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September 22, 2004

Ten Years In A Row
by Larry Mahnken

Mathematically, the Yankees' Magic Number to make the playoffs is 2, because the Angels could win 96 games if they won the rest of their games, one more than the Yankees' current 95.

But if the Angels were to win out, the A's would lose all six games they have remaining head-to-head with Anaheim, and finish with only 93 wins -- two behind the Yankees. If the A's were to win two of the head-to-head games and tie the Yankees, Anaheim would have only 94 wins, second in the AL West, and while still alive for the Wild Card, that's only if the Red Sox go 4-8 down the stretch, because they ain't catching the Yankees.

The Yankees' magic number is two, but it isn't. For the tenth straight season, the Yankees are in the playoffs. The only other team to do that is about to celebrate their 13th straight postseason appearance. The last time the Braves missed October, they had the worst record in baseball -- and the Yankees had the second worst (which garnered them Brien Taylor -- remember him?)

Anyway, no need to worry about that, all that's left is who they play and where they play. That would have been a little easier to secure if the Orioles hadn't screwed up royally in Fenway, lifting B.J. Ryan for Jorge Julio to get Mark Bellhorn and wasting a dramatic comeback. Still, that magic number is 8 (mathematically and practically), and while it would have taken a huge miracle for Boston to come back with a loss last night, it will still take a small miracle to do it with the win, even though they're far better than the Yankees.

Last night the Yankees bounced back from an irritating loss with a pretty nice win. Early on, Esteban Loaiza pitched like the mediocre pitcher he is, almost letting the Blue Jays blow it open in the second, but in the bottom of the second he died and had his spirit replaced by Warren Beatty, and he didn't allow another runner on base, finishing with 5.1 IP, 2 ER, and his first Yankee win (and 100th in his career).

Some other Yankees came alive, too, most notably Jason Giambi, who broke out of an 0-32 slump with a homer in his first at-bat against a Cy Young winner... wait, didn't this happen before? Why yes, I believe it did...
Derek Jeter jumped on Barry Zito 's first pitch of the game and sent it flying deep to left-center field when a disturbing thought suddenly entered his mind.

"I thought, 'Don't catch it!"' Jeter said. "I thought a bird would hit it or something and someone would catch it."

But this ball was out of everyone's reach as the Yankees shortstop broke out of an 0-for-32 slump with a leadoff home run and helped New York complete a three-game sweep of the Oakland Athletics with a 7-5 victory Thursday night.
Heh, that's a pretty nifty coincidence. It took Jeter another month to wake up, though, so hopefully Giambi deviate from that script somewhat.

Gary Sheffield wasn't slumping -- he had homered off of Pedro on Sunday, but took Monday off after getting cortisone shots in his shoulder -- but he came up in the first inning after ICR had been robbed of a homer by Vernon Wells, and hit a ball into the left field upper-deck, out of Wells' reach. Halladay was pulled after 59 pitches and the Yankees tacked on a couple more runs to win 5-3.

And if that wasn't enough good news, Kevin Brown is getting the pins taken out of his hand Friday, and while it's highly unlikely, Joe Torre didn't rule out starting him instead of Beatty on Sunday. I think there's now a decent chance he pitches before the playoffs and in them, and I don't think there should be much rust if he can get one regular season start in.

Hey, if you're going to the first game he pitches, boo the hell out of him when he first comes in, but cheer him the rest of the way. He could pitch the Yanks to a World Championship.