With Jorge Posada playing manager, the Yankees wrapped up their season with a 10-4 win over the Orioles, taking 2 of 3 in Baltimore and finishing the year with 94 wins and a wild card berth to the playoffs.
The game was a light-hearted affair, with Bobby Abreu getting his 100th RBI (he got two to finish at 101), Joba Chamberlain facing one batter (a groundout to end the seventh), and getting the starters out of the game before anyone got hurt being the primary concerns. All were accomplished in good order.
Sean Henn started and turned in three solid innings allowing just a Kevin Millar home run. Chase Wright followed with two frames and picked up the win. Ross Ohlendorf pitched the sixth and the seventh prior to Joba’s appearance, giving up a run on two hits and a walk and striking out one. Chris Britton pitched a perfect eighth. Kyle Farnsworth allowed a two-out homer to J.R. House in the ninth in a four-batter inning. I’ll take a solo homer with a seven run lead over a walk in the same situation any day. There was a moment of concern when Farnsworth knelt down after delivering a pitch having felt a twinge in his hip, but he turned out to be fine and finished the inning.
On offense, of the 12 Yankees who came to the plate, only Alberto Gonzalez failed to reach base. Wilson Betemit had a good day (2 for 5 with a double and 3 RBIs), which was important. Bronson Sardinha, who could make the postseason roster as a pinch-runner, singled and walked in two trips while playing third base in relief of Alex Rodriguez (Sardinha was drafted as a shortstop and was moved to third before finally settling in the outfield, where he has played all three positions, but most often right field). Rodriguez himself went 2 for 2 with a walk and an RBI to push his final line to .314-54-156. Doug Mientkiewicz went 2 for 4 with a double and a walk to keep his hot streak going. Jose Molina went 3 for 5.
The real action of the day, of course, took place in Queens, Philly, Milwaukee, and Denver.
Tom Glavine only managed to retire one man the first time through the Marlins’ lineup and was pulled after plunking opposing pitcher Dontrelle Willis, who came to the plate before he ever took the mound. A Dan Uggla double off Jorge Sosa two batters later pushed the first-inning tally to seven, and the Mets were never able to climb out of that hole, losing 8-1 and being eliminated by the NL East Champion Phillies, who made the postseason for the first time since 1993 by beating the Nationals 6-1 behind a solid start by Jamie Moyer and strong relief by Tom Gordon, J.C. Romero (the LOOGY went two full innings and struck out three), and Brett Myers, who got the final strike on a nasty curveball.
Reflecting on the Mets’ collapse, I feel worst for Willie Randolph. Not only because he’s a former Yankee who I used to root for as a kid and someone to whom I have a sort of six-degrees connection to, but because he’ll likely take the brunt of the blame for the Mets fall, much like Gene Mauch did for the 1964 Phillie Phlop (which, to be shameless for a moment, I wrote about in the new Baseball Prospectus book It Ain’t Over ‘Til It’s Over). In reality, the Mets collapsed because their pitching fell apart, and that was no fault of Randolphs. Save for yesterday and their loss to the Cardinals in Thursday’s makeup game, the offense did it’s part. The Mets lost because the starting pitchers couldn’t give them more than five innings, and the bullpen couldn’t survive having to pitch four innings every night. It was exactly what went wrong with the Yankees in April, only the Yankees had time to sort things out and the Mets didn’t. If you want to blame an individual, blame the pitching coach Rick “The Jacket” Peterson, or the general manager Omar Minaya. Heck, you’d be better off blaming Glavine, the supposed staff ace who gave up ten runs in ten innings in his two starts prior to yesterday, then utterly devastated his team in the top of the first inning of what turned out to be an elimination game. Over his last three starts, Glavine pitched just 10 1/3 innings and gave up 17 runs on 25 hits, including four home runs, four walks, and a hit batsman. Myself, I don’t believe that such a collapse can be blamed on any one person, but if you’re going to play the blame game, leave poor Willie out of it.
Out in Milwaukee, the Padres could have clinched the Wild Card with a win, but Brett Tomko couldn’t hold an early 3-0 lead, and the bullpen did even worse as the Padres fell to the vengeful Brewers 11-6. That left it all up to the Rockies, who could force a tie-breaker for the Wild Card with a win over the NL West Champion Diamondbacks. Ubaldo Jimenez and Yusmero Petit kept things scoreless through five and a half until the Rockies finally pushed a run across against Petit in the sixth. The D’backs answered that in the top of the seventh after chasing Jimenez and the game went into the bottom of the 8th tied 1-1. A throwing error by Arizona third baseman Mark Reynolds and an infield hit by MVP candidate Matt Holliday set up a three-run Rocky outburst and, though the Diamondbacks rallied in the ninth, Stephen Drew grounded out with the tying run on base to give the Rockies a 4-3 win and force a one-game playoff at Coors Field tonight at 7:35 (see sidebar for details).
Back to the Yanks, Hideki Matsui traveled back to New York yesterday to get fluid drained from his knee. He is expected to DH only in the postseason, with Johnny Damon being the everyday left fielder and leadoff hitter.
The latest news on the postseason roster is that the Yanks will take eleven pitchers, leaving an extra position-player spot likely to be filled by Sardinha per the above (I almost wonder if his playing third base yesterday was to allow him to qualify as a replacement “infielder” for the injured Andy Phillips). Both Mike Mussina and Phil Hughes have made the postseason roster, but Joe Torre has not announced which will start a potential Game Four. He did say that he’s fully confident that Roger Clemens, who went home to Houston and is supposed to throw a simulated game at the Yankees Tampa facility today, will be ready to go for Game Three.
Speculating about who will get those final few pitching spots is one of the many topics I discussed last night on Yankee Fan Club Radio. You can stream or download the MP3 here (I come in at the 19:15 mark).
Alex and I will be cranking up the postseason previews and such in the coming days, with the Yankees opening up their series against the Indians in Cleveland on Thursday with Chein-Ming Wang taking on C.C. Sabathia. Stay tuned . . .