The Yankees reached the postseason 6 times in the 1920s, 5 times in the 1930s, 5 times in the 1940s, 8 times in the 1950s, 5 times in the 1960s, 3 times in the 1970s, 2 times in the 1980s, 5 times in the 1990s (not counting being in 1st place when the Strike of '94 hit), 9 times in the 2000s, and in the 1st year of the 2010s, making for 50 appearances in postseason play.
The 51st was going to come this month, in fact this week. Exactly when, we weren't sure. Could it come today? Sure, if the Yankees could win either game of a rain-forced, dual-admission, day-night doubleheader against the last remaining team eligible for the American League Wild Card, other than themselves and the Boston Red Sox: The Tampa Bay Rays.
It wouldn't come easy: Back spasms for Phil Hughes meant that manager Joe Girardi decided to go with "starter-by-committee." You know how well "closer-by-committee" works? As in, since the 1990 Cincinnati Reds, not at all?
Eight pitchers. Girardi used eight pitchers! Hector Noesi started. Then Raul Valdes, George Kontos, Aaron Laffey, Cory Wade, Boone Logan (All hands, brace for impact!) and Luis Ayala. That's the 1st 7.
Incredibly, these 7 guys, over 8 innings, held the Rays to 9 hits, 2 walks, and just 2 runs.
While there were a few jams, they got us out. The only real mistake was Noesi allowing a 3rd inning home run to Desmond Jennings. No, I've never heard of him, either. Although I hear that Desmond has a barrel in the marketplace.
Unfortunately, after an Alex Rodriguez double drove home Derek Jeter in the bottom of the 1st, the Yankees didn't score again off Rays starter James Shields in the 1st 7 innings. It was still 2-1 Rays going into the bottom of the 8th. In other words, those 7 Yankee pitchers pitched very well, and it wasn't enough!
Eduardo Nunez led off the bottom of the 8th with a home run. Tie ballgame.
With one out, Brett Gardner hit a line drive single to left. He stole 2nd. Jeter took first on one of those "unintentional intentional walks" -- after all, 1st base was open, and this could set up an inning-ending double play.
Out went Shields, in came J.P. Howell. The first batter he faced was Robinson Cano: Double to center. His 46th double of the season, his 114th and 115th RBIs of the season. Yankees 4, Rays 2.
Ninth inning. Enter Sandman. Mariano Rivera was the 8th Yankee pitcher of the afternoon, and he went through the Rays 1-2-3 to nail down his 603rd career save.
Ballgame over! Chase for the Playoffs over! Yankees win! Theeeeeeee Yankees win!
WP: Ayala (2-2). LP: Shields (15-12). SV: Rivera (44).
So here's how the MLB postseason is shaping up:
* The Yankees will be no worse than the American League Wild Card winners. Their Magic Number to clinch the AL Eastern Division is 2. Any number of Yankee wins and Red Sox losses adding up to 2, and the Yanks win the Division. It can happen tonight, weather permitting, if the Yanks win the nightcap of this Yankee Stadium doubleheader and the Red Sox lose again to the Baltimore Orioles at Fenway Park. If either a Yankee win or a Red Sox loss happens, but not both, the Yankees can clinch tomorrow in the finale of the Rays' series, or with a Sox loss in the finale of their O's series. If it still hasn't happened, the Sox come to town on Friday and the Yankees can settle it then.
* The Detroit Tigers have clinched the AL Central.
* The Texas Rangers have a Magic Number of 4 to eliminate the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim and clinch the AL West.
* I was, incorrectly, under the impression that the Yankees clinching at least the Wild Card meant that the Rays were eliminated entirely. This is not the case: The Sox have yet to clinch the Wild Card. Their recent slide means that they still have a Magic Number of 6 to clinch it. However, having to come to New York may keep that race in chaos for a little longer. The Angels can be eliminated in 5 (their losses and/or Red Sox wins).
* The Philadelphia Phillies have clinched the NL East.
* The Milwaukee Brewers have a Magic Number of 3 to eliminate the St. Louis Cardinals and clinch the NL Central.
* The Arizona Diamondbacks have a Magic Number of 2 to eliminate the defending World Champion San Francisco Giants and clinch the NL West.
* The Atlanta Braves have Magic Numbers of 4 to eliminate the Giants and 6 to eliminate the Cards for the NL Wild Card.
If the current standings hold to the end of the season, keeping in mind that the Wild Card winner cannot face the Champion of its own Division in the Division Series...
* The Yankees have home-field advantage over Detroit.
* Texas has HFA over Boston.
* Philadelphia has HFA over Arizona.
* Milwaukee has HFA over Atlanta.
As I type this, the start of Yankees-Rays is being delayed by rain, but it looks like Red Sox-Orioles is starting on time.
Come on you Pinstripes! Let's clinch that Division tonight! Which means... Rain, rain, go away!
Hours until the Red Bulls play again: 1, tonight, at home against Real Salt Lake.
Days until East Brunswick High School plays football again: 2, this Friday night, home to J.P. Stevens H.S. of Edison (Stevens was the President of the town's Board of Education, who died while Edison H.S. was being built, and as a result his name is on the dedication plaques of both schools).
Days until the next Yankees-Red Sox series begins: 2, this Friday night, at Yankee Stadium II.
Days until Arsenal play again in a competitive match: 3, this Saturday, home to Bolton Wanderers, of Greater Manchester.
Days until Rutgers plays football again: 3, this Saturday afternoon, home to Ohio University. Thank God it's not Ohio State. Even in their probation-weakened, scandalized state, I wouldn't want the Scarlet Knights to have to play the Buckeyes of THE... Ohio State University!
Days until the next North London Derby: 10, on Saturday, October 1, at White Hart Lane.
Days until the Devils play another local rival: 17, on Saturday, October 8, at 7:00 PM, in their season opener, at home, against the Philadelphia Flyers at the Prudential Center. A little over 2 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": 29, against the Philadelphia Union, in their regular season finale, on Thursday night, October 20, at Red Bull Arena. Just 4 weeks.
Days until the Rutgers-Army football game at Yankee Stadium: 52. Just over 7 weeks.
Days until the next East Brunswick-Old Bridge Thanksgiving clash: 64. Just 9 weeks.
Days until the last Nets game in New Jersey: 210, on Wednesday night, April 18, 2012, against the Chicago Bulls, at the Prudential Center. Under 7 months before New Jersey no longer has an NBA team. This is, of course, contingent on the current NBA lockout not rearranging the schedule.
Days until the 2012 Olympics begin in London: 310 (July 27). Just over 10 months.
Days until Alex Rodriguez collects his 3,000th career hit: 657 (estimated -- adjusted for his current injury). Under 2 years.
Days until Alex Rodriguez hits his 700th career home run: 788 (estimated).
Days until Super Bowl XLVIII at the Meadowlands: 865 (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: 1,399 (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: 1,513 (estimated).
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