Body Blow

First off, Ron Darling should take some criticism for his reaction to Jeter’s play in the 12th. It was obvious to anyone that he was anything but ok, yet Darling claimed the opposite. I’m sure that some fans in New York will equate the fact that Darling usually calls Mets games with an anti-Jeter bias. I don’t want to think like that so I will assume that Darling, like the rest of us, was simply stunned to see Jeter not get up.

If you haven’t heard the news, Jeter has broken his ankle. He is obviously out for 2012, but Joe Girardi said the actual recovery time should be three months and it will not threaten his career. That means he should be ready to go in 2013. Not that that matters much at this moment.

The Yankees not only have to deal with that loss, but they have to deal with the fact they lost a very winnable game and had to do so in extra innings. I don’t really understand the way Joe Girardi managed this game. I don’t understand the decision to turn to Derek Lowe in the 7th (though it worked) or stick with him into the 8th (It didn’t). I really don’t understand pinch hitting for A-Rod in the 8th. It was 4-0 at that point and there was one out, why put more focus on Alex? And finally, I don’t understand bringing Phelps in for the 12th with Joba in the pen. Phelps has been great, but asking him to pitch to Cabrera and Fielder in extra innings of a playoff game seems like a tall order. Why not let Joba pitch a couple of innings and see if the offense can score there?

But Girardi isn’t swinging the bat and that is what ultimately lost this game. They failed once again to hit in the clutch. Robinson Cano has completely disappeared. Swisher was better with the bat, but that isn’t saying a lot. The Yankees need to execute when they have runners in scoring position and they simply haven’t done that most of 2012.

So, now the Yankees face a tough road. They need to win later today or face the prospect of heading to Detroit down 2-0 with Justin Verlander on the mound. They can’t do anything about Saturday’s game and they won’t have Derek Jeter anymore. Desperate times call for desperate measures and I say that means it is time to turn to Eduardo Nunez. We have seen hints of his offensive abilities while being scared by his defensive liabilities. Jason Nix is really a AAA player so why not put Nunez in and see if he can spark the offense? Yes, he might bobble a ball or two, but I would still let him show us what he can do.

One final note. We saw Joe Girardi physically carry Mariano Rivera and Derek Jeter and escort Andy Pettitte off the field this year. I have no idea how the 2012 season will end, but I have a feeling Brian Cashman will note that and redouble his efforts to make this club younger in the future.

Interesting

Mark Feinsand is reporting that the Yankees have added Cody Eppley to the ALCS roster and dropped Nunez. This leads me to a few conclusions.

1- Jeter’s foot is just fine. I know Nix is the primary backup, but they wouldn’t make this move if they were worried about Jeter’s foot.

2- The Yankees are strongly considering TBA as their Game 2 starter. Why do you need 12 arms in the, unless you have five of them in the running to start?

We shall see.

That’s An Ace

CC Sabathia has been everything the Yankees could have hoped for and tonight he may have pitched his best game as a Yankee. A complete game with only four hits and 9 K’s in the do-or-die game of the ALDS is pretty special.

Give a tip of the cap to Buck Showalter and his Orioles. They gave the Yankees everything they could handle and I firmly believe that none of the Yankees’ success would have happened if Buck hadn’t molded them in the early 90’s. I am sure it is of no comfort for him now, but he was the guy who started Jeter, Rivera and many others on the road to success.

Now the Yankees have the advantage of staying home for the start of the ALCS, but they are at a big disadvantage pitching wise. We know Pettitte will go in Game 1 on regular rest. After that, the Yankees have some tough choices to make. Kuroda could go in Game 2, but he would be on short rest, he threw 105 pitches Wednesday. Otherwise, Girardi has to pitch someone other than the four guys who started in the ALDS (Lowe or Phelps? Girardi wouldn’t commit to anything in the postgame other than Pettitte tomorrow and he specifically refused to answer when asked what his options besides Kuroda would be for Game 2) And Game 3 isn’t any easier. They will face Verlander, that’s a definite. They could either pitch Sabathia on short rest, or Hughes or Kuroda on full rest. Something tells me this will come down to the disposition of the series after the first two games because the Game 3 starter is in line to pitch Game 7.

On the plus side, Sabathia’s gem tonight kept the bullpen rested. That is huge because Soriano and Robertson had each thrown three innings over the last two nights. Now, the Yankees can enter the ALCS with a relatively rested bullpen.

Here are some questions, in no particular order, the Yankees have to figure out in the next 23 hours.

1- Is Joba healthy enough to pitch in the ALCS and if not, who is his replacement?

2- What are they going to do with A-Rod? The Tigers have only righty starters. I suspect A-Rod gets into the lineup tomorrow. (Chavez was 0-for-3 with 2 K’s tonight.) In fact, I would bet he gets Games 1 and 2, but if his struggles continue, he will be back on the bench in Game 3 against Verlander.

3- Considering Swisher and Cano continued to struggle, but Granderson looked a lot better so is another lineup shakeup possible?

4- And obviously the Game 2 starter. That decision will probably also impact the bench because if the Yankees decide to use someone other than Kuroda in Game 2, I could see them adding another pitcher.

Whew, what a series. And now no rest before the next one. See you tomorrow!

UPDATE 11:20PM The Tigers have released their ALCS rotation: Fister, Sanchez, Verlander, Scherzer, Fister, Sanchez, Verlander

FIster has a 5.18 ERA against the Yankees in four career starts, but he pitched better in 2012 against them. The Yankees destroyed Sanzhez the one time they saw him this year and they also shellacked him in his one start against them as a Marlin. Verlander is deadly. Scherzer had pitched well against the Yankees until his one start this year when they hit him pretty well.

UPDATE 12:29AM The Cardinals just pulled off another amazing comeback, down 6-0 at one point and 7-5 in the 9th, they win 9-7. That means two things. 1- The Yankees are the only one of four home teams to win Game 5 at home. 2- The last three World Series winners are still alive in the playoffs. MLB is having a pretty good month, aren’t they?

Fact and Fiction

Heard some interesting points on sports radio this morning. I would like to debunk some of them.

#1- Alex Rodriguez is a terrible postseason player.

Fiction- how quickly we forget. Does 2009 ring a bell? Without Alex’s six homers in the postseason, the Yankees don’t win that World Series. His home run in Game 2 of the ALDS tied the game at 3 in the bottom of the ninth. His home run in Game 3, tied the game at 1 in the 7th. His home run in Game 2 of the ALCS tied the game in the bottom of the 11th and his home run in the World Series brought the Yankees to within 1 run down in Game 3. In fact take his entire postseason body of work and he has hit ,268/.377/.475. Not too shabby at all.

#2- Benching A-Rod today would be as bad or worse than hitting him 8th in 2006.

Fiction- That was a completely different player. In 2006, A-Rod was the reigning MVP and had hit 35 home runs in the regular season. Joe Torre usually made smart decisions, but this was one of his worst and really seemed more about embarrassing A-Rod more than anything else. Today, Alex is a completely different player and benching him wouldn’t have anywhere near the sting the 2006 move did.

#3- The Yankees offense is MIA

Fact- They have been terrible and apart from Jeter, Ibanez, Martin and Teixeira, there isn’t much to look at. However, the Orioles have been worse,

#4- The Yankees should bench Curtis Granderson today.

Fiction- This is a tough call. Granderson has been terrible (1-for-16 with 9 K’s) but with a righty on the mound, he should be in the lineup. The only way I bench him is if it is for Gardner. Ibanez can DH, but I do not want him in left for a game that starts in the sunlight. Too much potential for an error.

#5- The Yankees are thinking of starting Derek Lowe in the ALCS.

Fact (I think)- If you stop and think about it, why didn’t Lowe come into that game instead of Phelps? Lowe is the veteran and pitched very well for the Yankees down the stretch. If the Yankees make the ALCS they have the choice of pitching Kuroda on three-days rest in Game 2, or coming up with another starter. My suspicion is that Girardi was thinking about using Lowe for that game. I hope we find out.

Back after the game. It’s amazing to think that these two teams are 11-11 against each other this year. This is one heck of a tiebreaker.

Not Good

The Yankees had their chance. Second and third, one out in the bottom of the 8th. But, Girardi didn’t go to a pinch hitter for A-Rod and A-Rod struck out and when Swisher flied out, the Yankees had lost their best chance to win the game. Now they face a do-or-die game 5 in the ALDS for the second year in a row.

Obviously, CC Sabathia is making the start which is a huge boost for the Yankees. But this is not what the Yankees wanted. By using Sabathia Friday, they will either have to pitch him on three-days rest in the ALCS in Game 3, or on regular rest in Game 4. Furthermore, they will either need to use Kuroda on three-days rest in Game 2, or pitch someone who hasn’t started for them in the postseason. Of course none of this matter if they don’t win. Finally, the ALCS starts Saturday, so the Yankees won’t have a day off after playing in Game 5, while the Tigers will. (And say a thank you to Oakland for forcing a Game 5 which forced the Tigers to use Verlander tonight. He is absolutely mowing down Oakland, but won’t be able to pitch until Game 3 of the ALCS.)

Now the big question is who starts at third tomorrow? A-Rod is absolutely lost at the plate right now and he only hit .256/.326/.391 against righties all year. Chavez hit .298/.365/.543 against them. It’s not the time to worry about A-Rod’s feelings, if I am Girardi I bench him.

Baseball has to be happy that it got the maximum number of games in all four of the division series. It’s great for baseball, just bad for the Yankees.

Gutsy Call Joe

Raul Ibanez is obviously the hero of this game, but you have to give tremendous credit to Joe Girardi. Girardi decided to roll the dice with Ibanez hitting for A-Rod in the 9th and it was the right call. He followed that up by leaving Ibanez in to face a lefty in the 12th when Ibanez was 12-for-65 with 0 homers against lefties in 2012, and it was the right call again. Either move, especially the first one, could have opened him up to criticism, but Girardi pulled the trigger. He looks like a genius now, but can you imagine what the story would have been if Ibanez had struck out in the 9th and the Yankees had lost?

Now the Yankees have this series in their control. One more win at home and they head to the ALCS. It would behoove them to win it tomorrow, as thanks to this year’s postseason schedule there won’t be an off-day between the ALDS and the ALCS if the ALDS goes five games. Behoove is probably too small a word as the Yankees would be at a serious disadvantage if they went 5 games in the ALDS. They would have to pitch CC in Game 5, meaning he wouldn’t be available until Game 4 of the ALCS on regular rest. Furthermore, they wouldn’t have any of their ALDS starters available on regular rest for Game 2 of the ALCS. They could either start Kuroda on three-days rest or pitch Nova or Phelps I suppose.

So, the Yankees need to figure out a way to win tomorrow. They face Joe Saunders, a guy they have roughed up historically. Phil Hughes was 11-4 with a 3.74 ERA at home this year, so you have to feel good about the pitching matchup.

And while it isn’t a topic for now, A-Rod’s five-year/$114-million deal will certainly be a topic in the near future.

I’ll Take It

Apparently I missed something. When I listen to sports radio in these parts it seems as if the Yankees are on the verge of elimination.

Yes, I get it. There are plenty of things you can complain about from the Yankee point of view. But, the fact remains that they got the split you wanted them to get in Baltimore and now they need to win two-of-three at home.

And while all the focus seems to be on the things the Yankees haven’t done, it is worthwhile to note that Baltimore is hitting .227/.250/.273 in the series. The Yankees have a .350 OBP, which highlights the fact that they haven’t hit in scoring position, but also the fact that they have had plenty of opportunities to do so than Baltimore.

In 1995, the Yankees took a 2-0 lead in the ALDS, only to fall in three-straight games to Seattle on the road. Baltimore doesn’t have that steep of a hill to climb, but don’t underestimate the challenge ahead of them. The Yankees have the advantage, the question is can they take advantage of it?

69-93

With the firing of Bobby Valentine yesterday, the Red Sox finished up 2012 with their worst record since I’ve been a fan of the team (or since my birth). Any it really felt as bad as you might think. It was a hopeless, miserable season and it really felt like that from day one.

I’d like to take credit in predicting the outcome of the 2012 season when Bobby V was hired, but that was really a lay-up. Seriously, he wore a mustache made of eye-black strips in a dugout, seriously.

Given the Punto trade this summer, providing the Red Sox with great salary flexibility, and having no manager, the Red Sox are a tabula rasa. GM Ben Cherington has his hands full given that the 2 best free agents are both highly dubious choices for Boston in Zack Greinke and Josh Hamilton. So the farm system and creative trades will probably be the primary source of a re-load.

Here’s my 2012 opening day line-up:

cf – Ellsbury
2b – Pedroia
3b – Middlebrooks
dh – Ortiz
1b – Mike Napoli
rf – Ross
lf – Kalish
c – Lavarnway
ss – Iglasias

Not a great line-up by any means but probably the best we can expect next year. I fully expect both Ortiz and Ross to be re-signed and the Red Sox might just take a flier on a mid to high level FA in Napoli. Why Napoli? He has a 1.075 OPS against the Red Sox, so taking him off the opposition’s team is a good first step. Secondly, he has a 1.107 OPS at Fenway. Just a guess though.

More important is the progress of the minor leaguers. It would be nice to think that Jackie Bradley Jr. might make a late season appearance and perhaps even Bryce Brentz.

The Rotation is also in need of major help, what with Matsuzaka a free agent (thankfully) and the Punto trade relieving us of Beckett. 2013 might look like this: Lester, Buchholz, Doubront, Morales and, and…

Of course there is the issue of the next manager. John Farrell is the leading candidate but he only won a few more games than did the Red Sox, so why is he the best choice? I’m not saying he isn’t, I’d just like to hear why they think he is.

More to come.

It’s A Long Slog

The Yankees have won the AL East and have clinched the #1 seed in the AL. In July, tonight’s outcome seemed a foregone conclusion. In late August, this outcome was very much in doubt. There are many different ways to slice it and dice it, but if you look at the entire sample, the Yankees came out on top.

Now, things will get a lot tougher. The Yankees won’t know who they play until the conclusion of the Baltimore-Texas game Friday, but both teams present challenges. Texas may have collapsed down the stretch, but don’t forget that they have won the pennant two years in a row and a win Friday might give them momentum. Baltimore was the team that refused to die all year. I can’t see them being scared at all under the lights of October. And don’t forget that the ALDS starts in either Baltimore or Texas for the Yankees this year with the final three games at Yankee Stadium. That will only make the task ahead harder.

But for now, let’s enjoy this. We’ve seen it so often over the past 17 years that it is easy to forget just how hard it is to do. Congrats Yankees, you have spoiled us once again.

To The End

Back on July 19th, I cautioned against opening the champagne. Unfortunately, my caution was warranted as the Yankees and Orioles still haven’t decided the AL East. Thanks to last night’s win, the Yankees technically have two games to get the one win they need to win the division, but nobody wants it to go past tonight. (BTW- the Yankees were 0-58 when trailing after 8 before last night.)

Amazingly, we still have a number of scenarios that could play out.

1- The Yankees win. Simple and easy, they are AL East champs and #1 seed in the AL.
2- The Yankees lose. The Orioles lose. Yanks still win the East, but the #1 seed in the AL depends on whether Texas or Oakland wins. If Oakland wins, they are the #1 seed. If Texas wins, the Yankees are the #1 seed.
3- Yankees lose, Orioles win. The Yankees then get on a plane for Baltimore and play in a one-game playoff tomorrow with the loser playing a wild card game against the loser of Oakland-Texas on Friday. Again, Yankees would have homefield in the wildcard game if it was against Texas, but have to travel to Oakland.

So, the Yankees could open their playoffs tomorrow, Saturday or Sunday and do so in Baltimore, Texas, Oakland or Detroit. How’s that for madness?

Back after the game tonight.

UPDATE-6:54PM What can you say about the A’s? And how about Texas to go from that World Series loss to this?

So, Yankees must win if they want #1 seed in the AL. And the amazing thing is that it is all because the A’s swept those four games in July. Give the Yankees one win in that series and they would have won the season series outright.