The Roadtrip from Hell is over. Eleven days, from the end of the All-Star Break to the present, eleven games, three winning teams, three different time zones. Lots of people labeled it make-or-break time for the Yankees, but in the frustrating way that this team has had about it all year, they neither made nor broke. The final tally rests at 6-5, and leaves the Yankees a game and a half behind the Red Sox for first place in the East, as they head to a well-earned off day.
Yesterday's game might have been emblematic of the Yankee season as a whole. The Bombers sent Kevin Brown, an old, brokedown pitcher with an ERA about six, to the mound for the start. If someone had said before the season, "Will Brown still be in the rotation if he has a losing record and an ERA over five come July?" who would have answered yes. Brown gave up seven runs without finishing four innings--and surrendered yet another blast to Vlad Guerrero, who was the Pinstripers' own personal impaler this series. The parade of pitchers that followed Brown also said something about this Yankees season: Alex Graman, Felix Rodriguez, Buddy Groom, Aaron Small. It wasn't until Tom Gordon--not the devastating force he was last season--took the mound in the 8th that you saw a pitcher you'd expect on a $200MM team.
And for all that the game wasn't completely out of reach. The Yanks scored six runs, launching three homers against starter Earvin Santana and Estaban Yan. But it just wasn't enough--victory was just out of reach.
Today was the opposite--strong pitching by Mike Mussina, Tanyon Sturtze and Mariano Rivera (and some bad pitching by Gordon in between) looked like it might be betrayed by a weak offense. Still, the Yanks pulled through in the late innings, Hideki Matsui putting the Yanks ahead with a 2 run homer, Tino Martinez providing All-State with 2 RBIs.
So the road trip's over, but the hard times are not done. It's back to the Stadium to face a steady diet of over ..500 teams--the Twins and the Angels again, then to the road to face the Indians and the Blue Jays (who are currently at .500). The Yanks don't face a team that currently has a losing record until they face the Rangers at home on August 11-14. And the Rangers are only one game under .500.