Friday, May 10, 2013

Rainy Mountain High

If I had told you on Opening Day that, on the morning of May 10, the Yankees would have had this lineup the day before...

CF Brett Gardner
SS Jayson Nix
2B Robinson Cano
LF Vernon Wells
RF Ben Francisco
3B Chris Nelson
1B Lyle Overbay
C Chris Stewart
P Adam Warren

...keeping in mind that it's an Interleague game in a National League park, so we're playing by NL rules, which means no designated hitter...

...and that this lineup was in place because the Yankees would be without Derek Jeter, Alex Rodriguez, Mark Teixeira and Curtis Granderson, all due to injury; and that, for whatever reason, Ichiro Suzuki would also not be starting...

...and that the Yankees would be in first place in the American League Eastern Division anyway?

You'd have looked at the date of Opening Day, April 1, and thought I was making an April Fool's joke.

Well, if you didn't believe on April 1 that the Yankees would be in first place in the AL East on May 10, then the joke would have been on you.

*

The Yankees concluded their 3-game series with the Colorado Rockies at Coors Field in Denver last night.  I say, "Last night," even though it was an afternoon start, because there was a rain delay.

CC Sabathia started for the Bronx Bombers, and he allowed 1 run on 1 hit and 1 walk in the first 4 innings.  So far, so good, right? Typical CC, the man is a beast.

Then came the rain delay, and Joe Girardi looked in That Damn Binder and it said, "Don't send CC back out there."

Girardi sent in Adam Warren,who pitched very well in the 5th, and, because of the rule that says a starting pitcher can't be the winning pitcher unless he pitches at least 5 full innings, Warren stood to be the winning pitcher.

He stood to be the winning pitcher because the Yankees were leading 3-1.  Wells singled home a run in the 1st, countered by the Rockies scratching out a run in the bottom of the inning.  Nelson doubled to lead off the 4th, Overbay hit a grounder that moved him over, and Stewart hit a sacrifice fly to get him home.  And in the 5th, Robinson Cano hit his 9th home run of the season -- which was also the 1,500th hit of his career, a career that has made him, ahead of Tony Lazzeri, Joe Gordon, Bobby Richardson, Willie Randolph and Chuck Knoblauch, the greatest 2nd baseman in Yankee history.

Warren is off to a good start as a Yankee reliever.  And he got the 1st 2 outs in the bottom of the 6th.  But then he walked the next 2 batters.

Now the tying runs were on.  The go-ahead run was at the plate.  The batter was Carlos Gonzalez, who won the NL batting title in 2010 with a .336 average, and also that year hit 34 home runs and had 117 RBIs.  And who was already batting .304 this season with an OPS+ of 139.  (And has also averaged 24 stolen bases a season since 2009 and won 2 Gold Gloves, although that's not relevant to this situation.  I just wanted to show that the 27-year-old Venezuelan left fielder is a complete player.) And we were in Coors Field, a homer haven due to the city's mile-high elevation.

Naturally, in a situation where bringing in an incompetent pitcher could blow the lead and ruin the game, Girardi brought in Boone Logan.

Why, God, why?

Because Logan is lefthanded, and so is Gonzalez.  And because Girardi hates me.  Or his Binder hates me, and he does whatever the Binder tells him to do.  And because you don't bring Mariano Rivera in to relieve in the 6th inning.  (Unless it's 1996.) And because you don't bring David Robertson in to relieve in the 6th inning, either.  And because he didn't have confidence in either rookie Preston Claiborne or journeyman Shawn Kelley to be a righthander getting a lefthander out.

Boone Logan? With men on? In Coors Field? I can't look...

Logan got Gonzalez to hit a weak grounder to Overbay at 1st.  Threat over.

Claiborne pitched the 7th, and got into trouble for the first time in his brief major league career.  Robertson got out of it, and got through the 8th.  Mariano pitched a perfect 9th.

WP: Warren (1-0).  SV: Rivera (13).  LP: Jeff Francis (1-3).

These 3 games? Rockies 2, Yankees 0; Yankees 3, Rockies 2; Yankees 3, Rockies 1.  Three games at Coors Field, and the 2 teams combined scored 11 runs (Yankees 6, Rockies 5).

And Boone Logan didn't blow a single game.

Cue John Sterling's advice to Suzyn Waldman: "You know, Suzyn, you just can't predict baseball."

*

So, this morning, with the Boston Red Sox and Baltimore Orioles both losing yesterday, the AL East standings look like this:

New York Yankees 20-13, .606
Baltimore Orioles 21-14, 600, no games back, 1 back in the loss column
Boston Red Sox 21-14, .600, no games back, 1 in the loss column
Tampa Bay Rays 16-18, 4 1/2 back, 5 in the loss column
Toronto Blue Jays 13-23, 8 1/2 back, 10 in the loss column

Due to weather-related postponements, the Yankees have a game in hand on the Rays, 2 games in hand on the Sox and O's, and 3 games in hand on the Jays, who have been decidedly un-pesky in this season where they were meant to be the favorites in the AL East.

Shall we talk about Magic Numbers, to clinch the Division, or at least to eliminate the other teams, on May 10? The big Magic Number is 126: Any number of Yankee wins and Red Sox losses adding up to 126, and any number of Yankee wins and Oriole losses adding up to 126, and the Yankees win the Division again.  The number to eliminate the Rays is 123, and for the Jays it's 117.

Right now, in spite of all the Yankees' injuries, the only teams with a better record are the St. Louis Cardinals, at 21-12, .636; and the Texas Rangers and the Atlanta Braves, both at 21-13, .618.

The Mets? They won last night, beating the Pittsburgh Pirates, 3-2, to advance their record to 14-17, .452, 5 1/2 games behind the Braves in the NL East, just 4 in the loss column, and 3 1/2 games behind the 2WC (that's the second wild card).  Considering where they could have been at this point, that's not shabby at all.  Contrast that with the Houston Astros and the Miami Marlins, both at 10-25, .286.  The Marlins are already 9 1/2 behind the NL's 2WC; the Houston Astros, 11 full behidn the AL's 2WC.

Tonight, the Yankees come off their rainy Rocky Mountain High, leave Colorado, head across Kansas and reach Missouri, and start a 3-game series in Kansas City against the Royals:

Friday night, 8:10 (that's Eastern Time, local time is Central Time, so 7:10): Phil Hughes vs. Wade Davis, whom the Rays let go as a cost-cutting measure.  Which may have been a mistake.

Saturday, 7:10 (6:10 local): Andy Pettitte vs. James Shields, whom the Rays let go as a cost-cutting measure.  Which may have been a mistake.

Sunday,  2:10 (1:10 local): Hiroki Kuroda vs. Ervin Santana, who has never pitched for the Rays.

*

Hours until the Red Bulls play again: 33, tomorrow night, away to New England, at Gillette Stadium in Foxboro.  Because it's an away game on artificial turf, Thierry Henry will not make the trip.  This past Wednesday night, home to the Montreal Impact, Henry scored on a hellacious "bicycle kick" late in the game, which made the score 2-0 to the Jersey Boys, which was a good thing, because L'Impact scored in stoppage time to make it 2-1 and make everyone nervous.  Fortunately, the Metro defense held.

Hours until the Red Bulls next play a "derby," against either the New England Revolution, the Philadelphia Union or D.C. United: See the previous answer.

Days until Arsenal play another competitive match: 4, this Tuesday, home to Wigan Athletic.  The game was supposed to be played this Sunday, but, despite almost certain relegation from the Premier League, the Greater Manchester-based "Latics" have advanced to the FA Cup Final, where they will face neighbors Manchester City tomorrow afternoon at the new Wembley Stadium in London.  Although they've won a few minor honors, including the Football League Trophy, now named the Johnstone's Paint Trophy, in 1985 and 1999, Wigan have never won a major trophy such as the League or the FA Cup.  Most likely, knowing that their relegation is all but assured, they'll go all out to try to win the FA Cup against heavily favored Man City, which will leave their best players exhausted and anyone who does take the pitch against Arsenal on Tuesday night with little to play for.  It would be a weird thing to win the Cup and go down in the same week, and it would be a shame, since after coming up by winning the 2nd division in 2003, Wigan have become English football's Houdini, masters of escape, avoiding relegation year after year, usually on the final day.  This time, it looks like they won't make it -- unless they want to consider it an honor just to reach the FA Cup Final (which they've never even come close to doing before), and throw it, and keep their best players fresh for the last 2 League games.  But it may not matter.

Days until the U.S. National Soccer Team plays again: 19, on Wednesday, May 29, in a friendly against Belgium, featuring Arsenal captain Thomas Vermaelen.  Under 3 weeks.  That game will be played at FirstEnergy Stadium, formerly Cleveland Browns Stadium.  It, and the subsequent Sunday afternoon game against Germany at RFK Stadium in Washington, will be warmups for our next game in the last, "Hexagonal" round of CONCACAF World Cup Qualifiers, for the region that encompasses North America, Central America, and the Caribbean nations.


Days until the next Yankees-Red Sox series begins: 21, on Friday, May 31, at home.   Just 3 weeks.  The first Yanks-Sox series of the year at Fenway Park won't begin until Friday, July 19.  Then another series begins at Fenway on Friday, August 16.  Then another in The Bronx on Thursday, September 5, and another at Fenway on Friday, September 13.  Oh yeah, if you're a Red Sox fan, that's a day you want to play the Yankees: Friday the 13th!

Days until the next North London Derby: Unknown, since next season's schedule won't be released until June 19.  The season will most likely open on the 3rd Saturday in August, in this case August 17, but it's been a long time since Arsenal vs. Tottenham was an early game (possibly 1988-89).  But even if it is that early, that's 101 days.

Days until Rutgers plays football again: 111, on Thursday night, August 29, away to Fresno State University in California.  Under 4 months.  The first home game of the 2013 season will be on Saturday, September 7, vs. Norfolk State.  The schedule is now complete, with all opponents and locations set in this, Rutgers' last season in the Big East, before starting Big Ten play in 2014.  The only thing that hasn't been set is the kickoff times, with TV in mind.

Days until East Brunswick High School plays football again: 125, on September 12 -- on a Thursday due to Rosh Hoshanah, the Jewish New Year, falling on a weekend.  It's away to South Brunswick.  Just 4 months.  It 
will be the first game they play without Marcus Borden as head coach since Thanksgiving Day 1982 (a loss to Colonia High of Woodbridge), as he has left the program.  (Did he jump, or was he pushed? I don't know.) A new coach has been named: Bob Molarz, who turned nearby Carteret High School, which couldn't buy a win while I was at EBHS, into a team that made the Playoffs 9 seasons in a row and won 3 Central Jersey Group II Championships.  He comes to us from the head job at one of our rivals, St. Joseph's of Metuchen, where he coached their first 2 seasons of varsity ball.  A great hire.

Days until the Devils play again: Unknown, as the 2013-14 NHL schedule has yet to be released.  Most likely, the new season will begin on the 1st Friday of October.  If so, and the Devils debut on opening night (rather than the next night, Saturday), that's 147 days.  A little under 5 months.

Days until the Devils play another local rival: See the previous answer.

Days until the next East Brunswick-Old Bridge Thanksgiving clash: 202.  Under 7 months.

Days until Super Bowl XLVIII at the Meadowlands: 267 (February 2, 2014).  Under 9 months.  Of course, we have no idea who the opposing teams will be.  The possibility exists that either the Giants or the Jets could be in it -- or both.  To this day, no team has ever played a Super Bowl in its own stadium -- in spite of multiple hostings by Miami, New Orleans and various California teams.  Only 2 have done so in their home metro area: The 1979-80 Los Angeles Rams, whose home field was then the L.A. Coliseum, and they lost to Pittsburgh at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena; and the 1984-85 San Francisco 49ers, whose home field, then as now, was Candlestick Park, and they beat Miami at Stanford Stadium in Palo Alto, which had a much larger capacity than Candlestick.

Days until the next Winter Olympics, in Sochi, Russia: 273 (February 7, 2014).

Days until the next World Cup, in Brazil: 398 (June 12, 2014).  Just 13 months.

Days until the next Summer Olympics, in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil: 1,183 (August 5, 2016).  Under 3 1/2 years.

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