Wednesday, September 20, 2006
ONE MORE GAME
The Yankees can officially put the champagne on ice.
Three home runs, a quality start by Jeff Karstens and a relatively stress-free performance by the bullpen gave the Yankees a 6-3 win over the Blue Jays at Rogers Centre.
Meanwhile, 550 miles to the south, the Red Sox lost to the Twins, lowering the Yankees' magic number to clinch their ninth consecutive American League East title to one. A Yankees win or Red Sox loss on Wednesday will end the race.
"It's been close, but this is the first day we can say, 'We show up tomorrow and we can make it happen,'" manager Joe Torre said. "That's what you wait for; that one opportunity when you wake up in the morning and you know something special can happen."
"We know if we win a game, it's over with, so we'll try to get it done tomorrow night," Derek Jeter said. "We're pretty close now; we should be able to get it done. You can't ask to be in a better position."
Jorge Posada, Bobby Abreu and Hideki Matsui each homered on Tuesday, accounting for four of New York's runs. Melky Cabrera knocked in the other two, as the Yanks improved to 92-59, giving them a two-game lead over the Tigers for the best record in the AL.
For the second straight night, the Yankees got a surprisingly good outing from a rookie starting pitcher, as Karstens allowed three runs over 6 1/3 innings. Kyle Farnsworth closed it out in the ninth for his sixth save.
The Yankees will send another rookie to the mound on Wednesday, as Sean Henn will try to lead New York to the division title, taking on Cy Young Award contender Roy Halladay.
"It's a pretty good thing," Abreu said. "I haven't been in this situation for a long time, so I'm going to enjoy it. Tomorrow is going to be a big day for us."
Posada's solo shot off Shaun Marcum gave the Yankees a 1-0 lead in the second, but Karstens gave it back in the bottom of the inning. Like Darrell Rasner, who got into a jam early in the game on Monday before settling in, Karstens had the bases loaded with one out in the second before pitching his way out of trouble against the top of Toronto's lineup.
"I'd say it wasn't pretty, but I got the job done," Karstens said. "I had to battle and battle, but I got better in the last two innings."
Toronto took a lead in the third on Lyle Overbay's RBI single, but Cabrera answered with a two-run single of his own in the fourth, giving New York a 3-2 lead.
The Jays tied it at 3 in the fifth on an RBI single by Gregg Zaun, and after a walk to Alex Rios, Karstens was faced with another bases-loaded jam. Russ Adams hit a fly ball to deep left-center, but Johnny Damon tracked it down and made a terrific catch to end the inning, cutting his hand open in the process.
"Three runs would have scored," said Damon, who was 1-for-5. "If you're not hitting, you better do something."
"That was a [heck] of a catch," Torre said. "Three guys would have scored, then the whole complexion changes."
Jeter singled off Jason Frasor's right leg to open the seventh, forcing the pitcher from the game. Justin Speier came in to replace Frasor, promptly serving up a two-run blast by Abreu, who crushed the ball to dead-center field.
"It was just a fastball -- I left it up," Speier said. "He's a good hitter and he made a good swing at it, and with that roof open it carries a little to center."
Matsui added a solo shot in the eighth, his seventh of the season and second since returning from the disabled list.
Jason Giambi left the game in the fifth with a sore left wrist, while Jeter was hit on his right hand by a pitch in the first inning. Jeter remained in the game, but Torre said that he, Giambi, Posada and Damon would all get the day off on Wednesday.
If the Yankees don't wrap up the division title on Wednesday -- with a win or a Boston loss -- they could clinch on Thursday despite being off. Boston faces Johan Santana that night, leaving a back-door clinch as a realistic possibility.
"It would be nice to clinch with these guys here," Damon said. "Thursday, we could possibly clinch also and we'd be celebrating on our own."
Posted by Steve Kenul at 7:16 AM
posted at 10:44 AM
You sound like a pretty good sportscaster. The Yankees AGAIN??
Why do the Yankees always have the kind of big money it takes to get such good players?
Steve Kenul posted at 9:33 AM
Good financial transactions, waiver wire pick-ups, farm system, and of course, a risky owner.