THERE ARE MUST-WIN GAMES, and then are games like today at Yankee Stadium, when the Yankees had one last chance to resurrect a disappointing season. After dropping the first two games of a crucial series to Boston, and after trailing most of the game 2-0, the Yankees came back for a dramatic 3-2 win.
Mike Mussina pitched like he has all year, giving up just 5 hits and those 2 runs over 7, and Jason Giambi provided the offensive fireworks with a pinch-hit, game-tying blast and then the game-winning single in the 9th off Jonathan Papelbon.
That leaves the Yankees with 29 more games, 29 more chances to stave off their first non-playoff season since 1993. It starts with 3 games against Toronto, which won't be easy if no other reason than they'll be drawing the Blue Jays' 2 best pitchers, A.J. Burnett (16-9) and the Seaver-like Roy Halladay (16-9, 2.69 ERA).
The first Yanks-Red Sox game featured Andy Pettitte vs. Tim Wakefield, one of the last knuckleballers in the game. This was a frustrating 7-3 loss, especially for one Alex Rodriguez, who started off the most important series of the season with one of his worst as a Yankee, considering the circumstances. Alex struck out twice and grounded into two double plays, one with the bases loaded late, in going 0-5, while adding an error in the field for bad measure. Other than that, he had no hand in the Yankees losing that night.
Last night was a listless 11-3 affair where Sid Ponson continued his downward slide. I think Yankees got all they're gonna get from him, and now hopefully Joba Chamberlain can come back from injury and take his place in the rotation. It may be a case of delaying the inevitable, but let's play the games out and see where it takes us as August turns into September.
Another day, another article critical of Yankees GM Brian Cashman in the Daily News. After Bill Madden detailed his many shortcomings on Sunday, today's piece by Peter Botte has Cashman fully accepting blame. Of course, Cashman falling on his sword at least merits him some points for honesty and accountability, but at this stage of the game blaming Cashman for the Yankees' underachieving is a little like saying George W. Bush kind of screwed things up in Iraq:
> "And it was Cashman who convinced the Steinbrenners to focus on developing young pitchers such as Phil Hughes and Ian Kennedy -- who've combined for zero major-league victories in injury-plagued campaigns -- rather than flip some of the youth for an ace pitcher such as current Met Johan Santana last winter."
To me, the jury is still out on that non-trade. There are at least 10 other moves I would criticize Cashman for before getting to that one, starting with the latest one: the trade of reliever Kyle Farnsworth for a well-past-his-prime Ivan Rodriguez. It was a totally unnecessary move, and somehow weakened us in two spots: the bullpen and defense.
Derek Jeter is getting hot just at the right time, getting another 3 hits today. So in his absolute worst year (I don't think he's been 100% healthy all year), Jeter is still hitting .294 with 8 HRs and 60 RBIs hitting second in the order. After getting bashed by haters like Mike Lupica all year, he's still right there with whatever numbers Jose Reyes is putting up in his best year.  Now, in all fairness, you have to give the Mets some credit for bouncing back last night in Philly after their horrendous meltdown Tuesday night. Of course it helps a little when it's your ace's turn to take the mound the next night and you have Johan Santana, and Carlos Delgado hit yet another big HR to tie it late.
The meltdown in question took the form of the Metsies blowing a 7-o lead to the Phillies, almost a funhouse mirror of their 7-game folderoo over the final 17 games of last season. The Mets scored all 7 of their runs in their first 4 innings, then watched the Phils chip away before tying it with single runs in the 8th and 9th. Chris Coste's hit in the bottom of the 13th gave the Phils one of their most dramatic wins of the year, one that ultimately would not carry over to the next day.
The Mets have bounced back with a win after almost all of their blown games all season. Just when you thought they were going into a nasty tailspin, they right the ship. With their shaky bullpen, expect similar late-inning troubles. But that ability to bounce back, along with their patty-cake schedule the rest of the way, should bode well for the Mets as they try to avoid a similar collapse to 2007.