I honestly didn't think the Sox had a chance to sweep the Yankees in their final regular season series at The 161st Street Crack House. The Sox have been playing better baseball since the All Star break. But the Yankees have had a better post-All Star record against Boston all decade, it seems. In fact, this time last year, the Yankees swept the Red Sox in the final regular-season series at The Stadium (5-3, 4-3, 5-0 - in which Wang nearly had a no-hitter). So to see the injured Red Sox roll-over to the Yankees in the final series at Yankee Stadium would not come as a complete surprise.
But then Tuesday happened. And then last night. And now it really does appear that the Yankees are are powerless to save their season. Back in June, Michael Kay and the Yankee faithful expressed fear on blogs and talk radio that the Yankees might just be a .500 team this season. And they were correct.
Let's look at this morning's papers.
The Red Sox and Yankees have been playing one another at Yankee Stadium since 1923. Including playoffs, New York owns a 489-289-4 record against the Sox in this sacred house. But it ends today and it's ending badly for the Yankees. Here in the final days, the Red Sox have some sweet revenge.
...the Yankees couldn't lose this game and expect to have any real shot at catching the Red Sox, or maybe the Twins or White Sox, for the wild-card spot.
So somebody had to do something as the Yanks went to the late innings down two runs. But, really, we should know better by now. Going all the way back to April, the Yankees haven't given anyone reason to believe they are a playoff team. Why was this night going to be any different?
This Yankees offense mimics Hank Steinbrenner, more bluster than action. Yammerin' Hank attended a home game last night for the first time since the season opener. The absentee owner blustered some more before game time, promising changes for next year. At least this time surrender was the right motif. The 2008 season is like the Stadium: History.
In the owner’s box, Hank Steinbrenner was making his first appearance at Yankee Stadium since opening day. The team was healthy then, the young starters seemed ready, and there were few doubts that Yankee Stadium would see one more postseason, the 14th in a row for the franchise.
But as Pedroia rounded the bases, Steinbrenner hung his head. By the bottom of the inning, he was gone from his seat. There was no need to witness the final details of the Yankees’ 11-3 loss to the Boston Red Sox, the one that probably doomed their postseason chances.
I have to be honest - I'm loving this. Red Sox Nation is loving this. Yankee Haters and Mets fans are loving this. And while Dan Shaughnessy can spin it and lament that this rivalry has lost its edge (and he can no longer make money off of it), it is still the biggest rivalry in North American professional sports. Not the world, mind you. Chelsea vs. Arsenal and Manchester United vs. Liverpool might have something to say about that, not to mention AC Milan vs. Inter Milan (Italy), Rangers vs. Celtic (Scotland) and Boca Juniors vs. River Plate (Argentina).
But that's another post for another time.
Let's take a look at the preview from Stats, LLC:
The way the Boston Red Sox are playing, they may never lose again in Yankee Stadium. With only one game left for the Red Sox in the Bronx, such a feat is a realistic possibility.
Boston tries to leave The House That Ruth Built for the final time with a three-game sweep when it wraps up its series with the archrival Yankees on Thursday afternoon.
For the Red Sox (77-55), their final series in the venerable ballpark that opened in 1923 could prove sweet. Boston has taken the first two games of this set by a combined margin of 18-6, including an 11-3 rout Wednesday night. A sweep would be the first at Yankee Stadium for the Red Sox since April 23-25, 2004, and only their second in the Bronx this decade.
More importantly, Boston is dealing a major blow to the Yankees' playoff aspirations. The first two games of this series have dropped New York seven games behind the Red Sox for the wild card -- the best hope for the Yankees (70-62) to extend their streak of 13 consecutive postseason appearances.
"We just dug ourselves a bigger hole," New York outfielder Johnny Damon said. "This is definitely a tough time for us."
Jason Bay and Dustin Pedroia each drove in four runs Wednesday -- Pedroia's coming on a grand slam -- to help Boston win its third straight game and improve to 6-2 on its most successful road trip of the season.
"I never write the Yankees off until the season's over and the standings are set," Pedroia said. "They've been around too long and been in the playoffs for such a long time that we're definitely not counting them out."
Bay, acquired from Pittsburgh in the Manny Ramirez deal before last month's trade deadline, has excelled in his first two games as part of the Red Sox-Yankees rivalry, going 4-for-8 with six RBIs. On Thursday, he'll be joined in the outfield by another new acquisition -- Mark Kotsay.
Boston acquired Kotsay from Atlanta for a minor leaguer Wednesday, adding depth to the outfield one day after J.D. Drew went on the disabled list with a lower back strain. Kotsay, who batted .289 in 88 games with the Braves but is best known for his stellar defense, will play right field on Thursday.
"I know that I've gotten messages from people all over the league that said he's everybody's all-time favorite. I know he's a real professional. I know he's excited about coming here," Red Sox manager Terry Francona said. "He said he'll do anything we ask to try to help us win."
A top-caliber pitching matchup will highlight the final meeting in Yankee Stadium between these rivals as Boston's Jon Lester (12-5, 3.49 ERA) faces New York's Mike Mussina (16-7, 3.45).
Lester has dominated the Yankees in two starts this season, compiling a 1.13 ERA while winning both. He tossed a shutout at Yankee Stadium on July 3, limiting the Yankees to five hits and two walks while striking out eight in Boston's 7-0 victory.
The left-hander, though, is now trying to bounce back from his worst start of the season. Lester lasted a career-low 2 1-3 innings in Saturday's 11-0 loss to Toronto, allowing a career high-tying seven earned runs with eight hits and two walks.
Mussina fared better than Lester in his last outing, but wound up without a decision at Baltimore last Friday, when he yielded four runs and nine hits in six innings and left the game with a 4-3 deficit. New York rallied to win 9-4.
Mussina has 266 victories, but is seeking the first 20-win season of his 18-year career.
The 39-year-old right-hander is 20-17 with a 3.74 ERA versus the Red Sox.
Here we go. Like my three previous attempts at this, I give highlights as they happen in 24-hour time format. I got my browser windows, house windows, and a bottle of Jameson 18 all open.
13:13 David Ortiz walks with 2 out in the top of the first.
13:15 Kevin Youkilis flies out to end the top half of the inning. Mussina has himself a strong start. Three outs on 17 pitches, 10 of them strikes. He is glaring at the umpire a lot, but the strike zone today seems large. That doesn't stop the YES commentators from agreeing with the Moose.
13:19 Johnny Damon flies out to new right fielder, Mark Kotsay. Very nice!
13:20 Derek Jeter hits a single up the middle. His 233rd lifetime hit against the Red Sox and he is now 13 hits shy of Lou Gehrig's record for most hits ever at Yankee Stadium. There are 12 games remaining at the stadium after today.
13:23 Bobby Abreu hits a single up the middle. Jeter to second. Lester in early trouble with A-Rod coming up. Still 1 out.
13:27 A big swing and a miss by A-Rod. He strikes out. The boos resume. Come on, Yankee faithful, he didn't hit into a double play. And the swings were good.
13:28 Xander Nady, a solid player formerly of the Pirates, hits to Jed Lowrie, who steps on third base for the final out. Lester escapes.
13:20 BoSoxRule on Sons of Sam Horn: "A-Rod must be thrilled that he gets to deal with these idiots for 10 more years."
13:33 Jason Bay grounds out in the top of the second.
13:33 Mark Kotsay doubles. His 18th of the season and first with Boston.
13:36 Jed Lowrie strikes out.
13:37 Alex Cora grounds out to A-Rod. What do ya know - a Red Sox-Yankees game that is moving briskly! These day games are so much faster. But that doesn't mean we won't have any Sox-Yankees drama.
13:42 Bottom of the second. Robinson Cano flies out.
13:45 Hideki Matsui strikes out. Two away.
13:48 Cody Ransom, filling-in for Jason Giambi, gets hit on the foot. He takes first. Still hitting 1.000 for the Yankees.
13:48 Obscure Name at SOSH: "Will Cody Ransom continue to dominate the league?"
13:49 Jose Molina flies out. End of the second.
13:53 Varitek grounds out to Ransom at first. Come-on, Sox. We need some offensive momentum.
13:55 Jacoby Ellsbury goes down looking.
13:55 Dustin Pedroia swings at the first pitch and pops out to the catcher, Molina. Sox go down 1-2-3.
13:59 Lester recovers from being behind 3-0, and strikes out Johnny Damon. Hold the line, Jon.
14:00 Jeter singles to center field. He is 2-2 today.
14:02 On a failed hit and run, Abreu swings for his first strike, Jeter runs, and is then trapped and tagged at first. Two away.
14:03 Abreu flies out to Ellsbury. It was Jon Lester's strongest inning today. He's up to 56 pitches. But so far, Mussina is having the easier time today. Lester had to work hard to fight back in the third inning.
14:07 David Ortiz walks for the second time today. Please, Sox. Please bring him home.
14:08 Kevin Youkilis almost wraps one around the left field foul pole. But it deflects left, and it is strike two.
14:08 Michael Kay on YES: "I'm wondering guys, I've mentioned what Ortiz has done in this series. 4 for 6, 3 doubles, six walks. And although Youkilis is a very good player, he's not Manny Ramirez. I don't think you could be as careful with Ortiz if Manny Ramirez was behind him. Would you agree?"
14:09 Youkilis pops out.
14:13 Jason Bay grounds into a 4-4-3 double play. Mussina is up to 56 pitches, but he is doing very well neutralizing the Sox thus far.
14:15 E5 Yaz on SOSH: "Pitch counts are immaterial today. Red Sox bullpen is far more rested than the Yankees."
14:19 Alex Rodriguez strikes out. But it took Lester 8 fastballs to do the job.
14:21 Xander Nady strikes out looking. Two away.
14:22 Robinson Cano grounds out to first. A 1-2-3 inning for Jon Lester! End of the fourth inning. Can he last through six?
14:24 Jed Lowrie singles. Boston's second hit. There is one out in the top of the 5th.
14:27 Alex Cora is hit by a pitch. Michael Kay thinks Cora didn't try to get out of the way. He may be correct. Two on now for the Sox.
14:28 A line drive up right field for Jason Varitek. Lowrie comes home. It is 1-0 Sox!
14:30 Ellsbury hits one up center. The Yanks get Varitek at second, but not Ellsbury at first. Cora socres. It is 2-0 Sox. Two out.
14:32 Ellsbury is thrown out stealing by Molina. It was close, but the tag appeared to be applied just before Ellsbury reached the bag. On to the bottom of the 5th we go. The guys at SOSH are convinced that Ellsbury was safe.
14:35 Replay shows that Ellsbury was indeed safe. Cano's dramatic tag made it look like it was an out.
14:36 Matsui grounds out. One away in the bottom of the 5th.
14:38 Ransom strikes out swinging. Two away.
14:40 Jon Lester strikes out Molina. He's in control of things now. End of the 5th inning.
14:41 NomarRS05 on SOSH: "So, Lester is in control. That's pretty awesome."
14:44 Top of the 6th. Dustin Pedroia singles! Sox have a chance to score again.
14:46 Mussina throws a low pitch to David Ortiz and it is called strike. Bullshit. Such complete bullshit. But credit Molina for adjusting his mitt to make it look good.
14:48 Youkilis is hit by a pitch. Two on, one out. Michael Kay: "Very odd. Two Red Sox have been plunked today. Mussina rarely ever hits batters."
14:49 Ellsbury grounds to A-Rod. Alex Rodriguez tries to tag Pedroia running to third, but Pedroia runs to the grass. A-Rod's throw to first is on-time. But the umps blow the base running call. Pedroia is safe at third. Michael Kay is not pleased.
14:54 Mark Kotsay strikes out swinging. Sox strand two men in scoring position. Remember that one.
14:56 Lester hits Damon on the arm to open the bottom of the 6th.
15:01 Jeter singles again. It's his 11th 3-hit game of the season. Yankees threatening now.
15:03 Nuf Ced at SOSH: "Lester up to 95 pitches. Masterson up in the pen."
15:04 On Lester's 100th pitch, Boobby Abreu flies out to Ellsbury. Damon makes it to third. Still one out.
15:05 Alex Rodriguez up. On the first pitch he pops-out to Varitek! Two gone.
15:05 A-Rod vents his frustration on the bats rack. It is a subdued, silent tantrum. I've never seen anything like it. It was like he was hammering a nail, not trying to damage anything.
15:07 Xander Nady flies out! Lester escapes trouble and shows emotion for the first time today. Take a bow, Jon. You did your job. It wasn't easy, but you gave up no runs to the Pinstripes! 6 innings pitched, 4 hits, 7 strikeouts.
15:08 Foulkey Reese on SOSH: "Lester is fucking nails. And ARod is an epic choker."
15:12 Top of the 7th. Jed Lowrie pops out to Derek Jeter.
15:14 Alex Cora singles up the middle.
15:17 Varitek is at bat. It could be his last at bat at the Crack House. And Cora steals second! Molina lost his grip on the ball and didn't have a chance.
15:18 Varitek strikes out looking.
15:21 Ellsbury lines straight into Mussina's glove. Now the Disabled, Irish, asshole tenor, Ronan Tynan MD, sings God Bless America before the Red Sox for the last time in this blue vinyl-sided shithole of a stadium. The Yankees have always been dirtbag Republicans who wrap themselves in the flag. Fuck them.
15:23 BoSox Rule at SOSH: "Hands over your hearts you communist cunts!" If that wasn't sarcasm, then Boston has some gay Republican assholes as well.
15:23 Spacemans Bong on SOSH: "The nerd glasses really make you look good, Ronan."
15:23 SoxScout on SOSH: "It's Scott Van Pelt, +120 lbs."
15:25 Spacemans Bong on SOSH: "Displays of self-gratifying patriotism like this give a bad name to patriotism." Exactly. Thank you.
15:28 Bottom of the seventh inning and Lester is put back on the mound. Okey dokey, Terry. Robinson Cano pops out. Alex Cora runs to center and makes the catch with his back to the mound. Wide receiver, Alex Cora!
15:29 Jon Lester strikes out Hideki Matsui! Strikeout number 8 for Lester.
15:33 Cody Ransom doubles with two out and a full count. Calm down. We can get out of this. Terry Francoma makes a pitching change.
15:37 Lefthander Hideki Okajima takes the mound. He almost gets pinch-hitter Jason Giambi to pop out.
15:38 Shit. Giambi homers. The game is tied. Okajima could get the job done. Lester loses the chance of getting the win. Here's the drama we've been waiting for.
15:40 Johnny Damon strikes out looking. End of the 7th. And this is now a two-inning game.
15:43 Top of the 8th. Righthander Brian Bruney now on the mound for the Yankees. Pedroia pops out to Damon. Sox have to score a run here to have a good chance to win.
15:45 Pitching change. Yankees put lefty Demaso Marte on the mound to face David Ortiz. Joe Giradi managing a good game for a change.
15:47 David Ortiz grounds out. Crap.
15:48 And now Girardi puts Mariano Rivera on the mound. It is suddenly do or die time for the Red Sox. Kevin Youkilis will be at bat. Two out.
15:51 Youkilis flies out. Now Girardi looks like a genius. Three pitchers. Two pitches each. Three outs. That sucked.
15:54 Bottom of the eighth. Okajima still on the mound. Jeter his one deep. But Ellsbury makes a great sliding catch in center. The Sox finally stop Jeter.
15:58 Bobby Abreu flies out to Ellsbury in center. Two gone.
15:58 Now Francoma makes a move as Alex Rodriguez comes to the plate. Justin Masterson comes to the mound. With no one on base, A-Rod is quite dangerous in these situations. Michael Kay sets it up as a chance for redemption for A-Rod.
16:00 Razor Shines on SOSH: "If A-Rod comes through here, do the two-faced lardassed nathan's hot dog eating greaseballs in the stands applaud him?"
16:03 Full count for A-Rod. Varitek calls for a slider. A-Rod chases and misses the outside pitch! We go to the ninth inning.
16:03 Oil Can's Liver on SOSH: "Hat Trick Bitch!"
16:06 Top of the 9th. Jason Bay grounds to Jeter. But Jeter's throw pulls Giambi off the bag. Bay is safe. E-6!
16:07 Foulkey Reese on SOSH: "This will end well."
16:07 Mark Kotsay flies out to Abreu in right for the first out. Bay stays on first.
16:11 Jed Lowrie grounds out to Giambi. But Bay just makes it to second to avoid Jeter's tag.
16:12 Alex Cora grounds out to Jeter. So much for that. Sox are done in the 9th.
16:17 Bottom of the 9th. Tito sticks with Masterson in the hopes that Paplebon will be needed in the 10th inning. Xander Nady singles past a diving Alex Cora. The winning run is on-base for the Yankees. Brett Gardner pinch-runs for Nady. Cora is killing us today.
16:19 Robinson Cano lines out straight to Jed Lowry at third.
16:20 Brett Gardner steals second on ball 1 to Matsui. The solid throw from Varitek is not in-time. The winning run is now on second base. The Sox now wisely walk Matsui to face Ivan Rodriguez. Either this inning will end with a game-winning single or an inning-ending double play.
16:24 Full count to I-Rod. He doesn't go for Masterson's slider. He walks and the bases are now loaded. The Sox seem doomed. Paplebon comes to the mound with still just 1 out.
16:27 It's Paplebon vs. Jason Giambi. Bases loaded. This is really shitty. Tito has had a horrible inning, both halves of the 9th. Alex Cora totally sucked.
16:28 Two quick inside strikes from Paplebon. Here comes the third pitch...
16:29 Giambi lines a hit to center. The Yankees win 3-2. Michael Kay says the season stays alive. Hmm. I remember him saying the Yankees had to sweep or win 2 out of 3 to stay alive. Oh well. Another time, Yankees. We will finish you off in Boston.
16:30 Foulkey Reese on SOSH: "Well that sucked about as hard as a baseball game can suck."
16:30 DeltaForce on SOSH: "Damn. That hurts. But, they still took two in Yankee Stadium. I'd have taken that 100 times out of 100 three days ago."
16:31 RedOctober3129 on SOSH: "Fuck these guys. All we are going to hear about is how the Yankees won the last ever game at Yankee Stadium off of Papelbon on a walkoff when we dominated this series. Fuck Okajima. Fuck this. I fucking hate the fucking Yankees. DIE DIE DIE!!!!!!!!@!!@~!"
16:34 CR67Dream on SOSH: "How the fuck do you not throw high heat on 0-2? What a horrible call, and what a horrible pitch. Some horrible decisions from Tito in the last few innings too. Fucking fuck."
Indeed. A bummer ending to an otherwise great 6-3 road trip. I'll take 6-3 on a road trip as we now chase Tampa Bay.