Laid out here here in the Post.
Okay, guys, once we get past the obligatory barring a major collapse part, the last two games basically sew up the regular season. The Magic Number goes to five versus the Sox (with any one victory over Boston counting as two of the five--okay, we all know that). Thanks to a diasastrous/disastrous/kinda cool football weekend (USC, Patriots, Texans--and memo to Pac-10 haters: both Mark Sanchez and Brian Cushing may be the real deal), I've been feeling 24 hours behind my reall passion.
Some notes of my own:
1. The telling part of the last game, for me, was that Ian Kennedy, of all people, was brought into pitch during Wednesday's minor-panic game, not least because the Non-Mo usually reliable part of the bullpen, right now, would probably struggle to pass the green beans at dinner. Recalls another Earl Weaver quote about pitching: "Either six is too many or ten ain't enough." Today that would translate to: "Either eight's too many or twelve's not enough." Because of the delicate dynamic of a rotation/bullpen, plus the vagaries of the schedule, entire staffs tend to pitch well at once (cf. the 1996 Yankees) or stink all at once (cf. Games Three (yes, three) through Seven, 2004 ALCS). When the starting pitching goes well, all you need are your five starters, set-up man and closer. When the starters get shelled, the rusty middle part of the bullpen, already rusty from inaction, gets exhausted from immediate overwork. Then your eighth- and ninth-inning guys sit around and do nothing, because there's never a lead to protect. When times were going well for the Yankees (roughly 7 1/2 weeks after the All-Star game, when they were 30-11 or some ungodly number), you could almost sense Girardi and Eiland see the bad times coming, and scramble to get Acevedes, Coke, and Bruney work whenever possible. Still, it's never enough. Chop as much fire wood as you want in September; you'll be shivering out there in the woods with your hatchet come January.
Only three weeks ago we were debating Pettitte v. Joba for Game Number Three against the Tigers. Three days ago it was: Can anyone pitch Game 2, and could that be on the road against the Angels? We seemed to have reached a middle now: Pettitte or Burnett for Game 2 (if it's a toss-up, you go Burnett for the lefty-righty effect with CC, right? And when in doubt, always start the older veteran on the road?)
2. Quiz: name the last team the Yankees beat in a playoff series. The Minnesota Twins, 2004 ALDS. And yes, I've seen the Twins creep up on Detroit, and no, I'm not going to openly root for the Twins because such behavior is just major bad karma, whether we're talking about "ducking Verlander in a short series" or not. Consider:
I was living in Binghamton, New York, in the spring of 1989, and barely following the NBA. The Celtics had just begun their (interrupted, kind of, twice, in 1991 and 2002) two decades of ineptitude-at-all-levels. I sort of picked up the sagas of the Patrick Ewing/Mark Jackson/Charles Oakley/Rick Pitino New York Knicks by osmosis, in part because they were a young, running, pressing, fun team to watch, and in part because when the Knicks are good (that used to happen, kids) you pretty much can't escape them anywhere from Perth Amboy, New Jersey, all the way to the Canadien border.
Anyway, the only question the Knicks wanted to know was, Which team would they have to beat to face the Bay Boy Pistons in the Conference Finals? A good young Cleveland team (Brad Daugherty, Mark Price, Larry Nance) had given New York fits all season, so naturally they pulled for Cleveland's first-round opponent . . . Chicago. And when Michael Jordan beat Cleveland at the buzzer in Game 5 with the first truly famous shot of his career, the Knicks themselves were publicly ecstatic. Great, we get to play the Bulls!
You can guess how the next round went for the Knicks. Or, for that matter, the next decade, whenever they went up against Jordan.
Or think of the Democrats.
In 1968, the Dems privately rooted for Richard Nixon to win the GOP Presidential nomination against George Romney, Ronald Reagan and Nelson Rockefeller. Nixon won the nomination, and then the presidency.
In 1980, Jimmy Carter thought he'd stomp Ronald Reagan. Privately, the Dems heavily rooted for Reagan to gain the GOP nomination over Bush I and Howard Baker. Result: Reagan landslide over Carter.
In 1988, the Democrats openly and publicly rooted for Bush I over Dole and Kemp, thinking either Dukakis, Gore or Gephardt would beat him easily. Bush I won the nomination. Result: Bush I landslide over Dukakis.
In 1996, the Democrats privately rooted for Bob Dole over Lamar Alexander. Okay, that went well for the Dems.
In 2000, the Democrats openly rooted for Bush II against McCain, thinking either Gore or Bradley would beat him easily. Bush II won the nomination. Result: Bush II in a squeaker over Gore.
In 2008, the only Republican who scared the Democrats at all was John McCain. McCain won the nomination. Result: Obama semi-landslide over McCain.
Lesson: beware of what you wish for. And never wish to meet any team with players named Mauer and Morneau. I could have rooted for Texas to beat Boston for the Wild Card, or to overtake the Angels, and get rid of one of the Yankees' two nemeses. It would take a total breakdown of Yankee pitching to lose to Texas. But Detroit v. Minnesota? I'm sitting out.