August 31, 2012

Month-long AL East showdown begins tonight

As the division's top two teams begin a three-game series Friday, the Yankees are clinging to a three-game lead over the Orioles in the AL East. But that's not the whole story. The story is September will be a month of scoreboard watching for the Yankees, Orioles and Rays.

For starters, all 10 of the Yankees' next games are against the Orioles and Rays. After, for their remaining 22 games, 16 are against AL East teams, including three with the Rays and six with the Red Sox.

Overall, 81 percent of the Yankees remaining games are against AL East teams.

It's all the same for the rest of the division's schedule. The Rays and Orioles face off six more times this season, including the season's final three games. Oh by the way, the last three games of the season will also be the most meaningless Red Sox-Yankees games ever played in the rivalry.

So here's what the Yankees need to do to hang on to first place: get healthy and pitch well.

Alex Rodriguez and Andy Pettitte are the major names needed back for the postseason, but their are others rehabbing, too.

If you haven't noticed, a guy named Pearce has hit in the middle of the Yankees' lineup the past couple of nights. His name is Steve Pearce, actually, and he began the year in New York's farm system before being traded to the Orioles, who cut him. If he is involved at all in the Yankees' postseason roster debate, the Bronx Bombers would likely be in trouble.

Anyway, the reason Pearce is in the lineup as a DH is because Nick Swisher is filling in at first for the injured Mark Teixeira. Teixeira is on the DL, as is starter Ivan Nova, who is likely primed for the postseason team -- most likely as a long reliever.

That decision will probably depend on Pettitte's status, which isn't great. He's still pitching off flat ground, and for those who don't know, a mound adds a lot more stress to a pitcher's delivery. At this rate, it's unlikely he'll be able to return quickly enough for even one tune-up start before the postseason. You hate to say it, but we're all thinking the same thing: They don't test for HGH during the season.

A-Rod, on the other hand, is looking pretty good. Expect him to return to the clean-up spot (sorry, Pearcey) in the next 10 days or so.

Also rehabbing and likely to return this month are relievers Pedro Feliciano (remember him?) and David Aardsma (oh, him).

August 28, 2012

Can Rafael Soriano handle postseason pressure?

The uniform number that will be enshrined twice at Yankee Stadium is also the number of saves Mariano Rivera has recorded in 16 years of pitching in the postseason. That number, of course, is 42, which is 41 more than his successor has.

Rafael Soriano, who will forever be linked to Mo whether it's fair or not, may not be able to hold up to the pressure of the postseason. It's too early to tell; he's only pitched in six games. But the Yankees should proceed with caution, especially after what he did last night.

Soriano can pitch. He's doing about as good as we'd expect of Rivera this season. Sure, watching him allow last night's three-run homer was a big blow. But I'm more concerned with how he handled it, and what that means about his mental toughness, which is needed to record the biggest of saves.

August 23, 2012

Mike Francesa has epic outburst over Mets struggles [Audio]

This 10-minute tirade by the one and only Mike Francesa of WFAN was too good not to post. It might be a good idea first to check out today's Mets-Rockies box score so you know why he's pissed. Check after the jump for my favorite quotes.

Joe Girardi almost fought a heckler during an interview [Video]

This was the second unusual story from last night (here was the first). Watch this:

It's hard to hear exactly what the heckler said, but you can hear Joe Girardi respond to him:
"Hey, hey, hey, hey. Shut up. I'm doing an interview."
Initial reaction: Is this the first time Girardi has ever gotten riled up in an interview, albeit by a heckler, not a reporter?

My reaction moments later: How could Girardi and the reporters shake this incident off so casually? He walked right back to his spot surrounded by reporters and continued answering the question he was asked.

In light of the two acts of weirdness last night, I wanted to rekindle this compilation of oddities from the 2010 season. I'll never forget this one.

Derek Jeter says Skip Bayless should be tested

This was the first weird story that came out last night. Here's what Skip Bayless said on TV yesterday:
"You would have to have your head in the sand or your head somewhere else not to at least wonder, `How is he doing this?'"
And here's Derek Jeter's response: 
"One of the things is that now you have everybody questioning everything. That's the unfortunate thing. Maybe Skip should be tested."
I'm normally one of the few Skip supporters out there, but I think he crossed a line here. His numbers and recent power surge are incredible, but I think the only thing that could be affecting his performance is that he's got the Edge.

August 17, 2012

Possible outcomes for Red Sox-Yankees series [Globe]

The Red Sox and Yankees are at it again this weekend. The Sox could tie the season series with a sweep or pretty much drop out of the playoff picture for good if they get swept. A lot of other stuff could happen too, but sadly we won't get to see another Vicente Padilla-Mark Teixeira showdown. Padilla is inactive. Check out my latest work for Sports.

August 9, 2012

A closer look at the AL wild card [Globe]

The Yankees are in a bit of a slide, but still have a 4.5-game lead over the Red Sox Rays Orioles in the AL East. It's pretty weird seeing the Orioles, not the Red Sox or Rays, in second place and playoff-bound this late in the year, isn't it?

I'm looking at you, Buck Showalter.

Since I work for the Boston Globe, and because some people around here still think the Sox can turn it around this year, I whipped up this primer on the AL wild card race. There are currently five teams within two games of a wild card spot, and the Red Sox are 5.5 games out.

After looking closely into this race, I am actually one of the few who think the Sox have a shot at making the postseason. Read all about it, and then feel free to state your case. Who are your two AL wild card predictions?

August 7, 2012

New poll: Which injured Yankee is needed back most: Brett Gardner, Andy Pettitte or Alex Rodriguez?

In last week's poll we focused on the trade deadline. There were some decent options out there, like a quality third baseman and some good pitchers. But the Yankees settled for corner infielder Casey McGehee, who hasn't done much of anything since joining the team. Obviously, the most noteworthy deadline acquisition was Ichiro, who got his first taste of reality last night against Justin Verlander (he struck out his first three times in pinstripes).

The underlying theme here is the Yankees needed replacements for the injured. There are three players the Yankees are hoping will return sometime in September: Brett Gardner, Andy Pettitte and Alex Rodriguez. A couple of these guys are old and a couple have had setbacks. There's no guarantee any of these three will return. So if you had to pick one, who would it be? I'll breakdown each player below.

August 3, 2012

Harness horse racing up close [Photos & Video]

About eight miles north of Yankee Stadium there is a horse racing track. It's called Yonkers Raceway, and you can bet on horses there five nights a week, or waste your money at the slots in Empire City.

I didn't know a thing about horse racing except for when we watch the Kentucky Derby and hear about horses vying for the Triple Crown. In the past two days, I've learned more than I could ever imagine about harness horse racing while participating in the Clyde Hirt Sports Media Workshop.

Yonkers Raceway, click to enlarge
Quick guide: the Kentucky Derby is for galloping Thoroughbred horses. The Hambletonian, the biggest harness racing event of the year that I'm covering for the New York Daily News this Saturday, is for trotting Standardbred horses. You all know what the Kentucky Derby looks like, but I bet you've never seen the type of race shown above.

August 1, 2012

Derek Jeter Ford commercial bloopers [Video]

This makes you wonder how many takes it took Derek Jeter to nail his scene(s?) in "The Other Guys." Sadly, I still haven't seen that movie yet.

Not sure if Ford will be too happy about him saying, “Wanna see why the Ford Edge is the hottest… whatever to hit the street?”

(via Jimmy Traina's Hot Clicks)

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