Monday, August 20, 2012

Japanese Yanks Slay The Scum

Hiroki Kuroda is giving the Yankees what they thought the late Hideki Irabu would give them 15 years ago.  He has found some consistency, he has found his control, and his last 2 performances, including last night's, have been dominating.

All the better that it came against the Boston Red Sox.  True, the Sox are having their worst season since 1997.  But Yankees-Red Sox is what English soccer fans would call a "derby": A matchup with your greatest rivals, which they would call "The Scum," and you have to win it.

The Yankees won on Friday night, and lost on Saturday, and you don't want to lose 2 out of 3 to The Scum, especially at home.

Kuroda went 8 innings, allowing just 1 run, a home run by Adrian Gonzalez, and 3 other hits, and (I love seeing these words applied to a Yankee pitcher) no walks.

Kuroda is pitching with the energy of a 25-year-old man, and the know-how of a 37-year-old man (which is what he is).  Granted, the Japanese leagues' season is shorter (usually around 140 games), but they also expect their pitchers to pitch like men and finish their games whenever possible.  You know, like Americans used to expect.

Another new acquisition, Ichiro Suzuki, already a legend in both Japan and America, decided that the short porch at Yankee Stadium II looks rather inviting.  Going against type -- he's always been a good contact hitter but not many homers, his peak is 15, 1 more than the similarly-hitting Rod Carew -- he hit 2 home runs last night, bringing his seasonal total to 7.
He had 3 hits in total.  So did Derek Jeter -- not Japanese, and not washed-up, either.  Two of his hits were doubles, giving him 518 doubles out of his 3,251 hits.  He now needs 5 hits to catch Eddie Murray for 12th place on the all-time list, and 32 to catch Willie Mays for 11.  He has an outside shot of catching Eddie Collins (64) and Paul Molitor (68) this season.  He is already the career leader among players born after 1956 (when Molitor was born); if he gets 69 more hits to surpass Molitor, he'll be the career leader among players born after 1941 (when all-time leader Pete Rose was born).

Counting his 1,278 hits in Japan's "major leagues," and his 2,561 hits in the North American major leagues, Ichiro would have 3,839, more than anyone except Rose (4,256) and Ty Cobb (4,189 -- his previously-recognized total of 4,191 being due to a statkeeper's error).

Alex Rodriguez, soon to return from injury, has 2,872 hits.  Barring another long-term injury, he is still likely to get to 3,000 next season.

Oh, sorry, I got distracted.  Back to the most important thing.  Again, as they would say (or, rather, sing) in English soccer, to the tune of "Blue Moon":

4-1! We beat The Scum 4-1! We beat The Scum 4-1! We beat The Scum 4-1!

And while the 4 runs weren't a lot, it was more than enough to beat one of the most hated opposing players in Yankee history: Josh Beckett, Super Punk.

WP: Kuroda (12-8).  SV: Rafael Soriano (31).  LP: Beckett (5-11... sweet).

Josh Beckett is real.  Kate Beckett, the spectacular lady detective played by Stana Katic on ABC's Castle, is not.  I am infuriated by both of these facts.

Real.
Unreal.

These two facts: Unfair.

Yankees in first place: Very fair.

Remember when Joe Torre was on Castle? They had to investigate the murder of a ballplayer.  Beckett mentions that she saw him hit a home run at Shea.  It was also mentioned that he had a World Series ring.  Must've won it before he went to the Mets.  As opposed to Torre, who won his after he left them.
Baseball and Castle, two of my favorite pastimes.

Anyway...

The Yankees are 72-49, and lead the American League Eastern Division by 5 games over the Tampa Bay Rays, 6 over the Baltimore Orioles, 13 1/2 (14 in the loss column) over the Red Sox, and 16 over the fast-sinking Toronto Blue Jays.

Elimination numbers: Jays 25, Sox 27, O's 35, Rays 36.  Getting closer.

The Chicago White Sox lead the AL Central by a game and a half over the Detroit Tigers.  The Texas Rangers lead the AL West by 5 over the Oakland Athletics.  The Washington Nationals -- with Stephen Strasburg not yet shut down, and if they do shut him down they'd better get him ready for the Playoffs or they'll bomb out -- lead the National league East by 5 over the Atlanta Braves.  The Cincinnati Reds lead the NL Central by 6 1/2 over the Pittsburgh Pirates, and there's a good-old-fashioned Dodger-Giant Pennant race in the NL West, as the Bums lead the Jints by just half a game, with the Arizona Diamondbacks keeping things even more interesting, only 4 1/2 back.

Tampa Bay and Baltimore lead the race for the AL Wild Card spots.  Oakland is half a game behind Baltimore, Detroit 2 back, the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim (unless they changed the name again) 4 1/2, the Red Sox 5 1/2, with Seattle still having a slim chance at 8 1/2 back.

In the NL, the Braves and the Pirates are in line to get the Wild Cards.  The Pirates, holding the 2nd slot, lead San Francisco by 4, St. Louis by 5, and Arizona by 8; the Giants and Diamondbacks have a better chance at winning the NL West than they do the Wild Card.

If the current standings hold, the Playoff matchups will be as follows:

AL: Yankees vs. White Sox, Rangers vs. (Rays-Orioles winner) -- remember, the team with the best record can't face a Divisional opponent in the Division Series.

NL: Braves vs. Pirates; if Braves, they face Reds, and Nationals face Dodgers; if Pirates, they face Nationals, and Reds face Dodgers.

The Yankees fly out for a 6-game Midwestern roadtrip.  Tonight, they start in Chicago to play the White Sox, then to Cleveland against the Indians, before returning home for 3 each against Toronto and Baltimore.

As I said, the Magic Number to clinch the Division is 36.  As for the number to clinch at least the Wild Card, who cares? It's never helped us much before.

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