Showdown Series countdown: One day

longoria_250_080509.jpgBy Jon Lane
Because the Yankees knocked Roy Halladay out of the park three times, because Andy Pettitte, Phil Hughes and Mariano Rivera survived self-inflicted storms, and thanks to Evan Longoria’s second home run that capped a four-hour and 57-minute game, the Yankees are ensured to remain in first place when they come home to meet the Red Sox Thursday night.

New York defeated Halladay and Toronto, 5-3. Boston fell to Tampa Bay, 4-2, in 13 innings. The Yankees lead the AL East by 1 games. While the Yankees sweated out a victory, the Red Sox blew a 2-0 sixth-inning lead. Instead of riding a five-game winning streak, the Red Sox enter tonight deflated, exhausted and looking for bullpen help.

What does this mean for this pivotal four-game series? Nothing. Every day, every game, a story is re-written. And until the Yankees take significant steps to erase their 0-8 record against their rivals, the Red Sox own a major psychological advantage.

Onto a few of a latest storylines from both sides:

? Terry Francona got heat in Boston this morning for pitching to Longoria, who tied the game by going yard off Daniel Bard in the eighth, with first base open. The Rays’ sophomore slugger is second in the league with 81 RBIs and has eight homers and 24 RBIs lifetime against Boston pitching. He’s also dusted right-handers this season (.281-16-61) and in his brief career (.283-35-128). On Sports Radio WEEI, Dale & Holley were wishing that Francona walked Longoria, pulled Takashi Saito and brought in Clay Buchholz to face Ben Zobrist with the thinking if he loses Zobrist, he has a favorable matchup with Joe Dillion.

Walking Longoria was not an option, reported The Boston Globe. Francona indicated he felt he also would have had to walk Zobrist to make the decision worthwhile, which would have left the control-challenged Saito facing Joe Dillon with the bases loaded and the possibility of a game-ending walk. Furthermore, Buchholz wasn’t coming in until the 14th.

? Since Francona’s bullpen is worn out after using six relievers, and with Brad Penny (7-5, 5.07 ERA) coming off a July when he pitched three five-inning games, expect a roster move to import help from Triple-A Pawtucket.

? Remember when Jason Bay started Boston’s 8-0 run against the Yankees with a two-out, game-tying ninth-inning home run off Rivera on April 24? A bum hamstring has kept Bay out the last two games and he has just five RBIs since June 24. In July, Bay batted .192 with a homer and 29 strikeouts in 79 at-bats.

? Pettitte’s fine second half continued when he allowed only a run in 6 1/3 strong innings Tuesday night. The left-hander is approaching incentives that could earn him an additional $6.5 million in bonuses, writes Peter Abraham. Pettitte, starting Sunday night against Jon Lester, has worked 134 1/3 innings. When he reaches 150, he earns $500,000.

? Big start tonight (YES HD, 7 p.m.) for Sergio Mitre, the Yankees’ fifth starter by default. Despite his ugly numbers (1-0, 7.90, 1.98 WHIP, .400 BAA), Mitre isn’t pitching for his job (yet) simply because alternatives are limited. Unless the Yankees trade for a reliable back-end starter after he clears waivers, you have Josh Towers, who hasn’t pitched in the Majors since 2007 but was named International League Pitcher of the Week after going 1-0 with a 1.29 ERA in two starts. And there’s Kei Igawa. Enough said there.

Mitre cited a flaw in his delivery that’s been flattening his sinker, one he’s confident he can fix, writes Anthony McCarron.

4 Comments

Here’s the thing: I don’t believe in “major psychological advantages”. Time and time again that’s proven to be rubbish. The Yankees swept the Indians in 07 and lost in the playoffs. I believe they either swept the Tigers or came close and lost in the playoffs. And then there was 04′. If the Yankees didn’t have the psychological advantage in that series I don’t know who did. Anyway, my point is that we should just worry about winning as many games as possible and forget the team. Because once you’re in the playoffs, anything can happen.

A fair point. I always like to recall the 1988 NLCS when the Dodgers beat the Mets as an example of how anything can happen come postseason. It’s just strange that to date, anything that could go wrong for the Yankees against the Red Sox (and Angels) did go wrong. We’ll either write the same story or tell some new ones beginning Thursday.

Thanks for reading,

Jon

Jon enjoyed your interview yesterday from Toronto. Things can go either way with the Yanks and the Bosox. The Yankees are due for sure but the Sox always go into another gear against the Yanks. What to do huh. btw I have a friend who use to babysit Jerry Hairston when he was young. How funny is that. Small world as they say. Go Yanks

My comments concern the broadcasting of John Flaherty. I wish that he could hear himself and his sing-song way of commenting. I am always waiting for more when he finishes a comment. It is very annoying.

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