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September 8, 2004

by Larry Mahnken

At some point this month, the Yankees will have immunized us to their being behind in a game early. They give up a couple of runs in the first inning, and you won't really worry, because they're still likely to win.

This season, the Yankees have scored the first run of the game 62 times, and they've won all but 16 of those games. However, they've given up the first run 76 of their games, and impressively, won 40 of those games. When they score the first run, they're the '98 Yankees, but when they give up the first run, they're still more than breaking even, and that's pretty impressive.

Last night, they did it again, giving up two runs right away in the first inning on a soft home run by Rocco Baldelli. But after that, Jon Lieber was as good as he's been in any game this season, and the Yankees rolled to victory, 11-2. If they keep winning games like that -- although it ain't gonna be easy when they're not playing the D-Rays -- then that 2½ game lead ain't gonna look that bad. It would be nice if some team could bring their A-game against the Red Sox one of these days, though. I guess, however, if there's a choice between the Red Sox being unbeatable now and losing in the playoffs or vice-versa, I'll take the former.

Now the Yankees are getting good pitching, but they need their lineup to start clicking again. A-Rod has been spectacular in the last couple of weeks -- he has a 1.181 OPS since the ninth inning of the first game in Toronto, and a 1.276 OPS with RISP since then. Jeter's hitting better, Cairo's hitting better, but Kenny Lofton, Hideki Matsui and Ruben Sierra are ice-cold and negating all that goodness. They need the hot guys to stay hot and the cold guys to play better. They've got a few weeks to get that working, and if their pitching keeps up what they've done this past week, then we're in business.