? What an amazing sports day for me. The Yankees edged the Red Sox in one of the best games of the year; the Giants destroyed the Cardinals; I took my boss behind the woodshed in the MLBAM Fantasy Football League; and I hold a slight lead over fellow MLBlogger Dan Rivkin in the Bullpen League. Life is good.
? Randy Johnson wore the big-boy pants on Sunday. His slider was dancing all day long, and the Red Sox looked clueless at the plate. He allowed one hit in seven innings, striking out eight and outdueling Tim Wakefield, who gave up just three hits over eight innings. Wake was up to the challenge, striking out 12.
Wake, though, made one bad pitch — a curveball that Jason Giambi short-porched in the first inning for the game’s only run. It was Giambi’s 29th homer of the season and his second in the last two games. The guy is having an amazing season. He deserves the AL Comeback Player of the Year Award.
? I am trying not to get too excited about the New York Football Giants, but they looked awfully good against the Cardinals. Eli Manning turned in a pedestrian performance (10-of-23 for 172 yards), but his 13-yard toss to Plaxico Burress in the fourth quarter was sweet. Burress looked good in his Giant debut, as did bruising rookie back Brandon Jacobs. The D came to play for the G-Men. I love Antonio Pierce. I may have to get his jersey.
? Back to baseball. Those pesky Indians won’t fold. They’ve won seven straight, and pretty much ended the Twins’ season on Sunday night. Grady Sizemore is unbelievable. The kid went 3-for-4 with three runs and three RBIs, and made a ridiculous catch in center. Watch the catch >
? The Indians still might catch the White Sox in the American League Central. They are 5 1/2 games out, and the rest of their schedule isn’t that difficult:
Sept. 12-14 vs. Oakland; Sept. 16-18 vs. Kansas City; Sept. 19-21 at Chicago White Sox; Sept. 22-25 at Kansas City; Sept. 27-29 vs. Tampa Bay; Sept. 30-Oct. 2 vs. Chicago White Sox
? The A’s lost to the Rangers on Sunday , but that didn’t stop Oakland from hazing its rookies. Closer Huston Street (right) — who might just be the American League Rookie of the Year — was forced to look like Lita Ford. Fellow rooks Nick Swisher dressed as an electrical plug, Joe Blanton was an electrical outlet and Dan Johnson dressed as a mustard container.
? Albert Pujols is going to miss out on the NL MVP Award again. Andruw Jones is looking like the frontrunner, have crushing Nos. 48 and 49 on Sunday. Pujols’ batting average, though, is keeping him in the race.
? Barry Bonds will be starting in left field Monday night against the Padres at SBC Park and batting fourth in his first game back after months of rehab on his surgically repaired right knee.
? Two series with Wild Card implications begin on Monday: A’s face the Indians and the Marlins meet the Astros. Dontrelle Willis goes after his 21st win in the latter.
? Is anyone else sick of Chris Berman’s shtick on ESPN’s Primetime? I sure am. It’s getting old Boomer.
• I am getting pretty sick and tired of curtain calls. It seems like every day at Yankee Stadium — except Saturday of course — a player gets a curtain call for hitting a homer. Cardinals starter Jeff Suppan got a curtain call from the Busch Stadium crowd Saturday after homering — in the third inning. What if he stunk the rest of the way on the mound? He wouldn’t have deserved a curtain call.
• There’s a nice day of sports on tap Sunday. The NFL gets officially under way; Andre Agassi faces Roger Federer in the U.S. Open Final; and of course, there’s ton of baseball. I am planning on waking up early to watch the Jets, Yankees and my New York Football Giants before I get into the office.
• Managing two Fantasy football teams is going to drive me crazy. I own Marc Bulger and Terrell Ownes in my big-money league, and then have to play them in my other league.
• I finally got to see “The 40-Year-Old Virgin” on Thursday, and I wasn’t that impressed. Sure, it was funny, but it’s definitely not better than “Wedding Crashers.”
• Speaking for movies, I got to see two of my all-time favorites, “Trading Places” and “Field of Dreams” for the umpteenth time this weekend. I can’t get enough of either movie. “Places,” which is Eddie Murphy’s second film appearance, is the comedian’s best. And Kevin Costner’s turn in “Dreams” is his second-best, next to “Bull Durham.”
• After losses on Saturday, it’s pretty much over for the Twins, Nationals, Brewers and Mets. The Mets really crashed and burn this week, losing six straight. Pedro looks to end the skid on Sunday.
• Typical Curt Schilling: After struggling since his return to the Red Sox rotation, motormouth put together what was easily his best performance since Game 2 of the 2004 World Series. Seems like Schilling always saves his best for the Yankees.
• I sure miss Andy Pettitte. The former Yankee reached the 15-win plateau for the seventh time in his career, allowing three runs and five hits through 6 2/3 innings for a 9-2 win over the Brewers on Saturday.
Pettitte’s 2.48 ERA is good for the third in the National League.
My colleague, Larry McFarland, asked me today, “So, must-win Sunday for Yankees?”
I turned, gave him a steely glare and said, “Yes it is.”
I don’t care what anyone says: It’s a must-win in Yankeeland on Sunday. Randy Johnson must turn in a vintage performance against the Red Sox, or the Yankees can forget about the AL East — and maybe even the Wild Card.
Johnson, who turned 42 on Saturday, seeks his fourth victory in five starts against the Red Sox this year. This is the kind of the game the Big Unit is paid to win.
Tim Wakefield, who’s 1-2 this year with a 3.58 ERA against the Yankees, gets the call for Boston. The record, though, shouldn’t matter because Wakefield is rolling right now.
The Yankees need to come out and get some runs early. They need to pressure Wakefield from the onset. If he gets into a groove, game over.
And season over.
Forget Dontrelle Willis. Forget Roger Clemens. The NL Cy Young race is over.
Chris Carpenter aced his final exam in Houston on Saturday night, becoming baseball’s first 20-game winner this year as St. Louis beat Clemens and the Astros, 4-2. Carpenter went the distance for an MLB-leading seventh time while winning his 12th straight decision.
Carpenter gave up two runs on eight hits, walking two and striking out eight. He is 12-0 with 1.44 ERA in his last 14 starts with three shutouts and six complete games.
Carp is having a mindboggling season. He’s had quality starts in 26 of 28 outings, including his last 21 in a row. He’s 12-0 against National League Central teams. He’s unbeaten on the road. He reached 20 victories in just 28 starts, faster than any Cardinal pitcher since Dizzy Dean in 1934.
The Cardinals have won 24 of the right-hander’s 28 starts. He leads the league in wins, innings, complete games and winning percentage. He’s second in ERA and strikeouts. He is the first NL pitcher to win 10 straight road games since Hall of Famer Bob Gibson won 12 in 1970 and the first NL pitcher since Houston’s Mike Scott in 1986 to have 20 consecutive quality starts.
I hope Carpenter is a unanimous selection for the Cy Young Award. He definitely deserves it. Willis and Clemens have had nice seasons, but Carp’s season is off the chain.
? It’s about that time, where bullpens are absolutely gassed. Brendan Donnelly, Chad Cordero and Joe Nathan all blew saves on Saturday night.
Luckily, for Cordero and Nathan, the Twins and Nationals won in their last at-bat. Juan Castro scored on an error in the ninth as the Twins topped the Indians, 3-2. And Preston Wilson’s RBI single in the 12th pushed D.C. past the Phillies, 5-4.
? Nathan’s blown save ruined Johan Santana’s sick start. Santana retired the first 13 Indians he faced, and I thought for sure he was going to get the perfect game. But Victor Martinez broke it up in the fifth with a much-deserved single after an exhausting at-bat. Not sure why Twins skipper Ron Gardenhire pulled Santana after eight innings and 100 pitches. He should have let Johan finish what he started.
? Cordero’s running on fumes. He gave up three straight hits to open the ninth, including back-to-back jacks by Ryan Howard and David Bell. If the Nats lost Saturday, put a fork in them. Instead, they came through in the 12th and are still in the Wild Card hunt, three games behind Philly.
? Donnelly wasn’t as lucky as the Angels lost to the Mariners, 6-3. He gave up the game-tying run — ruining Jarod Washburn’s quality start — and then the Mariners bopped Scot Shields for three runs. The Angels bullpen is running on empty, and I think it’s going to cost them a playoff spot.
? Speaking of blown saves: Shingo Takatsu made his Mets debut on Saturday night, and picked up right where he left off with the White Sox. Senor Zero came in with the bases loaded in the seventh, and gave up a three-run double to Miguel Cabrera. That ended up being the difference for the Marlins, who beat the un-Amazins’, 5-4. The comeback gave Trader Jack McKeon 1,000 career managerial wins.
? The Red Sox are just four games behind the White Sox for home-field advantage throughout the playoffs. Considering how good the Red Sox are at home, the home-field advantage would make them a prohibitive favorite in the postseason — if they get there.
The BoSox won for the 20th time in their last 22 games Saturday, outlasting the Orioles, 7-6. Matt Clement turned in his fifth consecutive strong outing, making his July slump seem distant. The right-hander held the Orioles to six hits and two earned runs over eight gritty — albeit unspectacular — innings. He improved his record to 12-3, and the Red Sox are 20-7 in his 27 starts.
Huge win for Aaron Small and the Yankees today in Oakland. Small gave the bullpen a day off, shutting out the A’s, 7-0.
Small, starting for the injured Mike Mussina, allowed five hits and two walks while striking out three. He improved to 6-0, and it’s his first career shutout.
Small did a great job of keeping the A’s off the scoreboard while the Yankee bats scuffled. Thanks to a six-run seventh, Small had some wiggle room, and he did not dissappoint. Despite his gem, the A’s weren’t that impressed.
“He didn’t do anything crazy, he just hit his spots,” said Jay Payton. “He’s one of those guys that you feel pretty comfortable against. We just weren’t able to put anything together against him.”
Well, I was impressed by Small’s big effort. With Mussina now a question mark, Small must continue to pitch well for the Yankees down the stretch. With other starters either hurt or inconsistent, Small has been New York’s MVP — most valuable pitcher — since getting called up from Columbus.
? Randy Johnson made a triumphant return to Seattle on Thursday night, outdueling Mariners phenom Felix Hernandez in the Yankees’ 2-0 win. The Big Unit, who took a no-no into the sixth, allowed three hits over seven shutout innings while fanning seven Mariners.
Hernandez, the 19-year-old sensation, held the Yankees to four hits over eight innings, but two of them were solo taters by Robinson Cano and Gary Sheffield.
The Big Enigma looked like the real Unit, baffling the Mariners throughout the night. After a rough start to August, the Unit has allowed one run on seven hits over his last 15 innings. The Yankees need the Unit to keep dominating like he did on Wednesday.
? The victory kept the Yankees 2 1/2 games behind the first-place Red Sox in the American League East. The Yankees maintained their one-game lead over the Angels in the AL Wild Card standings.
? The age difference between Johnson and Hernandez is 22 years, 210 days and, according to the Elias Sports Bureau, that’s the largest difference between opposing starters since Florida’s Charlie Hough (46) and San Diego’s Joey Hamilton (23) squared off on June 4, 1994, in Miami. There was a 22 year, 248-day age difference.
? Staked to a 2-0 lead after two innings, Pedro Martinez looked like he was on his way to another win. But the Phillies’ bats woke up, hitting four taters off the Mets ace. Chase Utley hit two of Philadelphia’s four homers, and Brett Myers pitched seven strong innings as the Phillies rolled to an 8-2 victory.
? The Phillies’ win, combined with the Marlins’ loss to the Cardinals, gives the Phillies sole possession of the lead in the National League Wild Card race
? Marlins prospect Jeremy Hermida became the second player in history to belt a grand slam in his first at-bat, smacking a pinch-hit shot off Cards reliever Al Reyes in the seventh inning of St. Louis’ 10-5 win. The feat was last achieved by the Phillies’ Bill Duggleby on April 21, 1898.
? For the fifth time in his five big-league seasons, Albert Pujols reached the 100-RBI mark on Wednesday night. Pujols is the fourth player in Major League history to have 100 or more RBIs in each of his first five seasons in the Majors, joining Ted Williams, Joe DiMaggio and Al Simmons. Those four are the only players to start with four straight 100-RBI campaigns, as well. Simmons holds the record, reaching the century mark in every one of his first 11 seasons. Williams went eight in a row, and DiMaggio seven.
? Darin Erstad hit an RBI double and Maicer Izturis added an RBI single while John Lackey tossed seven scoreless innings as the Angels pulled within one game of Oakland in the AL West with a 2-1 win Wednesday. A’s starter Joe Blanton fanned 10 in a losing effort. Francisco Rodriguez — who the A’s have tossed around a bit this year — got the save.
? One of Boston’s mighty motormouths, Kevin Millar, let his bat do the talking on Wednesday night. The freshly-minted blonde bomber launched two home runs, including the go-ahead two-run blast in the seventh, as the Red Sox came back to down the Devil Rays again, 7-6.
? In one of the best games of the season, Bobby Kielty hit an 11th-inning homer off Francisco Rodriguez to give the A’s a dramatic 2-1 win and a two-game lead over the Angels in the AL West.
Big Red’s tater ended one of the best pitching duels this year. Barry Zito worked a stellar nine innings, allowing only one run on three hits, with nine strikeouts. And Bartolo Colon became the first Angel in 13 seasons to pitch into the 10th inning. Colon allowed six hits, walked one and struck out three. Colon lowered his ERA from 3.34 to 3.23, and the burly righty finished August with a 5-0 mark and a 1.72 ERA.
? The Angels are free-falling. In their last 20 innings, the Halos have scored two runs and collected 10 hits, and they’ve dropped 5 1/2 games in the standings in just one week.
? K-Rod is gassed. He’s 0-2 this month with a 5.63 ERA.
? Bad news for the A’s: They placed shortstop Bobby Crosby on the 15-day disabled list retroactive to August 28 with a fractured left ankle.
? It was a very Wild (Card) night in the National League East. The Marlins and Phillies are tied atop the NL Wild Card standings after Florida clipped the Cardinals, 7-6, and the Mets rallied to top Philly, 6-4. Meanwhile, the Nationals gained a game after edging the Braves, 3-2. The Mets are a half-game back while the Nats are 1 1/2 behind.
? Let’s not forget about the Astros in that race. Morgan Ensberg tagged his 34th homer of the year as part of a five-run fifth inning that rallied Houston past the Reds, 5-2, on Tuesday night and closed the Astros within half a game of the frontrunning Phillies and Marlins in the National League Wild Card race.
? Despite another rocky start by Curt Schilling, which placed the Red Sox in a swift, 5-0 hole, Boston came storming back, tying it with two in the eighth, and then walking off with a 7-6 win over the Rays on Trot Nixon’s game-ending, RBI single in the bottom of the ninth.
? Might as well give Chris Carpenter the NL Cy Young Award right now. The Cardinals right-hander became the first 19-game winner in the Majors on Monday night. Meanwhile, the Cardinals whittled their magic number in the NL Central to 17 with the 6-1 thumping of the Marlins.
Carpenter struck out five and walked one in 7 2/3, lowering his ERA to 2.29. He has won 11 straight, and has not lost since June 8 to the Red Sox. He’s 7-0 with a 1.85 ERA in his last 10 starts. His 183 strikeouts are second to Jake Peavy in the NL, and he trails only Roger Clemens in ERA.
Carpenter is one of the biggest reasons the Cardinals — who have been beset by injuries — are rolling this year. Who knows what would have happened in the World Series last year if Carpenter wasn’t sidelined. The big righty will get some NL MVP votes, but teammate Albert Pujols should get that award this year.
? Jason Giambi did it again in Monday’s 7-4 win over the Mariners, smashing two homers for the second straight day. His second blast, a three-run shot in the sixth, completed another comeback for the Yankees, who have now won eight games this season in which they trailed by four or more runs. Giambi definitely deserves the Comeback Player of the Year Award. Who knew he was going to provide this much offense?
? For the second straight start, Mike Mussina got whacked. He allowed four runs in three-plus innings. He has now allowed 12 runs in his last 7 1/3 innings. August has been cruel to the Moose: He’s 2-2 this month with a 6.68 ERA.
? The Yankees’ lead over the idle Angels in the Wild Card race now stands at one game. New York still trails Boston by 1 1/2 games in the American League East.
? Ex-Mariner Alex Rodriguez, who was booed throughout the night at Safeco Field, hit his 39th homer of the season. It was a laser shot to left, over Raul Ibanez’s head. A-Rod leads the AL in homers, is third in RBIs (104), and now he’s third in batting (.320). He trails league leader Johnny Damon by just .005 in the race. Damon is struggling, batting .265 in August after hitting .339 in July.
? There’s only one guy that can challenge A-Rod for the AL MVP Award and it’s David Ortiz. Big Papi homered twice in Boston’s 10-6 shellacking of the Rays. His 117 RBIs lead the Majors, and he is second in the AL with 35 bombs. A-Rod, though, has a huge edge over Papi in batting average — Ortiz is hitting .297.
Roger Clemens can probably kiss his eighth Cy Young Award goodbye. The Rocket was superb on Sunday, hurling six shutout innings. But he got no run support before exiting as the Dodgers won, 1-0.
Clemens yielded just two hits over six frames and did not allow a baserunner to progress past second base. The Astros managed seven hits, but struck out 10 times and stranded nine baserunners. The loss leaves Houston 1 1/2 games back in the NL Wild Card race.
Of the Astros’ 16 shutout losses this year, Clemens has been on the mound for eight. The Astros have been unable to score in three of his last four starts.
Clemens’ MLB-leading ERA dropped from 1.56 to 1.51. And his 167 strikeouts rank fourth in the NL. But with his 11 wins through August, the Rocket won’t be able to challenge Chris Carpenter for the Cy Young award.
I thought Houston might have a good chance to win the Wild Card thanks to its big three of Clemens, Roy Oswalt and Andy Pettitte. But if the offense continues to stall, the ‘Stros won’t be making a repeat trip to the playoffs.