Friday, October 22, 2010

Texas 6, Yankees 1 (Rangers win series 4-2)

In lieu of flowers . . . we turn once again to that noted philosopher Don Baylor: "I hurts more to lose than it feels good to win."

In the end, the Yankees hit a ton of rockets and warning-track shots that were either right at Rangers, just foul, our warning-track outs. The Rangers bloops dropped in, their blips died between the pitcher's mound and third for base hits, their excuse me swings sailed just past infielder's gloves or moved runners over and in. When the blasts came, the cushion was just too great.

In thirty-five years of watching, I've never seen a player come so close to having a great playoff series but instead have a mediocre one than Lance Berkman, rushed into full-time duty when Tex went down. No one could fault A-Rod, one at-em ball after another. Cano was superb; Granderson fine; Gardner turned around an entire game by himself. Swisher was erratic but had his moments, as did Jeter. The only problem was stringing together three-four hits at a time--the symbol of the entire series was Berkman, the Yankees' last best hope, stranded on third in the seventh.

The pitching? Pettitte was good enough to beat anyone but Cliff Lee. CC was erratic but started both victories. Hughes and AJ, three starts between them, were maybe a half-dozen assorted pitches away, total, from three solid performances. Instead they went 0-3.

The entire series was like holding a poker hand with twenty "outs," four diamonds plus an open-ended straight draw. Then: nothing on the turn, nothing on the river, and you're sitting there with ashes in your hand watching a pair of sevens rake the pot.

Sleep in November? I think I'll sleep now.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Yankees 7, Rangers 2 (Rangers leads series 3-2)

Teams down 3-1 win Game 5s a lot. The trailing team's ace is coming around for another chance, the team needing only one more win is realzing just a bit, and many times, with the 2-3-2. the leading team is going home.

In the Yankees' case, Cliff Lee awaits for any Game 7, as formidable a Game 7 roadblock as Mike Scott was for the Houston Astros in 1986.

With one difference. Houston, down 3-2 in games, had to beat the Mets in Game 6 to get to Scott, and presumably the pennant. (They didn't, losing 7-6 in 16 innings.) The Yankees have to beat the Rangers just for the privilege of meeting Lee. A whole different dynamic.

Plus Sabathia has looked erratic for three consecutive starts. Plus Tex is gone for the year. Pettitte has been fine; against Lee you have to be nearly perfect. Burnett came within one swing of a tolerably successful start. Hughes had two terrific innings (even with the double-steal) and was lost.

The hitting is strange. Counting his bullet (caught) in Game 2, his foul ball in Game 4, and his screaming, bases-loaded line drive in Game 5 he has come within eighteen inches of eight RBI. The Yankees--in what reminds me of that exasperating series against the Angels in 2002--are hitting rockets that fall two feet short at the wall, are caught with Josh Hamilton going Raymond Berry, are rockets right at Ranger fielders, or are upper-deck jobs that slice a few feet, or a few inches, foul. When A-Rod hit his ground-rule double last night, the first words in every Yankee fans' head was, "Swisher doesn't score from third."

It was if--and this is familiar territory here--that ninth inning of Game 7 in Phoenix signaled that all the good luck, all the close calls the Yankees had enjoyed since 1996 were over. In 2002 it was (among others) Robin Venturas missing a three-run homer by three feet, when the ball hit a portion of the center field fence raised there, but not a bit over; in 2003 it was Alex Gonzalez hitting a home run, coversely over a portion of the fence where, and only where, the upraised barrier had been cut out. And so on. Thought 2009 banished all that.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

10-3 (3-1)

Ohhhh, AJ, you had me going there. And four outs to Mo.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

texas 7, Yankees 2 (Series tied 1-1)

Or, with Lee in waitiing, as Lupica writes, "Texas leads series, 1-1"

Friday, October 15, 2010

Yankees 6, Rangers 5

What do I say? When, at 5-1 Rangers, in the eighth, Brett Gardner beat out an infield hit by half a step, I said, "Hang on, let's see what happens."

What happened was five Yankee runs.

Roger Angell: "You do not open the door a centimetre to the Yankees, for they will kick it down."

Saturday, October 09, 2010

Yankees 6, Twins 1 (Yanks win series 3-0)

Some anxious moments late (has Kerry Woods acquired Farnsworth's disease?) but really, it was over in the fourth with Thames's home run.

Beyond that:

Nice to see Phil Hughes come into his own, and see all that promise he had that night in Texas three years ago come to fruition.

CC gets eight days' rest, setting him up to pitch game 4 against the Rangers or Rays.

With Thames and Berkman, Girardi just might have a little of Earl Weaver's Terry Crowley/John Lowenstein magic.

In the end, about as well as we could have hoped.

Thursday, October 07, 2010

Yankees 5, Twins 2

1. Stupid me me for picking a Thursday night class to teach this semester. Heard the Yankees go ahead 4-2 by text. My class seemed uninterested.

2. Year of the pitcher? In losing two games, the Twins have scored six runs. In the other four games, the loser has scored . . . one run. Total. Three games have been shutouts. Two games have been complete-game shutouts, one the first post-season no-hitter in 54 years.

3. Go even further inside the numbers. A pitcher who allows one hit per inning is doing a splendid job. In six games, the the pitchers on the winning teams--starter to closer--have allowed 24 hits in 54 innings, an average of .44 hits per inning, or less than half of excellent (or, if you prefer, doubly excellent).

4. CC Sabathia allowed four runs. The other five winning starters: three runs total, in thirty-eight innings, for an ERA of 1.40.

5. All this happens in the post-season much less often than anyone might think. The starters for the very first playoff game were two Hall-of-Famers at (obviously) the twin peaks of their powers, Phil Neikro and Tom Seaver. Both were bombed; the final score was 9-5. Atlanta's Hall-of-Fame troika of Maddux, Glavine and Smoltz won a single World Series, in 1995, then lost the Series to the Yankees in '96. Thereafter, they failed to win a single playoff series against anyone except their designated patsies, the Astros and Mets. (The only time they even reached the World Series again was in 1999, when they drew the Astros in the NLDS and the Mets in the NLCS, and beat both. Then they were swept by the Yankees in the Series.) Randy Johnson was rented in 1998 to bring the 'Stros to the World Series: he went 10-1 for Houston in the regular season and was 0-2 in the NLDS. Roger Clemens, during his best years, was either nothing special (1986, 1988, 1995, 2000, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2007), worn down (1990), or a disaster (1999) in the post-season--every year but 2001. And maybe we have a few ideas about that. Nolan Ryan went 500 starts without surrendering a three-run lead . . . right up to the deciding game of the 1980 NLCS, when the Phils took him over. And speaking of the Phils, Steve Carlton constantly put the Phillies in the playoff hole from the late seventies into the eighties: first the Reds and Dodgers, then the Astros. That's eight Hall-of-Famers, plus Clemens.

And? Kerry Wood looks like the real deal, at least for now (Jay Witasik? Mark Wohlers? Jared Weaver's older brother? Scott Proctor and Flash Gordon were worked into the ground by Torre; they get a pass). Nice to see Puma step up: 2-for-4, double, homer, two runs, two RBI. And if we can dispense with the notion that Tex hates cold weather, what explains his Aprils, which (at this rate) may keep him off the Hall-of-Fame short list?

Wednesday, October 06, 2010

Well, that was an interesting evening

Back home just in time, apparently. First post-season no-hitter in 54 years was thrown in what was clearly the second-best game of the day.

Tghe later game didn't start that way--not with Francisco Liriano very nearly putting the Minnesota fans to sleep, so routinely did he work through the Yankees.

Certainly things were different, with a lead that was lost, reversed, then lost again with Tex's moonshot.

Ugh, I'm going to bed.

6-4 Yankees, 1-0 in the Series.