"A New York Treasure" --Village Voice

The Quick and the Dead

The Yankees have had a bad stretch recently, yet after a rain out and learning of Tampa’s loss to Kansas City Friday night, they controlled their own destiny headed into Saturday’s double-header at Fenway. If the Yankees were to win their remaining three games, they would win the East and secure home-field advantage for the American League Playoffs. Though the Red Sox officially became the Dead Sox when CC Sabathia and David Price won on Wednesday night, sweeping them at Fenway Park will be a very difficult challenge and excellent preparation for the games that await.

In addition to a victory, the Yankees wanted to see Andy Pettitte assume the consistent quality of his pre-injury form. He got rapped for nine hits in four innings, but was deceptive enough to strike out eight. I’ll have to give some of the credit for those whiffs to the late afternoon shadows that turned Tim Wakefield’s knuckle ball to wadded up toilet paper for a few innings before the Yankees figured it out.

Andy has been knocked around twice in a row by these Red Sox, so that’s another reason to be happy their season ends after Sunday. On a confidence scale of AJ to CC, I’m somewhere around 2009 Andy rather then pre-injury Andy, but I am going to expect good things from him in the ALDS until he shows me otherwise.

The Yankees blew a 5-3 lead thanks to walks and wild pitches from Boone Logan, Joba Chamberlain and Kerry Wood. From there, the game hinged on two aggressive base-running plays. When Wood skipped his wild pitch past Posada, he charged to cover the plate. There may have been a play on the runner at third, but Posada could not manipulate his old bones into proper position to throw the ball when the play demanded. He double-pumped and was still unable to free his throwing arm, but he stubbornly flipped it towards…I don’t know. Maybe he consulted a compass and threw it at the N. It wasn’t toward home plate however. Luckily, Wood stayed at the plate as Ramiro Pena ranged into foul territory and cut off the second runner at home with a well-executed long-hop. Sometimes you see a third baseman fire one off the carpet in a dome this way, but I’ve rarely seen it done so well by an infielder throwing home.

With the score tied at five, Brett Gardner worked Jonathan Papelbon for a walk to lead off the tenth. This was Gardner at his best. He spoiled good pitches, took close ones and earned first base. I entered the season with the mission to give Gardner the benefit of the doubt, but not expecting anything. I’m ending the season hoping that there is a starting spot reserved for him for next year. After a sac bunt, Derek Jeter dribbled one to second so weakly (check-swing) that he was staring at an infield hit. Bill Hall muffed a bare-hand stab and as soon as the ball got behind him, I knew Gardner would be burning down the third base line with the go-ahead run. Joe Buck seemed surprised.

Mariano Rivera had a no-nonsense ninth inning for the 6-5 victory punctuated with a final strike to poor Eric Patterson so perfectly etched on the outside corner that he was forced to apologize to him after the game. Why bring a bazooka to a knife fight? Because they’re the Red Sox. Because they’re going to make this weekend living hell. If the Yankees want to win these next two games, they’re going to have to go full tilt. Because no matter who the Red Sox put in these uniforms tonight and tomorrow, they’ll happily use their season’s last breath to hock a loogie in the Yankee stew.

The Rays are up on Kansas City, so the Yankees must win tonight to stay in the driver’s seat for the AL East and home-field advantage. I know Burnett has used up all the credit he had with just about any Yankee fan and no matter what happens tonight, he’ll be unwelcome on the hill be it October or April. But with a non-sucktastic performance tonight, he can at least feel like he’s part of the team again and helping them towards an important goal. And maybe that could be step one (of one hundred) on the road to acceptance.

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"This ain't football. We do this every day."
--Earl Weaver