The Yanks stayed alive in the playoffs with their 8-4 win over Cleveland last night. Of all the ALDS and NLDS teams that started the weekend down 0-2, the Yanks are the only team to extend their series. Three sweeps in the LDS round is a first for the expanded playoffs started in 1995.
Thumbs way down to the Angels (9-1 loss, outscored by aggregate 19-4) and Cubs (5-1 loss, 16-6 aggregate bonk), each of whom rolled over at home; thumbs only mildly down to the Phils, who at least engaged in a dogfight with the Rox before bonking on Saturday night.
For the Yanks, say what should be said about Johnny Damon's crucial three-run bomb and the clutch hitting by Cabrera and Cano, the reality is the season is over without the excellent relief work by Phil Franchise (3.2 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 4 K). As for the rest of the team -- it still largely stinks. The Yanks have 10 RBI in the three games, Damon has 5, Cano and Cabrera have 2 each. The 4-5-6 hitters have two hits (all yesterday, all singles) and 0 RBI. Derek Jeter is a perennial 100+ run scorer, he hasn't scored, has just one hit, and bounced into two DPs yesterday -- he's been a hole in the lineup and made an error (wrongly scored as a hit) that led to the Indians' first run yesterday.
Tonight's game is interesting not only because the Yanks seek to tie the series, but because Indians manager Eric Wedgie is leaving a bullet in the team's collective gun. Which is more daunting for an opponent: trailing 2-1 and having to win against two of the four best pitchers in the AL to win the five-game series, or trailing 2-1 and having to beat one pitcher that your team has routinely hit well, then having to face just one of the opponent's two best pitchers to win the series? The question answers itself, but not to Wedgie - he's starting Paul Byrd tonight and Sabathia Wednesday if necessary instead of Sabathia tonight and potentially Carmona (who manhandled the Yanks) Wednesday.
The issue is irrelevant if the Indians beat the crap out of Wang again; but if not, the Cleveland press will wonder why Wedgie reserved his best weapons in a series where each game is crucial (see 2001 ALDS -- Oakland up 2-1 starts Cory Lidle instead of making the Yanks beat both Mulder and Hudson to win the series; Lidle bonks and the Yanks trip Mulder in game 5). Unlike the 2001 A's, the Indians would only have one ace pitcher hurling on three days' rest because of the off-day between games 4 and 5 (which did not exist in 2001).
A note on the decision to pitch Wang on three days' rest: Torre has either smartened up from last season or smartened up from game 1 of this ALDS. Last year, with the season on the line, Torre started unreliable head-case Jaret Wright in Game 4 of the ALDS; Yanks lost 8-3. At least in 2005, the Yanks had Shawn Chacon who had been ace-caliber since he came to the team to pitch game 4 (and he responded with a fine outing). This year, Torre's not relying upon an unreliable pitcher (Moooooooose) with the season on the line and not setting up Wang to pitch a game 5 on the road (2.75 home ERA, 4.91 road ERA this year). The book on sinkerballers is that they are fine on short rest because the tired arm helps the ball stay down. We shall see.
In other news, The Monk actually got one right on three occasions -- I correctly picked the winner of each of the other divisional series.
In yet more other news, the Giants won again -- this time 35-24 over the semi-moribund J E T S JetsJetsJets. Give the Jints credit -- the defense allowed just 10 points (the Jets scored on a fumble recovery and a KO return), picked off three passes and the offense turned around from a putrid first half to a sharp attack in the second half to reverse a 17-7 halftime deficit. Kudos to Plaxico Burress, nicknamed "Plexiglass" when he was a Steeler for a soft reputation -- Burress doesn't practice because he has a high ankle sprain (which takes weeks to overcome) but plays hard each week. Yesterday he had 120+ yards and a fantastic catch-stiffarm-and-run TD that put the Giants on top for good.
And in the sports world's news of the weird (or "that's why they play the game"): USC ran up nearly twice the yardage (459-235) against outmanned and outgunned 41-point underdog Stanford (now 2-3) . . . and lost thanks to FOUR interceptions, a blocked PAT, and a defensive meltdown in the fourth quarter. This goes into the annals of colossal bonks. Yipes. I don't blame the local LSU fans for being overjoyed (they're still bitter that LSU had a split national title in '03 with USC, although USC was the better team and got shafted out of the "BCS title game" process by idiot computers that listed Oklahoma ahead of the Trojans despite OU's 35-7 loss in the Big 12 title game).