YANKEES WIN! Theeeeee Yankees win! At the third time of asking.
Okay, so we were hoping for a better start to the 2009 campaign, but after CC and CMW were blown away, at least AJ saved New York from what would have been a demoralizing 3-0 sweep by the Baltimore Orioles at Camden Yards.
And for all the travails of CC Sabathia and Chien-Ming Wang, the Yanks are no worse off than the Red Sox.
In fact, you could argue that they’ve made a better start than Boston, whose 2-1 opening series defeat by the Tampa Bay Rays came at Fenway Park.
It may be a little early to start comparing records, three games into a 162-game marathon. But to earn the right for a crack at winning their first World Series since 2000, the Yanks are going to have to finish above at least one of those teams, if not both.
The question is, which one will be their main rival?
Some pundits are predicting the Rays will “bounce” after surprising everyone by winning the American League and reaching the World Series in 2008. Personally, I can’t see it.
The Red Sox may (and I stress may) have the better starting pitching but they’re getting older and, of course, they don’t have Manny Ramirez this year.
That one-two punch of David Ortiz and Ramirez was enough to frighten any pitcher. It was a case of picking your poison. Pitch around them – and risk loading the bases – or challenge them and risk losing the game there and then.
Tampa have wild card to play in Price
Of course, the Sox found a pretty good replacement in Jason Bay. With Bay at six and Mike Lowell at seven, their batting lineup has depth. But it’s still not as intimidating as it was with Manny.
The Rays have a tremendous trio in Carl Crawford, Evan Longoria and Carlos Peña. They’ve also strengthened their batting with the acquisition of Pat Burrell from Philadelphia.
James Shields, Scott Kazmir, Matt Garza, Andy Sonnanstine and Jeff Niemann don’t look quite as menacing as Josh Beckett, Jon Lester, Daisuke Matsuzaka, Tim Wakefield and Brad Penny.
But the Rays have a wild card in David Price, who finds himself back in the minors after being thrust into the limelight in the post-season last October.
Price is still learning his trade. However, he has the potential to make a similar impact for the Rays that Joba Chamberlain has for the Yankees. Watch this space.
The Rays’ bullpen has improved in leaps and bounds. But perhaps their biggest weakness is their closer, Troy Percival, who hardly matches up with the legendary Mariano Rivera or tough-as-teak Jonathan Papelbon.
Thanks to the addition of Sabathia and AJ Burnett, the Yanks have, on paper at least, the most complete rotation.
It will be interesting to see whether it pays dividends over the next two days against the Kansas City Royals, who have the unenviable tasking of pitting their No. 4 and No. 5 starters against Andy Pettitte and Chamberlain.