With one 4-2 win this afternoon, the Yankees clinched their division, wrapped up home field advantage, swept the Red Sox at home, and did their part for the struggling champagne industry. Good thing it stopped raining.
Andy Pettitte was on on the mound today and had one of those now-familiar starts wherein he doesn’t seem to have particularly good stuff or control, but still pitches resourcefully enough to keep things in hand. With the Sox putting together a double, two walks and a single in the first (including a comebacker off Pettitte’s leg), and loading the bases with no one out in the third, it’s impressive that Boston only scored one run in each of those innings. Pettitte righted himself and bore down after that, throwing very well in his last few innings, and leaving after six innings with the Yankees trailing the Sox 2-1.
Meanwhile, I don’t know how Paul Byrd does it – repeatedly over the last few years he’s completely baffled the Yankees’ hitters, despite the undeniable fact that he’s Paul Byrd. On a typical day Paul Byrd couldn’t baffle my labrador retriever. But he did it again this afternoon, shutting out the Yanks for five and two thirds, except for one Melky Cabrera laser shot into the right field stands. But in the sixth, Teixeira and A-Rod managed two-out singles off him, and when Terry Francona brought in Takashi Saito, the Yankees broke through: Hideki Matsui knocked in both runners with a little dunker into right field to make it 3-2. Later in the game, Teixeira’s homer provided a little bit more insurance.
In other encouraging news, Brian Bruney looked great today, locking down five outs in the seventh and eighth. This really hasn’t been Bruney’s year, and I can’t say I have much confidence when he trots out to the mound, to put it diplomatically – but when he’s right, Bruney can be very very good, and if he somehow does get things figured out in time for the playoffs, well, that’d be a hell of a bullpen.
Mariano pitched the ninth, and things did not go entirely smoothly, but eventually he fielded a little grounder to the mound and threw to Teixeira for the much-anticipated last out. Everyone started high-fiving, and hugging — and I can report that in addition to his other good qualities Andy Pettitte seems to be a really excellent hugger, warm and confident and full-bodied, not one of those stiff back-patter types — and breaking out the Division Champion hats and shirts, and then spraying booze all over each other.
I’m always a sucker for a champagne celebration, and this one was fun to watch, but not quite all-out – because the Yankees want to keep the focus on their playoff goals, and maybe also because winning the division has been nearly a foregone conclusion for weeks now. I think every single player interviewed followed the script: this is great, BUT… we’ve got a great team, BUT… well, we’re really happy we met the first of our goals.
And that makes sense – for the Yankees, it’s not really an honor just to be nominated. Everyone expects more from them, so why go nuts? But personally, particularly after last year reminded me just how much it sucks when neither the Yankees or Mets get to the postseason, I’m happy just to have October baseball in New York – yes, even if that only means watching the Yankees get swept by the Tigers in the ALDS. I was entertained all the way through the season this year, and maybe that’s not all I ask, but it’s all I need.