Kennedy Scratched

Not sure what is going on, but Mike and The Mad Dog are reporting that Ian Kennedy has been scratched from tomorrow’s start.  Clemens moving up to take the start makes the most sense, but no official word yet. 

Further Evidence…

…that Red Sox management pays close attention to what I say.  After recommending the Red Sox shut down Hideki "Don’t Call Me Irabu" Okajima for a few days, the Red Sox have done just that(ESPN filed this news item under the "NFL" theme, not sure why).

As for Wednesday’s game itself, the Red Sox are basically grabbing some ankle and inviting the Yankees to take the AL East.  Jonathan "I’m too good to be called Jon" Papelbon gave it up in the bottom of the 8th.  He came in for Mike Timlin who loaded them up and gave up a grand slam.  That’s 4 runs Jonathan and made the already 2-1 deficit even more difficult to overcome.

Way to go.  Of course, I am slightly annoyed and taking it out on some key contributors.  Please give me that.  Papelbon has been great, but it is very frustrating to watch a good team roll over and play dead.  Injuries, a lack of intensity and the possibility of blowing an enormous lead in the AL East is eating at me.  I called it way back this year that NY would never go away.

Consider the line-up tonight:

Drew

Varitek

Hinske

Kielty

Lugo

Those were your 5-9 hitters in Wednesday’s line-up.  While Lugo has been fine since the break and Drew for 2 weeks, these 5 guys are not what a $140m roster should yield.  Come on.

This is downright embarrassing.  Coughing up such a lead is not good for one’s psyche and could (or perhaps not) send Boston into the playoffs on a major down note.  1 1/2 games people.

UPDATE:  Baseball Tonight highlighted Julio Lugo failing to run hard on an infield grounder that temporarily eluded the shortstop.  Lugo was thrown out just barely.  ESPN showed that he half-assed it to first for the first 45 feet and only kicked it into gear when he say the bobble by the shortstop.  This is inexcusable.  Terry Francona better sit him down next game to send a message to the team that the season is not over.  If they continue to humiliate themselves for the rest of the season, Francona is to blame.  Time to be a manager and deal with this Terry.

We Have A Fourth Starter

Mike Mussina earned a playoff start last night. Torre always wanted to go to him and last night he gave Joe a reason to. Yes, Mussina will probably pitch two more times, but unless Hughes dominates his next time out, this race is over.

And that brings up a great question, which pitchers make this postseason roster? You have to figure that Wang, Pettitte, Clemens, Mussina, Rivera, Chamberlain, Vizcaino and Ramirez are locks right now. I would assume Hughes and Villone also make it which leaves 1 or 2 spots open right now.

I say 1 or 2 because I am not sure how many pitchers the Yankees will actually take into the playoffs. Conventional wisdom would dictate that you only need 10 or 11, but look at the current 40-man roster. The Yankees only have 15 hitters and numbers 14 and 15 are Alberto Gonzalez and Bronson Sardinha. Neither one of those guys can steal bases and you wouldn’t consider their bats to be weapons, so what value would they provide to a playoff team?

That’s why I assume the Yankees take 12 pitchers in the playoffs and those final two spots are truly up for grabs. Joe Torre doesn’t trust Kyle Farnsworth, so adding him to the roster is a waste, but it’s a move the Yankees will probably make to keep his trade value from dissapearing. (They could have him fake an injury too) I am sure Joe would like a second lefty, but I don’t see Henn making it so forget that. (don’t mention Igawa to me)I think the last guy could be Ohlendorf.

Now Kennedy has pitched the best, but I don’t think the Yankees are going to make him a reliever for the playoffs. Bruney did it last year, but he hasn’t been good this year and I don’t see Joe trusting him in a big spot. Britton hasn’t done much and Joe doesn’t seem to want to use Veras in big spots. Joe hasn’t used Ohlendorf much, but he keeps talking about how he is intrigued by him. Ohlendorf was bombed as a starter earlier this year and his reliever numbers while not dominant, were better.

It will be interesting to see how this shakes out over the last week.

Gagne is Officially a Disaster

Eric Gagne can’t become a free agent fast enough for me.  He, for whatever reason, has been terrible and I think tonight was the final blow.  The Red Sox were in need of a win and had one in their grasp, but Eric Gagne self-destructed and lost the game for Boston.

This is very frustrating.  What is worse is if Gagne has a soft free agent market and accepts arbitration from Boston.  That would be bad.

What was equally frustrating was Francona letting Gagne get himself into trouble and then allowing him to walk the plank.  Come on Terry, you’ve seen it before with this guy.  Kyle Snyder would have been a better option.  Anyway, I have to assume this was the icing on the cake and Gagne will NOT be on the Red Sox playoff roster (Jerry Remy said on the broadcast that this appeared to be an audition for Gagne).

It’s now 2 1/2 games.  I am getting the feeling Terry Francona and Boston management are (or is it "is") just fine with winning the wildcard and not the AL East.  Way to stagger into the playoffs guys.

3 1/2

Leave it to the Red Sox to make things interesting.  Jerks.

With about 11 games left, the Red Sox hold a 3 1/2 game lead on the Yankees in the AL East.  Their magic number is 9 (combo of Red Sox wins and Yankee losses needed to clinch the AL East). For those who think it possible the Red Sox lose the divisional title, fear not, they are 7 games up on the 2nd place wild card Detroit Tigers (which I think makes their playoff magic number 2).

But as predictable as cool weather in the fall, leaves falling on dewy grass and the delightful tanginess of warm apple cider, the Red Sox are blowing chunks late in the season.  I’ll give you delightful…

Manny has decided that September baseball games aren’t as satisfying as September baseball practice.  Kevin Youkilis is hurt and the pitching and offense seem out of whack.  Other than that, things are great.

And picking up from my last post, JD Drew deserves closer examination.  He has been getting on base and is on pace to score more runs this year than he did last year (85 vs. 78 so far this year).  But check out some of these doosies:

Late and Close –

17(H)/54(AB), .286/.386/.356.  Not bad you say?  Well he has 2 RBI in those 54 at bats.  So he is getting on base but hitting for no power and generating little run production.

2 out Runners in scoring position (RISP) –

14/71, .197/.400/.380.  Another sub .400 slg stat but in this case with 18 RBI.  Still not good overall.  He needs to move runners along.

9th inning –

5/27 – .185/.333/.296, 0 RBI.  Can you believe that?  0 RBI’s in the 9th inning all year?!?

Clearly he has been a disaster, but get used to Drew as his contract means he will play and start next year.  Things can only get better though and many talented players have struggled year 1 in Boston or New York (think Carlos Beltran).  There is hope, just maybe not this year.

Another scary development (a development suggests a recent trend, but his is more of a season long trend) is Jason Varitek’s strikeouts.  He has 114 so far.  He has always struck out often, but unlike 2004 when he K’d 126 times, he isn’t hitting for power or average.  He has a .296/.390/.482 in 2004 and has a .251/.357/.394 in 2007.  He has 13 doubles all season.  The next worse double output on the team amongst starters is 27 (Drew and Crisp).

I’ve pointed out nothing but worries, but that’s because the Red Sox are losing ground in the standings.  They do have some positives to point to.  Jacoby Ellsbury, Mike Lowell, Dustin Pedroia, Julio Lugo (.296/.331/.411 in the 2nd half), David Ortiz in the 2nd half, Josh Beckett and his 19 wins, Manny Delcarmen and Jonathan Papelbon.

The Red Sox remain a very talented team, but they need to fix a few things and get a few people healthy.

A few notes on Terry Francona.  He has been great and I’m glad he is the Red Sox manager, but he needs to acknowledge and accept the fact that both Hideki Okajima and Daisuke Matsuzaka are tired.  He did take one step in giving Matsuzaka an extra 3 days off before his next start, but he needs to mothball Okajima for a 3-4 days to allowing him to A.)  rest up and become effective again and B.)  prepare him for what hopefully will be an extended playoff run.  It’s one thing if Okajima was tired but still pitching well and Francona kept trotting him out there, but he is tired and pitching very poorly (5.06 ERA in August and 11.57 thus far in Sept) yet Francona is still trotting him out there.  He’s an Okajima addict.  12 steps Terry, 12 steps.

Line-ups aren’t in yet, but don’t expect Youkilis and Manny.  Tonight is Lester vs Burnett.

Tonight’s Lineup-9/17

Damon-CF
Jeter-SS
Abreu-RF
A-Rod-3B
Matsui-LF
Poasda-C
Giambi-DH
Cano-2B
Mientkiewicz-1B

I think Torre is very smart to rest Melky, the guy needs a day off. I think his last one was a month ago against Detroit and he is hitting .190 in September. I am a little worried that this past weekend is going to convince Torre to start Mientkiewicz a lot more. I am not sure why Betemit doesn’t get a shot to play, especially against righties.

Big start for Hughes tonight. I think it’s down to him and Mussina for the final rotation spot if the Yankees make the playoffs.

The Big Finish

Last night’s win was important for a lot of reasons. It allowed the Yankees to take the season series 10-8 after starting out 1-5 against Boston. It capped off a 7-2 road trip. But, most importantly, it kept the wild card lead at 2-1/2 games. Detroit has woken up and they are playing very, very well right now.

Detroit also has a pretty easy schedule the rest of the way. After playing three games in Cleveland, they should cruise the rest of the way. Three home games against the Royals, three home games against the Twins and a road trip for three games in Chicago. The Yankees start a three game set at home against Baltimore tonight followed by four against Toronto. Then they hit the road for three games in Tampa and three in Baltimore.

I think the Yankees should be able to close the season 8-5. That would force Detroit to go 10-2 to tie them, which doesn’t seem impossible when you look at their schedule. The odds favor the Yankees, but things will probably go down to that final weekend.

Lineup

I never would have guessed that Jason Giambi would be in today’s lineup playing firstbase. After last night’s defensive nightmare, I would have figured that Torre would stick him at DH or on the bench for a day, but he hasn’t. I give Joe credit for his faith since Giambi’s bat should stay in the lineup, but I think Joe needs to back off a bit on playing him there all the time. Giambi tends to break down when he is in the field a lot and I wonder if that played a part in last night’s problems more than just a simple lack of ability.

Anyway, the rest of the lineup is the same as yesterday with Matsui at DH and Damon in LF. More after the game.

Message Sent

There are a lot of things you can take away from last night’s win, but the biggest one to me is that this team can beat the Red Sox. I remember in 2003 and 2004 when the Yankees were in first and the Red Sox were chasing them, I always felt that none of that mattered because Boston was just as good as the Yankees were. Today, I fell exactly the same way, except it.

Unlike some, I still don’t see the Yankees winning the division, but I don’t really mind. With or without homefield, the Yankees can beat this team in the playoffs and that’s all that matters. Now they have to get in and get past the first round to have that chance.

Does This Look Like 10,000 People To You?

This is from yesterday’s Marlins-Nationals game in Florida. Announced attendance 10,122. Some reporter counted 375 people.

Now, Florida is a miserable place for afternoon baseball in September (and most of the baseball season unless you like to sweat) and neither team is any good, but 375 people??

MLB really needs to take charge of the situation in Florida and a few other places. Lousy ownership that just pockets the revenue-sharing money is cheating the fans of South Florida and pretending that 10,000 people came to the game because that was the amount of tickets sold is also a joke.

This is a wonderful game, but I worry that is falling further and further behind football in most of the rest of the country outside of the Northeast.