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September 24, 2004

Last Stand
by Larry Mahnken

The Yankees split their four games since Sunday, and the Red Sox split their four games since Sunday. That's good for the Yankees, not so much for the Red Sox. I've gotta say, I'm dumbfounded by Boston's struggles against the Orioles, they never play them as well as they should, and this season they've played them poorly, period.

Anyway, by maintaining the status quo, the Yankees have forced the Red Sox into a must-sweep mode. If the Yankees sweep the series, they clinch the AL East -- something that ain't gonna happen, but it would be pretty neat to do it in Fenway -- but if the Yankees win just one game, Boston needs to gain 3½ games in a week. Hey, that could happen, but... probably not.

A sweep seems more likely that that to me, and it could happen. The Yankees rocked Pedro last Sunday and Moose shut down the Red Sox, but that was Sunday and Pedro will probably be much better tonight. Saturday is Wakefield versus the Little Enigma, Javy Vazquez, and Sunday is Curt Schilling against Warren Beatty. I don't expect a sweep, nor do I expect the Yankees to win the series, but they should be able to pull out one, maybe two wins.

If Boston does sweep it should make for an exciting stretch run, but I'm pretty sure the Yankees will pull it out anyway. If the Yankees were to go 3-3 in the last six, the Red Sox would have to go 5-2, and I'm not sure either of those would happen. But it would be exciting.

Now here's something you don't usually hear, but is something I feel is important to say:

Michael Kay was right, and I was wrong. I made a stupid, stupid mistake.

You see, when I said the Yankees had clinched a playoff spot, I had completely ignored the Rangers, because they were so far out of the race that they're not catching the Yankees. Even if the Yankees had lost yesterday, Texas still wouldn't catch the Yankees, but the Yankees would not have clinched.

If the Yankees had lost all of their remaining games, the Angels could catch the Yankees and the A's could catch the Yankees, but they couldn't both catch the Yankees. Because of that, the Yankees were assured to finish ahead of one of them, and since one is certain to finish first in the AL West and the other second, that meant that they'd win the Wild Card. Unfortunately, I neglected to factor in the fact that Texas could win out and tie the Yankees, while if the A's won all but a couple of their non-Rangers games, they'd finish ahead of both the Yankees and Rangers. Then the Yankees would be in a playoff for the Wild Card (assuming that the Red Sox had won 2 non-Yankee games, which is highly likely), which isn't elimination, but isn't clinching, either.

On the Yankees' broadcast Wednesday, Kay said that the Yankees could clinch with a win, and he was right. Now, he almost certainly didn't come up with that fact, someone else did, but he said something that was right, and I said something about the same thing that was wrong. And so I admit it. Moot point now, though -- the Yankees have actually clinched.

They clinched by beating up the Devil Rays one more time yesterday, Jon Lieber pitched pretty well, and Derek Jeter cracked three more hits to bring his average up to .293, his OPS up to .829 -- .339/.400/.562/.963 since May 25th. To hit .300, he needs to hit .421 the rest of the way. Hey, if he goes 6 for 6 tonight, he'll be at .300. It's not at all important that he reach it, but it would be really cool.