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August 27, 2005

Thank you Angel
by SG

After a solid 5-1 win on Friday which pushed the Yankees to 15 games over .500 for the first time this season, the Yankees looked to continue their post All Star push against the Royals this afternoon. For eight innings, they were listless and it appeared that they were on their way to a loss against a starter who entered the game with a 7.68 ERA.

Jaret Wright struggled in the first inning, needing 28 pitches to work around a leadoff walk and a single. He then settled down over the next three innings before losing it in the fifth. The Royals five run rally and the comatose Yankee offense looked to be a bad combination.

Aaron Small relieved Wright, and despite his stuff being better suited to the bullpen according to Joe Torre, gave up 2 runs in 2.2 innings. Small hadn't pitched in about 10 days, which honestly makes no sense. Small should've gotten some work in some of the games leading up to today. Did Mariano Rivera really need to pitch with a 5 run lead yesterday after pitching the day before? It's difficult for a reliever to stay sharp when they are not getting regular work. Felix Rodriguez also comes to mind.

Anyway, After Small, Alan Embree came in and pitched very effectively, reaching 95 mph on his fastball and retiring all 4 batters he faced. I will admit that I did not like the Embree signing at the time, but his fastball seems better than it was with Boston earlier, so the Yankees may have lucked into something with him.

The Yankees had managed only 4 hits through 8 innings, and then came the ninth, and perhaps the best late rally of the season.

For some reason, Buddy Bell chose not to go to his closer, Mike MacDougal, and brought in Jeremy Affeldt. After seeing how easily Andy Sisco and Ambiorix Burgos handled the Yankees in the 7th and 8th, this was a blessing.

Jason Giambi came back from a 1-2 count to draw a leadoff walk. Bernie Williams struck out looking. Jorge Posada grounded an 0-2 pitch back to Affeldt for what should have been the game ending double play. Affeldt's throw was low to shortstop Angel Berroa covering second, and everyone was safe. Affeldt got charged with the error but Berroa really should have caught it and at least forced Giambi.

Newest Yankee Matt Lawton then singled to left, loading the bases with one out.

Joe Torre decided to go to his bench with Tino Martinez pinch-hitting for Robinson Cano. Given Cano's recent struggles and the fact that Affeldt was a lefty, I was ok with this decision. If not, the result certainly made it seem like the smart move. Martinez grounded a single to right field driving in Giambi, and the deficit was now 7-4.

Buddy Bell went to Shawn Camp at this point, which didn't work out much better.

Derek Jeter hit a grounder that just eluded a diving Angel Berroa. Having been on the other side of those types of hits, Jeter did it to someone else. That scored Posada and Lawton, and moved pinch-runner Tony Womack to second. Now it was 7-6.

Hideki Matsui flied out to center field for the second out, with Womack tagging and moving to third.

Gary Sheffield then did something that he rarely does, hitting the ball the other way down the line for an RBI double that tied the game and moved Jeter to third, with Sheffield going to second on the throw home.
Alex Rodriguez then stepped up, and on a 2-2 pitch, he grounded a single between third and short, and the Yankees had scored five runs in the bottom of the ninth to win 8-7.

It was a huge, dramatic win at a time when every game counts.

Prior to the game it was announced that the Yankees had acquired Matt Lawton from the Cubs for minor league pitcher Justin Berg. Berg's a low A pitcher who hasn't demonstrated much, and is not considered much of a prospect, so this was probably just a salary dump. Lawton's not a bad pickup. He's not a very good defensive player, but in his career he has demonstrated an ability to get on base at a decent clip (.366 this season), and gives the Yankees some depth in the OF. The Yankees don't consider him a CF, but they feel that he can play LF with Matsui shifting to CF. If the Yankees can do that, they can run the following lineup out there:

Jeter, SS
Matsui, CF
Sheffield, RF
Rodriguez, 3B
Giambi, 1B
Williams, DH
Posada, C
Lawton, LF
Cano, 2B

I don't know about you, but to me that's the best lineup they will have had all year.

Larry ran some numbers to estimate the strength of schedules for the AL playoff contenders through year end as of yesterday, which I'm going to post here.

Using actual records

Strength of Schedule the rest of the season:
Red Sox: .503
Athletics: .500
Twins: .498
Angels: .493
Indians: .487
White Sox: .484
Yankees: .467

Adjusted for .540 Home Field Advantage:
Athletics: .505
Twins: .500
Angels: .496
Red Sox: .489
White Sox: .488
Indians: .485
Yankees: .471

Projected Records using log5:
Boston: 94-67
Yankees: 91-71

White Sox: 100-61
Indians: 90-72
Twins: 86-77

Angels: 93-69
Athletics: 90-72

Using “adjusted” records (Adjusted records come from Baseball Prospectus's adjusted standings.

Strength of Schedule the rest of the season:
Red Sox: .522
Athletics: .521
Angels: .516
Twins: .508
White Sox: .505
Yankees: .491
Indians: .488

Adjusted for .540 Home Field Advantage:
Athletics: .525
Angels: .519
Twins: .510
White Sox: .510
Red Sox: .507
Yankees: .494
Indians: .485

Projected Records using log5:
Boston: 93-68
Yankees: 91-71

White Sox: 96-65
Indians: 91-71
Twins: 85-78

Angels: 92-70
Athletics: 90-72

Basically, all this tells me is that it's too close to call, and that Cleveland, the Yankees, and Oakland will be in a dogfight for the Wild Card. It also tells me that the division is still very much in play, particularly with 6 games remaining between Boston and the Yankees. Regardless, this should be the most exciting September that we have had as Yankee fans in quite some time, so sit back and enjoy it.