IT TAKES A BRAVE MAN to bet against the New York Yankees making the play-offs. After all, they’ve been there every year since 1993.
They’re five and a half games behind American League East leaders the Tampa Bay Rays, and two and a half behind Boston, but you write the Bronx Bombers off at your peril.
Just ask the Los Angeles Angels. With ace John Lackey pitching against Darrell Rasner, they looked certain to take the series 3-1 yesterday when they built an early 5-0 lead.
But back came the Yanks to win a roller-coaster game 14-9 and make a bad homestand a little better.
Losing four out of seven to the Angels and the Baltimore Orioles was disappointing. Losing five out of seven would have been bad, six out of seven disastrous.
Those who believe the Yanks could miss out this year base part of their argument on the difficulty of their schedule. Out of their next 19 games, only three are at home.
They have six more games to play against the best team in baseball, the Angels. Boston doesn’t have to play LA again.
Orioles, Angels score 47 runs in seven games
With the acquisition of Xavier Nady and Pudge Rodriguez, there is no doubt their batting line-up is strong enough.
A major question mark though concerns their pitching. You’re not going to win that often when you concede 47 runs in seven home games, even if you manage to score 51 yourselves.
Rasner has surely made his last appearance, at least for the time being. After a promising start, it’s now clear he is not good enough to pitch at Major League level.
Ian Kennedy, winless in nine games so far this season, is being tipped to replace him on the mound in Anaheim on Friday, although manager Joe Girardi could use Dan Giese from the bullpen. Giese, however, has an ERA of 5.06 as a starter compared to 1.45 in relief.
Whoever gets the call, doubts will remain over the back-end of the rotation, increasing the pressure on Joba Chamberlain, Andy Pettitte and Mike Mussina to pitch consistently well.
The Yanks won’t always be able to produce the offense they did yesterday – or expect their opponents to make four errors.
After Edwar Ramirez gave up a grand slam to Mark Teixeira, they can count themselves lucky that they got another chance.
A-Rod still can't seem to hit in the clutch
It’s also worth nothing that with the bases loaded, Alex Rodriguez would have hit the first pitch he faced into a 5-4-3 inning-ending double play had Chone Figgins not fumbled the ball.
A-Rod may be last season’s MVP but he still can’t hit in the clutch. As soon the pressure is on, he tenses up.
True sporting greats can produce that moment of magic when they most need it. Just look at Tiger Woods. A lot of A-Rod’s home runs come when the game is either won or lost.
With Tampa and Boston showing no sign of a serious slump, the Yanks can’t afford to fall too far behind.
Neither can the Mets, who now trail Philadelphia by three games in the National League East. They have lost their last four and have injury concerns about closer Billy Wagner and starter John Maine.
General manager Omar Minaya may be regretting his decision not to strengthen the squad before the trading deadline. Just look at what ex-Met Nady has done for the Yanks.
Once again, the sports talk shows are being flooded by calls from disgruntled fans. It seems ages ago that the Mets won 10 games in a row and the Yankees eight!