Friday, August 29, 2008

Pride of the Yankees

Even the most optimistic of Yankees fans (read: me) understood what Wednesday's 11-3 drubbing by the Red Sox meant, the second loss in as many games to the arch-rival Wild Card leaders. Simply put, it was all over.

No following the other races to see who the Yanks would match up with in the division series, no features on whether this was the year A-Rod would come up big when it counted, no pull-out sections in the Post and Daily News to pour over come Oct. 1. Yankee Stadium, for the first time since 1993, will be dark when the postseason begins. Turns out me and my Dad were at the final playoff game ever at The House That Ruth Built, a 6-4 loss to Paul Byrd and the Indians in Game 4 of the '07 ALDS. Lucky us.

The players accepted the season's lost nature as well on Wednesday night, even if Joe Girardi's hollow rheteroic said otherwise (how annoying is this guy sometimes?). "We have to be professionals now," is how Johnny Damon put it. The Yankees entered Thursday losers of 18 of their last 30 games, turning a three-game deficit to the Rays to 11 and one-game distance from the Sox to seven. You couldn't have been surprised if Boston had finished off the funeral of the Bombers with a sweep in Thursday's matinee finale.

But here's the thing about these Yankees, particularly the veterans. They may not be the same players they used to be, but they still have their pride. And you have to respect the fight they put up in Thursday's 3-2 win in what is in all likelihood the final game these two great rivals will ever play against each other in this park.

Jason Giambi was the hero, launching the game-tying two-run homer with two outs in the seventh. Pinch-hitting for Jose Molina, the 'Stache lined an 0-1 pitch from Hideki Okajima off the facing of the black in left-center to finally get the Yankees on the board. When he came to the plate again with the bases loaded and no one out in the ninth, he stroked the walk-off single to center off douche closer Jonathan Papelbon. Who says people don't get work done on half-days?

Giambi is about to begin his final month in what has been a long, strange and ultimately unfulfilling journey as a Yankee. Always a fan favorite despite the steroid scandal that will forever blight his career, Giambi has always had a knack for the big hit in his seven-year pinstripe run. His skills have eroded greatly as an offensive player, but he's given this team everything he's had left this season, playing more first base then anyone could've imagined while being a good run producer and on-base man in spurts. He will be useful somewhere as a DH next season and he will be cheered loudly when he steps into the box as a visitor at the new Stadium.

These next 29 games will have a lot of that feel. Saying goodbye will be the big theme. Saying goodbye to some mainstays on the roster and saying goodbye in the place the club has called home since 1923. Let's hope Thursday was a sign that this team will send the cathedral out with the respect -- if not the results -- it deserves.

Around The Horn: New York finished 484-285-4 in the regular season at Yankee Stadium against the Red Sox. New York has beaten Boston in six of 10 postseason games in the Bronx. ... Alex Rodriguez went 0-for-4 with three strikeouts on Thursday, finishing the biggest series of the season at 2-for-13 with five strikeouts and one RBI. The crowd let him have it again, hopefully Madonna can hold him in her veiny arms as he sobs uncontrollably. ... The Red Sox lead the season series against the Yanks, 8-7, with three games to play Sept. 26-28 at Fenway. ... New York is six games back of Boston in the AL wild-card race with 29 to play. ... Mike Mussina is now 0-for-2 in tries at win No. 17 despite a solid seven-inning outing against the Sox. The Moose will have six more starts to get four more wins. I sincerely hope Stanford's son does it. ... Pete Abe reported today that Joba threw 45 pitches in the bullpen on Thursday. His next step will be throwing batting practice on Saturday before the game against the Jays. ESPN reported Thursday night that the Yanks are hoping to have Hoss in the bullpen sometime next week. Of course, they really need him as a starter, but I suppose beggers cannot be choosers. Another helping of Sidney Ponson? It's beefy!

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