July 2009

Slip Sliding Away

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For the second game in a row, the Yankees lost to the White Sox. 
For the second game in a row, the Yankees played sloppy defense and left runners on base.
For the second game in a row, the Yankees’ starting pitcher slipped on the grass and made a throwing error.
Otherwise, it was a really great game!
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Seriously, what can I say about tonight’s 10-5 debacle? It was putrid. My neighbors could smell the stench coming off my TV all the way out here in California.
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I’m sure Sergio Mitre is a very nice guy, but he’s not ready to be the Yankees #5 starter. He’s not ready to be their #6 or #7 starter either. He needs to just go away.
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At first, I thought the offense would pick him up and score enough runs against the White Sox’s substitute starter, Carrasco, to make a good contest of it. And why not? Babe Ruth Hinske hit yet another homer in the fourth to tie the score at 5-5.
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But that was it. From there, the dreadful pitchers handed out runs like they were giving out pies at a bake sale. Dave Robertson, who has the posture of an oak tree, was responsible for one. And Alfredo Aceves, who claims his shoulder is just fine, was charged with four – and it could have been more if Damon hadn’t thrown his body against the wall and made a tremendous catch. He should wear protective gear out there.
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It looked like the Yanks might rally in the ninth after Damon singled. But A-Rod lined one to right and was thrown out trying to stretch it into a double. Not a good move at all.
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Cashman decided not to make any deals at the trade deadline. Oh, wait. He did get Jerry Hairston, Jr. from the Reds. Earth shattering.
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While I’m looking forward to whatever contribution Hairston can make, I still want a starting pitcher for that #5 spot. And since Cashman seems unwilling to go out and get somebody, I suppose I’ll have to do it myself. My film group has a screening tomorrow morning, and I plan to scour the theater for anyone who looks even remotely like a pitcher. If I come up with anybody, I’ll post his picture.
In the meantime, here’s another ballplayer/celebrity look-alike, this one courtesy of Newsday.
Jose Molina…
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…and Greg Gumbel? A little bit?
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The Yankees will win Saturday’s game against the White Sox, I just know it. AJ will quell any further disturbances and order will be restored. 
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Not What I Had In Mind

I didn’t get to see the Yanks lose to the White Sox in real time, thanks to my Thursday night writing workshop. But I came home and watched most of it after the fact. Let’s just say that if I were writing a script based on the 3-2 game, I’d probably call it “Reality Bites.”
What another waste of a good performance by Pettitte. No wonder he’s disgusted.
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It wasn’t bad enough that the Yankees offense spent the evening striking out with frightening frequency? Then he had to slip and make a throwing error?
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And if that wasn’t bad enough, A-Rod blew a grounder that should have been an error and, with Hughes on in relief, Cano blew a routine double play ball that actually was an error. Nice work, boys!
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Still, when Swisher hit one out against his old team in the ninth to tie the score, I thought I’d be witnessing yet another Yankees comeback. But it was the White Sox that came back. The nerve. No, I didn’t expect Hughes to keep his scoreless streak alive forever, but….well, yes I did, because I’m a mental patient regarding the Yankees.
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I suppose the game was never meant to go our way. I mean, a “preventative rain delay?” What is that anyway? 
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OK, fine. It’s over. I have to let it go. This loss puts more pressure on us to win tomorrow night, but whatever. Time to lighten up. So here are a few more Yankee/celebrity lookalikes.
Andy Pettitte and Ray Romano? What do you think? (This one courtesy of Yankee fan and commenter adirondackgal.)
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And then we have Johnny Damon and Mickey Dolenz of the Monkees fame (courtesy of Yankeemeg).
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And finally, what about Cody Ransom and the guy from “Two and a Half Men?” (No, not Charlie Sheen. The other one.)
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OK, maybe they’re all a stretch, but I had to find some way to forget about this game tonight. I wish I hadn’t watched the tape and, instead, just stuck my head in the sand.
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P.S. I’m having a lot of trouble posting comments on other sites today, so forgive the lack of reciprocal responses. Sitting here watching the “internal error” message pop up isn’t my idea of a productive use of time. I’m giving up.

Fun Finale At The Tropicana Club

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Oops. Not that one.
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As effective as Scott Kazmir was last night, Joba absolutely dominated the Rays tonight in the Yankees’ 6-2 victory.
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He’s been brilliant since going home to Nebraska during the break. I’d like to know what they fed him while he was there, because he’s been a different pitcher since he came back.
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No more shaking off Jorge. No more strolls around the mound between pitches. No more nibbling around the strike zone. He’s been aggressive, no-nonsense, focused. As a result, he only gave up three hits over eight innings – a memorable performance.
It was such a positive outing that I’m not even going to bring up the reliever who shall remain nameless, except to say he’s struggling and I don’t know why and he’s starting to remind me of guys who are no longer with the team.
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I was fuming that Girardi had to drag Mo into the game in the ninth, but he took care of business in his usual it’s-just-my-job sort of way.
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(Is there a stat for how many times he’s shaken Jorge’s hand after getting the final out?)
Jeter’s triple in the first inning set the tone, as did Tex’s single to drive him in. Then the home run derby kicked in: Cano (after fouling a ball off his knee – ouwww), Melky, Tex. The boys were unstoppable.
Speaking of Tex, on Twitter tonight I was kidding around with MLBlogger Yankeemeg about the resemblance between Jarrod Washburn and Kiefer Sutherland. Have you noticed?
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Then we moved on to Eric Hinske (I kind of figured he’d play in this series, giving Damon or Swisher a night off from the turf) and how he reminded us of Kevin James.
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I was trying to come up with a celebrity double for Tex and couldn’t think of one. And then Yankeemeg said, “He looks just like MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow.” And you know what? He does!
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It’s easy to be lighthearted when your team is in first place and they just won a big series. Let’s see how jokey I am after the Yanks and White Sox go at it tomorrow night. I’d really like to keep the train moving, but I know better than to take anything for granted.
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“A Rare Train-Wreck Game”

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Well, that’s what Yankees beat writer Peter Abraham called it on his blog. Taking nothing away from the excellent performance by Scott Kazmir, tonight’s game at the Trop was a sloppy one by the Yankees, who fell 6-2 to the Rays and looked as if they’d been out partying last night.
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Good pitching and defense? Not in evidence. CC struggled through five-plus and only intermittently had command of his pitches. Wasn’t he supposed to be a great second-half guy? He seemed pretty lost out there.
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Both Jeter and A-Rod made throwing errors, and I can’t remember the last time that happened. Matsui got picked off of first base, and I can’t remember the last time that happened either. And Swisher? I’m sorry, but he’s just not the player I want in right field everyday. Sure, he comes up with the occasional brilliant catch, but most of the time he’s – how can I put this delicately – cringe worthy.
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Would Eric Hinske be that much worse? Would Shelley Duncan? Would this kid?
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I’m missing Bobby Abreu right now, wall phobia and all. Are you hearing me, Cashman?
I was delighted that Girardi finally allowed Mark Melancon to appear in public; it was starting to feel as if he’d contracted swine flu like Vincente Padilla and been shuttled off to an undisclosed location.
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Speaking of maladies, what awful news about Wang. Shoulder surgery tomorrow? Out for the rest of this season and possibly next? Talk about a blow.
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And what about Aceves, the guy we’ve been counting on in the pen and maybe in the rotation too? Now he tells the Yankees he has shoulder pain? How long has that been going on? I understand the whole spiel about athletes playing through injuries, blah blah, but did he think that keeping his “arm fatigue” quiet would make it go away? The strategy didn’t exactly work for Bruney.
OK. I’ll take a deep breath here.
Much better. It’s just that things have been going so well for the Yankees that I was hoping everybody would stay healthy and we wouldn’t have any big surprises and…
Would you listen to me? I’m acting all sky-is-falling, and it’s ridiculous. Baseball is nothing if not full of surprises. And with the trade deadline creeping up, there are bound to be more of them.
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Yanks Beat Rays While I Stuff My Face

When I left the house to meet my friends for dinner, the Yankees were up 3-0 over the Rays in the bottom of the fifth. Despite his rising pitch count, AJ looked downright nasty and I was feeling pretty optimistic about his outing.
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I was driving to the restaurant listening to the audio of the game when Cano and Swisher went back to back in the sixth to make it 5-0. I was so excited I nearly did this.
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But I kept it together and continued on to the restaurant, a cute Mexican place in Montecito.
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I was dying to monitor the score, but I didn’t want to be rude to my friends, neither of whom was hanging on the fate of the Yankees. So we sat there eating our chimichangas or enchiladas or whatever the hell they were. (Bottom line: they came with rice and beans and had cheese and guacamole on them.)
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I ate mine really fast, so I could get home and find out what happened. After I pulled in my driveway, I raced in the door and asked Michael, “So? Did we win?”
He can be really annoying the way he withholds information. Typical male. I tried again. “DID WE WIN?” I should add that I strangled him as I asked the question this time.
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“Yes, we did, OK?” he said after coughing for five straight minutes. “The score was 11-4.”
“A blowout? Are you kidding me?”
“We had four homers.”
“Wow. I thought Yankee Stadium was the home run palace. We went deep four times at the Troperoo?”
“Watch the replay and see for yourself.”
Which is exactly what I did. And yeah, the homers were sweet. I cheered as Swisher hit his second of the night, remembering when we were on the wrong side of a blowout at the Trop and he was called upon to pitch. Nice reversal of fortune.
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And Damon. Congrats to him on #200.
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There were so many other great offensive moments:
* A-Rod’s two-run double (happy birthday).
* Matsui’s sprint all the way home from first.
* Cano’s triple.
 * Jeter’s three hits.
Come to think of it, didn’t everybody in the lineup have a hit?
But the star of the game had to be AJ. Two hits and one run over seven innings? That’s just sick.
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He’s the guy I used to dread facing when he was with the Blue Jays. When people talk about pitchers having “live stuff,” I know what they mean when I watch him throw the ball.
I do wonder why Girardi didn’t use Melancon in relief. The kid hasn’t pitched in weeks. If you don’t use him in blowouts, why not send him back to Scranton?
But I quibble. It’s very satisfying to beat the reigning AL Champions. I realize it’s only one game and we’ll be back at it on Tuesday night. But I’m glad I wolfed down my dinner so I could get home and see….
Oh, no. I’m not glad. I’m having chimichanga kickback right now – that “burning sensation.”
I asked Michael if we had anything I could take for it. He handed me this.
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I chimichugged it right down.

Hitting The Road

If I had told people that the Yankees would go 9-1 on their homestand, I would have gotten reactions like this.

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And even this.
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That Swisher. Such a goofball. But even he probably wouldn’t have predicted such a great run after the All-Star break.
Mitre was mediocre in Sunday’s game, but “mediocre” might be just fine for the time being. He throws strikes. He induces ground balls. He doesn’t look panicked out there. He’ll do as the fifth starter until he proves he’s not worthy.
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The bullpen is looking better and better, especially with Bruney gaining in confidence and effectiveness. I’m a little worried about Coke though. I shake my head every time somebody says, “He’s been amazing, except that he gives up home runs.”
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The last time I checked, giving up home runs wasn’t a good thing. Hughes continues to impress, and Mo is just, well, Mo. He could probably throw that cutter in his sleep.
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Tex keeps rolling. Cody Ransom has been more-than-decent as A-Rod’s fill-in. And Melky will have to step up while Gardner’s thumb heals.
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I admit I was thrown when I heard about Brett the Jet’s injury. How will we compensate for his speed on the bases? Could we get this guy to un-retire?
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Cano finally got a big hit with men in scoring position. And Jeter seems to get more acrobatic with age. I mean, could you do this?
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What I’m saying is that I think we’re ready for the ten-day road trip, which begins at the cowbell palace known as The Trop.
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Sure, there will be challenges in Tampa. Big ones, not the least of which is this.
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Tough place to catch fly balls. What’s more, there are Rays that always cause the Yankees headaches: Upton, Crawford, Longoria, Pena. I’m hoping AJ can handle them all when he opens the series and flashes them that stare.
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The Bombers have hit the road as I’m typing this. Actually, they must be in Florida by now.
If I were addressing them at their hotel, I’d say: “Win every game on the trip.”
“She-Fan, you’re cracked,” Jeter would say. “We can’t win every game.”
“Well, you can win ninety-nine percent of them,” I’d counter. “You just did it.”
Everybody would realize I was right. And Joba would let out a victory roar.
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Who Can You Trust?

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Let’s say you’re Joe Girardi. It’s the seventh inning of Saturday’s game against the A’s. Andy Pettitte has been pitching an absolute gem, and the Yankees are ahead 1-0. Pettitte’s only at 79 pitches but suddenly he’s in a jam.
Hairston: doubles.
Nomar: walks.
Cust: pops up.
You’ve got the rested and reliable Aceves warmed up and ready to go. Do you pull Pettitte?
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Or do you let him keep pitching?
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You take a walk out to the mound and ask your starter if he’s OK. Obviously, he says, “I’m fine, skipper. Let me get out of this inning.”
So you leave him in.
And then this happens.
Davis: singles, scoring Hairston. Score tied 1-1.
Crosby: bunt singles, loading the bases.
You walk back out to the mound, knowing the media and the fans are already second-guessing you, and you pull Pettitte. You give the ball to Ace and cross your fingers.
And then this happens.
Ellis: pops up. Huge sigh of relief.
Powell: singles, scoring two. A-s up 3-1.
Kennedy: singles, scoring one. A’s up 4-1.
Cabrera: doubles, scoring two. A’s up 6-1.
You walk back to the mound and pull Aceves, who recently told the media his name should be pronounced AcAYves, not AcEVes.
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Dave Robertson retires the next batter. This being the scrappy, clutchy, comeback-y 2009 Yankees, the offense rallies, thanks to homers by Jeter and Tex, and keeps hope alive for a ninth straight win.
It is not to be. The Yankees lose 6-4 and the streak is over.
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Oh, well. I knew it wouldn’t last forever. But I do wonder what I would have done if I’d been Girardi.
On a happier note, I had a great time last night at Dodger Stadium. The first thing I did was put on a Dodgers jersey so I’d fit right in.
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Well? Why not? When Obama goes to a foreign country, doesn’t he don the local garb?
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The second thing I did was gorge on all the incredible food offered at the restaurant for those with seats in the Dugout Club. Michael and I snagged a table and went to work. At one point, I actually looked up from my plate and at the next table was Dodgers legend Don Newcombe. What a nice guy! As he was getting up, he stopped by to shake our hands. He may be in his ’80s, but he’s still a big, strong, handsome dude!
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I was too young to remember Newcombe’s specific accomplishments, so as soon as I got home I looked up his bio. Get this. He’s the only player in major league history to win the Rookie of the Year, the MVP and the Cy Young Award. Plus, he was the first black pitcher to start a World Series game and the first black pitcher to win 20 games. I was in the company of greatness.
Once in our Dugout Club seats, which are directly behind home plate, we talked to some diehard Dodger fans, including this guy.
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He had autographs of players past and present all over his jersey.
Then there was Larry King, who holds dual citizenship as both a Yankee fan and a Dodger fan.
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I saw Torre, naturally, but never caught a glimpse of Mattingly. Bummer. And yes, Manny was very much a part of the experience. The crowd goes wild when he appears in the on-deck circle, let alone at the plate. Note the unusual “stat” on the scoreboard. (“Manny is the first Dodger to hit a grand slam on his own Bobblehead night.”)
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It
was a gorgeous night in L.A. People did the wave over and over again, and beach balls were bouncing around the stands. Everybody was having fun, and life was good. The only sour note came from the Marlins. They won the game. The nerve.

Too Late To Post Something Excellent

Just got home from the three-hour drive down to Dodger Stadium. The good news? The Yankees won again – their eighth “W” in a row – by beating the A’s 8-3. The bad news? The Dodgers lost to the Marlins. I feel awful for Cat of Cat Loves the Dodgers, since she was instrumental in getting me down to see the Dodgers in the first place, plus she outfitted me with a Dodgers jersey that fit me perfectly. (I’ll post a pic tomorrow.) Could I be a jinx? I’m 0-for-2 in games I’ve attended this season. Maybe I should stay away from the ballparks altogether. On the other hand, I had a great time tonight. The Dodgers have a terrific organization and they make the fan experience a memorable one. I did clutch when I saw Torre standing there in the dugout, then making his way to the mound with that same peg-leg walk he always had with the Yankees. Sigh. But I got a big laugh when my buddies on Twitter said they saw me on TV with my husband Michael. Our seats in the Dugout Club were fabulous. We were closer to the plate than the pitcher was.

As for the Yanks, sounds like Joba pitched another beauty and is suddenly becoming everything we all hoped for him. Melky, Posada and Jeter had a big night offensively. 
Lots to write about, but for now I’m hitting the bed. ‘Night, everyone.

A Woman’s Work Is Never Done

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Due to Thursday night’s long rain delay, I missed the game. I had to leave for the first session of the evening writing workshops I’m teaching with a writer buddy. (We’re “The Muse Madams” and you can read about us here.) So while I was sitting in a room with 12 aspiring writers and critiquing their work, I was dying to find out what was going on in the Bronx. Talk about having my head in two places.
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When I got home, I ran inside and asked my husband who won. He was watching highlights of Mark Buerhle’s perfect game, which had been so exciting earlier in the day.
“The Yankees,” he said with a big smile. “Their seventh straight.”
“Tell me!” I said.
Michael, who keeps score just like I do, went through an inning-by-inning recap of the Yanks’ 6-3 victory over the A’s. No, it wasn’t the same as actually seeing the game, but his storytelling was pretty damn good. If he’d been in my writer’s workshop, I would have given him an “A.”
The main plot points, as he explained them, were:
* CC overcame a shaky first few innings and gave up three runs over seven.
* Hinske, playing right tonight, hit an RBI single to put the Yanks up 4-3.
* Tex had a homer and three RBIs.
* Posada knocked in two runs.
* And Hughes pitched both the eighth and ninth, so Mo could have the night off, and was perfect, earning his first major league save.
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Of course this team will stumble over the next few months. They’ve already stumbled. But they are so much better than last year’s model in every way. Yes, it’s upsetting that Wang seems lost for the season; I don’t know how the Yankees will replace him in the rotation over the long haul or what they’ll end up doing about Joba’s innings limit. And yes, it would be nice to get a healthy Marte back in the pen, plus an effective Bruney. But these Yankees aren’t going away. They just aren’t.
It’s late here on the west coast, so I’m packing it in for the night. Tomorrow afternoon is my trip down to Dodger Stadium. I’m looking forward to it, but I’ll be glued to my iPhone until the Yankees game is over. Once again, I’ll have my head in two places.
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It’s Way More Fun To Sweep Than To Be Swept (Duh)

That nightmare series in Anaheim before the break seems like ages ago. Now, all the Yankees do is win, and every game feels like a party.

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With their second 6-4 victory in a row (after having won three 2-1 games in a row), the Yanks swept the hapless O’s behind an excellent performance by AJ. I really look forward to the days he pitches and I get a kick out of his pie-in-the-face pranks. I guess what I’m trying to say is that I’m starting to fall for the guy.
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Well, just a little. I mean, he wears a snarl most of the time, but then look at how he gives props to Swisher for making that great catch on Wigginton in the third. So sweet and generous and tattoo-y.
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He could have stood there sulking, because Swisher inexplicably dropped Roberts’ so-what fly ball for an error to lead off the inning.
Speaking of Swisher, he’s an adventure in right field. One minute, he reminds me of this guy.
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The next, he makes run-saving plays like these.
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He even smacked a two-RBI single to put the Yankees up 4-0. I’ll give him this: He’s a whole lot better than the guy Cashman dealt to get him.
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He told Kim Jones after the game that if he were an ice cream, he’d be rocky road.
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Does that mean he knows he’s kind of nutty?
His answer does raise an interesting question: What kind of ice cream would you be? I spent the afternoon pondering this weighty issue (too much time on my hands) and decided I would be vanilla fudge ripple. I have no idea why.
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Berken, the Orioles pitcher, was woeful in the early going, and allowed the Yankees hitters to jump all over him. I thought I’d be seeing an actual blowout. But the offense stranded runners, and it was maddening. For example:
Tex with two on in the 7th: GIDP.
Jeter with bases loaded in the 8th: K.
Still, no complaints. Phil Hughes, who is impossibly great as a reliever, threw yet another scoreless eighth. 
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I was glad to see Bruney in the ninth, considering that he hadn’t pitched since early July, but what is up with him? He strikes out Andino and Roberts, then gives up back-to-back homers to Jones and Markakis? 
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Clearly, he has more work to do. Or is he still hurt and not telling anyone?
The worst part is that Girardi was forced to bring in Mo for the fifth time in six games. He got the save (#510), but he needs some rest now.
Mo? If you’re reading this, there’s an extra bed at my house. I’ll make you dinner, massage your feet, let you have a nice, relaxing evening while the Yankees deal with the A’s. There’s just one thing: You’ll have to watch the games with me. It’ll be fun to laugh together at the various batting stances of your teammates, won’t it?
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