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A weekend of wild finishes impacts the pennant races

By Andy Roth
Contributing Editor


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    New York, NY (Sports Network) - The Yankees, Rays, and Phillies were all 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.

    QUICK HITS

  • 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.


    Copyright 2010


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