“We’re playing well,” [manager Joe] Torre said. “I’ll take winning five out of seven at every turn. If that’s not good enough, it’s not good enough. We have no control over them (Red Sox), but we’re playing well right now.” (N.Y. Daily News)
“This game is about runs, and they are on their best run of the year,” Yankees third baseman Alex Rodriguez said of the Red Sox. “We’re in the driver’s seat. We’ve got a month left of baseball, and hopefully our best baseball is ahead of us.” (N.Y. Times)
I’m generally an upbeat person but when we’re talking about sports I’m a pessimist–at least when it comes to rooting for my teams–always waiting for the the other shoe to drop. My girlfriend Emily has battled Crohn’s Disease for years and at times I see how it clouds her view on life. But above all, she is a fighter. No matter how difficult things get for her, how dark things can get, she takes her lumps then comes out swinging. And when it comes to baseball, she is an optimist of the first order. It makes for a good partner (and sometimes a good foil). She never thinks the Yankees are out of a game. The ninth inning on Saturday was proof enough for her that anything can happen at any time.
As frustrated as I was to see yesterday’s game slip away from the Yanks–a botched double play and a miscommunication between Derek Jeter and Enrique Wilson along with some poor pitches by Mussina and Paul “Lighter Fluid” Quantrill was enough to do the trick–let us look on the bright side: Mike Mussina pitched his best game since returning from his elbow injury and Alex Rodriguez went 4-4. Also, the Yankees went 5-2 on the week. Who knew that the Red Sox would forget how to lose? Boston won again yesterday, and now trail the Yanks by just four-and-a-half games (four in the loss column). They have won 12 of their last 13 games. However, now is the time for the Yankees to make up a few games as the Sox play their next nine games against the Angels, Rangers and A’s.
If A-Rod does hit in the clutch down the stretch and in the playoffs, it will make up for the loss of Jason Giambi, though Tony Clark and John Olerud have been surprisingly solid in his place. They’ve posted a combined .802 OPS as Yankees, which isn’t special, but above average for AL first basemen. That’s about the level of production the Yanks got out of Tino Martinez in the late 90′s. Clark and Olerud have taken a potential disaster and turned it into a push. If Giambi does come back and is effective, that would be huge, but with three great hitters already in A-Rod, Sheffield and Matsui, the Yankees don’t need him.
What they need is good relief, which could make Steve Karsay the most important September addition. While you don’t want to go too far in projecting the return of a pitcher who has been out almost two full years, but Karsay’s with the team, throwing in the bullpen, and looking good. If he’s able to pitch effectively in September, he could give the Yankees the vital solid middle relief they need to keep Quantrill, Gordon and Rivera on their butts. And if he pitched well, he could be a huge addition to the postseason roster.
The next three weeks represent the Yankees’ last, best chance to finally put Boston out of the AL East race. If they play well, they can tack on a couple of games before they play the Sox on the 17th. If they don’t add any games, or even worse, drop some, then things get hairy.
Amen. Not like I’m waiting for the other shoe to drop or anything. But no matter what shakes down over the next few weeks, it looks like the Yanks and Sox will play six more exciting games against each other before we reach the playoffs. Did you expect anything less?