I Can Stay Away No Longer

In late July I was growing tired of MLBlogs.  Feeling pressed to post every day was getting old.  So I took some time off. I went on vacation for two weeks.  A new semester started. My best friend got married. The Yankees have been kicking ***.  Let’s look back to those bygone days when I was posting at least once a day: A-Rod had a mere 35 homeruns.  The Yankees trailed by 6.5 games.  Their chances of making the postseason sat at a dismal 30%.

Now, however, the date is September 19 and much has changed for the Yankees.  You know all of the changes, so let’s get right to the good stuff:

1 1/2 games.

That should really be all I need to say, but given my extended hiatus, I think I should say more.  A sweep of the Orioles is nice.  It’s even better to see the boys win a close one.  the offense had a predictable off night after blasting 12 runs last night.  But the pitching continued to be superb, especially Andy Pettitte, who threw 7 2/3 of 1-run ball.  And Mo was his usual self, pretending that he was a little shaky and then getting the job done when the chips were down.  I bet he goes home and watches Yankees Encore and laughs at all of the nervous-looking people they show in the stands.  I bet he has that kind of sick sense of humor.

Speaking of awesome pitching, I haven’t had a chance to say Joba is awesome.  Joba is FREAKING awesome.  I love the kid. I love his energy, his fist pumping, the hysterical look he gets on his face when celebrating a homerun.  Absolutely love the kid.  I haven’t been this excited about a new guy since I watched Derek Jeter on opening day in 1996.  Yes, I’m more excited about Joba than even My Boy Melky!  I’ve requested a Joba Jersey as a present.  And I don’t like jerseys.

Another change since I last posted is the Yankee control of the wild card.  After tonight’s win, the Yanks hold a 5 1/2 game lead.  With just 10 games to play, I would think that the lead is pretty secure.  There’s almost no doubt that the Yankees are on their way to the postseason once again.

Since I’ve mentioned the playoffs…after watching baseball for quite some time, and paying close attention to both New York and Boston in recent weeks, I have to say that the Boston Red Sox don’t have much of a chance in 7 (or 5, for that matter) game series against a top notch team like LAACADERF, Cleveland, or New York. 

Reason number 1: The Red Sox offense is somewhere between inconsistent and nonexistant.  They can blame it on Manny’s absence or whatever all they want, but it’s been that way for quite some time.  There was a small surge in late August/early september, but other than that it hasn’t been reliable since the end of May. 

Reason number 2: Also unreliable since late May is Red Sox starting pitching.  Schilling has been in and out with injuries.  Matsuzaka, suspect early on, has become downright unpredictable.  Josh Beckett, fully deserving of the AL Cy Young Award, has been their only consistent starter.  He’s actually been better in the second half than he was in the first.  But as the Yankees have shown in the past (last year) you don’t win much with only one solid starting pitcher. 

Reason number 3: Do the Red Sox even have a bullpen anymore?  Gagne certainly doesn’t count.  Okajima is currently being "rested"…probably because his arm has pretty much fallen off and has been pitching horribly.  Applebottom is still alright…although he’s blown two games against the Yankees and gave up the Grand Slam tonight.  Is he also showing signs of wear (again)?  even if his struggles are a fluke, if Gagne and Okajima can’t get the ball to him it doesn’t matter.

Reason number 4: The Red Sox, despite their record, are an average baseball team.  And, as is their custom, they are choking down the stretch.  I’ve seen comments elsewhere that say the Red Sox aren’t choking, the Yankees are simply playing insane baseball.  to some extent that’s true…the Yankees are unbelievably hot right now.  But…for a team that was the next coming of the 1998 Yankees in May, I’d say they’ve choked.  But, then again, if an average baseball team plays average are they actually choking? or just being themselves?  Since May 30th, the Red Sox are 54-48.  that’s a .529 winning percentage.  Pretty darn average if you ask me.  That’s not Manny’s "injury."  That’s not a minor slump.  That has nothing to do with the Yankees playing so well.  That’s mediocrity plain and simple.  As a comparison, a team playing close to that level for the whole season thus far: the Colorado Rockies (.526).  And they’re barely still in the race for the NL Wild Card. 

Now, finally for tonight, remember the Yankees playoff chances that were at 30% on July 25?  Those chances now stand at 99.61%.


Inching Closer

I’m still divided about who I should be rooting for in the Red Sox-Indians series.  But after tonight, I’m really leaning towards the Indians.  It’s good I finally picked a team since there’s only one game left.  Back when the Yankees were leading just 2-0 I found myself cheering for the Indians when I would switch the game over.  In the end it doesn’t matter….as long as the Yankees keep winning, good things will happen.  Like gaining two games in the Wild Card and inching one step closer to that division lead.

After tonight’s 7-1 victory, the Yankees now trail Boston by 6.5 games.  That’s still not a neligible deficit….but the Yankees have now made up a full 8 games in the standings since May 30.  6.5 games with 8 weeks to go is not insurmountable.  I’m not even sure the last time the Yankees were this close to the Red Sox.  The most recent time I know for sure was following the Yankees’ 7-game losing streak that began with the blowing of the 6-2 lead in Boston.  They were 8-13 at that point (it was April 27).  It’s possible they’ve been closer since then, but I don’t want to look at the standins for everyday.  Whenever the last time was, it was too long ago.

The Yankees won their 6th straight in style.  I was sure they were going to have a down offensive evening but eke out a win.  Something that would be perfect…an off night with a good result.  Instead, the boys really came alive near the end, including A-Roddasaurus’s 35th homerun, 499th homerun, and his 102nd RBI.  Alex now has 102 RBIs in exactly 100 games, putting him on pace for around 165.  That’s 19 shy of Gehri’s AL record and way short of Hack Wilson’s 191.  But it’ll be a threat and he’s bound to be the closest to the numbers since Manny Ramirez in 1999.

I mentioned the other day that the mathematical experts are putting the Yankee chances of making the playoffs at around 20% for the wild card, 5% for the division.  But I also think that each game gained increases those chances, especially gaining games with 2 months to go in the season.  Well, at the start of play Wednesday, the Yankees chances of winning the Wild Card, according to Baseball Prospectus have increased to 26% and their overall chance of making the playoffs stands at 30%.  That’s after gaining two games in the WC standings.  So it looks like, at this point, each game gained in the standings increases their chances by 3%.  That’s not too shabby.  Of course, I’m not a mathematician, that’s my ignorant interpretation of the numbers.  Other methods (available at the link above) put the Yankee chances as higher.

Tomorrow the Yankees look to gain another game in the standings of some race with their 7th straight victory.  It’ll be nice to see a sweep.  It’s kid of surprising that given the Yankees stupendous July so far that there hasn’t been a single series sweep.  I want to see  Beth’s crazy Steinbrenner!

Let’s Gooooo 6!

If Mike Mussina can pitch the Yankees to victory tonight, it will be their 6th straight win and their sixth straight series victory.  It will also guarantee that they keep up their .750 pace at least through Kansas City.  The truth of the matter is that the Yankees will not be able to maintain such a pace for the remaining two months of the season.  But the longer they can keep it up now, the better of they’ll be when they fall off of the pace.

Last night, Wang didn’t look as smooth and dominant as I had expected, but he looked good enough to earn his 11th win.  He’s on pace for another great season.  The offense, though, was as smooth and dominant as we have come to expect over the last few days, scoring 9 more runs.  That’s now 63 runs they’ve scored during this 5-game win streak.  In case you haven’t yet done the math, it’s 12.6 runs per game.  This is another pace that the team won’t be able to keep up.  But again, the longer they keep it going now, the better off they’ll be later.

The aforementioned Mike Mussina is on the mound tonight against Gil Meche.  Moose has struggled of late.  IN his last 3 starts, he’s 0-2 with a 6.47 ERA.  On a positive note, Moose has struck out 10 and walked only 5 in those 3 games.  Last time out, Friday’s loss to Tampa Bay, Moose started strong by strriking out the side, but then fought location problems for the next 3 2/3, giving up a total of 6 runs and 7 hits in a game the Yankees went on to lose 14-4.  His pitching over these last three games is really indicative of Mussina’s season so far.  He’s been making too many mistakes and hasn’t been able to consistently give the Yankees quality starts.  He’s been pitching just good enough to survive.  I guess in the end, a pitcher that keep you in most games is good…but for the number 5 slot.  Moose has essentially been put in the 4-hole of the rotation, but I suspect he would be the fifth starter if/when Phil Hughes returns in the coming weeks. 

Speaking of Hughes, I believe I read that he pitched 6 shutout innings and struck out a bunch of guys for Scranton/Wilkes Barre last night.  Apparently he needs 1 or 2 more rehab starts because of his low pitch count.  I bet if he puts in one more solid start and it’s accompanied by another bad outing from Igawa (or even Mussina) we see Hughes next week against Chicago.  If my count is correct he’ll make his nex start Sunday and would be ready for next Thursday.  We’ll see.

Back to tonight’s game, the Yankees will face Gil Meche.  Meche was a pretty high-profile signing during the offseason.  Mostly high-profile becuase the Royals were paying him way more than he was worth.  During his last 3 starts, Meche is 2-0, but his ERA is also quite high during that period at 6.00 (12 runs in 18 innings).  In his career, Meche is 3-2 with a 3.88 ERA against the Yankees in 9 games. 

This is a tough one to call for me.  I know Meche has the ability to pitch very well.  He’s done it this year.  His ERA was at 3.00 or lower as late as mid-June.  This could very well be a trap game for the Yankees.  One that they feel is a must-win because Igawa pitches tomorrow so they press a little too much and aren’t able to give Moose the support he needs.  I really hope that isn’t the case and the Yankees are able to keep the momentum rolling.

Go Yankees!

Refueling Chien-Ming Wang!

The Yankees are on another winning streak, having won their 4th straight last night against Kansas City.  A 9-2 win that wasn’t extremely pretty until the ninth inning when the Yankees put up a fiver to seal the deal.  Meanwhile, in Cleveland, two of the three other teams in the Yankee universe are playing one another.  As much as I hate to say it, I almost have to root for Boston in that series.  According to the Yankees mailbag article, Bryan Hoch says that the Yankees have about a 20% chance of winning the wild card and only a 5% chance of winning the division.  I’m tempted to think that their chances are actually higher than that, but it’s tough to argue with whatever mathematical magic is being used.  Of course, I have to believe that everytime the Yankees gain ground in the standings, the chances go up.  So if the Red Sox win 3 of 4 in Cleveland and the Yankees win 3 of 4 in Kansas City, the Yankees gain 2 games in the standings…that’s gotta be good for an extra 5%, right?

Back to the task at hand, the Yankees send Ace Chien-Ming Wang to the mound today. I have to believe that the team’s chances of winning are high with Wang on the mound.  I love it when he pitches.  Wang has lost just twice in his last 13 starts with an ERA of under 3.  Unfortunately for Wang, however, he has performed worse against Kansas City than any other team.  He’s made just 3 starts against the Royals and is 1-0, but he’s given up 12 runs in 18.2 innings, a 5.79 ERA.  In Kauffman Stadium, Wang has pitched only once and gave up 3 runs in 5.2 innings.  I’m not sure when that start was, though.  I fully expect him to have a strong start tonight.  The whole team is on such a role that I don’t think the number one starter will be the one to mess it up.  If he messed up roles, Wang wouldn’t be the ace of the staff.  No, Wang will pitch well tonight.  I feel a 5th straight win comig on.  I don’t make predictions often, but this is one I’m feeling.  Refueling Yankees!  Refueling Chien-Ming Wang!

Stay tuned, we’re gonna have a Popeye cartoon in a minute…

Keep It Up

After an unexpectedly successful doubleheader, the Yankees are looking to keep up their winning ways today.  A victory today would give the Yankees their 5th straight series win.  And 4 of those 5 would be 4-game sets.  They would have won 14 of their last 19 games.  But perhaps more importantly, a win today over Tampa Bay puts the Yankees at 5 games over .500 for the first time.  Goal number 1 coming back from the break was to make it to .500.  They did that.  Goal number 2 was 5 games over, today will be their second shot at achieving that one.

As the All-Star Break ended I said the Yankees needed to win 15 of their 21 reamining decisions in July.  So far they are 8-3, meaning they would have to go 7-3 in the last 10 (this is including the completion of the suspended game).  I also asked the Red Sox to go 10-9 (not much of a request, considering they’ve been playing .478 ball since May 30).  This would put the Yankees down by 6 games going into August, a manageable deficit.  So far, both teams have lived up to their ends, the Red Sox going 5-5 so far.

Andy Pettitte is the one the Yankees are asking to keep this thing going.  He had a couple of rough starts, but seemed to get it back under control last time against Toronto.  He earned a no-decision, but struck out 7 and gave up just 1 run in 7 innings.  The way the offense performed yesterday, I have a feeling this will be a low-scoring affair, so Andy’ll have to be on his game again.  I certainly hope he is.

But let’s not forget to mention the big news: The Yankees have made a trade for a decent backup catcher, Jose Molina.  Molina isn’t exactly Ivan Rodriguez, but he’s no Wil Nieves either.  He’s hitting .224 with no homeruns and 10 RBIs.  Not super numbers (although he has only played in 40 games), but Nieves was only batting .164.  I’m happy that an experienced catcher that can throw out a runner is coming.  I think this was an important move.  I no longer feel like whenever Posada needs a day off there will be a useless slot in the rotation.  And who knows…maybe coming to New York will liven Molina’s bat, although that may be tough since he won’t be playing every day.  I must admit, however, that I’m sad to see Nieves go.  While his bat was next to useless and his defense was only passable, he seemed like such a nice guy that worked hard and was truly happy just to be there.  Wil, your smiles will be missed, but your game will not.

Alright, guys….5 straight series, 3 straight games, 5 games over.  Let’s do it.  Go Yankees!

Yankees Surive Kung-Fu Assault

Hong Kong Phooey brought his A-Game today, but the Yankees were able to come back and win a must-win game.  Losing streaks longer than 2 games are not acceptable at least until the Yankees work their way closer in the playoff races.

Because Fox stinks, I couldn’t see the game.  Via gamecast I saw the Rays take a 2-0 lead and then Igawa load the bases in the third.  I decided to go to lunch and take the recycling and shop for bird seed and do almost anything but be near the Yankees.  I even left my phone at home.  Apparently it worked.  When I got back it was 2-2 and the Yankees were about to score 5 more led by Duncan’s homerun.

Farnsworth managed to not give up a run!  The sky is falling!!

Mo made it interesting.  I went to check the mail after he loaded the bases and when I came back, the game was over.  2 strikeouts for the greatest ever, and the Yankees win the opener of an incredibly dangerous double header.  I wish I had more to write, but I really have nothing else to say.

Prince of Pennsylvania tonight.  I remember once he pitched a great game and got a win.  Then he started to be terrible.  My fingers are crossed for DH sweep and putting us in position to win the series….but let’s start with tonight.

Refueling Chickens!

Is Anyone Else Getting Excited?

5 straight wins.  Three games gained in the standings.  Late rallies.  1-run victories.  Solid hitting, pitching, and bullpen (except Farnsworth. He’s still terrible).  A team enjoying themselves on the field.  High spirits.  I’m trying to hold back.  I keep reminding myself of the early June surge and the disappointment that followed.  But it’s getting harder and harder to think about that.  And easier and easier to think about how quickly the Boston deficit is shrinking.  And how Boston is showing no signs of creeping out of their below-.500 funk and the Yankees aren’t showing any signs of slowing down.  It’s getting hard to remain calm.  I’m getting excited, I have to admit.

Another huge win tonight secured by a couple of late-inning assaults.  It guarantees a series win over Toronto.  And given Toronto’s proximity to the Yankees in the race, it was an essential series win.  It’s their fourth consecutive series victory.  this is something that is made more impressive when you think about the fact that 3 of those 4 series(es) were 4-game sets.  The Yankees have won 11 of 14 and with Wang on the mound tomorrow, they have a great shot at winning 12 of 15.  Soon-to-be 3-time MVP Alex Rodriguez got everything the Yankees needed tonight with his 2-run double.  Just chalk that up to his already-impressive RBI scoresheet.  He’s now at 92 on the year, well on his way to around 150.

On a bad note, Johnny Damon continues to be useless.

Something else I’m excited for, and I partially have Jason to thank for bringing it up, is my upcoming trip to Minnesota and Pennsylvania/Maryland/New York.  In Minnesota, the Sister-in-Law will be giving birth shortly to the newest Yankee fan.  Following that momentous occasion, I will be travelling to Pittsburgh and then Baltimore for a bachelor party and then up to New York for a visit with the family (it’s been over 3 years since I’ve visited good old Western New York).  So how does J fit into this?  He expressed his preference for Sheetz food and made me hungry for the most delicious gas station food on the planet.  I plan to eat there a minimum of 5 times between landing in Pittsburgh August 10 and departing a week later.  I can’t wait.

Nephews. Sheetz. Yankee victories.  Wild card and division leader losses. I’m excited all the way around.