Guess who’s back? Back again?

In October 2009, I believed this blog was going well. The Yankees season was going even better. After finally making it out of the division series, things were getting as exciting as they’d been the last time the Bombers went on a run at the pennant. With all that had happened since the last World Series to come to the Bronx (the collapse, two Red Sox titles, emergence of the Rays) it was an exciting and anxious time. I was so caught up in it, writing took a back seat to the ride into November and number 27. Then came the gluttonous offseason and the 2010 campaign, which felt like a hangover to fifteen regular season walkoffs and the champagne-soaked coronation of the New House. I wasn’t exactly building mansions, as Hank put it, but there was a letdown.

Now, this blog is back after a long hiatus to follow the Bombers’ 2011 season.

THEORY PROVED!

YOU SAW IT! SHE IS IN THE BUILDING!

THAT IS KATE HUDSON IN THE PURPLE SWEATER!

SHE IS THE KEY! A-ROD HITS WITH HER THERE!

THE ODD COUPLE

This will not be the first time Posada will be on the bench for a postseason game. Remember in 2005 when John Flaherty caught Randy Johnson? Yea, that didn’t turn out too well…

This time through, I have more faith in our part-time backstop. Jose Molina is a very capable catcher and could probably start on some MLB teams. The Yankees won’t lose too much with him on the field. Sure, he probably won’t “juice one” like Jorge can, but he offers more on the defensive side, and that isn’t a bad thing in low-scoring October games.
The main point I have to make about this overblown issue is that Joe Girardi wouldn’t make a decision that he feels doesn’t give him the best chance to win. The skipper feels the Yankees and A.J. Burnett have a better chance in Game 2 with Molina behind the plate. That’s enough to let me sleep at night.
For you glass-half-full people, is it such a bad thing to have a switch-hitting power bat coming off the bench in Posada? Going to the bench increases the chance he comes up in a big spot late in a game with a chance to do some damage.
Jorge is a professional and a team leader. He will bite the bullet in Game 2 because he is a classy guy and knows this is not the time to argue about it. Don’t forget, Molina was integral in 103 regular season wins, so who is to say he can’t contribute to postseason victories as well?
Let’s hope we see a lot of Jose Molina this postseason, because it probably means A.J. is throwing well.

TIGER HUNTING OR TWIN KILLING?

The only analogy I can apply to tomorrow’s tie-breaker in the AL Central is that it is resembles two featherweights squaring off to earn a chance to take on Muhammad Ali circa 1965, and he’s wearing pinstriped shorts.

Going into the playoffs, the Yankees have to be considered the favorites across the board, given the strong regular season and ridiculous second half. However, on Wednesday, the wins reset to zero and everyone is back to square one. Yankee fans know better than most: the Division Series is never a foregone conclusion.

This year, the Yankees are in a better position heading into the playoffs than perhaps they’ve ever been: Everyone not named Chien Ming Wang or Xavier Nady seems to be healthy and rested, the bullpen remains solid, Jeter and Tex are having MVP years, scoring runs shouldn’t be a problem from the top offense in the game (knock on wood), Alex seems as relaxed as he’s ever been in NY and, sh*t, even Joba looked strong out of the bullpen on Sunday.

In 2006, I was ecstatic to draw the Tigers, who were slumping towards the end of the season. In 2007, how could I imagine losing to the Indians after sweeping them in the season series? No team, no mattter how things might look, is going to roll over in the playoffs. Those who do not study history are doomed to repeat it, as the saying goes. Therefore, the fact that the Yankees stand at 7-0 against the Twins this year goes out the window, as does our 5-1 mark against the Tigers. The slates are wiped clean.

Still, that doesn’t mean the Yankees don’t match up well with either team. They’ll also enjoy the advantage of resting in New York while they browse over scouting reports while the Tigers and Twins have it out, followed by their opponent boarding a plane to the Big Apple to open Game 1 the following night.

The Tigers and Twins aren’t even thinking about the Yankees yet. If they don’t win tomorrow, the Yankees won’t even be a concern. The Twins or Tigers, following their win tomorrow, will have less-than-ample time to prepare for the Big, Bad Bombers from the Bronx.

As long as the Yankees don’t get overanxious and do the things that got them here, I feel very confident about our chances. There are several things that stood out to me this year which make me feel that things are conspiring to bring a parade down the Canyon of Heroes. First off, A-Rod has figured out we’d take 30 homers that mean something than 50 that come in blowouts. He has been extremely clutch this year, a very good sign. Second, everyone is healthy and Girardi had time to give everyone a break. The importance of this cannot be underestimated after the marathon that is the MLB schedule, just ask the Tigers and Twins. Perhaps the most important development this year, and the one that gives me the most hope, is the completion of the Philip J. Hughes Bridge. The signature of the Yankee championship teams near the turn of the century was good pitching, both in the rotation and out of the bullpen. Hughes is going to be called upon when the game is nearing its most critical point and, along with Rivera, has the opportunity to turn playoff games into 6 inning affairs.

Things are looking up for the Yankees. We can talk about it all day and night and pour through the stats, but in the end all we can do is watch it play out on the field. Year in and year out, playoff baseball doesn’t disappoint! It is always exciting! After all the cans of whip cream A.J. Burnett went through this season, I am expecting no less from the Yankees in October (and, this year, November).

STEP AWAY FROM THE LEDGE

Don’t worry about Sabathia! TRUST ME! Better to get this out of his system now than Oct. 7. You don’t have to go into the postseason hearing about the streak he is on and how he is due to have it snapped. Plus, he was hurt by some errors and misplays and it seemed like he just ran into the Rays on one of those days when everyone happens to be locked-in for a night. A first inning error snowballed. It’s a rare, fluke thing. DON’T OVER-ANALYZE! TUNE OUT THE MEDIA’S CALL FOR CONCERN! Sure, Sabathia wanted to win 20 games but, honestly, I think he is more concerned with saving the bullets for Wednesday. Why snap off more sliders than you have to? Sabathia got his work in and, granted, it wasn’t great, but as fans we need to forget it and look to Wednesday. That’s what CC and the Yankees are probably already doing.

JUAN-DERFUL

These games that “don’t matter” have turned out to be some of the most fun games this year. Last night, we have Ramiro Pena hitting his first career homerun and getting a classic reception from the bench. Tonight, we have Francisco Cervelli setting the table in the 9th and Juan Miranda get the biggest hit of his life (off fan-favorite Kyle Farnsworth!). As far as regular seasons go, you couldn’t really hope for a better one. I truly appreciate the Yankees clinching early to allow us the rare opportunity watch the young guys mob each other in the outfield like they did tonight. Though this youth movement may only last four more games, it has been a treat for us fans and has given us something to cheer for while we pass the days until the playoffs begin.

One other note on the night, as Mark Teixeira is now tied with the disabled Carlos Pena atop the homerun charts in the American League with 39 round-trippers. If Mark can send one more “Tex Message,” he stands a great chance of winning the AL Homerun Crown. His closest competition is Jason Bay (36), Aaron Hill (36), and 7 other members of the Yankees.

THE FLIP SIDE

All these bench guys in the lineup must have Eric Hinske thinking he’s back with the Pirates…

With every possible thing clinched at this point and most of the guys getting a rest, it is time to do something that we haven’t done for a long, long time. That is to sit back, RELAX, and watch care-free Yankees baseball.

Take this opportunity to watch some Yankees that don’t get the chance to play that often, specifically Juan Miranda and Shelly Duncan. It’s time to look back and reflect upon the contributions of Ramiro Pena’s glove and Francisco Cervelli’s enthusiasm. Would this team be where it is without those guys?

One thing you can take from this game is it could be viewed as an extended Chad Gaudin audition, as Girardi still ponders postseason roles. Other than that, its a good chance to get some guys playing time.

If you’re anything like me, this game offers the rare chance to enjoy watching the Yankees play without risk of broken appliances or bodily injury.

PERFECT ENDING

So fitting to let the tying runs into scoring position with 2 outs, only to slam the door on the game and the division!

Honestly, did anyone really believe that after losing the first 8 games to the Red Sox this season the Yankees would come all the way back and make up that deficit, forcing the season series to end in a tie?

Since the beginning of a four game set in early August at Yankee Stadium, the Yankees have taken control, finishing an unreal 9-1 against Boston!

This win meant so many things:
Yankees 100th win!
Yankees clinch AL East!
Yankees tie season series with Boston!

CONGRATULATIONS TO THE 2009 AMERICAN LEAGUE EAST CHAMPION NEW YORK YANKEES! LET THE CELEBRATION BEGIN!

Also, everything seems to be coming together at the right time for the Yankees. They just went 5-1 against Boston and LA, potential playoff opponents. A-Rod has come up with big hits. Jeter and Tex continue to be MVPs. The offense as a whole is producing. Guys who need rest are getting it. The starting pitching has been solid and the bullpen has nearly worked out all the kinks. Heck, even Joba seems to be getting back to basics. With every possible thing locked up, the Yankees can now do whatever they need to be as ready for October as possible. Perhaps most importantly, this weekend must make the Red Sox believe they can’t win here at Yankee Stadium, as few teams can.

INSIDE THE NUMBERS

This series, as we knew going into it, is merely a dress rehearsal for a potential playoff meeting (knock on wood). However, that doesn’t mean this series isn’t important. If they meet again this year, it will be in Game 1 of the ALCS (knock on wood). I’m sure the managers are keeping their notebooks nearby, jotting down any advantage they can exploit this October when the steaks are highest. So far, a few numbers in this series are very telling and some trends are becoming apparent.

After 3 innings Friday

Lester: 78 pitches (out after 2 1/3 innings)
Chamberlain: 36 pitches

After 3 innings Saturday
Matsuzaka: 51 pitches
Sabathia: 35 pitches

Though a very small sample size, you can tell the Yankees are sticking to their usual plan of trying to run up the starter’s pitch count. Yesterday, we saw this work to the Bombers’ advantage, scoring an additional 4 runs after Lester left. Though Lester was forced out due to injury rather than pitch count, he recorded just 7 outs on 78 pitches, so his night would’ve been short either way.

Magnificent Seven
CC was straight-up dealing for 7 strong innings! When they signed this guy, who could’ve imagined he’d be so good against Boston? Hitters that struck out against Sabathia today lasted no more than 5 pitches, which shows our ace is putting people away. He isn’t messing around with long at-bats and letting hitters hang around, he is putting them away on his out pitch. He wasted just 37 pitches to record 8 strikeouts. Good signs from the big man!

Stolen bases
Red Sox: 2
Yankees: 9

If this series so far has been any indication, it is apparent that the Yankees can take 2nd base off Varitek as if it was defensive indifference, which it has basically become. The Yankees took 7 bases off “Tek” last night, and are 2 for 2 against Martinez today. Neither Boston catcher is very proficient at throwing out runners, a glaring weakness when a stolen base can win a game in October. You know who likes to run a lot? The Angels, Boston’s date for the Division Series.

“Don’t Ya Know”
I have no stats in front of me for this, but I know Robinson Cano has killed Boston this year. Way to go Robbie! That was a good time for one! This makes that 0-11 with RISP for the team today a little easier to deal with…

Update: Bot 8th in NY
Johnny Damon gets the first hit of the game with runners in scoring position. The Yankees were 0 for their first 13. That should be the nail in the coffin on this game and the division as they get read to cue up Metallica’s “Enter Sandman” for the 9th.

Six Straight: The Bombers have now won the last 6 at Yankee
Stadium against Boston, and 8 of 9 meetings overall. A win tomorrow would tie
the season series after an 0-8 start!

YANKEES WIN! GET THE CHAMPAGNE READY! YANKEES GO FOR THE SWEEP TOMORROW WITH THE AL EAST TITLE THERE FOR THE TAKING!

IN A NEW YORK MINUTE…

…Everything can change. After an unbelievable nothing-for-8 start against Boston this season, it is remarkable the Yankees have rallied to win 7 of the last 8 and have brought the series to 9-7 Red Sox. With a series sweep this weekend, the Yankees could force the season series to end in a tie. Remember how cocky the Sox and their fans were after sweeping the Bronx Bombers for the third time? How do you think those fans feel now as we’re closing in on the division title? Magic Number goes all the way down to 3 tonight.

A+ For A-Rod: Don’t look now… but with the playoffs approaching, this guy is getting hot. Did you see where his homerun landed? Neither did I.

Joba Well Done: This was the start Joba Chamberlain needed. Oh did he ever need it! Not only for the sake of his confidence, but to quiet the buzz surrounding the 4th starter “problem,” if that’s what you want to call it. Tonight, the young righty showed he can be dominant at times. Tonight, he showed flashes of brilliance, perhaps best demonstrated by his work in the 5th inning, in which he stranded runners that reached 2nd and 3rd with no outs. The Ortiz homerun didn’t bother me too much (barely cleared fence), other than the fact the walk to Pedroia came around to score on it. The most important thing tonight was that Joba was competitive, which he hasn’t been for some time. Let’s hope he, and A.J. as well for that matter, can turn recent success into a longer run that lasts through October.

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