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May 5, 2004

Nine Days
by Larry Mahnken

There were some in Red Sox Nation who started counting unhatched chickens after The Sweep. The AL East was originally expected to go down to the wire, neither team was expected to win the division by a very large margin. If finishing five games better than the Red Sox over 162 games was an unlikely outcome for the Yankees, playing five games better than Boston in 143 games might be impossible.

It took the Yankees nine days to erase the lead. You'd think Red Sox fans would know better than to gloat, especially in April, but there you go. The Yanks are back in a tie for first place; they've won seven straight, Boston's lost five straight, and we've all learned a valuable lesson.

Anyway, I think I learned that lesson myself last year, when the Yankees had a 10-game lead in mid-August, and Boston pulled within two at the start of September before the Yankees finally stopped them.

For those of you that, you know, are normal and had to go to sleep last night, you missed something fantastic. Last year, the Yankees were sorely lacking in exciting victories, at least until Game Seven. They didn't have many big comebacks, and they usually didn't come back late. In the past week, the Yankees have now had two thrilling late-inning comebacks against the A's, coming back from a 6-run deficit last night to win 10-8. The offense had a truly outstanding game, as everybody who came to the plate got on base at least once. Finally, we're seeing what this lineup is capable of--and it is truly frightening. This wasn't a Royals' AA reliever they did this against, this was Mark Mulder, who may well have won the AL Cy Young Award last season if he hadn't been hurt.

There were a couple of bad things last night: Jose Contreras was terrible again, giving up two homers and struggling to find the plate, quickly putting the Yankees in a position where it seemed unlikely that they would come back. Contreras seems to finally trust his fastball enough to throw it when Posada calls for it, but perhaps he's too concerned with hitting spots, instead of trying to blow it past hitters. There may be something mechanical that can be done to improve his control and make him the pitcher he's trying to be, but he would probably be more successful if he just threw fastballs in the strike zone, rather than to a specific spot in the zone. His difference-making pitch is his splitter, and he should try to get to counts where he can use it, rather than trying to throw unhittable pitches every time.

The other bad thing was the leg injury suffered by Ruben Sierra while running to second on his game-winning double. How serious the injury is is unknown, but the way Sierra's swinging the bat, and with Lee out for perhaps the entire season, Sierra suddenly has value. Sierra's recent run is likely an abberation like Raul Mondesi's April last year, but regardless of why, Sierra's one of the big reasons for this streak.

After last night, I'm starting to feel a way I haven't felt about the Yankees since 1999. It's almost like every game is a win, unless the Yankees do something to lose it. Last night, we caught a glimpse of how great this team can be. They may not win the World Series, but man, this is going to end up a fun season.

* * *

There was an error in my DIPS Report worksheet in how DER was calculated (I had neglected to include errors. Duh.) The fix wasn't too hard, but it wasn't too easy either. Unfortunately, there's a problem with the file and I can't access it. It may just be that my crappy little computer doesn't have enough memory, but it's highly likely that I'm going to have to start over from scratch.

Anyway, I might need some help entering data in the sheet if I start over, so if anyone wants to help out by doing some data entry for me (it's really easy, just time-consuming if I do it all myself), send me an email, and I'll let you know what help I need.