Thursday, September 1, 2011

See You In September, But October Must Be Secured

In his 1990 book The Curse of the Bambino, Boston Globe columnist Dan Shaughnessy wrote that, while Boston Red Sox fans tend to gloat about how well their team does in the summer, fans of every other team invoke the old song "See You In September."

Last night was August 31. The last said about last night's game, the better. So, in brief:

Phil Hughes (4-5) didn't have it, allowing home runs to the big fat lying cheating bastard David Ortiz in the 5th and the increasingly annoying Jacoby Ellsbury in the 6th.

Boone Logan and Luis Ayala were no help, but I can't hold it against them, as the Yankee bats didn't get the runs they needed against Super Punk, a.k.a. Josh Beckett (12-5 -- 4-0 against the Yankees). A 4-run rally in the top of the 6th tied it at 5-5, but Ellsbury's homer untied it and sent the game toward its 9-5 conclusion in favor of The Scum, and a split of the first 2 games of this big series.

So now it is September 1. Here are the teams' remaining schedules:

Yankees: At Boston tonight, home to the Toronto Blue Jays for 3 (just what we need, to follow a Scum series with a Pesky series), home to the Baltimore Orioles for 3, a one-day trip to Baltimore to make up the remaining Hurricane Irene rainout, 3 games away to the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, 3 games away to the Seattle Mariners, a day off, then 3 more games away to the Jays, then home for a makeup against the Minnesota Twins, then a critical stretch featuring 3 home games against the Tampa Bay Rays, 3 home to The Scum, and 3 in Tampa to close the regular season.

Red Sox: Home to the Yankees tonight, 3 home to the Texas Rangers, 4 in Toronto, 3 in Tampa, a day off, 2 at home to Toronto, 4 at home to Tampa, 4 at home to Baltimore (including a rain-forced doubleheader), a day off, 3 at the Yankees, then 3 in Baltimore to close the regular season.

Not counting Yanks-Sox games, the Yanks have 23 games left. Considering the quality of each opponent, they could reasonably be expected to win 13. This would give them 94 wins. Since the 1996 season, the first time a full 162 games were played under the current format of 3 Divisions plus a Wild Card team, the average number of games won by the 2nd place team in the American League Eastern Division has been 92. So 94 would seem to be enough.

But it won't be. The Sox are likely to win about 14 of their remaining 23 non-Yankee games, which would give them 97 wins.

Therefore, in order to win the AL East, the Yankees would have to win all 4 remaning games with the Sox: 98-97. If it ends tied at 97 apiece, the Yankees, 7 1/2 games ahead of Tampa for the Wild Card, would get the Wild Card and the Sox would be awarded the Division Title based on head-to-head competition. If another team were ahead of the Yanks for the Wild Card, and only the AL East winner could go on to the Playoffs, then, as in 1978, a one-game Playoff would be needed to decide it.

So, barring a late-season collapse -- and, of course, the powers that be in Major League Baseball, enjoying the money that would be made from a Red Sox postseason run, won't let that happen -- the Yankees will have to win at least 3 of the 4 remaining games with the Sox, and more than 13 of the other 23.

That makes tonight the biggest game of the regular season for the Yankees, because they don't want to have to go into the Division Series as the Wild Card, and have to play Games 1 and 2, and maybe also 5, in Detroit -- or, much worse, Texas. Or, if either of these teams can make a comeback and win their Divisions, Cleveland -- or, worse (though not as bad as it would be if it were Texas winning the AL West), Anaheim.

The game is scheduled to start at 7:10 PM. The weather is expected to be good, with not much wind to give long fly balls any help. But the starting pitching matchup heavily favors Boston: The Scum will have Jon (Mo) Lester -- no, I didn't come up with that nickname, and it's almost certainly not true -- against A.J. Burnett. He was once again Bad A.J. in August, so we need him to be Good A.J. in September, or else October will still happen, but it could be short.

Time to beat The Scum. Come on you Pinstriiiiiiiipes!

Oh yeah, Rutgers University starts its football season tonight, at home against North Carolina Central. I truly do not give a damn: Yanks-Sox is far more important.

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