Friday, September 23, 2011

Concerned About Colon as Sox Arrive, 61 in '61 Anniversary

Quick run-through of last night: In a game that was all but meaningless for the Yankees, but desperate for the Tampa Bay Rays, the Rays jumped on Bartolo Colon (8-10), scoring 3 runs in the 1st, 2 in the 2nd, 2 in the 3rd, knocking him out, then jumping on Scott Proctor (big surprise) for 4 5 in the 4th, and 1 in the 5th.

32251. That ZIP Code is not in service. If it were, it would be in Jacksonville, Florida, in the Rays' territory.

The Yanks' bullpen calmed down after that, and Andruw Jones hit his 12th home run of the season. But the 13-0 Rays lead was too much to overcome, and the Yankees lost, 15-8.

Once again, it was a pitcher they'd never seen before that beat them, Matt Moore, a 22-year-old lefthander from Fort Walton, Florida, on the Gulf Coast and closer to Atlanta than to Tampa Bay, making his major league debut (1-0). Was that smart, Rays? Needing a win to keep your Playoff hopes alive, and sending a debutante onto the mound at Yankee Stadium? It worked.

Colon got off to a great start to this season, but got hurt and hasn't been all that good since coming back. I'm getting concerned.


So here's how things stand: The Yankees have clinched the American League Eastern Division, and their Magic Number to clinch home-field advantage all the way through the AL Playoffs is 2: Any number of Yankee wins and Detroit Tiger losses, and any number of Yankee wins and Texas Ranger losses, adding up to 2, and the Yanks will do it. They have 95 wins. Since all 3 teams have 6 games left, a 96th win is the most that either the Tigers or Rangers could get this season.

The Red Sox lead the Rays by 2 games for the Wild Card, and the Angels, who have snuck back in, by 3. The Angels' elimination number is 4, the Rays' is 5.

The pitching matchup for this Yanks-Sox series, meaningful for them but not really for us, is as follows:

Tonight at 7, weather permitting, on YES: Freddy Garcia vs. Jon Lester.

Tomorrow at 4, on Fox: A.J. Burnett (who is not 45 but sometimes pitches like it) vs. Tim Wakefield (who is 45 and sometimes pitches like it).

Sunday at 1, on YES: Ivan Nova vs. a pitcher to be determined. (EDIT: May be Erik Bedard.)

Sounds to me like the Sox have a fair chance in the Garcia-Lester matchup, and in the Burnett-Wakefield matchup, but I wouldn't bet on them beating Nova.

This would give the Sox 90 wins -- far below the 100+ that some dimwits were predicting for them -- with 3 to play in Baltimore against the Orioles. If the Sox can't take 2 out of 3 there, they don't deserve to be in the Playoffs.

(Well, they don't deserve to be in the Playoffs, anyway, but that's a whole other thing.)

Anyway, if they take 2 out of 3 from us (possible, since it's not a do-or-die series for us, and it would hardly be a message for us), and take 2 out of 3 in Baltimore, that would give them 92 wins. This would make it impossible for the Angels to catch them, and the Rays would have to win all their remaining games in order to force a Playoff for the Wild Card.

I saw on NESN's website that, in spite of an atrocious last 50 games or so, the Sox still have an 87 percent chance of winning the Wild Card. That's 7 out of 8.

Still, they do, in terms of style, resemble the 2007 and 2010 Wild Card-winning Yankees more than the 2004 and 2007 Red Sox who cheated their way to World Championships. And regardless of whether they end up playing the Tigers or the Rangers in the Division Series, they would have to be considered underdogs.


Tomorrow's game will feature a pregame ceremony, originally scheduled for tonight but already postponed due to the weather (as tonight's game might also be), honoring the 50th Anniversary of the single-season home run record, Roger Maris hitting 61 in '61.

Guests will includ Roger's widow, Pat Maris, and former teammates Yogi Berra, Whitey Ford, Moose Skowron, Bobby Richardson and Bob Cerv. Also on hand will be Sal Durante, the then-19-year-old truck driver who caught Maris' 61st home run. The group will be introduced as part of a pregame ceremony that will also include a video tribute and the Yankees Foundation presenting a donation to the Roger Maris Cancer Center in Roger's hometown of Fargo, North Dakota.

I hope Billy Crystal, who directed the film 61* about the home run chase; Barry Pepper, who played Roger in that movie; Thomas Jane, who played Mickey Mantle; a representative of Mickey's family; Andy Strasberg, who has made a name for himself as Roger's biggest fan and a protector of his legacy; and Tom Clavin and Danny Peary, authors of the fine book Roger Maris: Baseball's Reluctant Hero, will also be there.

Great book. Not just a great baseball book, but a great biography of a decent but strange man and the work he did -- which happened to be professional baseball.

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