Ever since they debuted in 1977, whether they've been good (1983 to 1993, briefly in 2006) or bad (otherwise), the Blue Jays have driven the Yankees, and Yankee Fans like me, up the wall. That's why I call them "the Pesky Blue Jays."
Last night, the Yankees, who needed 3 wins badly in their race with the Baltimore Orioles for the American League Eastern Division title, completed a sweep of those pesky Blue Jays, beating them 10-7.
Phil Hughes did not pitch well -- but he did pitch well enough to win (16-12). He won because the Yankees broke out the lumber. Ichiro Suzuki again turned out to be a brilliant pickup for the Yankees -- those of you who rip Brian Cashman, you have to admit this -- hitting a home run and a double. Nick Swisher hit a grand slam. Aaron Laffey (3-6) didn't make it to the 4th inning.
Derek Lowe had his 2nd straight good relief outing, pitching the 6th and 7th. But Joe Girardi decided to give Cory Wade another chance, and Wade rewarded this faith by letting the Jays back into the game. Joba Chamberlain and David Robertson (2nd save) had to bail Girardi and Wade out.
Girardi & Wade. Sounds like a bad law firm.
Anyway, the Yankees moved one full game ahead of the idle Orioles. They have 13 games to play. The Yankees' Magic Number to clinch the Division is 13. The Tampa Bay Rays are 6 1/2 back, but their only way into the postseason now is with the Wild Card, and even that will be tough.
In the AL Central, the Chicago White Sox lead the Detroit Tigers by 2. Their Magic Number is 12. In the AL West, the Texas Rangers lead the Oakland Athletics by 4, with a Magic Number of 10.
The Washington Nationals clinched a Playoff spot last night, beating the Los Angeles Dodgers. This is the first postseason appearance for a Washington baseball team since 1933 -- 79 years. They lead the Atlanta Braves in the NL East by 5 1/2 games, with a Magic Number of 8.
The Cincinnati Reds also clinched a Playoff spot last night, beating the Chicago Cubs. They lead the St. Louis Cardinals in the NL Central by 11 games. With a Magic Number of 2, they can clinch their Division tonight if they beat the Dodgers and the Cards lose to the Cubs. Certainly, by the conclusion of Sunday's games, they should have clinched.
The San Francisco Giants can also clinch this weekend. They lead the NL West by 10 over the Dodgers, and have a Magic Number of 3.
The AL Wild Card race is as follows: The Orioles and A's are tied for the 2 spots. Most likely, those will be the 2 teams. The Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim are 4 1/2 games back, the Rays 5 1/2 back, the Detroit Tigers 6 back -- in other words, the Tigers have a better shot getting in through the Division title. Every other AL team has already been eliminated from Wild Card contention.
The NL Wild Card is still very much up in the air, with the Braves and Cards leading. The Milwaukee Brewers are 2 1/2 back, the Dodgers 3, the surging Philadelphia Phillies 4, the Arizona Diamondbacks and Pittsburgh Pirates 5 1/2, and the San Diego Padres 8. All other NL teams, including the 66-83 Mets, are eliminated.
The Phillies slaughtered the Mets at Pity Field last night, 16-1, bookending the game nicely with 8 in the 1st inning and 7 in the 9th. Talk about shock and awe: First they showed the 20,010 fans on hand (yeah, right, they may have sold that many tickets but I'll bet only half that showed up, and a good chunk of those were Phillies fans coming up the Turnpike) right off the bat that this game was never going to be in doubt. Then they let the Flushing Faithful suffer through 3 hours of misery. Then, just when the Met fans thought they would soon be put out of their misery, the Phillies "scored a touchdown."
Despite all their injuries, which had the Phils in the same boat as the Mets for much of the season -- a sinking ship -- they are now above .500 and still have a shot at making the Playoffs for the 6th straight season. Let me put that in perspective: They've made the Playoffs in each of the last 5 seasons, but did so only 9 times in their first 124 seasons.
Stuff like that is what makes John Sterling turn to Suzyn Waldman and say, "You know, Suzyn, you just can't predict baseball."
The Yankees start a 3-game home series with the Oakland Athletics. The pitching matchups are as follows:
Tonight, 7:05: CC Sabathia vs. Jarrod Parker.
Tomorrow, 1:05: Ivan Nova vs. Travis Blackley.
Sunday, 1:05: Hiroki Kuroda vs. A.J. Griffin.
Meanwhile, the Orioles play 3 in Boston against the Red Sox. The Awkward Moment when Yankee Fans discover that they have to root for the Red Sox.
I guess turnabout is fair play. After all, in last season's last series, the Red Sox had to root for the Yankees to beat the Rays, so that the Red Sox could win the one and only Wild Card spot then available. And we know how that worked out. Don't we? Hee hee hee hee...
After this series with the A's, the Yankees hit the road, for 3 in Minnesota against the Twins, 4 in Toronto against those Pesky Blue Jays. Then they close with 3 at home against the Red Sox, and who could have predicted back in Spring Training that this series would be the least consequential Yanks-Sox series since 1997? Of course, there's no guarantee that the Yankees will have clinched the Division by then. And for Red Sox fans, there is no such thing as an inconsequential series with the Yankees.
Hours until East Brunswick High School plays football again: 9, tonight at 7:00, away to North Brunswick. After losing their first 2 games 34-0 to South Brunswick and 41-0 to Sayreville, and with Piscataway, Woodbridge and Old Bridge still to be played, I don't think there's going to be much optimism this season.
Hours until Rutgers plays football again: 31, tomorrow night, away to the University of Arkansas. Rutgers looked very good beating South Florida in Tampa last week. But after getting shocked by a Division I-AA (or whatever they call that now) opponent, and then getting mashed by Number 1 Alabama, Arkansas is gonna be really, really set for a bunch of Damnyankee pipsqueaks. RU is now 3-0 in the Kyle Flood Era, but this will probably make it 3-1.
Hours until the Red Bulls next play a "derby": 31, against the New England Revolution in Foxboro, tomorrow night. They go to Chester to face the Union on Saturday, October 27. They will not play Washington's D.C. United again this season, unless it's in the Playoffs, which is possible, although, at the moment, the Red Bulls would have the 3rd seed and D.C. are on the outside looking in, but only by 1 point.
Days until Arsenal play another competitive match: 2, this Sunday, at defending Premier League Champion Manchester City. Then the next League game is home to defending Champions League winners Chelsea. These next 2 League games should tell us if the retooled Arsenal are for real. Arsenal crushed Southampton 6-1 last Saturday, and beat defending French league Champions Montpellier 2-1 away in their first Champions League matchday of the season.
Days until the next Yankees-Red Sox series begins: 10, on Monday night, October 1, at Yankee Stadium II.
Days until the Devils play again: 21, opening the season on Friday night, October 12, away to the Washington Capitals. If, that is, the lockout is resolved soon and the schedule doesn't have to be rewritten. If it doesn't, then it's 3 weeks. The home opener is the next night, against the Boston Bruins.
Days until the U.S. National Soccer Team plays again: 21, away to Antigua & Barbuda (yes, that's one country), in a CONCACAF World Cup Qualifier. (That's the region that encompasses North America, Central America, and the Caribbean nations.) Then, the following Tuesday, we play Guatemala in Kansas City. These will come after splitting a home-and-home Qualifier series against Jamaica, losing in Kingston and winning in Columbus, Ohio.
Days until the Devils play another local rival (again, presuming the lockout is settled without the schedule getting rearranged): 18, on Wednesday night, October 17, the 3rd game of the season, the 2nd home game, at the Prudential Center, against the Rangers, the first meeting between the teams since Adam Henrique put The Scum in their place. The first meeting with the Philadelphia Flyers will be on Thursday night, November 1. I'd say the game will be at the Wells Fargo Center in Philly, but that's dependent on the arena's name not being changed... again. The first meeting with the New York Islanders will be on Saturday night, November 17, at the Nassau Coliseum. Barring a big change, there will be only 3 seasons left at the Coliseum -- and possibly only 18 more Devils-Islanders games, unless the Isles build a new arena, move to the Barclays Center, or somehow make the Playoffs in the next 3 seasons.
Days until the first Nets game in Brooklyn: 41, on Thursday, November 1, against the now actually crosstown Knicks. Under 6 weeks.
Days until the 2012 Presidential election: 46. A little over 6 weeks. Register to vote... and on November 6, vote!
Days until the next North London Derby: 57, on Saturday, November 17, at the Emirates Stadium. Just 8 weeks. The return fixture will be on Saturday, March 2, 2013, at White Hart Lane.
Days until the next East Brunswick-Old Bridge Thanksgiving clash: 62. Just 9 weeks until our annual Turkey Day beatdown by the Purple Bastards.
Days until Alex Rodriguez collects his 3,000th career hit: 344 (estimated around September 1, 2013). This is taking his recent injury into account. Under 1 year.
Days until Super Bowl XLVIII at the Meadowlands: 498 (February 2, 2014). Under 17 months.
Days until the 2014 Winter Olympics: 505 (February 7, 2014).
Days until the 2014 World Cup in Brazil: 618 (June 12, 2014). Under 22 months.
Days until Alex Rodriguez hits his 700th career home run: 723 (estimated, around September 15, 2014).
Days until the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil: 1,413 (August 5, 2016). Under 2 years.
Days until Alex Rodriguez hits his 756th career home run to surpass all-time leader Hank Aaron: 1,469 (estimated -- I'm guessing around the end of 2016, around September 30).
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: 1,712 (estimated -- estimating 28 home runs a year, taking his recent injury into account, I'm guessing around April 30, 2017, at age 41). Under 3 1/2 years -- if he can.