Sunday, September 27, 2009

The Math Says: "It's Over"

The magic number says the Yankees need one more win to wrap up the AL East and homefield advantage throughout the playoffs.

Red Sox manager Terry Francona, though, has already waived the white flag. How else do you explain the lineup he fielded Saturday with Jason Bay, J.D. Drew and Alex Gonzalez not starting? The only explanation is that he's working on his postseason roster. It's over Dave, admit it.

CC Sabathia allowed just one hit in seven inning to outduel Daisuke Matsuzaka in a 3-0 victory Saturday at Yankee Stadium that gave the Yankees a 7-1/2 game lead in the division with seven games left.

All that's left now is to celebrate and get ready for the playoffs.

Sabathia was utterly brilliant, walking two, striking out eight and throwing 57 of 96 pitches for strikes. Yes, he could have gone deeper in the game if the Yankees needed him to, but with Phil Hughes and Mariano Rivera rested a ready, Joe Girardi didn't need to tax his ace's left arm.

Hughes locked down the eighth and Rivera closed out the ninth for his 43rd save of the season. And since allowing Bay's tying two-run homer on April 24, Mo has two saves in four appearances against the Sox, allowing just three hits and two walks in four innings while striking out seven. Yeah, the Sox own Rivera, all right!

But back to Sabathia, in most other seasons he likely would be the favorite to win the Cy Young. He's 19-7 with a 3.21 ERA and hasn't lost since the end of July. He's gone 9-0 with a 2.04 ERA while the Yankees have won each of his 11 starts in that span.

It's just Sabathia's misfortune that Zack Greinke and Felix Hernandez are have ridiculously good seasons. (I still lean toward King Felix for the award at this point).

The Sox simply couldn't touch CC Saturday, and that's exactly what the Yankees needed because their offense struggled to deliver the big hit against Matsuzaka.

Dice-K had ... well ... a typical Dice-K performance, working in and out of trouble and making big pitch after big pitch. He allowed one run on six hits and five walks in seven innings. He struck out three and threw 65 of 115 pitches for strikes.

Unfortunately for the Yankees, they just couldn't find a hit with runners in scoring position against him, ending up 1-for-15 for the game.

It was maddening to watch, especially after Friday, when the Yanks went 7-for-21 with RISP. An no inning was more agonizing than the fifth, when Derek Jeter singled and Johnny Damon and Mark Teixeira walked to load the bases with no out.

Somehow, with the middle of the order up, they failed to score as Alex Rodriguez grounded into a forceout at home, and Hideki Matsui and Nick Swisher popped out.

The Yankees should have had a nice, comfortable lead for CC at that point. Instead it was scoreless until Robinson Cano led off the sixth by sending a 1-and-1, 90 mph fastball over the wall in left to give the Yankees and Sabathia a 1-0 lead.

Sabathia didn't need anymore than that, but the Yanks punched across two more in the eighth against Billy Wagner, who is not exactly known for having stellar outing in high-profile games in September. Right, Mets fans?

Swisher led off with a walk and pinch runner Brett Gardner moved up on a wild pitch. After Cano struck out, Gardner stole third as the Yankees swiped two more bases without getting caught by the Sox after stealing seven on Friday.

Wagner then hit Melky Cabrera with a pitch, but should have gotten an out when Gardner was caught in a rundown when a pitch bounced a short distance from Victor Martinez. However, shortstop Chris Woodward failed to handle a throw and Gardner made it back to third safely with Melky moving up to second.

Jose Molina then walked and after Jeter struck out, Damon blooped an 0-and-2, broke-bat single into right to drive in two.

And that finished off the Sox.

Order the champagne.

There's going to be a celebration tonight.

Runners In Scoring Position
1-for-15 (.067)
401-for-1,489 (.269)
First Half
217-for-819 (.265)
Second Half
184-for-670 (.275)
Since A-Rod's Return May 8
336-for-1,216 (.276)
Vs. Red Sox
44-for-199 (.221)

Up Next
Sunday vs. Red Sox, 1:05 p.m., ESPN
Paul Byrd (1-2, 6.04) vs. Andy Pettitte (13-7, 4.15)

With a win, the Yankees (99-56) also would win their 100th game and after starting the season 0-8 against the Sox, would split the season series, 9-9. Also, the win would render the last six games of the season meaningless and allow Girardi to rest his regulars and evaluate some relievers and reserves for the final spots on the playoff roster.

Last time out, Pettitte shook off some rust after missing a start because of sore shoulder and delivered a quality start. He'll be looking to improve on that to show he is fully healthy and ready for postseason play.

Tonight marks the start of Yom Kippur, the Jewish Day of Atonement. There are 10 players who appeared in the majors this season who claim Jewish heritage, among them the Red Sox's Kevin Youkilis, Brewers' Ryan Braun (father), Rangers' Scott Feldman and Ian Kinsler, Rays' Gabe Kapler and A's Craig Breslow of Trumbull, CT (of course). And for the first time that I can remember, none will be faced with a choice of whether to play (thank you ESPN of keeping the Sox-Yanks game at 1 p.m.).

To everyone celebrating, g'mar tov, and to anyone fasting, may you have an easy fast.

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