Sunday, October 7, 2007

It's On You, Jake

I know, you are probably coming by this site to see a Browns/Patriots analysis. As improved as the Browns seem to be right now, they aren’t even on my radar screen right now. I’m on a flight back from 24 brutal hours in New Orleans and I’ll be missing the first half of the game anyways.

SIDE NOTE: This was my last trip to “The Big Easy.” The city is so disgusting and dirty and riddle with riff raff. The saddest thing though is the areas surrounding downtown and the French Quarter are still devastated. Anyone who said the city has recovered hasn’t been there since Hurricane Katrina. Hundreds of homeless people are living under the overpasses. I took a tour of the ninth war and the outer-lying parishes with a local cab driver and it looked like the Hurricane hit two months ago, not two years ago. Nothing has been re-built, 90% of the businesses are closed, people are still just walking around the streets aimlessly; it’s a ghost town. The government should be ashamed over the lack of progress in New Orleans. It is so sad.

Back to the business of sports. I cannot talk Browns as all I have is Tribe ball on the brain. After Friday night’s gut-wrenching 2-1 extra inning win, the Wahoos look to close things out at the House That Ruth Built tonight. The Yankees are in a state of disarray. Today’s latest is bombastic Yankee owner George Steinbrenner telling a New York paper that Joe Torre is managing for his job. If the Yankees don’t stage a comeback, Torre will not be asked back for next season. His contract is up at the end of this year. This is a vintage Steinbrenner scare tactic. Torre has seemed to be at the end of his rope perpetually for the last three years. This is just another bump in the road for the future Hall of Fame skipper. Torre has said he expects to make some minor tweaks in the lineup for tonight. Jason Giambi will no doubt be in the starting lineup either at First base for Doug Mientkiewicz or DH for slumping Hideki Matsui. Giambi is 6-12 lifetime against Indians Game three starter Jake Westbrook, who himself struggles against his former team. Westbrook is 0-2 with a 12.46 ERA against the Yankees this season. He’s 2-4 against them in his career, including a 1-4 record at Yankee Stadium.

Torre has to do something to awaken his slumbering bats. Classic NY Post headline today called the Yankees the “Dead Bat Society.” Everyone knows by now, the great Alex Rodriguez is in an 0-18 postseason slump. That’s 4-50 since his Game Four HR in the 2004 ALCS against Boston. A-Rod has as many RBI as me, Elvis, Tupac, and JFK combined during that span. Jorge Posada and Matsui are a combined 0-14 in the series; Derek Jeter is 1-8, Johnny Damon is 1-9. They are the biggest culprits for a New York team hitting .121 against the Tribe in two postseason games, this coming from a team that outscored the Indians 49-17 in a six game series sweep during the regular season. Tribe Manager Eric Wedge and his players told everyone those six games had no bearing on the playoffs coming in. So far, they have been right.

It is of the utmost importance that Jake Westbrook keeps his sinker ball down and that whoever is the umpire is calling the low strike. As we saw with Yankee Game One starter and fellow sinker-baller Chien-Ming Wang, if you leave the ball up to good hitters, you will not be successful in October, especially against a lineup as loaded as the Yankees. Jake has pitched much better since the all star break. He pitched six scoreless innings against Oakland to clinch the division for the Indians two weeks ago today. Jake also must stay away from the big inning which happened to him several times this season. The First inning has also been his biggest bugaboo. The Bronx faithful will look to 45 year old HGH user..errrr…ageless Roger Clemens to save their season. For just over $1 million a start, the Boss got a 6-6 record and an ERA just south of five. With the Yankee pen essentially two men deep (Mariano Rivera and Joba Chamberlain), Clemens must pitch as deep into the game as he can. This should be a real chore for the Rocket who has only pitched into the seventh inning in one of his last 11 starts, and is coming off a groin injury which has allowed him to pitch just once since September 3rd. You can bet the patient bats of the Indians will be working the count against the Right-hander to get him out as soon as they can. We could also all be looking at the last game for perhaps the greatest Right-handed pitcher of all time.

The urgency of closing this series out and keeping the momentum going is not lost on the Tribe. Giving life to what was the hottest team in baseball coming into October is not recommended. Said First baseman Ryan Garko: “We’re not going to relax at all. We just want to put this away.” The Tribe hasn’t won a playoff series since the 1998 ALDS. Wedge has already said that if there is a Game Four, 15 game winner Paul Byrd will get the call, rather than C.C. Sabathia on three days rest. “I would not consider doing that in Game 4,” Wedge said. “I’ve never been a big fan of it. I think there is a time and a place for it depending on that particular individual, depending on what situation a team may be in.” As up and down as Byrd has been lately, I still think this would be the right move. C.C. labored to get through his five innings in Game One, throwing 114 pitches. Winning tonight’s game would put an end to that conversation altogether.


1. Clemens gets through the first three innings unscathed and feeds off the Yankee Stadium crowd.

2. Alex Rodriguez breaks out of his slump early in the game and the Tribe gets behind two runs early.

3. Westbrook goes six innings, giving up three runs.

4. By the fifth inning, Clemens starts to tire, and the Indians get to him for a couple of runs. Kenny Lofton will again be right in the middle of it all.

5. It becomes a battle of the bullpens and the Indians won’t be able to touch Chamberlain and Rivera this time around.

6. Yankees win 3-2.

Let’s hope I’m wrong.

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