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October 18, 2004

A Taste Of Reality
by Larry Mahnken

Well, I guess we knew it wasn't going to be that easy to finish off Boston. For three games I was cautiously optimistic about the Yankees' chances of winning the pennant, last night I dropped the "cautious" part.

Nothing that happened last night should convince anyone that the Yankees are going to blow this lead, of course. Don't get that impression from my last article, my pessimistic nature has a sinking feeling that they're going to do just that, but that's just my psyche preparing me for the worst. My sense is that now a Boston comeback is plausible, which is more than anybody would have been willing to say the day before. And you know, sometimes the worst thing happens.

But, for the Red Sox to lose, the following things need to happen:

- Boston needs to beat Mike Mussina
- Pedro Martinez needs to shut down the Yankees
- Pedro Martinez needs to go deep into Game Five
- Boston needs to beat Jon Lieber
- Curt Schilling needs to pitch well despite having a ruptured tendon sheath
- Boston needs to beat Kevin Brown/Javier Vazquez
- Boston's pitching staff needs to stop the Yankees' lineup for three more games.

It could happen, it's unlikely. If the Yankees were entering a three-game weekend series at Fenway with these pitching matchups, I'd like the Yankees' chances of taking at least one of the games, probably two considering Schilling's ankle. Two of the games will be at Yankee Stadium should this go 7, where the Yankees are 7-4 against Boston this season (compared to 4-8 at Fenway).

The Yankees got a solid starting performance from Orlando Hernandez, though his command got a little shaky in the fifth. Tanyon Sturtze was solid again, and considering that he's added a cutter (learned from Rivera) since coming to New York, and that it obviously took time to master, it is entirely plausible that his solid relief performances of the past month are not entirely a fluke, and that he can be a reliable middle reliever, at least in the David Weathers ca. 1996 sense.

Rivera didn't pitch badly, he just wasn't good enough. If Posada's throw was to the right field side of second, we're talking about the AL Champions right now. Gordon pitched well.

Foulke pitched three innings, using him up for anything more than a single inning in Game Five, if that. Leskanic stopped the Yankees, but that shouldn't be expected to happen again. Embree and Timlin probably can't go too long today, so it's almost all on Pedro.

Anyway, I'm cautiously optimistic again. The Yankees are probably going to win, but it's still not going to be easy. We were reminded of that last night. Because of that reminder, I won't talk about the NLCS until this thing is finished. So hopefully I'll be talking about that tonight.