnett is second to only C.C. Sabathia in team strike out totals with 173. Sabathia had 230 and Bartolo Colon is third with 135, so there is obviously a lot of separation between the Yankees strike out leaders.
Tonight, the American League Wildcard Race could be decided (as could the National League Wildcard Race, but yawn), unless both the Boston Red Sox and the Tampa Bay Rays have the same outcome, but that’s not what I foresee.
After last night’s victory over the Orioles, the Red Sox have to be a bit drained. Tonight, the BoSox are sending Jon Lester to the hill on short rest – I know it’s a must win game for them, but is this really their best option? Given the state of their pitching, it actually is. Also, Jonathan Papelbon threw over 25 pitches last night and although he had Monday off, he also threw a ton of pitches against he Yankees on Sunday. If they need him, how much does he have left? What about Daniel Bard? He also pitched yesterday. The Red Sox inabilty to keep the lowly Baltimore Orioles off the scoreboard is a problem that is bound to bite them in the butt again and although the Red Sox offense produced last night, it’s hard to have any faith in the team that has posted a 6-19 mark this month.
As for the Rays, they’re sitting pretty. The Rays will send power lefty David Price up against the Yankees starting pitcher To Be Decided – not to mention the fact that most position players not named Alex Rodriguez will probably ride the pine, and I don’t expect the Yankees to use any of their key relievers tonight, including Mariano Rivera, David Robertson or Rafael Soriano. Maybe the Yankees will start one of their kids like Dellin Betances and back him up with the likes of Andrew Brackman and Scott Proctor, although I also expect Phil Hughes to make an appearance out of the pen as that’s the role he’ll have in the playoffs. So yeah, I expect Tampa to beat the Scranton Wilkes-Barre Yankees tonight. I mean the New York Yankees… whatever.
The Red Sox are certainly a better team than the Rays, but everything is against the Red Sox tonight while down in Tampa, every possible situation the Rays could ask for is coming to fruition. If you’re a gambler, put some money on Tampa to win.
Phil Hughes missed yet another start due to injury – this time, it’s the back spasms again. The Yankees bullpen put together a superior effort after Hector Noesi’s start – well, I guess Howell didn’t get anyone out but the combination of Valdes, Kontos, Laffey, Wade, Logan, Ayala and Mariano Rivera blanks the Rays completely. Joe Madden probably left Big Game James Shields in the game too long and the 8th inning proved to be his undoing as Eduardo Nunez homered and he lost a hard fought battle with Brett Gardner and then walked Derek Jeter. Robinson Cano made Madden pay for going with JP Howell for a lefty on lefty match up by doubling in the rest of the damage – before that inning, the Yankees only other scoring that the could eek out was a double by A-Rod that plated Derek Jeter. The Yankees are so close to clinching the AL East I can taste it! (It tastes like… victory.)
And since I’m already being weird: Red Sox starter Erik Bedard was served legal papers by a Yankee fan attorney regarding a child support dispute – the mom wants a cost of living increase because Bedard’s salary has gone up since their original agreement. Anyway, the Yankee fan, Tom Cabral, posted about it on Facebook and Yahoo.com didn’t have any problem taking screen grabs of what he wrote – or, what anyone of his Facebook friends wrote. They didn’t even bother to obscure his friends’ names. You can view the torrid tale here. Other stupid crap that’s currently posted on the MLB page at Yahoo includes a video discussion regarding whether or not Mariano Rivera is the greatest closer of all time. Was that ever a question, even before he broke the record? And if no Mo, then who? Trevor Hoffman? Don’t make me laugh.
May was a bit of a roller coaster ride for the Yankees.
The month of May, 2011 began promisingly enough as the Yankees finished off a series win against the Toronto Blue Jays, which finished up the home-stand on a positive note. Then the Yankees went to Detroit and the wheels came off – or maybe I should say the arms came off as they dropped 3 of 4 while we watched Eduardo Nunez through the ball all over the place. But, when the Yankees got to Texas, the bats came out, and we got Derek Jeter‘s mythical 2 home run game, which seems to have quieted the “Derek Jeter is finished,” media machine – at least for now… for some reason, hitting .264 in May is much better than hitting .256 in April – although I must admit, hit at-bats do look a lot better of late.
Then the Yankees came back home and experienced The Home Stand of Tears, dropping 2 of 3 to the Kansas City Royals (current record 24-30) and getting swept by the Boston Red Sox. Wow. Swept by the Boston Red Sox at home. That was a tough one. Yet, despite the rough patch, the Yankees are in first today by one game over the Monsters from Fenway.
Then the Yankees split two games at Tampa Bay (and they really should have won that first game), swept two games from the Baltimore Orioles (two game series are a waste of my time!) and then took two of three from the lowly Mets at home (current record 25-29). The Blue Jays came to Yankees Stadium and this featured another Yankees series win, including a come from behind extra innings win (pie style) that I feel this team desperately needed.
The Yankees flew out to Seattle to face the Mariners and gave up leads to lose the first two games and salvaged the final one before flying to Oakland to take on Hideki Matsui and the A’s, taking the first two games, including a gem by Bartolo Colon, and here we are, at June 1st, waiting for Game 3 to start later today.
So what did we learn this month?
The Yankees can’t bunt. Seriously, enough with the bunting. Nobody on this team is any good at it. The Yankees need to either start working on this in BP or just stop doing it. Last night’s failed suicide squeeze that resulted in Nick Swisher being tagged out in a run down was embarrassing – almost as sad as the fact that Brett Gardner and Derek Jeter can’t bunt; considering they have no power, they both need to add this trait to their game ASAP, or at least stop doing it, but this in between crap needs to stop.
Curtis Granderson is a golden god. Obviously. I was soooooo happy when they traded for him, and although last year was a tough start, my girlfriend very kindly ran out and bought me a Grandy-Man t-shirt in May of 2010, which makes us both look like geniuses now. Unlike Russell Martin, I don’t expect Granderson to slow down.
In praise of Bartolo Colon. Where would we be without this guy and his fastballs? His low pitch counts keep him in games late, giving a bullpen that is teetering on over use a bit of a breather. The Yankees need to protect this guy and give him an extra day’s rest any time they get a chance.
Losing streaks are inevitable. If you saw a lot of the New York papers (cough Post, cough Daily News) insisting that the Yankees blew their chance to bury the Red Sox, I tend to disagree. The Red Sox (not to mention the Rays) struggled early, and the Yankees hadn’t struggled yet. It was bound to happen. It could happen again. It’s a long season and there are many ups and downs.
Derek Jeter isn’t Derek Jeter anymore, but he’s hardly terrible. I don’t have any plans to build a statue to the guy on my front lawn, but I refuse to kill him in print the way so many have done. But then, this is another good example of what happens when you let Randy Levine meddle in negotiations.
Phil Hughes… ugh. Can this guy get through two consecutive seasons without spending major time on the DL? I know he’s still young, but he’s not that young anymore. Is it time to stash Hughes in the bullpen for good? I’m not sure, but given the Yankees appeared shortage of starting pitching, it’s a tough call. If you don’t believe in Freddy Garcia, I can’t blame you, but is Hughes really a better option? I guess we’ll have to wait and see what he has when he comes off the DL.
Take a look at the Yankees June schedule; it’s a tough one. Red Sox, Angels, Rangers, Rockies, Indians… if they’re still in first on July 1st, it’ll be a miracle.
A slow off season just got a little bit less slow as the Yankees finally concluded their negotiations with Andruw Jones to be the fourth outfielder and meanwhile the Rays apparently signed both Johnny Damon and Manny Ramirez.
I’m really happy with Jones as the Yankees fourth outfielder (and I had to give my speculated 2011 roster another update), who will replace Marcus Thames in the roll. Now I love what Thames did with the bat for the Yankees, but lets face it – Thames just can’t field anymore. Jones, on the other hand, is still a good (maybe even great) fielder who can play all three outfield positions and, while he might not be what he once was, can defiantly still hit. Essentially, I think Jones will give a similar offensive performance as we got out of Thames last year while contributing infinitely better offense. It’s win freaking win.
Now as to the Damon and Ramirez signings for the Rays… I’m not sure I understand their thinking. I mean, they signed two outfielders who can’t play the outfield anymore, and they can’t both DH at the same time, right? Sure, they both signed at discounted rates (Damon for $5.2 and Manny for $2 million), but lets face it, it’s because nobody else would sign them for anything higher. Damon does have a home in Tampa, so I can see why Tampa is a natural fit from his perspective, but what is he going to do for Tampa, exactly? I guess he can still run (pinch run?) and sure, both he and Manny will both provide tough at bats, but it seems like they signed two guys for the same position… like each guy represents half a player and when you put them together, they make one serviceable bench piece. I don’t get it. I’d rather have Jones on the Yankees, and I’m glad we do. The one intangible both Damon and Manny bring to the Rays that Jones doesn’t really bring to the Yankees (and they don’t need him to) is name recognition. I wouldn’t be surprised if Damon and Manny put a few extra butts in the seats for the Rays, but nothing crazy. I don’t think this move necessarily hurts the Rays… unless somebody in their outfield gets hurt and they have to start playing one of these knuckleheads out their every day – then it’ll get ugly.
I can’t talk about game 3 until I get game 2 out of my system. The idea that Joe Girardi started Phil Hughes in game 2 of the ALCS becaues he has a 15 1-3 scoreless innings in Arlington streak is ridiculous – he started him there because he decided he’d rather have Andy Pettitte go head to head with Cliff Lee instead of Hughes, and that makes sense – relying on a 15 1-3 scoreless innings streak in an away ballpark that dates back to way back in… uhm what year was that? 2007? – is insane. (Joe Torre was managing the team when Hughes was pitching a perfect game in Texas before he heard a pop in his hamstring that pretty much derailed the rest of his season.) So to all you folks who were pushing that angle as the storyline to this game, you’re idiots. Isn’t a playoff game enough of a storyline for you knuckleheads?
The Yankees lost game 2 because Hughes straight up stunk; he just didn’t give his team a chance to win by virtue of his nonexistent fastball command. And if somebody knows the reason why Jorge Posada would throw through to second base with a runner on third, I’d love to hear it.
Tonight, Andy Pettitte and Cliff Lee will square off. I know everybody has written this game in the books already as a Rangers win (including me), but that’s a bit premature. Andy Pettitte is nearly unbeatable after Yankees loses and the game is at home, after all – and the Yankees have hit Cliff Lee before. But, if they do lose this game, I think the whole world expects CC Sabathia to start game 4 on short rest.
In fact, I feel good about this game tonight and I’m going to reverse myself – I say the Yankees take this one!
Game 1: CC Sabathia vs CJ Wilson
Shock of shocks, I like the Yankees in this one because I believe the odds are in their favor:
- the Yankees are 2-0 on the road so far this post season
- the Rangers are 0-2 at home so far this post season
- CC Sabathia pitched poorly in his first outing and it’s unlikely he’ll pitch poorly again
- C.J. Wilson is good, but he’s not Cliff Lee
Game 2: Phil Hughes vs Colby Lewis
Again, I like the Yankees in this one because I believe the odds are still in their favor:
- the Yankees are 2-0 on the road so far this post season
- the Rangers are 0-2 at home so far this post season
- Phil Hughes pitched well in the ALDS against the Twins, and I don’t think the Rangers offense is that much better than the Twins
- Colby Lewis‘ first name is Colby. Seriously? I assume he spends a lot of time shopping at the Gap during the off season with Jacoby Ellsbery
Game 3: Andy Pettitte vs Cliff Lee
Ah, the plot thickens, as the kids like to say. Given Cliff Lee‘s dominance against the Yankees this season (and against everyone else – ask Tampa Bay), it’s hard to expect the Yankees to suddenly give him a beating. But Andy Pettitte could toss a gem… and still lose. It’s a tough one. I think the Rangers win this one.
Game 4: AJ Burnett vs the World
OK, maybe it’s not that bad, but I can’t expect the Yankees to play with any confidence behind A.J. Burnett, but AJ could surprise us and not get annihilated, but I’ll believe that when I see it. The Rangers take this one, too.
Suddenly it’s tied at 2 games a each. How’d that happen?
Game 5: CC Sabathia vs CJ Wilson
CC pitches his humongous butt off – Yankees win.
Game 6: Phil Hughes vs Colby Lewis
Phil Hughes knocks Colby’s monocle off – the Yankees win.
Yep, Yankees in 6, folks. You heard it here… probably not first. Also, if the Yankees are trailing in the series after the first 3 games, the entire world expects the Yankees to go to Sabathia on short rest – and I’m sure they’ll keep going that way until they win, which will screw them up in the World Series against the Phillies (yeah, the Phillies are winning the NLCS; seems pretty obvious when their opponent couldn’t a run to save their lives), but we’ll cross that bridge when we come to it.
CC Sabathia was not sharp at the beginning of the game, then he retired a zillion batters, and then in the 6th inning, things came unglued a bit. As the home team with a lead and your ace on the hill, Twins fans must have went to bed taring at their pillows, trying to figure out how Ron Gardenhire let victory slip away.
I think any Yankees fan could readily admit that Sabathia was showing some rust after getting extra rest at the end of the season. He hit a batter and struggled to locate all of his pitches, especially the fastball. Can you remember the last time you saw CC walk a runner with the bases loaded? I was surprised Joe Girardi stayed with him after that. Gardenhire had a similar situation and he let Francisco Liriano stay in as well – and it probably cost the Twins the game. Then again, as good as Liriano is, he’s not Sabathia, but then, few are.
Liriano had kind of a Pedro Martinez inning in the 6th: he was dominant the first five innings and he suddenly tired and gave it up. The first time through the order was about perfect besides that walk to Gardner, but the Yankees did better with each look they got off him, until they went boom for four runs in the 6th.
The Yankees bullpen was stellar. Boone Logan almost got out of the 7th, but that trickler just couldn’t be played. David Robertson played fireman and got out of the big situation after a walk (he seemed to be overthrowing a bit and lighting up the radar gun higher than usual), just like he always does. They ought to call that guy Fire Marshall Bill. Kerry Wood pitched pretty well, but with the hit and the walk on base, Girardi had to go to Mo. Even though all six umps convened in the bottom of the 9th about whether or not Greg Golson made the catch on the fly, they still got it wrong and Rivera had to contend with getting 5 outs instead of 4. Why they can’t put an umpire upstairs who can just call the crew chief on his cell phone and tell him they blew the call, I don’t know. It seems like the fastest solution. But Mo was up to the task, and that’s all for that game, folks.
Bad form by A-Rod for not covering 3rd base when Orlando Hudson advanced after Teixeira had to dive to tag fist base on the trickling hit he fielded. Maybe Hudson still would have been safe, but at least there would have been a play. With Rodriguez twiddling him thumbs, there was no chance at all.
I wore my Curtis Granderson t-shirt to work yesterday (the only thing awesome about my office is that there is no dress code), and I’m glad I did. He just missed a homer, but that triple off the wall was the hit of the game – although Mark Teixeira‘s home run was a close second.
What time did the game finally start, 8:45? By the ninth inning, I was totally exhausted. I know that MLB doesn’t want to compete with college and NFL football, but for cryin’ out loud! If there are going to be three games in one day, they’re going to have to do it on a weekend. I would have watched the Rays vs Rangers game, but I couldn’t – because it started at 130 in the damn afternoon! Who the hell got to watch that game, anyway? Richies, retiries, college kids, the unemployed… It’s also a shame that the only playoff series that’s going to be on broadcast television is the NLCS and the World Series. How did MLB let this happen? Oh well – at least I won’t have to endure game recaps intercut with whatever movie FOX has coming out this winter.
Congrats to Roy Halladay on his no hitter. That guy deserves a big win like that after suffering with the Blue Jays for all those years, even if it was against the Reds. ‘Doctober,’ however, is the worst thing I’ve ever heard – well, maybe ‘Roctober’ is just as bad. The Rays might get away with losing the first game of a short series at home, but against a team as good as the Yankees, the Twins won’t be so lucky.
Today, the battle begins! Every game is a must win from here on out. The powerful will emerge victorious, while everyone else will get a seat on the long, shameful plane ride home. Unless you get eliminated at home. In that case, you just clear our your locker and bounce.
YANKEES AT TWINS
Obviously, I’m picking the Yankees to win – in four games. Between the Yankees throwing a three man rotation, two of which will be lefties, I think the Bombers can hold the Twins off the scoreboard. Between that and the absence of a big bat like Morneau, I like the Yankees chances here. I’d also love it if they put a whipping on Carl Pavano in game 2.
RANGERS AT RAYS
I have to go with the Rays in this one – again, in four games. (It’s pretty hard to sweep someone, never mind in a playoff series) I know the Rangers have Cliff Lee and a pen that includes only guys who throw one hundred miles an hour, but the Rangers just haven’t impressed me this year. Even the tight games they played with the Yankees, and the games they won against my boys, didn’t especially impress me. I feel like all those bullpen guys throw pretty straight fastballs, which might be their problem. Or mine.
REDS AT PHILLIES
Phillies in three – I know the Reds have some guy that throws 105 MPH, but the Phillies have a starting rotation that is going to be hard to score on, and the Phillies have serious bats, AL style.
BRAVES AT GIANTS
I think the Braves will steal one, but I have to go with the Giants starting pitching with the home field advantage – this series of the three probably features the biggest home field advantage of any series.
ROUND 2 PREDICTIONS:
YANKEES AT RAYS
I have to pick the Yankees in 6 here – if the Yankees control Evan Longoria, the rest won’t matter as the Rays won’t score – they’re the better team with the better bullpen.
GIANTS AT PHILLIES
Away from their home ballpark, I don’t see the Giants getting it done, and they can’t score runs anywhere. Phillies in five.
WORLD SERIES PREDICTION:
YANKEES AT PHILLIES
That’s right, I’m going repeat, with the same outcome. Yankees in six. Although the Phillies starting pitchers are probably better than the Yankees, the Yankees bullpen is much better than the Phillies, and Joe Girardi isn’t going to let any of his starters get hammered The Yankees have the best lineup in baseball, and their defense is also not to be trifled with.
I think it’s that simple, folks. The Twins are a man down. The Rays can’t score if you control Longoria. The Giants just can’t score. The Rangers are good, but flawed. The Phillies are good, but the Yankees are better.
With 3 games to go on consecutive days, our own New York Yankees are battling it out with the Tampa Bay Rays for first place in the AL East. Too bad they aren’t playing each other.
Both teams have identical records of 94-65. After lackluster Septembers, before which everyone thought both teams could win 100 games, the Yankees and Rays have faltered a bit. The Rays have an ace in the hole; they won the season series with the Yankees, meaning that if they’re still tied after the conclusion of play on Sunday, the Rays will be awarded first place.
I’m not a gambling man, but if I were, my money would be on the Rays.
Yeah, I’m making myself ill, fake betting against the Yankees. However, the facts are simple: the Rays are playing the Kansas City Royals this weekend, while the Yankees get to deal with the Boston Red Sox – not exactly equivalent opponents. However, I do seem to remember the Royals playing the Detroit Tigers in a winner take all series (for the Tigers, not the Royals), and the Tigers blew it. Whether or not this was due to the Royals aptitude for playing spoiler or the Tigers incompetence, I’m not sure, but I thought it was worth mentioning.
Both teams will be lining up their rotations for the playoffs, so it’s not like either team will be bringing it’s ace for a start to win the division, and ailing players or guys who need a rest will probably get one given that both teams have clinched a playoff berth already. How it will all turn out in the end is anybody’s guess, but I’d say the smart money is on Tampa Bay winning the AL East.