Monday, August 24, 2009

Yanks take two from Sox, push lead back to 7.5

With 38 games left to play, the Yankees have what seems like an insurmountable lead in the AL East after taking two of three from Boston over the weekend, the 10th series they've won out of 11 since the All-Star Break. The Red Sox still hold a one-game lead over the Rangers in the Wild Card race, which seems like their only path to the playoffs now.

The Yankees brought their bats in game one, scoring twice in the first inning, four times in the second and six times in the fifth to open up a 12-1 lead. The runs kept coming on both sides but Boston never climbed closer than eight as the Yankees cruised to a 20-11 win.

Hideki Matsui had two homers and seven RBI to lead the Yankee outburst, while Mark Teixeira went 3-5 with three RBI and three runs scored. Nine Yankees in all registered RBI on the day while Andy Pettitte went five innings, allowing seven runs (five earned) on seven hits and two walks.

Pettitte struggled in the fifth and sixth allowing six runs, but Brian Bruney and Damaso Marte came in to clean up the mess. Sergio Mitre continued to struggle in every role the Yankees use him in, pitching the final two innings and allowing four runs in a pressure-less situation.

The Sox got revenge the next night, winning 14-1 on the strength of two home runs and six RBI from Kevin Youkilis. A.J. Burnett struggled mightily on the mound for the Yankees, missing locations consistently and allowing nine earned runs in five innings, including three home runs. Burnett and Jorge Posada couldn't get on the same page all night, but Joe Girardi downplayed any potential conflict between the two after the game.

The Yankees couldn't figure out Boston starter Junichi Tazawa, who allowed the game-winning home run to Alex Rodriguez in the epic 15-inning game two weeks earlier. Tazawa threw six scoreless innings, scattering eights hits and walking two.

New York bounced back in the rubber game, as C.C. Sabathia outdueled Josh Beckett and led the Yanks to an 8-4 victory. Beckett went eight innings and allowed just nine hits, but five were home runs. Matsui hit two more homers, his third multi-homer game of the month. He's finally healthy and is hitting .323 in August with eight home runs and 21 RBI, making a strong case for a new contract after this season.

Neither pitcher walked a batter, but Sabathia threw 6.2 innings of three-run ball, scattering eights hits while striking out eight. Phil Hughes finished the seventh and the eighth and Mariano Rivera closed the door in the ninth in a non-save situation in his first appearance since August 19.

The Yankees continue to roll on the strength of their star-studded lineup, which has proven itself to be the best in baseball from top to bottom. Sabathia threw the best of their starters in the Boston series, but he was rather average. The bullpen also struggled and their pitching staff will need to bounce back for Yankee fans to feel truly confident in the championship hopes.

I'm very interested to see how Joba Chamberlain throws on eight-days rest Tuesday against the contending Rangers, who have one of the more potent lineups in the American League. Chamberlain has struggled in his last three starts after throwing on seven days rest against Boston in early August, after pitching great in his first three starts out of the break on regular rest. This will be his second start on extended rest as a part of his innings limit and it will be intriguing to see how he reacts. If he continues to struggle, the questions will continue from local media outlets on whether the innings limit is helping or hurting him as a pitcher.

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