Now, where were we?
Baltimore. Against the Baltimore Orioles, who will be the first team to be eliminated from Playoff contention in the American League. (In the National League, the Houston Astros have already been eliminated, and it's still August.)
The Friday game, played with Hurricane Irene bearing down on the Northeast, including the Chesapeake region in which this game was played, was a disaster. A.J. Burnett took the mound, and once again was "Bad A.J." In fact, his won-lost record is now the phone number for emergency services: 9-11. Which is also shorthand for a very different, far more serious, New York disaster.
A.J. gave up 6 runs in the 2nd inning, and, for some reason, Joe Girardi left him in. To punish him? Or does Joe really have so little faith in his long relievers? A.J. was allowed to stay in for 5 innings, allowing 9 runs. Luis Ayala then allowed 3 runs -- none of them earned. On the plus side, Cory Wade and Rafael Soriano, between them, pitching 2 scoreless (but also meaningless) innings.
Tommy Hunter (3-2) wasn't brilliant, but was effective enough for an Oriole team mourning the death of 1979 AL Cy Young Award winner and 1983 World Champion Mike Flanagan, who always used to pitch well against the Yankees. (He was the pitcher whose pitching dropped Ron Guidry from 15-1 to 15-2 in his 25-3 1978 season.)
Despite 3 home runs -- Jorge Posada's 12th, Alex Rodriguez' 14th, and Nick Swisher's 19th, the Yankees were never in this game. Orioles 12, Yankees 5.
Then came Saturday, and both halves of what was already a rain-forced doubleheader were washed out by that bitch Irene. The Mets, at home, cancelled both the Saturday and Sunday games of their series against the Atlanta Braves. But the Yanks and O's played 2 on Sunday.
The Yanks needn't have bothered showing up for the opener-- and practically didn't. Zac Britton (8-9) threw 7 shutout innings, and solo homers by Mark Reynolds and Nick Markakis sent an otherwise-strong Bartolo Colon (also 8-9) down to defeat. Orioles 2, Yankees 0. That's 2 straight losses to the worst team (record-wise) in the American League.
The nightcap was another story, with a happy ending. Good bats in the 1st game that was actually played in this series, but poor pitching; good pitching in the 2nd, but no hitting; this time, we got both.
Curtis Granderson finally took the major-league home run lead from Toronto's Jose (Can You See Me Take a Steroid Test) Bautista, hitting his 37th home run of the season for a 3-run Yankee 3rd, and his 38th as a solo shot in the 7th. By the time that happened, the Yanks had already put it away: In the top of the 6th came 3 homers in a row. Robinson Cano hit his 23rd, Swish his 20th, and a rejuvenated Andruw Jones his 11th.
Ivan Nova backed that up with solid pitching, allowing single runs in the 1st, 2nd and 3rd, before the Yanks broke it open. Nova bent, but didn't break. Yankees 8, Orioles 3.
WP: Nova (14-4). LP: Brian Matusz (1-7). Which also happens to be his uniform number, 17.
And then last night, the Yanks managed to take a split of this series. Swish's 21st homer, off Alfredo Simon (4-7), made the difference. Freddy Garcia (11-7) returned from the Disabled List -- probably to the deep chagrin of Bad A.J. --and except for a Reynolds homer in the 5th, was fantastic for 6 innings. Soriano threw a scoreless 7th. David Robertson allowed a J.J. Hardy homer in the 8th, to make it a little dicey, but Mariano Rivera nailed down his 34th save. Yankees 3, Orioles 2.
So here's where we stand: The Yankees are 80-52, a game and a half behind the Boston Red Sox -- 1 in the loss column. The Sox' Magic Number to clinch the AL Eastern Division is 29 -- but any number of Yankees wins and Sox losses adding up to 30 will give the Yanks the Division Title. The Tampa Bay Rays are 9 back, with an elimination number (or "Tragic Number," if you prefer) of 21. The Toronto Blue Jays are 15 1/2 back, EN/TN 14. The Orioles are 28 1/2 back, EN/TN 2, so they could be eliminated tonight, if they lose and the Sox win.
Ah, but the Sox must not win tonight. Because tonight is the start of a 3-game series between the Yankees and the old enemy. The Scum.
Tonight, CC Sabathia pitches against John Lackey.
Tomorrow night, Phil Hughes against Super Punk, Josh Beckett.
And on Thursday night, A.J. Burnett against Jon Lester.
The Sox have dominated the Yanks this season. That must end tonight.
And since August is not A.J.'s month, starting him on September 1 just might be a good idea.
BEAT THE SCUM!
Jeter hits 3059 DONE
Rivera saves 593 9
A-Rod homers 627 136
A-Rod hits 2765 235
Magic Number 30
Days until Rutgers plays football again: 2, this Thursday night, home to North Carolina Central.
Days until East Brunswick High School plays football again: 10, a week from this Friday night, at Monroe.
Days until Arsenal play again in a competitive match: 11, a week from this Saturday, home to Swansea City, the hometown club of Catherine Zeta-Jones. Although both the Swans (or the Jacks, if you prefer) and their arch-rivals Cardiff City (the Bluebirds) both played a few seasons in the old English Football League Division One, this is the first time since the founding of the Premier League in 1992 that a Welsh club has gotten to the top flight. Although Arsenal did qualify for the Champions League proper, they also got slaughtered by Manchester United on Sunday, 8-2 -- which I didn't see thanks to the hurricane. That's 1 point from 9 league games. I may have more to say this week on the subject of Arsenal.
Days until the Red Bulls play again: 11, a week from this Saturday night, at the Colorado Rapids.
Days until the next Yankees-Red Sox series (after this one) begins: 24, on Friday night, September 23, at Yankee Stadium II. About 3 weeks.
Days until the next North London Derby: 32, on Saturday, October 1, at White Hart Lane. Just over a month.
Days until the Devils play another local rival: 39, on Saturday, October 8, at 7:00 PM, in their season opener, at home, against the Philadelphia Flyers at the Prudential Center. Under 6 weeks. The first game against the New York Islanders is a day-after-Thanksgiving matinee, Friday, November 25, at the Nassau Coliseum. The first game against The Scum isn't until Tuesday night, December 20, at the Prudential.
Days until the Red Bulls play another "derby": 51, against the Philadelphia Union, in their regular season finale, on Thursday night, October 20, at Red Bull Arena.
Days until the Rutgers-Army football game at Yankee Stadium: 74. Under 11 weeks.
Days until the next East Brunswick-Old Bridge Thanksgiving clash: 86.
Days until the last Nets game in New Jersey: 232, on Wednesday night, April 18, 2012, against the Chicago Bulls, at the Prudential Center. Under 8 months before New Jersey no longer has an NBA team.
Days until the 2012 Olympics begin in London: 332 (July 27). Just 11 months.
Days until Alex Rodriguez collects his 3,000th career hit: 679 (estimated -- adjusted for his current injury). Under 2 years.
Days until Alex Rodriguez hits his 700th career home run: 810 (estimated).
Days until Super Bowl XLVIII at the Meadowlands: 887 (tentatively scheduled for February 2, 2014, although it could end up being moved back a week or 2).
Days until Alex Rodriguez hits his 756th career home run to surpass all-time leader Hank Aaron: 1,421 (estimated).
Days until Alex Rodriguez hits his 763rd career home run to become as close to a "real" all-time leader as we are likely to have: 1,535 (estimated).