Monday, August 25, 2008

Walking The Wire in Baltimore

To get back into this playoff race in earnest, the Yanks are in need of an extended winning run. Today's 8-7 marathon win over the Orioles completed a three-game sweep at Camden Yards. That's three straight. And that's a start.

But Sunday's game also illustrated how difficult it will be to put together the necessary run with the starting rotation being what it is. This will put the spotlight back on an offense that will get one last chance to re-write the story of its season as anything other than a bust. They will need to produce when those Ponson-Pavano-Rasner turns come up. If the Yanks swing the bats -- as they did all weekend in Baltimore -- it's certainly possible to win eight of 10 or 15 of 20. But we must remember that we're talking about a team on pace to score the fewest number of runs in a season since the Bush Sr. administration. It's unclear if they are capable of being consistently productive anymore.

Darrell Rasner is terrible. Just God awful. He's had more chances than Robert Downey Jr., and while I'd love to make a cute pun here saying that the Razz is more Tin Man than Iron Man, I won't, because the fact is Darrell Rasner is all heart. Unfortunately, that's all he is. If Wang didn't get hurt and Kennedy didn't implode and Joba didn't point to his shoulder, Rasner would have been at best, in long relief and, at worst, sitting on his couch drinking Budweiser. Instead, he's still here, still pitching poorly and there's not really a thing the Yanks can do about it other than hand him the ball in six days against the Blue Jays. That's just the way things are in '08. Stupendous.

What we saw this weekend is what we expected from this team all season. The Yanks took it to a last-place team with an offensive attack that was too much to handle for middle-of-the-road starters and weak middle relief. So strong was the lineup that the team overcame Carl Pavano and Rasner only collecting 25 outs in their starts.

The offense couldn't have done it alone. The bullpen seems back on it feet after The Road Trip That Shall Not Be Named. Mariano Rivera is back in form, collecting saves in all three O's games to give him 31 for the season. It was also nice to see Damaso Marte excel Sunday with three strikeouts over 1 1/3 scoreless innings. Joe Girardi lied -- yes, flatly lied -- to the media prior to the game, saying the reason the left-hander hadn't pitched much in the past 10 days came down to the right situation not presenting itself. Marte let the cat out of the bag later, saying his elbow had been bothering him, likely the product of a 42-pitch outing on Aug. 4 against the Rangers. Me thinks Girardi still has some things to learn about dealing with the New York press. If you lie, you will be exposed, and when you get exposed, you look like a dick. Understand this and adapt.

The Yanks have been excellent in close games this season. Sunday was the 38th come-from-behind win of the year, tied with the Tigers for the most in baseball. Eleven of the Yanks' last 13 wins have been come-from-behind victories. These are numbers that are either telling me the bullpen is way better than I give it credit for or this season has been very close to being embarrassingly bad. I suppose it's both.

And just like that, the Red Sox re-enter the picture. Three games at the Stadium starting on Tuesday, with New York trailing Boston by five games in the Wild Card chase. In the words of Mike Francesa, this is huuuuuuuuuuge. The Yanks need this series in the worst way, and while it may be asking too much to ask for a sweep, the Bombers need to be thinking that way. The Yanks caught a break on Saturday when the Sox announced that Josh Beckett will miss his next turn with arm issues. In his place will be Tim Wakefield, fresh off the disabled list and hopefully ready for another shit show in the Bronx. To keep this momentum going, the Yanks need to win this series. This may be their last chance to make noise.

Around The Horn: The Yankees swept the Orioles at Camden Yards for the first time since 2004. New York leads the season series, 8-7, with three more games to be played in the Bronx Sept. 19-21. That series finale could be the final game ever at the Stadium. Good luck getting tickets to that. ... I like Pudge Rodriguez. I like the way he plays. He's a gamer. But he's not showing much game for the Yankees. He has one RBI since joining the team. This is not the walk-year that agents dream about. ... The Yankees' punishment of Daniel Cabrera on Sunday was an anomoly of sorts. The big-righthander had been 3-0 with a 3.15 ERA in three previous starts against the Yanks in '08. Cabrera's velocity has seriously dipped (his fastball was maxing at 89-90), which makes you think he has to be hurt. Why do the O's keeping running him out? ... I watched the Orioles telecast of the game on Sunday. That Jim Palmer sure is a whiny bitch. He was all over the umpires, highlighted by his near conniption when Rivera fanned Nick Markakis to end the game. Like many announcers across baseball, Palmer seems to put waaaay too much faith in those silly pitch-tracker boxes. "They're embarrassing themselves," Palmer said of the umps, seemingly unaware of the irony that he was a tighty-whities model in the late-80s. ... I'm going to say it. This team will be so better off without Jason Giambi next season. Sure, he's a fun guy, but you take out that hot stretch in June and he's been a shadow of the shadow of his former great self. ... Phil Hughes got bombed in his Triple-A start on Saturday, his second consecutive poor start down there. Suddenly, a Sept. 1 call-up isn't a sure thing. Phil Franchise? Certainly not this year. Meanwhile, I haven't heard if Ian Kennedy getting married again this ALDS? Prospects are suspects.

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