Larry Mahnken and SG's

Replacement Level Yankees Weblog

"Hey, it's free!"

The Replacement Level Yankees Weblog has moved!  Our new home is:

Larry Mahnken
Sean McNally
Fabian McNally
John Brattain

This is an awesome FREE site, where you can win money and gift certificates with no skill involved! If you're bored, I HIGHLY recommend checking it out!


Disclaimer: If you think this is the official website of the New York Yankees, you're an idiot. Go away.

July 1, 2004

by Larry Mahnken

Well, we're now two-thirds of the way towards a sweep, and six games short of the midpoint of the season, the Yankees have--and we can safely say this--a commanding lead on the American League East.

7½ games! Think... the Yankees could lose every game through next Thursday, Boston could win every game, and they would be tied! The Yankees haven't led by this much this early since 1998, and they've gained 12 games on Boston since The Sweep.

But it ain't over. It ain't even close to being over. Boston's no longer leading the Wild Card race, but they can still win the division. A realistic scenario has the Yankees playing like the Red Sox the rest of the way (48-39), and the Red Sox playing like the Yankees to catch them at season's end.

But they are unlikely to catch them any time soon, and they're unlikely to pull away at all. The Yankees can breath easy for now, they don't have to look at the scoreboard. They don't have to make any trades, they can survive minor injuries.

The Yankees are 7½ games up, even though Kevin Brown's on the DL, Gary Sheffield's shoulder is falling apart, Mike Mussina has been medicore, and Jason Giambi has worms. It's not the worst than can happen to New York, but it hasn't been a smooth ride--but there they are, ahead big.

Yesterday they won a game they probably shouldn't have won. Not on paper, and not in performance. Jon Lieber and Tim Wakefield have each struggled lately, but Wakefield has had the Yankees' number lately. Sure enough, Lieber's control was off early on, and Wakefield was untouchable... well, all night. But Lieber got off easy, getting out of the first with only one run and out of the second without any thanks to two double plays. It stayed 1-0 until the sixth, when David Ortiz homered.

The game turned in an dramatic and unexpected fashion in the top of the seventh. Lieber hit Kevin Millar and gave up a single to Doug Mirabelli, and reliever Bret Prinz was unable to get the ball over the plate--walking Pokey Reese, who was trying to make an out. And then... entered The Run Fairy™.

Heredia entered the game with a 7.45 ERA in 19.1 Innings. He had walked 10 and struck out 9, had a .305 batting average against. In the 18 games he had appeared in, the Yankees had lost 11. This did not bode well.

But he got Johnny Damon to hit a sharp grounder to Tony Clark, forcing pinch-runner Gabe Kapler out at home. Then Mark Bellhorn popped to medium left field, too shallow for Mirabelli to risk, and David Ortiz was struck out looking. Improbably, the Yankees had gotten out of the bases-loaded jam with no outs.

But they still trailed 2-0, and Wakefield was still pitching. But the knuckleball giveth, and the knuckleball taketh away, and so it was in the seventh. Wakefield's first pitch of the inning hit Gary Sheffield, and after striking out Alex Rodriguez, Wakefield walked Hideki Matsui--the last pitch getting away from Mirabelli as Sheffield stole second... and moved right on to third.

As tough as Wakefield has been, Terry Francona was unwilling to let Wakefiled fall apart with the game on the line, and did what Grady Little had failed to do 8½ months earlier, and went to the bullpen.

Scott Williamson came in and struck out Bernie Williams, but in walking Jorge Posada, he strained his right forearm, and Mike Timlin was brought in to face Tony Clark.

Clark didn't waste any time in grounding out to first, but the ball was hit hard and got past David Ortiz, scoring two runs, and tying the game.

With the game tied, the result was in the hands of the bullpen, and with Tom Gordon and his 1.65 ERA on the mound, things were in good hands with the Yankees. Gordon struck out two, and retired the heart of the Red Sox lineup in order, and it went to the eighth.

Again, Boston's defense let them down, Nomar Garciaparra fielded a Kenny Lofton ground ball deep in the hole, and made an off-balance throw into the stands, sending Lofton to second with no outs. Derek Jeter laid down a sacrifice bunt--because when you're hitting the crap out of the ball, outs have no value--and Gary Sheffield fouled off seven straight pitches before ripping a double down the third base line. After an A-Rod groundout, Hideki Matsui dropped a single into center, giving the Yankees a two-run lead.

With three outs remaining, and Mariano Rivera entering the game, Boston's chances were slight--and they were quickly nil. Rivera struck out the side, and the game was over.

Today, the Yankees look for the most improbable win of all. They've beaten Pedro Martinez in the past with great starting pitching, but today they've got Brad Halsey going. Halsey could give the Yankees a good outing, and they have Quantrill, Gordon and Rivera all available for the latter half of the game, should it still be close. They might win, but I'm going in expecting a loss.