Meanwhile, the American League is down to a single race, Yankees versus Tigers for the Wild Card. New York's huge edge in the playoff odds is built on the system rating them as a significantly better team than Detroit; the Tigers' three-game set against Cleveland aside, they have a somewhat easier schedule than the Bronx Bombers down the stretch -- Kansas City and Cleveland at home, the Indians and White Sox on the road. Meanwhile, the Yankees' stretch drive features six games against the Orioles, a team that's played them extremely tough all season long (Baltimore's 8-4 against the Yankees in 2007). So hang on to your hats, because this one isn't quite finished, not yet.Tonight we got an example of why it's only one race in the American League (Cleveland thrashing Detroit with an extra-inning walkoff, which feels like it must be the second or third time they've done that to the Tigers this season) and why the Orioles are the team that bugs me most at the end of the Yankees' schedule. The Devil Rays have also given the Yanks a hard time this year, but they have a greater weakness than the O's--man, that D-Ray bullpen is ugly in the middle--and the reasons they give the Yanks fits make sense. The Rays are a young team, that can run, and that puts the ball in play, which puts all the awkward seams in the Yankee defense on display. With the O's, it doesn't make sense. The rest of the league beats them, they're a veteran team. They're generally not beating the Yanks on athleticism...but in the ninth inning tonight, it didn't feel like a four-run lead was safe against them.
It's not so humiliating to be done in by Miguel Tejada, or Brian Roberts, or Nick Markakis. But it is a pain when Aubrey Huff and the Fried Chicken Man, Kevin Millar, are the ones shoveling dirt on your grave. You just want to scream at them, "Aren't you guys scrubs? Why don't you play against the Yankees like you do against the rest of the league?"
'Cause he's the Fried Chicken Man, that's why. Notes:
- Phil Hughes won his first game at Yankee Stadium. Coming into the night, Hughes has one of the ugliest home/road splits around, sporting a perfectly respectable 3.52 ERA on the road, but the earned run average of the Beast (6.66) at the Stadium. Mainly, that's been fueled by an absurd batting average on balls in play of .392 in the Bronx.
- It's funny that no-one seems to be making much of the fact that Mariano Rivera got hit in his pitching hand by an errant throw from the Boston bullpen. I'm glad that the conspiracy theorists haven't picked this up (and for good reason, there's nothing to it) because, with the whole Patriots/cameras scandal, Bill Simmons has been pushed to the brink. If he had to deal with the Red Sox trying to injure pitchers in the opposing bullpen, I fear he'd have a nervous breakdown.
- Was tonight's sac fly the weakest RBI of A-Rod's season? Is anyone keeping track of this?