I spent most of this weekend in Maine pursuing one of my random passions and got back to the city just in time to see Hiroki Kuroda continue his 1978 Ron Guidry impression. Five days after pitching a Sapphire Game, Kuroda allowed an Adrian Gonzalez solo home run and scattered three other hits in eight superb innings. Meanwhile, Red Sox Nation pariah** Josh Beckett was mentally preparing for his next golf outing by the sixth inning, when he gave up a second home run to Ichiro. The Yanks’ 4-1 win gave them a 5-2 record in what I dubbed Crucible Week — three out of four against the Rangers, and two of three over Boston.
**On my way back from Maine, I listened to a solid two hours of Boston sports talk radio while driving through Massachusetts, the delightfully named Butch Stearns show on WEEI. The topic of the day was the bizarre Adrian Gonzalez/Kelly Shoppach texting fiasco (go here for the too-crazy-to-be-made-up details) and the general dysfunction of the Red Sox. Nothing brightens up an afternoon for this Yankee diehard quite like listening to one Red Sox fan after another call in to complain about the team (“listen, Butch, Beckett has been GAHHD AHHHH-ful this season…”). Butch and his band of sad callers basically gave up on the Sox midway though the program and began speculating about the Patriots’ chances this season. It was beautiful to listen to.
Heading into the week, I said: “The Yankees could be two games up at the end of this week; they could also be nine up. Either way, it’s gut-check time in the Bronx.” The latest MLB standings have them up five games in the AL East on hard-charging Tampa Bay, which has won four in a row and 11 of 13 behind the return of offensive keystone Evan Longoria. On the week, the Bombers blew a late lead by putting faith in Joba Chamberlain for possibly the last time ever as a Yankee, lost a game with a particularly unfavorable pitching matchup (Phelps vs. Jon Lester) and won the other five games.
The series win against Texas was the highlight of the week. Beating Boston is satisfying but currently akin to a heavyweight knocking out a middleweight — it’s just not a fair fight. But taking three of four from the two-time defending AL champs** without C.C. Sabathia, Alex Rodriguez or Andy Pettitte? That’s a statement to the rest of the American League. The Yankees at this point are the favorites to win the pennant, and the road to the World Series may well go through New York instead of Arlington.
**Notable caveats to the week: Texas ace Yu Darvish didn’t pitch in the four-game set, and all of the games were at Yankee Stadium. A playoff series against the Rangers would obviously have a different flavor, though the Yankees would likely have Sabathia and A-Rod back.
More Yankee news and notes coming later today.
PREVIOUS CRUCIBLE WEEK POSTS:
AL EAST, AUGUST 20
|New York Yankees||NYY||72||49||.595||–|
|Tampa Bay Rays||TBR||67||54||.554||5.0|
|Boston Red Sox||BOS||59||63||.484||13.5|
|Toronto Blue Jays||TOR||56||65||.463||16.0|