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October 5, 2003

by Larry Mahnken

If that was the last game of Roger Clemens's career, he couldn't have done much better than that. The Yankees still aren't hitting, they still aren't getting good defense, but just like in the 2000 postseason, when they didn't start hitting until the end of Game 2 of the ALCS, their pitching has put them in positon to advance.

The Yankees' pitching can't be given full credit, of course. The Twins don't have an especially strong lineup to begin with, and they've been hitting worse than normal in this series. Having an offensive sinkhole like Luis Rivas batting second isn't helping the situation any, either.

This afternoon, the Yankees try to close it out with David Wells on the mound. Wells struggled in the second half with back problems, but when his back started feeling better in the final weeks, he started performing better. While he's an enormous risk on the mound--if his back is sore, the Yankees are in big trouble--and his style of putting the ball in play might ruin the Yankees in the Metrodome anyway, it's a risk that's lessened somewhat by the victory yesterday. I would still rather pitch Mussina today on full rest, and take the chance of Pettitte on short rest tomorrow, but I can see an immediate advantage of this strategy: if the Yankees win today with Wells, they can go with their 3 best starters in the first three games of the ALCS, and if they lose and go with Mussina tomorrow, they can still start Pettitte and Clemens in the first two games (and have Mussina for Game 3 and Game 7).

There will be no "I told you so's" from me if Wells does get bombed today, but I am anxious.

It was really a great day for baseball fans, with four fantastic games. The Marlins knocked out the defending NL Champion Giants, ending the game on a play at the plate that probably should never have been made. The Braves found some offense against the Cubs, and forced a Game Five in Atlanta, where Kerry Wood will take on Mike Hampton and 95 years of history. The greatest offense ever could only score one run in ten innings, and should have lost if not for the bonehead plays of Eric Byrnes and Miguel Tejada, but finally won in the bottom of the 11th--the first extra inning postseason game in Boston since Game 6 of the '75 Series--on a walkoff home run by Trot "Righty Killer" Nixon off of Rich "Raging" Harden.

It was great to sit down and watch four games like that in a row on FOX...oh wait, only one of those games was on FOX. The rest were on cable--and two of them were on ESPN2. Not ESPN, ESPN2!!! And instead of seeing the great Sox/A's game, FOX viewers were treated to COPS and America's Most Wanted!

Well, at least they make up for that today, with...only one game on FOX again. It's nice to know that Major League Baseball has nurtured a healthy relationship with the network that broadcasts their games, so that they can ensure that every playoff game is viewed by as few people as possible. Well, I gotta tell you, I'm thrilled to be seeing the Cardinals play the Cowboys on FOX rather than A's/Sox.

This never would have happened if baseball had a salary cap, of course.