Monday, August 12, 2013

It's Only Fair

For all the times that Mariano Rivera has saved the Yankees, they owed him.

On Friday night, the Yankees led the Detroit Tigers, a team that has given them such trouble since 2006, 4-2 in the 9th inning. Ivan Nova had pitched very well, continuing his renaissance; essentially, he and Phil Hughes have switched, with Nova pitching well and Hughes poorly.

But in the 9th, Mariano allowed a 430-foot home run to dead center field off the bat of defending Triple Crown winner and MVP Miguel Cabrera. That tied the game.

For a neutral, it was a thrilling confrontation between two future Hall-of-Famers -- that is, unless either (or both) gets outed as a steroid user. (You can never be sure anymore, can you?) For Yankee Fans, it was very depressing, as the Tigers seemed to have shocked us again.

And when the Yankees did not score in the bottom of the 9th, with Robinson Cano drawing a 2-out walk and Alfonso Soriano doing what he does, striking out, it looked like the bullpen would blow it in extra innings, and the offense wouldn't be able to keep up.

But Jayson Nix drew a walk to lead off the bottom of the 10th, and Curtis Granderson singled. Lyle Overbay struck out, but a wild pitch enabled the runners to advance. Overbay was thrown out, but now it was 2nd & 3rd, and only 1 out. A sacrifice fly would win the game.

Tiger manager Jim Leyland ordered that Eduardo Nunez -- who strikes fear into the hearts of his own team's fans with his glove, not those of opposing teams with his bat -- be intentionally walked, to set up the inning-ending double play, or at least a forceout at home. At first, it seemed to work, as Chris Stewart took a called 3rd strike.

But Brett Gardner singled Nix home, and it was Yankees 5, Tigers 4.

WP: Shawn Kelley (4-1). No save. LP: Al Alburquerque (2-3).


I spent Saturday down the Shore. No, I didn't go to Martell's Sea Breeze in Point Pleasant Beach, but the game sure made it look like I'd gone to that place that once seemed to jinx the Yankees every time I went.

I was in Wildwood, 165 miles south of Yankee Stadium. (And while the town is definitely Philadelphia-aligned, it isn't all that close to the Phillies, either, 88 miles from Citizens Bank Park. It's also closer to Baltimore's Camden Yards and Washington's Nationals Park than to Yankee Stadium: 139 and 160 miles, respectively. Wildwood is nearly at the bottom of New Jersey, and it's a fur piece, as my Grandma used to say.)

I'm glad I was far removed from Yankee Stadium, as, again, the aforementioned Phil Hughes didn't have it. It was only 2-0 Detroit going into the 5th, but the Tigers scored 7 runs over the next 2 innings to put the game out of reach.  Hughes had to be taken out in the 5th, and Preston Claiborne wasn't any better: Each of them allowed 4 runs.

Despite a homer by Overbay, his 13th of the season, the Tigers rode homers by Cabrera, Torri Hunter and former Yankee Austin Jackson (given up in the deal for Granderson) to win, 9-3.

WP: Anibal Sanchez (5-3).  No save.  LP: Hughes (4-11).


And yesterday, the Yankees had to face Justin Verlander.  Oy vey...

Except Verlander hasn't been so exceptional this year. This led Jack Clark, on his sports-talk radio show, to suggest that Verlander was using steroids. He also suggested it of Albert Pujols, one of Clark's successors at 1st base in St. Louis, who has been an injury-riddled disappointment since signing a big contract with the Whatever They're Calling Themselves At the Moment Angels of Anaheim.

Clark has been fired from that job. You might remember that he famously went bankrupt, largely due to having an enormous car collection that he couldn't afford. He may have to sell off a few more.

There's a reason Jack Clark was dumped first by the San Francisco Giants, then by the Cardinals, then after just one season (1988) by the Yankees, then by the San Diego Padres, and finally in 1992 by the Red Sox, despite having a career OPS+ of 137 (peaking at a whopping 176 in 1987), with 340 home runs, and that doesn't count the Pennant-winning homer he hit in Game 6 of the 1985 NLCS (though it was on the road so it wasn't a walkoff). There's a reason Clark kept getting dumped, and hasn't worked in baseball for over 20 years.

He's impossible to deal with.

So is Verlander, if you're a hitter. But this season? He's become possible. He went 7 innings yesterday, and while he was hardly horrible -- struck out 9, walked only 1 -- he allowed 7 hits.

One was a home run by Soriano, his 3rd since he returned to the Yankees, his 20th of the season, and the 392nd of his career. (For reference: Yankee Legend Graig Nettles hit 390. Johnny Bench hit 389, Joe Carter 396, Dale Murphy 398, Al Kaline and Andres Galarraga 399, Duke Snider 407. That's the company Sori's in now.)

Another hit that Verlander allowed was by Alex Rodriguez. For the first time since September 14, 2012, as John Sterling would say, "It's an A-Bomb! From A-Rod!" It was his 303rd as a Yankee, and his 648th overall. It was also his 2,906th career hit, and his 1,952nd RBI. Presuming his appeal is not heard until after the season, he still has an outside shot of making it to 3,000 hits and 2,000 RBI before the season is out.

But Andy Pettitte left the game in the 5th inning, despite allowing just 1 run. He also allowed 8 hits and 3 walks.  Shawn Kelley and Boone Logan each got 4 outs. David Robertson allowed a run in the 8th, but it was, yet again, 4-2 Yankees going into the 9th. Enter Sandman.

And exit cutter hit by Miguel Cabrera. Again, Miggy took Mo deep. Well, that only made it 4-3. But Victor Martinez followed it with a home run of his own. Again, it was 4-4! Again, Mo had blown it! His 3rd straight blown save! Has that ever happened before? (I don't think so.)

Maybe Mo really is retiring at the right time.

But, again, the Yankees bailed him out. Again, it was Gardy who was the hero. Only this time, there was no extra innings. After Nunez lined out to lead off, and Vernon Wells took a called 3rd strike (Jeez, if you're in that kind of a slump, at least take the bat off your shoulder), Gardner drilled one to right field, off former Yankee Jose Veras, who looks done. It was his 8th home run of the season.

Say it, Sterling: Actually, he forgot to say it, although he did say, "Gardner plants one!" and "Gardy goes yardy!" But he didn't use his most familiar catchphrase. So I'll use it: "Ballgame over! Yankees win! Theeeeeeee Yankees win!"

WP: Rivera (3-2).  No save.  LP: Former Yankee Jose Veras (0-5).


So here's where we stand, with 7 weeks left in the regular season:

Boston 71-49
Tampa Bay 66-50, 3 back (but just 1 in the loss column)
Baltimore 65-52, 4 1/2 (3)
New York 59-57, 10 (8)
Toronto 54-64, 16 (15)

In the race for the Wild Card, the Yankees are 7 behind the Rays (also 7 in the loss column).

This weekend, the Yankees head to Scum Town to play The Scum at Scumway Park.  Taking 3 straight is vital as far as the AL East race is concerned: Do it, and, especially if another game or two can be picked up in between, and we're back in the race.

But first, the Yankees play the Anaheim club:

Tonight, 7:05: Hiroki Kuroda vs. Garret Richards.  I like our chances.

Tomorrow night, 7:05: CC Sabathia vs. a pitcher yet to be named.  CC has been better lately.

Wednesday night, 7:05: Nova vs. Jered Weaver.  Weaver (brother of the accursed Jeff Weaver) usually pitches well against the Yankees, but the way Nova is going, we could well take this.

Thursday afternoon, 1:05: Hughes vs. C.J. Wilson.  That matchup? In a day game after a night game? I'm not looking forward to that.

If the current standings hold to the end of the season, here's the seedings:

5 Tampa Bay vs. 4 Oakland, winner to face 1 Boston; 3 Texas vs. 2 Detroit.

5 Cincinnati vs. 4 St. Louis, winner to face 1 Atlanta; 3 Los Angeles vs. 2 Pittsburgh.

And Toronto, the White Sox, Houston, Miami, Milwaukee and, incredibly, the defending World Champions, San Francisco, would be facing relegation -- if we did that sort of thing in this country.

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