By Jon Lane
I wrote in this space after the Yankees’ took two of three from the Red Sox last month at Fenway Park that the men from the Back Bay aren’t dead yet. Alas, the Red Sox are winners of seven straight games and 10 in a row on Yawkey Way.
There won’t be too much suspense these last few weeks. The Yankees’ magic number for clinching a playoff berth is four, which means you seriously do not have to worry about a Mets-like September collapse. But homefield advantage throughout the postseason is far from wrapped up, even if New York leads Boston by 6 ½ games in both the AL East and the right to host that extra DS and LCS game.
Red Sox-Yankees at Yankee Stadium next weekend now has some intrigue. The Yankees’ AL East magic number is 11, and the way the BoSox are playing you figure the Bombers will spray champagne in their own clubhouse either that weekend or the following week when the Royals are in town. This brings up a question, writes Pete Caldera. Do you celebrate clinching the playoffs with the big champagne party, or wait until you clinch the AL East?
Nothing ever seems to go right for the Angels when they play the Red Sox. They’ll arrive to Fenway for the finale of a three-game set tonight still steaming over controversial calls that they perceive cost them Wednesday’s game. Closer Brian Fuentes actually wondered whether the men in blue were too “timid” or “scared” to make a decision that riles the temper of Red Sox Nation.
“Especially here and some other places, they seem timid to make calls,” Fuentes said after twice failing to get a third strike called on Nick Green before walking him with the bases loaded score the tying run. “I’ve heard it from other guys that come in here and say that. That’s either because it’s a mistake, or they’re scared.”
Barring any late comebacks, the clubs will meet for a third straight time in the first round of the playoffs, where in the last two Octobers the Red Sox have eliminated the Angels, who are 1-9 against Boston in the postseason since 2004.
Updating you on two of the Yankees’ potential playoff opponents, the Tigers rallied from a three-run deficit Wednesday to snap a three-game skid on the night they honored the iconic Ernie Harwell, while the Twins completed a sweep of the Indians to take a four-game win streak to a showdown with the Tigers this weekend, three of seven remaining games between the clubs this season.
Detroit leads Minnesota by 4 ½ games entering today and is trying to hold on with a pitching staff of Justin Verlander and fingers crossed. (I initially didn’t mention Edwin Jackson, but the Royals are currently lighting him up and, like Rick Porcello, we’ll see how they respond with the season on the line.) Jarrod Washburn has given up at least three runs in each of his last five starts and a bum knee has bumped him from his scheduled start on Sunday. I’m just sayin’.
By Jon Lane
CC Sabathia is on track to become New York’s top attraction this summer.
Last night he struck out seven over seven innings and allowed one run on three hits to win his third straight start. The big guy has allowed just two earned runs over in his last 24 innings while lowering his ERA from 4.85 to 3.43. To put it in perspective, the last time Sabathia lost was May 2, when he allowed five runs (four earned) on eight hits in 6 2/3 innings.
Sabathia has pitched into the seventh inning five straight starts. The Yankees haven’t had that trusted horse to either stop a losing streak or extend a winning streak while preserving the bullpen since 2003. As my colleague Jerome Preisler put it, Sabathia is an Ace with a capital ‘A.’ He covered last night’s game for us and best summed up what lies ahead this summer in these words:
Over his last several outings, CC has risen to the level of his advance billing and become the ace of the Yankee pitching staff. I am thinking now that the nights he takes the mound in the Bronx are going to become events in New York City, nights you want to be at the ballpark if at all possible.
If not the ballpark, you’ll want to line the tri-state area’s plethora of sports bars, jam the Hard Rock Cafe at Yankee Stadium, or settle into your easy chair when Sabathia’s on tap, or for that matter anytime the Yankees play, period. The Yankees are going to lose eventually, and inevitably hit the skids, but someone like Sabathia stops losing streaks from spinning out of control. When the ball is in his hand, you get excited. You want to see him work and dominate the opposition. He got Milwaukee jacked over something other than Green Bay Packers football last October. This is why the Yankees had to have him and they got him.
Jerome shared a funny moment that didn’t make his piece due to space constraints. It went down during his trip to Fenway Park a few weeks back.
I saw this guy behind a soda bar in the press area and thought he worked there.
“How you doin’?” I asked.
“Fine,” he said.
“Can I have Coke?” I said.
He looked at me and started chuckling. “Sure . . . diet or regular.”
“Regular,” I said.
He scooped some ice in my cup and filled it under the spout and was still laughing at some private joke as he handed it to me.
That was when I got a recognized him as Tom Werner, Chairman and co-owner of the Boston Red Sox.
“Enjoy!” he said.
I stood gaping and didn’t even tell the story till now, that’s how embarrassed I was.
You can be sure I won’t clap tonight.
By Jon Lane
The secret to Jonathan Albaladejo’s success? Simple. After taking his warm-up pitches on the mound, he has a way of blocking out all distractions (fans taunting, piped-in stadium energizers, what have you). He shouts to himself, “SHUT THE [HELL] UP!” Over his last couple of appearances Albaladejo escaped a bases-loaded, one-out jam and was part of Wednesday’s yeoman effort by the bullpen. If it ain’t broke, don’t break it.
Before the game, it was my turn to get punk’d. I’m exiting the visitors’ clubhouse and let the door close behind me. Suddenly I hear a loud thud and an angry cry. I was made to believe that I failed to realize that someone was right behind me and did not hold the door open. The security guard who prevents riff raff from entering sacred ground shoots me a dirty look. I open the door worried about the person behind it. He shoots me a smile, points and says, “Nothing happend. I’m okay.” The guard let out a laugh that reverberated through the vast hallway.
Every game a Yankee Stadium employee parks himself into an open seat on press row and through a walkie-talkie communicates runs, hits, errors, runners left on base and the current line score, to the people manually updating the old-school scoreboards in left and right field. I’ve never seen that at Fenway Park. There must be a tried and true system that’s done right by Red Sox employees since 1912.
Imagine yourself in the zone, working feverishly to beat deadline off a 4:57 game and you’re interrupted by the piercing sound of a fire alarm. This wasn’t a drill, nor was it an actual emergency. Yet this went non-stop for about 15 minutes. A few fed-up writers made phone calls and implored on-site security to rectify the situation.
Poor Johnny Damon. A fan reached for a ball hit by Kurt Suzuki in the second inning, denying him of any chance to make a play. Instant replay upheld the original home run call, but that didn’t stop a few fans from briefly giving this one person the Steve Bartman treatment. Well, maybe not that bad, but why this yearning for a souvenir when it can break a difference-making play, especially when it goes against your team?
As for Damon, he misplayed Jason Giambi’s fly ball in the third, which led to the Athletics’ fourth run after homers by Hideki Matsui and Melky Cabrera trimmed the A’s lead to 3-2. For the rest of the game, fans sitting in left field gave Damon sarcastic ovations with every catch and chanted his name during the rest of his at-bats. This wasn’t the usual roll-call, folks.
From the for what it’s worth department: CC Sabathia lifetime against the A’s: 3-7 with a 6.26 ERA, the highest against any AL team. He starts Monday in Detroit, and is 13-9, 4.70 versus the Tigers and 7-2, 3.80 in 11 starts at Comerica Park. His one start there last year wasn’t pretty: nine runs on eight hits (two homers) in four innings pitched.
Has anyone noticed Robinson Cano is on a 10-game hitting streak and batting a team-high .367? The player many wanted traded has 22 hits this month. Last April Cano was 15-for-106 (.151) in 29 games.