A weekend of wild finishes impacts the pennant races
By Andy Roth
Where Politically Correct Opinions Get Rejected
New York, NY (Sports Network) - The Yankees, Rays, and Phillies were
involved in improbable finishes this weekend that could turn out to be the
difference in winning their respective divisions.
On Friday, the Yankees were down to their final out in Baltimore, trailing the
Orioles 3-1, when Alex Rodriguez connected for a 3-run homer off O's closer
Koji Uehara. The win moved New York into first place, a half-game ahead of the
Rays, who lost that night to the Angels on Brandon Wood's ninth-inning home run
off Dan Wheeler.
The following night, it was Tampa's turn to snatch victory from the jaws of
defeat. The Rays trailed the Angels 3-2 in the ninth inning with two outs and
nobody on base. Dan Johnson then reached on an infield single, Matt Joyce
followed with another single, and Carlos Pena tied the game with an RBI single.
The Rays eventually won the game in the tenth inning when they loaded the bases
with two outs, and scored the winning run on second baseman Brandon Wood's
throwing error to first base on a routine ground ball.
On Sunday, the Yankees were on the wrong end of a heartbreaking loss. The
Bronx Bombers had a chance to increase their first-place lead over Tampa to 1
1/2 games, but Mariano Rivera blew his fourth save of the season and second in
the last week, when Luke Scott homered off him to lead off the ninth. The
Orioles won the game in the eleventh against David Robertson, as Luke Scott
doubled and scored on Ty Wigginton's walk-off single.
While the Yankees and Rays were involved in their wild, late-inning finishes
that will help decide the AL East, the Phillies staged their own comeback on
Sunday that could make a difference in nailing down the NL East crown.
Philadelphia rallied from a 6-3 deficit in the ninth inning against the
Nationals. Ryan Howard's two-run single cut the Nats' lead to one, and Jayson
Werth followed with a walk-off two-run homer. The win kept the Phillies three
games up on the second-place Braves, as the two teams begin a three-game series
Monday in Philly. The Phils definitely have the edge in the pitching matchups,
with Cole Hamels facing Jair Jurjjens in the opener, followed by Roy Halladay
and Mike Minor on Tuesday, and Roy Oswalt versus Tommy Hanson on Wednesday.
There's also a showdown in the AL East, with the Yankees and Rays squaring off
for four games in New York beginning on Monday. It'll be Matt Garza and Ivan
Nova in the opener, followed by James Shields versus Phil Hughes, Wade Davis
versus AJ Burnett, and the marquee matchup of David Price and CC Sabathia in
the finale on Thursday. If the Rays can come out of this series with even a
split, they'll have a huge edge over the Yankees as far as the remaining
schedule is concerned. The Yanks' schedule includes six games with the Red Sox,
while Tampa plays three games against the AL's worst team, the Mariners, and
four with the last-place Royals.
Give Yankees manager Joe Girardi a big assist in the Orioles' come-from-
behind win on Sunday. Girardi foolishly put Lance Berkman in the three-hole in
the batting order, ahead of Robinson Cano, Nick Swisher, and Jorge Posada. How
can you put a mediocre hitter in the middle of your lineup, ahead of players
who you would much rather have up in big situations? Berkman went 1-for-6 and
grounded into an inning-ending double play in the top of the eleventh inning
when he came up with the bases loaded. I guess the New York media didn't
realize the real "clueless Joe" was Girardi, and not Joe Torre, who got that
label when he was originally hired by the Yankees.
The Astros' Brett Myers continued his amazing run this season in Houston's
4-3 win over the Reds on Sunday. He pitched seven scoreless innings to improve
to 13-7 with a 2.76 ERA. But maybe even more impressive, Myers extended his
streak of consecutive starts of six or more innings to begin a season to 31.
It's the longest such streak since Curt Schilling, then with the Diamondbacks,
did it in his first 35 starts in 2002. Myers also continued his dominance at
home this season, with his record now at 8-0 with a 2.01 ERA in 14 starts.
CC Sabathia became the majors' first 20-game winner on Saturday in the
Yankees victory over the Orioles. But reaching that plateau may not necessarily
lead to a second Cy Young Award for Sabathia. It seems that a number of the
baseball writers who will have a say in this matter will give serious
consideration to Seattle's Felix Hernandez, despite his 12-11 record. "King
Felix" got his latest win on Friday, and it was an impressive one, as he
pitched no-hit ball for seven innings against what is a formidable Rangers
lineup even without Josh Hamilton. Hernandez is also getting the backing of his
share of baseball executives. In an SI.com survey, six out of nine execs gave
the nod to Hernandez over Sabathia and the other top contender, David Price.
Andy Roth covered the Knicks for NBC Radio and AP Radio for eleven years and
was an NBA Columnist for Celtics Pride Magazine for two years. He's covered
many of the major sporting events, including the Super Bowl, World Series, NBA
Finals, U.S. Open Tennis and Golf.