Tagged: Playoffs

The Yankees added Martin Prado and Stephen Drew hoping that they improve their anemic offense

Martin Prado with the Diamondbacks.

Martin Prado with the Diamondbacks.

The July 31 nonwaiver trade deadline was yesterday and it featured Yoenis Cespedes going to the Boston Red Sox and Jon Lester going to the Athletics, David Price being traded from the Tampa Bay Rays to the Detroit Tigers in a three-team trade, John Lackey being traded to the St. Louis Cardinals and Allen Craig and Joe Kelly going to the Red Sox and Austin Jackson being sent from the Tigers to the Seattle Mariners in the David Price trade to help Seattle’s offense.

Austin Jackson to the Mariners, David Price to the Tigers and Jon Lester to the Athletics are the acquisitions that will have the most impact this season. Jackson will help the Mariners offense in their quest to reach the postseason in Robinson Cano’s first season with the team, Price will anchor a rotation that now has the last three Cy Young winners (Max Scherzer, Price and Justin Verlander) and Lester will combine with Sonny Gray, Scott Kazmir and Jeff Samardzija to form the best top four starters in baseball, just ahead of the new Tigers rotation. The new pitchers that the Athletics and Tigers now have likely put them on track to meet in an epic American League Championship Series.

The Yankees made a few trades that could improve their chances of getting into the playoffs via the second wild card spot. They acquired Stephen Drew from the Red Sox for Kelly Johnson, who is currently on the disabled list. In another trade, they received infielder/outfielder Martin Prado from the Arizona Diamondbacks for minor league slugger Pete O’Brien (33 homers this season without a true position) and either cash considerations or a player to be named later. In the third deal of the day, the Yankees claimed pitcher Esmil Rogers off of waivers from the Toronto Blue Jays and released infielder Scott Sizemore.

“We think we’re going to compete,” Brian Cashman said. “I think we’re improved. We’re going to find out if it’s good enough or not.”

Drew will be the new second baseman replacing Brian Roberts, Prado will likely mainly play in right field allowing the struggling Ichiro Suzuki to not play everyday anymore and Rogers will look to help an overworked bullpen. Prado can also play second and third, which will give Joe Girardi versatility.

The trade for Drew is questionable because he has only played shortstop in his nine seasons with the Arizona Diamondbacks, Oakland Athletics and Red Sox. The Yankees will need him to have a quick adjustment to second base because Derek Jeter will be the shortstop until the end of the season. Even with no previous second base experience, Drew could be an upgrade defensively over Roberts because he had been struggling to make plays that he was able to make earlier in his career.

Roberts, who has been released, was only hitting .237 with five homers while Drew has .176 average and four homers in 39 games. Roberts has played in 52 more games and has only hit one more home run. The Yankees will hope that Drew’s .477 slugging percentage and .806 OPS in his last 20 games will continue. Drew had a respectable 2013 season where hit hit .253, with 13 homers, 67 RBIs and stole six bases. Even though he has been struggling this season, he should be an upgrade defensively and will be an upgrade offensively if he can hit the way he did last season. The Yankees will also have a 31-year-old playing second instead of a 36-year-old.

In Prado, the Yankees get a player who is hitting .270 this season with five homers and 42 RBIs. Ichiro is hitting .269 with a homer and 14 RBIs. He also only has a .107 average and three RBIs in his last 28 at-bats. Prado is a key addition because he has experience playing second, third and left field, so right should not be much of a transition, and he will give the offense much more production. Prado has some power as he has a career-high of 70 RBIs in 2012 and has hit at least 10 homers in each of the past five seasons.

These two trades for Prado and Drew, along with the trade for Chase Headley, makes the Yankees better defensively and offensively than they were in the middle of July. Michael Pineda could also be making his return to the rotation in the next few weeks because after throwing 45 pitches in a simulated game on Tuesday, he will make a rehab start where he will throw 60-65 pitches with Triple-A Scranton on Sunday, according to Bryan Hoch. He will likely replace Shane Greene or Chris Capuano in the rotation.

With the additions that the Yankees made there is no guarantee that they will get the second wild card spot, but they will give the team a much better chance of making up the 3.5 games that they Yankees are behind the Blue Jays and making the playoffs in Derek Jeter’s final season. The Yankees are currently tied with the Kansas City Royals and half a game behind the Mariners, who get to play the struggling Texas Rangers and Houston Astros in their division. The Blue Jays have injury issues and a questionable rotation, the Royals didn’t acquire anyone at the deadline and the Mariners still have a suspect offense.

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Yankees lose the series in Toronto as their wild-card hopes fade

Joba Chamberlain

Joba Chamberlain

On Thursday night at the Rogers Centre, the Yankees (80-73) lost a game to the Blue Jays that they absolutely needed to win. They lost 6-2 and Joe Girardi, Joba Chamberlain and the offense are to blame. It was their second loss in three games in Toronto.

The Yankees are now 3.5 games out of the wild-card with nine to play, but before this series and the one against the Red Sox from September 13-15, they were only one game out of the second wild-card. They have gone 1-5 in their last six games, including the sweep in Boston, and this past week has effectively ended their chance of making the playoffs. During the past six games, they have not pitched or hit well as they have allowed five or more runs four times and scored three or fewer runs four times.

The Yankees should have been able to rebound from the series in Fenway by sweeping the Blue Jays, but they obviously did not have it in them to win three straight against a last place team not playing for anything. On Tuesday, in the game that they lost 2-0, knuckleballer R.A. Dickey threw seven shutout innings against the Yankees offense. However, the truly inexcusable game was the one earlier tonight.

Hiroki Kuroda, who allowed three runs, including a bumpy third where he gave up three hits, two walks and two runs, can’t be blamed because he kept the team in the game by recording seven strikeouts. However, the offense should have been able to score more than two runs off of a decent rookie starter in Todd Redmond and the Blue Jays bullpen.

They only runs that they scored were a homer in the sixth inning that went above the bullpen by Curtis Granderson (his seventh of the season) and a ground out to second by Vernon Wells with the bases loaded in the ninth inning. It appeared that they would score a few runs in the ninth to make it interesting but Wells grounded out and Lyle Overbay weakly grounded out to first.

Robinson Cano gave the team a scoring opportunity in the top of the fourth after hitting a ground rule double with one out. However, he was stranded at second since Alfonso Soriano and Wells struck out and popped out, respectively. Soriano would have been safe at second with a double in the second inning if he would have been running hard the whole time. On Tuesday, Soriano was the one who said that the Yankees needed to have more energy.

The move that truly made no sense was bringing in Joba Chamberlain in the bottom of the seventh. The Yankees were only losing 3-1 at the time, and Chamberlain should not be brought into any games that are within four runs. He has been that unreliable this season. Giaradi could have left Kuroda in or brought in Shawn Kelly, David Phelps or Casar Cabral, but decided to bring in Chamberlain even though he had allowed runs in three of his previous five outings.

True to form, Chamberlain only faced three hitters and allowed a walk, a single and then a three-run homer to the dangerous Adam Lind for his 22nd of the season. It doesn’t make any sense that Girardi has continued to have confidence in Joba.

The Yankees have been essentially eliminated from the postseason while still having a mathematical chance of making it. They will have to win the rest of their nine games and then receive help from other teams.

They start their six-game home stand with three games against the San Francisco Giants, who are nine games below .500, but are 7-3 in their last 10 games. After the series against the Giants, they play three at home against Tampa and then conclude the season in Houston.

Yankees vs. Blue Jays preview

Andy Pettitte throwing a pitch

Andy Pettitte throwing a pitch

The Yankees, who are currently 2.5 games behind the Texas Rangers for the second wild-card spot, play the first of three games in Toronto against the last place Blue Jays tonight at 7:07 p.m. The Yankees are 13-3 against the Blue Jays this season.

The Tampa Bay Rays, who currently have the first wild-card spot, and the Rangers are seemingly doing all they can do allow Mariano Rivera to have a chance of pitching in the postseason during his final season as they are limping to the finish line. This can especially be said for the Rangers who have lost seven games in a row while not holding a lead in any of those games. Since August 29, the Rays have won seven games and lost a grand total of 11 games.

It obviously would have helped the Yankees if they would not have been swept by the Red Sox over the weekend, but Cleveland and Texas both lost last night while they were idle, which helped them gain ground without playing. To have a chance of making up the 2.5 games in the final 12 games they will have to sweep the Blue Jays and have help from the teams ahead. They will have to go 10-2 or better, which is possible because besides the Rays, they play two last place teams (Toronto and Houston) and a team that is half-a-game ahead of last place (San Francisco).

Some of the help they need is for the Rays to sweep the Rangers, which is possible because of the rapid downward spiral that the Rangers are on, because the Yankees play the Rays for three games in their second to last series of the season. The Red Sox will start a series against the Orioles tonight and the Yankees will be rooting for Boston once again because the Orioles half-a-game ahead of them in the standings.

Andy Pettitte, who has been the team’s most reliable starter of last, and has pitched in many must win games over the course of his great career, will get the start for the Yankees tonight at the Rogers Centre. He has a 3.55 ERA in away games this season and against the Blue Jays his ERA is 1.77 in 20.1 innings. The Blue Jays, who have underperformed based on many preseason predictions, have lost five of their last six games.

R.A. Dickey, who won the N.L. Cy Young last season, has pitched well against the Yankees this season. He has struggled in his last two starts, but Dickey does have a 3.38 ERA in 21.1 innings against the Bronx Bombers this season. This will be Dickey’s fourth start against the Yanks this season, so it is crucial that the offense is able to figure out his knuckleball this time.

The offense struggled during the weekend series in Boston, as they scored a combine seven runs, but Alfonso Soriano does come into the series hitting .363 in his past three games. Also, the Yankees have some good news as Alex Rodriguez is back in the lineup after having to leave Sunday’s game because of tightness in his right calf. He will DH for the foreseeable future.

The Yankees will have to overcome the injuries to Derek Jeter and Brett Gardner, which will likely keep both of them out for the rest of the season.

Phil Hughes (4-13, 5.07 ERA) will pitch on Wednesday and Hiroki Kuroda (11-11, 3.13 ERA) will get the start on Thursday.

Mariano Rivera will make his final career appearance at the Rogers Centre. They will honor him before Thursday’s game.

Cano, Granderson and Pettitte helped the Yankees pull within a game of a Wild-Card spot

The Yankees beat the Baltimore Orioles 5-4 on Wednesday night at Camden Yards behind 6.1 solid innings from Andy Pettitte. He allowed three runs and nine hits and struck out three Orioles. However, like he has been able to do so many times in his career, Pettitte was able to induce a double play when he needed one. They were led offensively by Robinson Cano and Curtis Granderson.

The win, as are all the ones they get for the rest of the season, was a needed one for the Yankees since the Indians and obviously the Orioles lost. As of now, the only team the Yankees have to jump is the Tampa Bay Rays, who have lost seven of their past 10 games.

Luckily for the Yankees, Andy Pettitte is getting better as the season has progressed since his ERA was 4.71 on August 5 and is now 4.04. He has allowed three runs or less in all of his last seven starts and is not pitching like 41-year-old. In the sixth inning, Pettitte got J.J. Hardy to hit into a double play to end the frame.

Shawn Kelley got the final two outs of the seventh, which continued his bounce back from allowing two runs in a loss to the Orioles on September 1. Even though he allowed a run in Tuesday’s game against the Orioles, the Yankees were still able to get the win and he got the hold. David Robertson, who has been one of the best relievers in baseball this season, allowed two hits and recorded a strikeout in a scoreless eighth inning. He is on track to being the closer next season after Mariano Rivera retires.

Rivera, recorded his 43rd save of his final season, but he did allow a run in his third of his last four appearances. He allowed a rare double to Nate McLouth because it is not often that somebody will hit a ball over the speedy Brett Gardner in center. After Brian Roberts singled to drive in McClouth, Manny Machado struck out to end the game. There is still nobody the Yankees would count on more to end the game than Rivera. It could be that his increased usage of late is getting to him.

One of the offensive stars for the Yankees was Robinson Cano, He hit his 27th homer to give the Yankees a 4-3 lead in the ninth while also driving in Brett Gardner on a ground out to the shortstop in the first. Cano had two hits and his homer was his 100th RBI of his season. His homer was one of three that the Yankees slugged in the win over Buck Showalter and the Orioles.

Curtis Granderson (.248) hit a deep homer to right in the fifth inning to pull the Yankees within a run of the Orioles. It was his fifth homer of the season in 45 games played. Granderson was the only player on the team besides Cano to record two hits. He is hitting .333 in his last nine at-bats, which is obviously a small sample size, but the Yankees need him to continue that level of production.

Alex Rodriguez hit the other home run for the Bronx Bombers. His solo homer to right in the sixth inning tied the game. That home run gave him 653 for his career. He is now eight homers away from passing Willie Mays for fourth on the all-time homer list. However, A-Rod’s homer total is obviously tainted.

The Yankees will try for the series win on Thursday against the Orioles. If they win their third game in a row against Baltimore, on Thursday night, it will make sweeping the upcoming series less crucial. The Yankees always want to beat the Red Sox, but after that series, nine of their last 12 games are against last place teams.

The Yankees will look to Phil Hughes to get back on track

Phil Hughes

Phil Hughes

The Yankees won two out of three game in the weekend series against the Baltimore Orioles. However, they definitely had a chance to win the third game on Sunday.

They were winning 3-0 in the sixth inning when Joe Girardi took Andy Pettitte out of the game with runners on first and second. It made sense that he put Shawn Kelley into the game, since he had prevented a very small amount of inherited runners to score this season, but unfortunately Kelley gave up a single and a home run to J.J. Hardy, which was the start of a seven run inning for the Orioles.

Girardi can’t really be blamed for bringing in Kelley because Pettitte was approaching 100 pitches (93) and that has been his limit this season. He is 41, so it makes sense for him not to throw too many pitches especially because it has been working recently. The bullpen has been very reliable recently and that was a situation where Kelley should have come through for the team.

Another factor that contributed to the loss for the Yankees was that they left 10 men on base and went 1-for-10 with runners in scoring position. For the rest of the season, the Yankees can’t afford to waste opportunities like they did Sunday afternoon.

The Yankees had a chance to move within 2.5 games of a Wild-Card spot if they had won because the Tampa Bay Rays lost yet again to the Oakland Athletics. Their loss on Sunday makes the upcoming series against the Chicago White Sox even more important for the Yankees to sweep.

Phil Hughes, who has a 1.38 ERA in 10 games pitched and six starts against the White Sox, will start Monday afternoon. He has been the least reliable and inconsistent pitcher this season for the Yankees, but Hughes does pitch better at home and has a history of pitching well against Chicago. Hughes, whose 4.91 ERA is one of the worst in baseball, has pitched better recently as he has not allowed more than three runs in his last three starts.

The Yankees will need Hughes to pitch into the the sixth inning allowing three runs or less and the offense will have to come through with runners on base. The White Sox (56-79) have the second worst record in the American League and have scored the fewest runs in the AL.

Hiroki Kuroda (11-10, 2.89 ERA) will pitch on Tuesday and CC Sabathia (12-11, 4.91 ERA) will get the start on Wednesdy. This the first of 12 games that the Yankees have against last place teams in their final 26 games. They will need to win 10 of the 12 games against the cellar dwellers if they are going to make the playoffs.

How the Yankees can make the playoffs

Gardner displaying his speed.

Gardner displaying his speed.

The American League East will be one of the most competitive divisions in baseball, but the other teams in the division do have their question marks.

The Toronto Blue Jays had what might be the best off-season in baseball, but, based on last season, the team with the most high profile acquisitions does not necessarily translate to on-field success. Jose Reyes, Mark Buerhle and Josh Johnson were previously on the Miami Marlins, and the team struggled while they were on the roster. Buerhle has been consistently solid throughout his career, but he has pitched more than 200 innings in each of the past 13 seasons, so some regression can be expected. He will also be moving from the NL East to the offensively superior AL East. Josh Johnson and Jose Reyes, who the Blue Jays will be counting on to perform at a high level, have the potential to be All-Stars, but also have a history of being plagued by injuries. They also acquired knuckleballer R.A. Dickey in a blockbuster trade with the Mets during the off-season. It appears that he has mastered the pitch, based on pitching three dominating season for the Mets, and being awarded the CY Young last season, but one never knows when a pitcher will lose command of the knuckleball. It does appear that on paper the Blue Jays will finish in first place, but based on what has happened to previous teams, many factors could prevent that from happening.

The Orioles have one of the best managers in baseball in Buck Showalter, who was instrumental in getting them to the postseason for the first time since 1997. However, they were lucky last season since had only a +7 run differential, which was last among all playoff qualifiers. Also, they were 29-9 in games decided by one run and 16-2 in extra-inning games. They do have some promising young players in Matt Wieters, Manny Machado, Dylan Bundy, as well as the established trio of Adam Jones, Nick Markakis and Brian Roberts, but I think they will finish with about 85 wins as opposed to 93 wins from last season because the pitching is not very strong and there is no way that they will win as many one run games. The Tampa Bay Rays are without the production of James Shields and B.J. Upton, but the Rays still have one of the best pitching staffs led by David Price and Jeremy Hellickson and a lineup led by Evan Longoria that gets the job done. The Rays, who are managed by the unorthodox, but at the same time highly effective, Joe Maddon, have won 90 or more games in four out of the past five years (three times in the playoffs). They are due for a 90 win season. Finally, after their dismantling of the Yankees this afternoon, the Red Sox are somewhat unknown. They don’t have the star power that they used to have, but Red Sox Nation still has Dustin Pedroia, Jon Lester, Jaccoby Ellsbury, Clay Buchholz and an injured David Ortiz. They have an intriguing rookie in Jackie Bradley Jr. to combine with sophomore Will Middlebrooks at third. Their new manager, who used to be their pitching coach, will try to stabilize a rotation without much depth. Boston should win about 88 games.

The Yankees will need to win 90 or more games in order to qualify for the playoffs. The second Wild Card will likely either come out of the Al East or the potent Al West. They will need to hope to sneak in as a Wild Card because it isn’t likely that they will win the division like last season.

1. The Orioles will need to regress to the record that their run differential said they should have been last season. This could very well happen since they did not add any significant off-season additions. The Yankees will need the Blue Jays to win closer to 90 games than 100. It will also be a boost to the Yankees if the new Red Sox manager, John Gibbons, is not able to help the rotation like expected. If the Orioles regress as expected, the Yankees need to win 10 or 11 games against Baltimore.

2. Since the Yankees will not be hitting as many homers as last season, (as a result of the off-season departures, not signing any marquee free agents and the previous injuries) they will need to have a top three defense in the league. They will need to prevent as many runs as possible. Francisco Cervelli and Chris Stewart need to limit the passed balls while throwing out a high percentage of potential base stealers. Since it appears that Eduardo Nunez will be playing more in the field than anticipated (as a result of Jeter’s injury), he will need to make accurate throws while making the challenging and routine plays. He has struggled with his defense the past few seasons. The outfield defense, once Granderson returns, should be one of the best in the league (although Gardner does not have the strongest arm).

3. The Yankees will need to improve their clutch hitting. Just like they will have to have a top three defense, the Yankees will also need to be near the top of the league when there are runners in scoring position, in addition to hitting with two outs and men on base. They will need to hit and run and advance runners when the opportunity arises. They will not really be able to rely on the homer, especially until Granderson and Teixeira return, so they will have to play fundamental baseball to perfection. The Yankees will not come close to the 245 homers that they slugged last season, so they will need to play fast, which means that Brett Gardner, Ichiro Suzuki and Nunez will be important parts of the offense.

4. In terms of the rotation, the Yankees will need CC Sabathia, Andy Pettitte, Hiroki Kuroda, Ivan Nova, Phil Hughes and David Phelps to perform as good as or better than last season. Hughes will make a start for Triple-A Scranton and should be able rejoin the team next week against the Indians. They should have one of the top rotations and bullpens in baseball, which will be necessary based on the offense. Finally, if all of the above occurs, in addition to Jeter, Granderson, Teixeira and Hughes not having any setbacks and the roster not having to go through another major injury, they could win about 90 games. Optimistically, it seems that the Yankees could finish in second or third place (ahead of Boston and Baltimore) in the division giving them a chance at a Wild Card.

This is a year when everybody who is healthy will have to raise their level of play as a result of injuries and not having as much talent as previous years.  In 2013, the Yankees will need to be a team known for their pitching, defense and clutch hitting. Before the 2013 season, the Yankees have made the playoffs in 18 out of the last 19 seasons.

A thrilling Wednesday night of baseball ends with the Red Sox missing the playoffs, with help from the Yankees

The action on Wednesday, September 28th was probably the most exciting evening of baseball in regular season history, and it surely ended well for the Yankees, even though they lost.

The first notable game was the Mets meaningless contest against the Cincinnati Reds, at Citi Field.  It did not have significance for either team because the Reds finished 11 games out of the Wild Card while the Mets finished the season 25 games out of first place, but the game was crucial in determining the batting champion.

Jose Reyes was only percentage points ahead of All-Star left-fielder, Ryan Braun, of the Brewers, before both teams played on Wednesday.  The batting title was very much up for grabs but Reyes did something that some people consider controversial.  He led off the game with a bunt single to give him a .337 average but then asked to be taken out of the game.  Braun “The Hebrew Hammer” went 0-4 in his contest against the Pirates giving him an end of season average of .332, which put him in second place.

I don’t really have a problem with this because Reyes was trying to secure basically the only highlight of the year for the Mets and this was the best way he thought he could accomplish it.  The Mets ended up winning, but if the Mets needed the game to make the playoffs it definitely would have been a major issue if Reyes pulled this stunt.

After possibly his last game with the Mets before leaving for greener pastures as a result of the Wilpon’s financial problems, he ends his stellar season with his batting crown, 101 runs scored, 181 hits, 16 triples and 39 steals.  However, this was only the beginning of the evening’s madness.

It seemed like there would be a one-game playoff between the Red Sox and Rays for the Wild Card, since it did appear as if Boston and Tampa would both lose, to the Orioles and the Yankees, respectively.  However, the Yankees bullpen, and the Baltimore’s Robert Andino, who drove in 10 runs against the Red Sox this season, did their part in allowing the Rays to win the Wild Card without the one-game playoff.

Some Red Sox fans might accuse the Yankees of tanking the game, since they were winning 7-0 at the end of the seventh inning, but then allowed seven runs to the Rays in the eighth and ninth combined, but there is not a problem with them playing the game like it was Spring Training since they had nothing to play for.  They earned this right after locking up the best record in the American League about a week ago.

Rookie Dellin Betances, who went to Grand Street Campus high school in Brooklyn, got the start, not allowing any runs in two innings.  I had been pitching out of the bullpen since being called up but this was valuable experience for him.  The Yankees would send out a grand total of 11 pitchers, but none of them would allow any runs until the seventh pitcher, Boone Logan (3.46 ERA), gave up three runs, which was in turn his worst outing of the season.  Luis Ayala pitched until there was one out in the ninth an surrendered three runs as well, to make the score 7-6.

Corey Wade, who was a very valuable under the rader signing by Brian Cashman, would come in to try and lock down the save.  Dan Johnson would be the first hero of the night for the Rays as he slammed a home run to right field, to put the game into extra innings.

The Yankees offensive star of the game, who drove in more than half of their runs, was Mark Teixiera.  He hit two homers (his 39th) for a grand total of five RBI (his 111th), but was taken out as were all of the starters except for Brandon Laird and Eduardo Nunez.

This is when the night started getting really dramatic because Scott Proctor was the final pitcher for the Yankees.  This gave the Rays the best chance at winning because he has struggled this go around for the team as well as when the pitched in the Bronx in 2007.  Just about at this point the Red Sox game was entering the ninth inning as their closer, Jonathan Papelbon, entered the game with a 3-2 lead.

For fans of the Yankees and Rays this turn of events definitely gave off optimism.

Proctor kept everybody in suspense while not allowing any runs during his first two innings, but right on cue he allowed a homer to Rays star Evan Longoria, in the 12th inning, that just barely cleared the fence and would start a celebration at Tropicana Field.  Seven of the runs that the Rays scored were off pitchers who have been productive for the Yankees most of the year so the talk of tanking the game is not really valid.

Only about three minutes later, Red Sox nation went from hoping for a one-game playoff to missing the playoffs altogether.  Papelbon has recently not been very reliable in save situations and this trend would continue.  Nolan Reimold (.247 average) hit a run scoring ground-rule double to tie the game, and the next batter, Andino, hit a single near Carl Crawford, scored Reimold and starting a celebration as if the Orioles made the playoffs.

It seemed like Crawford could have caught the ball, and he also did not give a very valiant throw to home in an effort to throw out Reimold, but he was just making sure that Boston ended their collapse in style.  They ended September with 20 losses, which is a worse September than the worst team of all-time the 1962 Mets, and they have the Orioles to thank for not winning the Wild Card as a result of five or of their last six games to them.

This was an exhilarating night of baseball as the National League Wild Card came down to a similar situation as well.  The Braves ended their collapse, which was almost as historic as the Red Sox one, and the St. Louis Cardinals seized the Wild Card spot and a first-round meeting with the Philadelphia Phillies.

After resting the starters for a portion of the game, and giving the reliable bullpen trio of Rafael Soriano, David Robertson and Mariano Rivera the day off the team should be ready for the AL Central champion Tigers and Justin Verlander on Friday.  It is imposing to have to face Verlander who has a 24-5 record, a 2.40 ERA, 250 strikeouts and has not lost in more than 10 starts.

However, in 11 starts against the Yankees during his career Verlander has a 4.00 ERA.  CC Sebathia will be pitching Friday night for the Yankees so this will be a classic match-up of aces.  The Yankees actually have not played the Tigers since May but they split the six-game season series against them.  The Yankees definitely need to take advantage of the games that Verlander is not pitching and if they can do that they should come away with a a trip to the ALCS.