Saturday, September 28, 2013

Think about it for a moment: Andy Pettitte will never pitch on a major league mound ever again.

Pitching in front of his hometown crowd, making his final major league start, Andy Pettitte, like Mariano Rivera, went out on the top of his game, tossing a complete-game, five-hitter, giving up just one run as the Yankees defeated the Houston Astros 2-1 Saturday night at Minute Maid Park.

"I couldn't have dreamed of this working out the way it did," Pettitte said. "I'm just so thankful and feel so blessed and fortunate. I just feel like God worked this out exactly perfect; another day I'll never forget."

Pettitte, who will retire with the most starts, wins and innings than any other player to pitch in the postseason, took the mound as the Yankees best starters over the better half of two months, and even though he was facing the Astros -- baseball's worst team, and losers of 14 straight games -- he still made it look easy.

"I'm trying to figure out why the guy is retiring, as well as he threw the ball tonight," Astros manager Bo Porter said.

The Astros took a 1-0 lead off Pettitte in the 4th inning. Jose Altuve -- Houston's best player -- used some very heads up baserunning to score from second base on a routine groundout to the shortstop Brendan Ryan by Chris Carter.

Pettitte wasn't giving up much on the night, permitting just four hits through the first eight innings. Robinson Cano tied the game in the top half of the 6th with a single to right field to score Chris Stewart from third base. Eduardo Nunez would score a couple batters later when the Yankees had the bases loaded on Astros catcher Matt Pagnozzi was about to attempted a throwdown to second when he accidentally spiked the ball into the ground, rolling away far enough for Nunez to score from third.

Then as the game went on, and Pettitte made it through the 6th, 7th and then the 8th innings, Yankees manager Joe Girardi sent Pettitte out to the mound to start the 9th at 105.

Pettitte retired the first two batters of the inning, before giving up a two-out single to Chris Carter. Girardi walked out to the mound to have a quick chat with Pettitte, deciding to leave him in the game to get the last out. It was a good decision.

"We left the decision in his hands every inning that he went back out," Girardi said. "He said, 'I can finish it.' I said, 'Go ahead then.'"

Then Pettitte got JD Martinez to groundout to Nunez at third base to end the game, giving Andy his first complete-game since 2006, when he was a member of the Astros.

Pettitte tossed 116-pitches, giving up one run on five hits, while walking two and striking out five. Just as he has been over the past weeks, he was at the top of his game, and there was no better way for him to go out like this pitching, pitching in front of his fellow Texans.

"It's a shame we've got to get old and you can't just continue to play this game," Pettitte said. "But just how blessed and fortunate I am, to be able to play a game and get paid to do it, it's just been incredible."

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The Yankees only have two games left this season, and they'll most likely be playing without their longtime closer Mariano Rivera.

Rivera hasn't pitched since his Yankee Stadium sendoff on Thursday when he retired the first four Tampa Bay Rays hitters he faced before two of his closest friends, Derek Jeter and Andy Pettitte, came walking out of the dugout with two outs in the 9th to retrieve Rivera from the ballgame -- likely for the final time.

Prior to tonight's game at Minute Maid Park, Yankees manager Joe Girardi told reporters that Mariano told him he's not pitching tonight, and there's a very good chance to he won't be available tomorrow -- unless he changes his mind.

"I think that is a big part of it," Girardi said about Thursday's magical moment effecting Mo's choice not to play against the Astros this weekend. "That was a special night for him the way it unfolded. He wants it to end that way."

Girardi also said that it's very unlikely that Rivera with get the opportunity to live out his dream of playing in center field. So we can all stop talking about that now -- although I was really hoping for it to happen.

“I don't think we're probably going to see that as well,” Girardi said. “At least I gave him the opportunity. It’s his decision.”

Last night, in the Yankees' 3-2 win over the Astros, David Robertson -- the likely 2014 Opening Day closer -- closed out the 9th inning for the Bombers, setting down the 'Stros to seal the victory.

So, unless Mo changes his mind, we've pretty much seen the last of Mariano Rivera pitching for the New York Yankees.

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Just like AMC's "Breaking Bad", this season is almost over. After last night's 3-2 victory over the Houston Astros in which Joba Chamberlain likely threw his last pitch as a member of the New York Yankees, nearly blowing the 3-0 lead in the 7th inning, the Yanks were able to hold on for their first win in almost a week, snapping a four-game losing skid.

With just two games remaining this season, the Yankees have nothing left to play for, and the next meaningful game they'll play won't come until April 1st, 2014 when they open up the season in Houston against the Astros -- yeah, just stay put in Houston.

What everyone is watching for this weekend is whether Mariano Rivera -- who pitched for the final time at Yankee Stadium on Thursday, when longtime teammates Derek Jeter and Andy Pettitte came out to retrieve him from the game -- will actually get the chance to play in the outfield this weekend. Manager Joe Girardi said it's up to Mariano what he does this weekend, but Mo says he'll only play the field if his legs let him.

Tonight's Lineup vs Houston:

Granderson CF
Nunez 3B
Cano 2B
Soriano LF
Overbay 1B
Almonte RF
Suzuki DH
Ryan SS
Stewart C

Pettitte P

Pitching Preview:

For the 438th time in his career, Andy Pettitte will be taking the mound for the Yankees Saturday night -- it also tied him with Whitey Ford for the most starts in team-history. Pettitte announced his retirement on August 20th, and pitched his final game at Yankee Stadium two days later, tossing seven-plus innings of two-run ball.

"I think it'll be enjoyable, for sure," Pettitte said. "I think it's going to be emotional. I'm not real sure what to expect, to tell you the truth. There's no doubt when I get out of the game, it's going to be sad, because I know that's it."

Like Mariano Rivera, Pettitte will be able to close out his career on a high note, as he's been the Yankees best pitcher over the past few weeks, still showing that he has what it takes to get hitters out -- even as the oldest starting pitcher in the league -- going 3-2 with a 2.09 ERA in nine start for the Bombers since August 11th.

"Pettitte, if you give me a vote, he's a Hall of Famer," Porter said. "The career he's put together and the success in which he's had, not only in the regular season and postseason and championships, but he's a Houston guy, so I think it's great for the city and great for him. I'm glad that he gets to make his last scheduled start at home."

In the most fitting of situations, Pettitte and the Yankees will be going up against Clemens -- Paul Clemens, that is. Clemens has only made four starts for the Astros this year, going 0-2 with a 4.02 ERA. For the season, the right-hander is 4-6 with a 5.69 ERA.

"It's a tremendous honor to get to go against Andy Pettitte and face him," Clemens said. "It's a blessing, a privilege. I want to compete with them, give them a good, competitive ballgame, keep it real tight and make them compete until the last pitch is thrown for him and myself. Hopefully, that will be a good one for him to look back on and say he had a good little battle with a young guy."

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Thursday, September 26, 2013

"Absolutely." said Yankees manager Joe Girardi when he was asked if would actually consider using retiring closer Mariano Rivera in center field for one of the Yankees' final four remaining games this season.

The Yankees were eliminated from postseason play last night after the Cleveland Indians beat the Chicago White Sox, with the Yanks losing to the Tampa Bay Rays not long afterwards. So these last games mean nothing for the Yankees.

Girardi said that he wouldn't use Rivera tonight against the Rays because the game still means something for Tampa, so he wouldn;t want do anything to help favor the Rays in any way.

As for this weekend in Houston, that's a whole different story. Rivera has been shagging fly balls in the outfield for a very long time, and, as you know, he tore his ACL last season while shagging fly balls during batting practice in Kansas City before a May game against the Royals.

This entire 2013 season has been pretty rough to go through as a Yankees fan and writer, with the non-stop injuries and poor play on the field, eventually leading up to the team missing the playoffs for the second time since 1994, but getting to see Mariano play a game in the outfield before he retires after this Sunday would make up for all of that.

As much as I want to see him go out with one last save on Sunday, recording the final out of the season by catching a fly ball in center field would be fifty times better.

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Updated Story: Not so fast. After earlier reports said that the Yankees gave Alex Rodriguez permission to skip the team's final three games this weekend in Houston to prepare for his suspension hearing, GM Brian Cashman and manager Joe Girardi were quick to shoot that idea down.

When asked about it before tonight's game against the Rays, Cashman said that all reports are false, and I A-Rod was not given that permission.

"I know some reports came out, but we expect him to be there," Girardi said. "He does not have permission not to be there ... We expect our players to be there. If they're able bodies we expect them to be there. I'll see if he's available to me tonight but there's no indication that he won't be."

Original Story: As learned by the NY Daily News, the Yankees have given Alex Rodriguez permission the skip the teams final three games in Houston this weekend to prepare for his suspension hearing in front of an arbitrator on Monday.

This means that Thursday night's series finale against the Tampa Bay Rays will be A-Rod's final game this season, and possibly his last game until 2015 and beyond.

A-Rod, who is facing a 211-game suspension by Major League Baseball for his alleged involvement in a now shuttered South Miami anti-aging clinic, was originally suspended by MLB on August 5th, the same day that he made his season debut for the Yankees.

Last night, the Yankees suffered another disappointing loss to the Rays, officially eliminating them from postseason contention, meaning that A-Rod won't be missing any meaningful games this weekend.

In 44 games for the Yankees this season, A-Rod is hitting .244 with seven homeruns and 19 RBIs.

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So, yeah, Thursday could be the final time that Robinson Cano ever plays in pinstripes at Yankee Stadium. According to a report by ESPN's Buster Onley, free-agent to-be Robinson Cano is seeking a monster contract this offseason worth 10-years, $305 million -- good luck with that.

Before the Yankees played yet another merciful game against the Tampa Bay Rays Wednesday night in the Bronx, officially elimination them from postseason contention, and making these final four games mean absolutely nothing, Cano hinted at the fact that Thursday's home-finale could be Cano's last home game in the Bronx.

"Well, yeah," said Cano, who will become a free-agent this winter when his contract with the Bombers expires. " Who knows what's going to happen? But I always play this game like it's the last day. This year, I enjoyed being here and I'm going to enjoy the last day, being here with these guys.

"Nobody said I'm leaving, nobody said I'm staying. I haven't decided anything yet. Let's see what happens after the World Series."

But Cano did go on to add, "Don't get me wrong, I love this team."

In what could be his final season in the Bronx, Cano is certainly putting up the numbers worth getting a contract in the $300M range, but still, that's a lot of money. That's not even mentioning that he's aalso looking for a 10-year deal, something the Yankees might never want to go through again after having to deal with the whole A-Rod fiasco.

Cano won't officially become a free-agent until after the World Series, so until then, we won;t know what he's planning on doing this winter.

Question: What would you give Cano? Comment below, or tweet me @GavinEwbank2013 on Twitter.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Last night, the Baltimore Orioles were eliminated from playoff contention with a 3-2 loss to the Toronto Blue Jays in 10 innings last night. Tonight in the Bronx, the Yankees could be the next team to join them.

The Yankees are entering tonight's game against the Tampa Bay Rays five games back of the second Wild Card spot with five games left to play. As I discussed earlier today, their playoff probability is currently at zero percent. With a loss tonight, or even a win by the Cleveland Indians, the Yankees would officially be eliminated from postseason contention.

Should it happen tonight, according to ESPN's Jayson Stark, tomorrow would be the first time since October 3rd of 1993 that the Yankees played a meaningless game at Yankees Stadium.

The Yankees are coming off a terrible 7-0 loss to the Rays last night at Yankee Stadium in the series opener against Tampa. Hiroki Kuroda gave up three runs in the 1st inning, and the Yanks' offense couldn't do anything to capitalize on the six walks issued by Matt Moore over five shutout innings.

Tonight's Lineup vs Tampa Bay:

Nunez 3B
Rodriguez DH
Cano 2B
Soriano LF
Wells RF
Reynolds 1B
Granderson CF
Ryan SS
Stewart C
Hughes RHP

Pitching Preview:

With their season on the line, their backs against the wall, the Yankees will send Phil Hughes to the mound in place of the injured CC Sabathia, who was placed on the DL on Monday with a Grade 2 hamstring strain.

Hughes, the Yankees' former first-round pick, has been having possibly the worst season since he's been in the Bronx, and if all goes as it should this offseason, this will Hughes' last start as a member of the New York Yankees.

His 4-13 record and 5.07 ERA has been far below the Yankees have wanted to see out of Hughes, hoping that he would be able to show them that he deserves to be resigned this offseason, but things haven't  panned out that way, and Hughes is likely out the door for good this winter.

Hughes is very likely to have a very small leash from manger Joe Girardi tonight, as he has had on Hughes in his last few starts, and if he runs into trouble at any point early in the game, it's highly likely that we'll see David Huff called into action.

If you thought things could not be more against the Yankees tonight with Hughes in the mound in a possible elimination game, taking the mound for the Rays will be their first-overall pick in the 2007 draft, left-hander David Price. Price will making his last start of the season for Tampa, and he's looking for his first win since August 24th.

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When you woke up today, the Yankees were still in playoff contentions -- technically. Last night in the Bronx, the Yanks, like the Mariano Rivera bobbleheads, failed to show up when the fans were counting on them the most.

After putting up a fight in late-August to put themselves back into the playoff mix, the Yankees folded up under the pressure, and most of the all, the terrible mess that has been the 2013 season.

Last night, Hiroki Kuroda continued to play that same old song that we've been hearing the past few weeks -- bad in the first, good after that. He gave up three runs in the first inning, letting the Rays jump out to a 3-0 lead.

"His stuff has just not been as crisp," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. "His sinker has been a little bit flatter. It hasn't had the same amount of bite to it. It is more across. His slider has been OK, at times, but not as consistent as earlier in the year."

Then to make matters worse, Matt Moore walked six and threw three wild pitches, but the Yankees' offense was too busy playing the same song we've been hearing all season, called "We just can't hit it," causing them to collect just four hits on the night, and strand 11 on base.

In the end, the Yankees dropped the game to the Rays, 7-0, suffering their 11th shutout this season. More important, the Yanks, with the Indians winning on a two-run, walk-off homerun by former-Yankee Jason Giambi, fell to five games back in the Wild Card standings with five games left to play.

According to most websites, depending on what you read, the Yankees' postseason probability is now down to exactly 0%. That means that Yankees now have no shot at playing baseball in October, and we can pretty much start planing on how we're going to deal with what could be a rough offseason ahead of us.

"Right now, we need a ton of help and we need to win every game or we are not going to get in," Girardi said. "That is the hard part because of what you go through."

The Yankees aren't eliminated just yet, but with a loss tonight or even a win by the Indians, who are playing the last-place White Sox by the way, would end their season altogether.

If you though it couldn't get any worse than hear that, that guess what. Phil Hughes is starting on the mound for the Bombers tonight in what is, in all likelihood, his final start as a member of the New York Yankees -- start the applause.

That's right, with the Yankees entire playoff hopes hanging on by a fingernail, it'll be Hughes taking the mound tonight with his 4-13 record and 5.07 ERA, trying to lead the way.

Last night, the Baltimore Orioles were officially eliminated for postseason contention, and tonight, the Yankees could be the next team down. On Phil Hughes Day in the Bronx, the Yanks could be saying goodbye to more than just another pitcher.

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Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Could this be the series that finally ends the Yankees' season? Tonight in the Bronx, the Yankees open up a three-game series against the Wild Card leading Tampa Bay Rays. These three games will either keep the Yankees in the race and bring them closer to pulling off this miracle run, or it will end their playoff hopes all together.

The Yankees are coming off an emotional loss to the San Francisco Giants on Sunday at Yankee Stadium, on a day will with celebrating and remembrance of Mariano Rivera, baseball's greatest closer, as he prepares to ride off into the sunset after the final pitch of the 2013 season is thrown.

With just six games remaining this season, the Yankees need every win they can get in order to get to the postseason. On Monday, the Yanks announced that they would have to go through these final six games without their apparent ace CC Sabathia, who was shut down for the rest of the season because of a Grade 2 strain in his left hamstring.

Tonight's Lineup vs Tampa Bay:

Suzuki CF
Rodriguez DH
Cano 2B
Soriano LF
Reynolds 1B
Nunez 3B
Wells RF
Ryan SS
Stewart C
Kuroda RHP

Pitching Preview:

On Sunday, Andy Pettitte made his final home start at Yankee Stadium after announcing on Friday that he, too, would retire at the end of this season. Pettitte was great on the mound, taking a no-hitter into the 6th inning until it was taken away by a homerun from a September call-up.

Today against the Rays, Hiroki Kuroda will try one more time to turn his season around after going on a harsh losing streak since mid-August. Since going eight-innings against the Los Angeles Angels on August 12th, he's 0-6 with an ERA over six.

Although he dropped his last decision, Kuroda put together a quality start when he gave up three runs over six innings to the Toronto Blue Jays last Thursday.

"It was gutsy; he was in trouble every inning," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said of Kuroda's performance. "He did a really good job of minimizing the damage."

Taking the mound for the Rays tonight is one of their best young pitchers, left-hander Matt Moore, who is 15-4 with a 3.34 ERA, with two of his wins coming against the Yankees in four starts against them this season.

"Beating them is going to worsen their chances of getting in, so we can kill a couple birds with that one stone," Moore said of this critical series starting tonight.

Monday, September 23, 2013

With just six games left this season, the Yankees will have to play on without their highest paid pitcher in CC Sabathia, who was shut down by the Yankees on Monday after it was announced he had suffered a Grade 2 hamstring strain.

"We have hopes and beliefs that next year will be a better year for him and for us,'' Cashman said. "There's no point in having him make his last start with an injury.''

Yankees GM Brian Cashman said that Sabathia strained his left hamstring in the second inning of his last start for the Yanks on Friday against the San Francisco Giants. The injury will take about 8 weeks to heal, according to the team.

Sabathia, 33, had been going through a very rough 2013 season, finishing with a 14-13 record with an un-CC like 4.78 ERA, the highest of his 13-year career. He also allowed a career-high 26 homeruns this season, six more than his previous career-high.

"He's had an interesting year, to say the least,'' Cashman said. "The home runs really killed him. But we think he's retained a number of abilities that should allow him to pitch at or near the top of our rotation next year. ''

Losing CC may sound like a back-breaker for the Bombers, but in reality, it's not that bad. The Yankees only have six games remaining, and Sabathia was only going to take the mound one more time -- Thursday against the Tampa Bay Rays, who CC is 1-4 with an abysmal 7.52 ERA against this season.

With CC no longer starting against Tampa this week, it's like that Phil Hughes will start for the Yankees in one of the three critical games in the Bronx against the Wild Card leading Rays.

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In sports, nothing compares to the last week of baseball. As some of the divisions have already been claimed, the divisions still wide open are always a joy to watch, as the pressure of winning in the crunch time of the season grows on all contending teams.

For the Yankees,crunch time started a long time ago, and as they head into the final week of the season with six games left against the Tampa Bay Rays and Houston Astros, they're four games back of the Cleveland Indians in the Wild Card race.

Every last game for the Yankees can be considered a must-win game, because if they fail to win even one of the remaining six, they can almost certainly say goodbye to their playoff hopes.

Starting tomorrow in the Bronx, the Yankees open up their most important series of the season -- and their best chance at clinching a Wild Card berth -- with a three-game against the Rays, who currently lead the Wild Card.

Enter play four games behind, the Yankees can't afford to lose any of the three games, as a loss on Tuesday could potentially set them five games back with five left to play -- not exactly good odds.

More so, the Yankees would also need to get some help from the teams currently ahead of them in the Wild Card race, but the strength of schedule for the Kansas City Royals, Texas Rangers and Indians are not in the Yankees' favor.

The Indians have two games home games left against the awful Chicago White Sox on Tuesday and Wednesday, then finish their season with four games against the Minnesota Twins. The Royals are in Seattle for three games against the no-so-competitive Mariners starting on tonight, then go to the White Sox for more more easy games to finish the season.

Then you have the Rangers, who had been playing very poorly lately, but still find them selves just 1.5 games out of the second Wild Card spot, with three games against the Astros and four games at the Angels -- two very easy opponents.

At this point, on a scale of 1-10, the Yankees chances of making the playoffs are probably at a two, but if you think about it, a two if still better than a zero. They still have life, but not much left. If they plan in making the playoffs, it's going to take a miracle of a six-game winning streak, along with some, I mean a lot, of help from the other teams involved.

The season ends Sunday in Houston, but the Yankees' playoffs hopes could end a few day before that if they don't start winning now.

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Sunday, September 22, 2013

Sunday in the Bronx, the Yankees celebrated the past, struggled in the present, and are dreading the future.

On an afternoon that was proclaimed to be “Mariano Rivera Day” in New York City by Mayor Michael Bloomberg, the Yankees honored Mariano Rivera by holding a 50-minute pregame ceremony that celebrated the career of baseball’s all-time greatest closer.

Many of Mariano’s past teammates, and players critical to the Yankees’ past gathered on the field for an emotional and memorable ceremony.

The players and former franchise members included Jeff Nelson, David Cone, Bernie Williams, Hideki Matsui, Jorge Posada, Paul O'Neill, Tino Martinez and John Wetteland. Mo’s longtime manager Joe Torre and once GM Gene Michael were in attendance to be there for Rivera.

Upon showing the video tributes, and the giving of gifts, and the live performance of Metallica’s “Enter Sandman”, the Yankees honored Mo in one of the biggest ways, by retiring his No. 42.

But once the celebrating ended before the game, the Yankees still had some celebrating left to do during the game, as Andy Pettitte, who announced on Friday that he would be joining Rivera in riding off into the sunset at the conclusion of the season, would take the mound in his final start at Yankee Stadium.

Pettitte took the mound, seemingly pumped by the emotions of the day, he was perfect through the first 4.2 inning before issuing a walk to Pablo Sandoval, and he took his no-hitter into the 6th inning, and it lasted until Ahire Adrianza hit solo homerun off Pettitte with one out in the inning, breaking up both the no-no and the shutout.

Though that didn't faze Pettitte, as Yankees manager Joe Girardi let him working into the 8th inning as he enter with 102 pitches. Giving him the chance to pitch through the inning, Pettitte only lasted as long as it took to give up a double to Sandoval to start the inning, which would come around to score on a double by Tony Abreu off David Robertson.

Pettitte pitched great, giving up just two runs on two hits, while walking only one and striking out six, continuing to be the Yankees’ best start over the past few weeks. He left to a standing ovation by the sold-out crowd, and was greet by hugs from all of his teammates in the dugout. It was the perfect way to end his Yankee Stadium career.

The only problem surrounding Pettitte is that the Yankees’ bats were still living in the past, while playing a game against the San Francisco Giants in the present.

The Yankees only managed to score one run against the Giants, a solo homerun by Mark Reynolds in the 3rd inning. Other than that, it was another poor offensive showing by the Bombers, who put up 11 runs in the first two games of the series against San Francisco pitching.

Several major scoring chances had come and gone, including in the 8th inning when the Yanks set up runners on 2nd and 3rd with nobody out to open the bottom of the frame after a single by Alex Rodriguez and a double by Robinson Cano.

Zoilo Almonte, who was pinch-running for A-Rod, stupidly ran himself into the first out of the inning when Alfonso Soriano ripped a groundball to third base and Almonte took off for home, but was gunned down by at least five steps.

"Sometimes we make mistakes, and that's the way it is," Yankees third-base coach Rob Thomson said. "He was being aggressive, he saw something and he reacted to it."

Then with two outs in the inning, and runners on 1st and 2nd, Eduardo Nunez lined a base hit to center field, and with Cano running home, left fielder Juan Perez fired a throw to home plate that beat Cano, and keep the Giants leading 2-1.

And trailing in the 9th, facing Giants closer Sergio Romo, who has always look up to Rivera, shutdown the Yankees in order to close out a loss for the Yanks that can only do harm to their ever shrinking Wild Card chances.

"It's hard to believe that we're sitting here and that we lost another game," said Pettitte. "This was a big loss, there's no doubt about it. We've got to try to pull off a miracle here."

But before the Yankees managed to struggle in the present with the task at hand – beat the last place Giants and remain at least three games back in the Wild Card race – they were reminded of the past, as well as reminded that the future is shaping up to be nowhere near the level it’s been in the last decade.

The most likely scenario is that next Sunday in Houston, the Yankees will finish up their season against the Astros without making the playoffs. Rivera and Pettitte will officially retire from the game of baseball, and from the Yankees.

Robinson Cano – the Yankees best player and biggest hope for success in the future -- will become a free-agent, and there’s always the possibility that he could resign with another club, leaving the Yankees for good.

Girardi, too, will be a pending free-agent this winter, and although the signs say that he wants to come back as much as the Yankees would love to have him back, there are sure to be plenty of job openings for a
major league manager all around the league.

The Washington Nationals will be losing Davey Johnson after this season when he retires; the Los Angeles Angels could have an opening after an awful season from a team with high expectations; and the Chicago Cubs have been rumored to be very interesting the Yankees’ manager.

And I still haven't even mentioned Derek Jeter. We really don't know what to expect from The Captain as he enters the 2014 season in which he'll turn 40-years-old, as this could possibly his final season, if not, his next to last in the league.

So Sunday in the Bronx, the Yankees honored and celebrated the 18-year career of Mariano Rivera. They brought back many of the greatest Yankees from the past decade to celebrate to past. Afterwards, the Yankees took to the field and played sloppy and uninspiring in the present.

In the process, Andy Pettitte and Rivera left to field, for Pettitte the second to last time, and for Rivera one of the last times in his career, reminding us that the end of an era is staring us in the face, and a new era is about to begin, and I must say, it doesn’t look good.

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Today was all about Mariano Rivera. The Yankees honored him for about 50-minutes before Sunday's game, retiring his number, giving him gifts, and there was even a live performance of "Enter sandman" by Metallica.

But there was still a game to be played, and Andy Pettitte was apart of it, taking the mound for the Yankees in his final start at Yankee Stadium, and possibly the final start of his career as he will retire at the end of the season.

The day that started out in celebration by the Yankees had turned into celebration by the San Francisco Giants after taking the lead in the 8th inning with a double off David Robertson, ruining Mariano Rivera Day in the Bronx, as the Yankees fell to the Giants 2-1 in the series finale.

"It's hard to believe that we're sitting here and that we lost another game," said Pettitte. "This was a big loss, there's no doubt about it. We've got to try to pull off a miracle here."

Pettitte was sharp to start the game, he was attacking hitters and running through innings fairly quickly, as he was nearly perfect through the first five innings before issuing a walk to Pablo Sandoval with two outs in the 5th.

Even without the perfect game, Pettitte still had a no-hitter going into the 6th inning, but it was broken up after Ehire Adrianza hit a solo homerun to left field off Pettitte, giving the Giants their first hit, as well as breaking up the shutout with one swing.

There was only one thing hurting Pettitte throughout the afternoon, and it was that the Yankees weren't scoring him any runs. The only run put up by the Yanks was a solo homerun by Mark Reynolds in the 3rd inning off Giants starter Yusmeiro Petit, who was pretty effective on the mound, giving up just the one run on six hits, while striking out seven over 6.1 innings.

With 102 pitches through seven innings, Yankees manager Joe Girardi sent Pettitte back out for the 8th inning, but after giving up a double to Sandoval to open the inning, Girardi called for Robertson out of the bullpen, giving up Pettitte a chance to let the Yankee Stadium crowd give him one last standing ovation.

"It was a great moment for me and I really enjoyed it," Pettitte said. "I was glad I got the opportunity to do that, and the fans were awesome, just like they've always been to me."

Pettitte was great, but didn't get much help behind him. He only gave up one run on two hits, while walking one and striking out six on 104 pitches over seven plus innings in his final home start in pinstripes.

Robertson, the Yankees' likely closer of the future, came up big for the other team once again, getting a groundout to start his day before giving up a double to Tony Abreu to score pinch-runner Nick Noonan from second base. Girardi saw enough of Robertson, forcing him to bring in the man of the hour, Rivera.

"I feel like I let everybody down," Robertson said. "I let Andy down."

Mariano, this time entering to the recorded version of "Enter Sandman", quickly retired the first two hitters he face in the 8th to end the inning, then after the first two Giants hitters reached base to start the 9th, he set the next three down, including a double play to end the 9th.

Rivera helped keep the Yankees in the game, but the offense also helped keep the Giants winning this game, as they had several chances throughout the afternoon to put some runs on the board, like in the 8th when they had runners on 2nd and 3rd to start the inning, but Zoilo Almonte ran himself out at home for the first out, then a few batters later, Robinson Cano was thrown out at home on a base hit by Eduardo Nunez to end the inning.

"Sometimes we make mistakes, and that's the way it is," Yankees third-base coach Rob Thomson said. "He was being aggressive, he saw something and he reacted to it."

The loss sets the Yankees back to four games behind the Tampa Bay Rays and Cleveland Indians in the Wild Card race after both of those teams won on Sunday, and with six games left to play for the Bombers, the Yanks and Rays open up a make or break three-game set in the Bronx on Tuesday.

"We're still alive, obviously, but this one really hurts," Girardi said. "It's tough."

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Man, how can you play a baseball game after that?

Prior to the Yankees taking on the San Francisco Giants in the finale of their three-game series, the Yanks celebrated Mariano Rivera with a pregame ceremony on what has been proclaimed by New York City Mayor Bloomberg, "Mariano Rivera Day."

With Michael Kay and John Sterling calling to ceremony from the field, the Yankees began the festivities with the unveiling of a new bronze plaque in Monument Park honoring Jackie Robinson. Then the Yankees promptly unveiled in Monument Park the No. 42, as they were officially retiring Mariano's number, meaning no player will officially wear it again.

At the ceremony, the Yankees had plenty of special guests to honor Mariano, including former teammate Jeff Nelson, David Cone, Bernie Williams, Hideki Matsui, Jorge Posada, Paul O'Neill, Tino Martinez and John Wetteland. Along with teammates, former Yankees GM Gene Michael, who signed Rivera, former manager Joe Torre, former trainer Gene Monahan, Rachael Robinson, and Rivera's entire family.

After announcing the cavalcade of stars, the Yanks showed a video tribute on the video board in center field. Afterwards, Mariano walked out of the bullpen to a live performance of, what else, "Enter Sandman" by Metallica. But the legendary heavy metal band wasn't done yet.

The Giants presented Mariano with a few gifts, handed to him by former Yankees, and current Giants coaches, Dave Righetti, Roberto Kelly, Hensley Meulens and Joe Lefebvre. The gifts included a painting of Mo, and a customised guitar signed by Giants legend Willie Mays. Metallica also presented him with a guitar speaker.

Then came the gifts from Rivera's club, the New York Yankees. First giving him a a $100,000 check to the Mariano Rivera Foundation, then a baseball bat rocking chair carried out by Derek Jeter and Torre and, in my opinion, the coolest gift, the Steinbrenners presented him with a Waterford crystal replica of his glove.

The ceremony concluded with Mariano giving a speak to the sell-out crowd in the Bronx.

To my teammates, past and present, I appreciate you guys. I thank you, everyone of you guys.

"To my beautiful country, Panama, thank you for your support," he said, in Spanish, as several Panamanian flags waved in the stands.

"To you fans," he said to the vast crowd, "thank you for 19 years of support. It has been a great run, guys. You have always been here for me and for the organization. You guys will have a part of my heart.

"I want to give thanks to the Good Lord for this tremendous organization," he said, noting that he wanted to George Steinbrenner for giving him an opportunity. "I miss him."

And to finish it all off, "You guys, fans, are the best. Let's play ball,"

Before getting the game underway that I'm sure many people forgot was still happening, Posada took the mound to throw out the first pitch, throwing to, who else, Mariano.

Now, it's Mariano's, but it's also Andy Pettitte's day as he makes his final start at Yankee Stadium before he officially retires next Sunday.

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Happy Mariano Rivera Day. Today in the Bronx, the Yankees will be holding a pregame ceremony to honor the great Mariano Rivera as he prepares to enter retire after next Sunday's regular season finale in Houston -- assuming the Yanks don't make the playoffs.

It's sure going to be an emotional day at Yankee Stadium, and in the process of celebrating Mo, the Yankees are also trying to get the sweep of the San Francisco Giants after taking Friday's opener 5-1, and winning on Saturday 6-0 after a dominating complete-game shutout by Ivan Nova -- his second of the season.

With just seven games remaining this season, the Yankees still have a lot of work to do in order the clinch a Wild Card berth, and with the Tampa Bay Rays coming into the Bronx this week for three-games, the Yanks have a great chance to control their own destiny.

"If we play like we played last night and today, we can win all seven games that are left," Alfonso Soriano said. "But we try not to put too much pressure on us; just play one game at a time like we played today, come back tomorrow with the same energy and try to win tomorrow."

Today's Lineup vs San Francisco:

Ichiro RF
Rodriguez DH
Cano 2B
Soriano LF
Granderson CF
Nunez 3B
Reynolds 1B
Ryan SS
Stewart C
Pettitte LHP

Pitching Preview:

This may be Mariano Rivera's day, but it'll be Andy Pettitte's game. Today against the Giants, Pettitte will take the mound for the Yankees two days after announcing that he'll retiring at the end of this season alongside Rivera, making this his final start at Yankee Stadium.

"It's like brothers," Rivera said of him and Pettitte going out together. "We came up with this organization at the same time. We've been through good times and bad times, but at the same time, we have enjoyed what we do. Now we're going out together, too."

Over the past few weeks, Pettitte has been probably the Yankees' best starter. In 12 starts since the All-Star break, he's only won three of those starts, mostly because of run support problems, but he does have an ERA of 3.30 over that span. He hasn't given up more than three runs since August 5th, spanning 8 starts.

Pettitte is coming off a good start against the Toronto Blue Jays on Tuesday when he gave up just one run on six hits over 6.1 innings, but the Yankees couldn't score any runs to back him up, losing to the Jays, 2-0. Sunday will bring us one game closer to the end of an era, with Pettitte and Rivera leaving Jeter as the last remaining member of the Core Four.

"We've had a great run here," Pettitte said. "Part of me coming back was to try to do this run again with the group of guys that we had here, and it's starting to get toward the end of that. We had a great run here, and my time here is done."

Taking the mound for the Giants in this series finale will be right-hander Yusmeiro Petit, who is 4-0 since being called up on August 23rd. One of those wins came against the Padres when he was one out away from pitching a perfect game.

Petit is going for his fifth win in seven contests with the Giants. His last start was against the New York Mets on Tuesday when he gave up four runs on seven hits and three walks, but was still able to take home the victory.

Friday, September 20, 2013

Somewhere off in the distance, you can almost hear Bud Selig smashing his TV with a baseball bat.

Heading towards another poor offensive showing, and a pitching battle that looked like we could be playing all night, Alex Rodriguez blasted his major league record 24th career grand slam in the 7th inning to lead the Yankees to a 5-1 victory over the Giants Friday night in the Bronx.

"You just want to come up in a big spot and get a big hit," said Rodriguez. "Hopefully, that hit gets your offense going."

CC Sabathia wasn't at his best once again, but he battled for the Yankees to give them seven innings of one-run ball, keeping the Yanks in the game long enough for A-Rod to break the 1-1 tie in the 7th.

"We really needed it," manager Joe Girardi said. "Like I've said, I don't know if we can afford to lose any more games. That's the bottom line at this point. I kind of look at every game from here on out as extremely, extremely important."

The Yankees entered the 7th inning against former Cy Young winner Tim Lincecum, who came into the inning have given up just one-run on a solo homerun by Alfonso Soriano in the 2nd inning. Eduardo Nunez singled to open the frame, then after a strikeout by Lyle Overbay, Nunie stole second and Brendan Ryan was hit by a pitch.

JR Murphy hit a groundball the third base that was stopped on a nice play by Pablo Sandoval, by the throw to first was offline, leaving Murphy safe at first. Then Ichiro walked against Lincecum to load the bases, forcing Giants manager Bruce Bochy to bring in George Kontos, who the Yankees traded for Chris Stewart last season.

Lincecum had been pitching pretty well all night against the Yankees, but he just seemed to run out of gas at the end, as he wasn't able to finish off the 7th, getting tagged with four runs on five hits, while walking two and striking out six on 121 pitches over 6.2 innings. Then, of course, A-Rod hit a grand slam off Kontos to put the Bombers up 5-1.

"That's a nice job by Tim, and he just had some tough luck there that last inning," Bochy said.

That set up a scoreless 8th inning by David Robertson, paving the way for the great Mariano Rivera to start off his final homestand with a perfect 1-2-3 9th inning -- non-save situation -- to shutout the Giants and give the Yankees only their second win in the last seven games.

"You don't want to get in a situation where they have a couple guys on and you have to bring [Rivera] in," Girardi said. "This way you have wiggle room. We have an off-day on Monday, so I figure I can use him three days in a row."

In between, Sabathia was on the mound for the Yankees, and although he pitched at the level that would have warranted more than just one run against any other team -- like the Red Sox, who hit CC hard last Saturday -- he still managed to fight through seven innings, giving up one run on seven hits, while walking three and striking out four on 107 pitches.

"I was kind of erratic a little bit with the control, but we were able to make pitches and keep them off the board for the most part," Sabathia said.

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At this point, it's almost impossible to guess whether or not the Yankees are still in this postseason race. While they only appear to be a few games back in the Wild Card race with only nine games left, the Yankees' play on the field suggests they're not capable of pulling off this playoff run.

The Yankees went into Toronto after being swept by the Boston Red Sox, then lost Tuesday's opener against the Blue Jays 2-0, before coming back for a four-run 8th inning on Wednesday, followed by another disappointing game on Thursday, falling 6-2 after Joba Chamberlain gave up a three-run homerun to Adam Lind in the 7th.

Now the Yankees come back to the Bronx for their final homestand of the season, opening tonight for three-games against the San Francisco Giants, then finishing up with their final home game on Thursday against the Tampa Bay Rays.

This won't just be the Yankees final stop of the stadium this season, because it will also be the last time that Mariano Rivera, and now Andy Pettitte, pitch in front of the New York crowd. Pettitte, who announced today that he is retiring, will make his final home start on Sunday.

Tonight's Lineup vs San Francisco:

Ichiro RF
Rodriguez DH
Cano 2B
Soriano LF
Granderson CF
Nunez 3B
Overbay 1B
Ryan SS
Murphy C
Sabathia LHP

Pitching Preview:

On a day when one Yankee left-hander is on the spotlight before the game, another talented lefty, CC Sabathia, will be in the spotlight during the game, as he takes the mound for the Yankees tonight against the Giants as they open up their six-game homestand.

Sabathia is hoping to turn things around on the mound as they season starts to come to an end, this has certainly been a year that CC not only wants to forget, but finish on a high note.

CC's last outing was a tough one against the Red Sox last Saturday when he was roughed up for nine hits, five runs in six innings.

"It's very frustrating, because everybody keeps telling me I'm close, but I don't see it," Sabathia said. "I want results and I know the team wants results. I know the fans want results. It's just tough not being able to deliver."

Taking the mound for the Giants is a former Cy Young winner, and a pitcher that no-hit the San Diego Padres earlier in the season in Tim Lincecum, won four straight decisions for the Giants.

Lincecum allowed three runs on five hits, while striking out six in six innings for his 10th win of the season during his last start against the Los Angeles Dodgers.

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Update, 12:30 pm: The Yankees have made it official, announcing that Andy Pettitte was be retiring at the end of this season. Pettitte also released a statement, which reads as follows:

“I'm announcing my retirement prior to the conclusion of our season because I want all of our fans to know now—while I'm still wearing this uniform—how grateful I am for their support throughout my career.  I want to have the opportunity to tip my cap to them during these remaining days and thank them for making my time here with the Yankees so special.
“I’ve reached the point where I know that I've left everything I have out there on that field.  The time is right.  I've exhausted myself, mentally and physically, and that’s exactly how I want to leave this game.
 “One of the things I struggled with in making this announcement now was doing anything to take away from Mariano’s day on Sunday.  It is his day.  He means so much to me, and has meant so much to my career that I would just hate to somehow take the attention away from him.”

Original: As the Yankees head back to the Bronx for Mariano Rivera's final homestand at Yankee Stadium, it's starting to look like Rivera won't be the only Yankee being celebrated this week.

Joel Sherman of the NY Post was the first to report that 41-year-old left-hander Andy Pettitte is expected to announce this afternoon that he'll be retiring at the end of this season, which is expected to end on September 30th for the Yankees -- Ken Rosenthal was also able to backup this report.

This news is really coming as no surprise as Pettitte, who is the league's oldest starting pitcher, had been expected to make this decision at some point this season, although it was mostly expected to coming during the offseason, not with nine games left to play.

Pettitte is scheduled for two more starts this season, with his last home start for the Yankees coming this Sunday against the San Francisco Giants, and his final start is expected to be during the final series of the season in Houston, near Pettitte's home.

Pettitte is 10-10 this season with an ERA of 3.93 in 28 starts for the Yankees. His 255 wins are also the most for any active player in the league. In the postseason, Pettitte was one of the best, going 19-11 with a 3.81 ERA.

Stay tuned. More details are still to come. Follow @GavinEwbank2013 on Twitter for more updates.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

The Yankees were dead, seemingly. They were in the Wild Card, although they really felt far out of it. They looked to almost have no energy on the field. having lost four in a row, including Tuesday night's 2-0 loss to the Blue Jays in Toronto.

But in the 8th inning on Wednesday night, the Yankees, scoreless in their first 16 innings in Toronto this week, put together s four-run inning that no one saw coming, then sent baseball's greatest closer to the mound for a four-out save that snapped a four-game losing streak.

It was a win that the Yankees really needed, and with the Tampa Bay Rays walking off against the Texas Rangers in extra-innings, it helped the Yankees gain another game in the Wild Card standings, pulling them to within 2.5 games back.

Tonight, it's the final game of the Yankees' 10-game road trip before they head back The Bronx to open a six-game homestand on Friday, their final stay at Yankee Stadium this season.

Tonight's Lineup at Toronto:

Granderson CF
Rodriguez DH
Cano 2B
Soriano LF
Wells RF
Overbay 1B
Reynolds 3B
Ryan SS
Stewart C

Kuroda P

Pitching Preview:

With 10 games remaining, Hiroki Kuroda is like to take the mound two more times for the Yankees as they continue their push for the playoffs, and tonight is the first of the final two.

Kuroda was the Yankees best pitcher this season up until he started to fall apart in mid-August. Since then, he's gone 0-4 with a 6.69 ERA and .325 opponents' batting average in a span of six starts. In four career games at the Roger Center, he owns a 5.96 ERA and has allowed five home runs.

Kuroda's last start was against the Boston Red Sox on Friday when he gave up four runs in the first inning, but recovered to give up just one more over the next five innings.

"As a starter, I think my responsibility is to go at least six or seven innings," Kuroda said afterward through his interpreter. "That's what I'm telling myself to do."

Toronto will counter with right-hander Todd Redmond. Redmond has already faced Kuroda and the Yankees once this season back on August 28th, when he held the Yankees to two runs in 5 2/3 innings. He went 6 1/3 innings on Friday, holding the Orioles to one run on three hits, with no walks and seven strikeouts.

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Just when you though the Yankees might be done for this season, they got back up, chugged down some Gatorade, and sparked their bats back to life to make a four-run comeback in the 8th inning against the Blue Jays Wednesday night in Toronto.

Coming into the night, the talk around the Yankees was that they weren't playing with enough engery. Alfonso Soriano said that after an off-day on Monday, the Yanks weren't at their best on Tuesday when they lost to the Jays 2-0 because they were still a little sluggish after having nothing to do on Monday.

Tuesday night's game gave us the impression tat the Yankees didn't have much left in the tank, and that even the fact of being just a couple games back of the Wild Card spot wasn't enough to will this beat down team to the playoffs.

They entered the 8th inning Wednesday night trailing the Blue Jays 3-0. They hadn't scored a run in their first 16 innings in Toronto, and they were just six outs away from suffering another devastating loss at the hands of the last place Jays.

Having already wasted several scoring chances early in the game, including having runners on the corners with one-out in the first, Brendan Ryan opened the 8th with a ground-rule double off Jays starter JA Happ, who was enter the 8th inning for the first time as a starter since April of 2010. After Curtis Granderson singled to put runners on the corners, hope was coming back once again.

Robinson Cano single to center to score Ryan and put the Yankees on the board for the first time since Sunday in Boston, then Soriano doubled to right field to pull the Yanks within a run.

The, seemingly out of nowhere, Vernon Wells, a man that many Yankees fas wouldn't want up at the plate in that situation, ripped a double down the left field line to score a pair of runs to give the Yanks a 4-3 lead.

Just like that, the Yankees went from scoreless and lifeless, to winning, alive and full on energy.

But, of course, this contest wouldn't be complete without some last inning antics out of the bullpen. David Robertson recorded the first two outs of the 8th, but after a single and stolen base to Brett Lawrie, Yankees skipper Joe Girardi couldn't trust Robertson, giving the ball to Mariano Rivera for a four-out save.

Rivera retired his man in the 8th, couldn't end the 9th without at least making things interesting. He put the first two men on, and then after both runners eventually moved to second and third with two away, Rivera struck out JP Arencibia to end the game, snapping the Bombers four-game losing skid.

"It's fun just to do that," Wells said. "We needed a win. Things had been ugly over the last few days. Guys are still battling. It's obviously frustrating going through periods like that, but hopefully, this is something that can kick-start something special for us."

A kick-start to a winning streak is something that the Yankees desperately need at this point. Andy Pettitte was saying before the game that all the Yankees need to do it go on a little bit of a run in these final 10 games and should be alright.

After the Rays pulled off an extra-innings victory against the Rangers Wednesday night in Tampa, it helped pull the Yankees back to within 2.5 games of a Wild Card spot. I haven't, and I still won't say they will make the playoffs, but at least I know they won't go down without a fight -- kind of like I thought they would have Wednesday night.

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Wednesday, September 18, 2013

There's been a lot of talk around the Yankees lately about their lack of energy on the field.

Entering the 8th inning on a 16 inning scoreless streak, the Yankees' offense was hit by a bolt of lightning in what amounted to a four-run 8th inning that brought the Yanks back from a 3-0 hole to give them a 4-3 win over the Blue Jays Wednesday night in Toronto.

"This team never quits," said Yankees manager Joe Girardi. "We have a pretty mature group. They know what they have to do."

What was on the way to being another bad loss for the Yankees, a two-run double by Vernon Wells in the in the 8th inning gave the Bombers a lead they haven't seen in a long time.

Trailing 3-0 to open the 8th against J.A. Happ, who was entering the 8th inning as a starter for the first time since 2010, Brendan Ryan doubled to start the rally, then after a pitching change, Curtis Granderson singled to set up runners on the corners with nobody out.

Alex Rodriguez promptly struck out for the first out of the inning, then Robinson Cano singled past an outstretched glove at second base to put the Yanks on the board, 1-0 -- their first run in 16 innings in Toronto.

Alfonso Soriano followed Cano with a double to right field to score Granderson, pulling the Yankees within a run, moving Cano to third. That set up the chance for Wells to rip a double down the left field line to plate two runs and give the Yanks the lead.

Leading up to the 8th inning comeback, the Yankees had Phil Hughes on the mound, as well as David Huff, and the offense wasted several scoring chances early in the game against Happ -- including the first inning when they stranded runners on the corners.

Unlike most nights, Hughes wasn't even that bad on the mound, although his lease was extremely short in this outing. After three shutout innings, Hughes served up a two-run homerun to Colby Rasmus with one out in the 4th inning to give the Blue Jays a 2-0 lead.

Girardi was quickly out of the bullpen the take Hughes out of the game after giving up two runs on four hits over 3.1 innings. He brought in David Huff, and after retiring the first batter he faced, Ryan Goins took Huff deep for his first career homerun to extend the Jays' lead to 3-0.

"This time of the year, you can't really complain too much," Hughes said. "I know the situation I'm in and I'm trying to embrace it as much as I can."

In 3.2 inning, the homerun to Goins was the only run that Huff gave up, as well as the only hit, while not walking anyone and striking out three on 47 pitches in his near four innings of work.

With the newly given lead, Girardi called upon David Robertson to pitch the 8th inning, but after giving up a two-out single by Brett Lawrie, who would steal second base a couple pitches later, Girardi showed his lack of trust in Robertson by bringing in Mariano Rivera for the four-out save.

Things got really interesting in the 9th inning, though. Mariano let the first two hitters reach base, then a force out at first created the first out of the inning. After a groundout moved runners to second and third with two away, Rivera struck out J.P. Arencibia to end the game, snapping the Yanks' four-game losing skid.

"It looked like things were going in the same direction as they did [Tuesday]," said Wells, "That's what we are capable of doing. We needed a win, things have been ugly over the last few days.

"Hopefully this is something that can kick-start something special for us."

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Believe it or not, there is only 11 regular season games remaining this season for the New York Yankees, and with every game that goes by, 11 games is likely all that remains. As they enter play Wednesday just 3.5 games back of the second Wild Card, the Yankees play lately have been bad enough to keep them out of the playoffs.

The Yankees finally got a good start from a starting pitcher on Tuesday when Andy Pettitte held the Toronto Blue Jays to one-run on six hits over 6.2 innings, but that one run, plus another on a Rajai Davis homerun, was too much for the Yankees to overcome as they fell to the Jays 2-0.

After the game, Yankees manager Joe Girardi denied that the team's effort had anything to do with the poor play, but Pettitte did say that the Yankees need to start playing with a sense of urgency if they really want to make the playoffs. He has was asked if he thought the Yanks were playing with urgency.

"I hope so," Pettitte said. "Obviously, when you get shut out, it doesn't look like it, but if there is not [urgency] with some of these guys, they are playing the wrong sport and are definitely in the wrong organization. You just have to find a way to get a win and win some ballgames. Nobody is going to feel sorry for us. We have to come out and play and play good."

Tonight's Lineup at Toronto:

Granderson CF
Rodriguez DH
Cano 2B
Soriano LF
Wells RF
Reynolds 1B
Nunez 3B
Murphy C
Ryan SS
Hughes RHP

Pitching Preview: 

A couple minutes before I got to writing this section of the pregame post, I realized that Phil Hughes is on the mound for the Yankees tonight -- I know, right. Those are usually words that no one wants to hear on gameday.

Hughes has not been good at all for the Yankees this season as he enters Wednesday night's start against the Blue Jays with a 4-13 record and 5.07 ERA in 27 starts this season, and he's 0-4 with an ERA of 6.39 in his last 1- appearances for the Yanks.

After being skipped in the rotation for one outing, Hughes returned to the rotation to take the mound against the Baltimore Orioles last Thursday. Although he started the game, Girardi still decided to piggyback him with David Huff, with each pitcher going just over three innings. Hughes gave up just one run on three hits, but Girardi still made the change.

"After having not pitched a lot in the last couple of weeks, command was my biggest concern," Hughes said on Thursday. "It was pretty good. I didn't walk anybody and I was throwing a lot of strikes, so I was happy with that."

On the mound for the Blue Jays to someone close to being their Phil Hughes, in left-hander J.A. Happ, who has been very ineffective against the Yankees this season, going 0-2 with a 6.75 ERA over three starts. Happ hasn't completed six innings in six straight starts dating back to Aug. 17, and he's failed to get out of the fifth inning in three of his last four.

"I'm just trying to prove to myself more than anything," Happ said after his last start on Thursday. "You want to keep the team in the game and you want to have respect. I'm thinking about the team more than I'm thinking about anybody else analyzing me. I hope to go out and finish strong, that's for sure."

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Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Somehow, the New York Yankees are still in this playoff race. And somehow, the Yankees continue to play bad baseball at a time when the can't afford to.

Coming off a weekend in Boston in which the Yankees' pitchers couldn't do anything against the ferocious Red Sox lineup, Andy Pettitte continued his hot pitching lately by giving the Yankees 6.2 innings of one-run ball, but the bats couldn't do anything to back him up, as the Yanks fell to the Blue Jays, 2-0, Tuesday night in Toronto.

"We're playing terrible and it's not good. It's a bad time to be doing it," said Pettitte. "We put ourselves in a horrible position. Obviously we can't have too many more losses."

Pettitte, who came in 3-0 with a 2.13 ERA over his previous six starts, was good from the start, retiring six of the first seven batters he faced through two innings. The only run he gave up through six-plus inning was a solo homerun to Colby Rasmus in the 4th inning.

"I made a terrible mistake to Rasmus and it cost us the ballgame," Pettitte said. "Stupid, just a bad thought process."

Manager Joe Girardi finally pulled the plug on Pettitte, who entered the 7th inning with 101 pitches, after 6.2 innings, giving up one run on six hits while walking two and striking out five on 110 pitches.

"You can't ask for any more," Girardi said. "He was out there on fumes in the seventh."

Shawn Kelley took over for Pettitte and he quickly helped double the Jays' lead when Rajai Davis tagged Kelley for a solo homerun to left field to extend Toronto's lead to 2-0. Girardi didn't want to risk Kelley making things worse, so he sent out David Robertson, who would toss a scoreless 8th thanks to a great relay throw by Brendan Ryan to cut off Adam Lind at the plate to end the inning.

Offensively, the Yankees really helped this game fly by. The closest the Yankees came to actually scoring any runs was in the first inning when they loaded the bases with two outs, but the attempt to score failed after Mark Reynolds struck out to end the inning. The only other time the Yankees had a runner in scoring position was in the second inning.

From there, Blue Jays' starter R.A. Dickey really settled into the game and took over, striking out six Yankees through three innings, and at one point, he retired 15 of 16 hitters. Dickey made it through seven shutout inning, giving up just four hits while striking out a total of eight.

"It was probably the latest action I've had on it, here in particular," said Dickey. "Tonight, and in recent outings in particular, my hard one has had some depth right at the plate and guys are just getting the top of it."

After the loss, Pettitte told reporters that the Yankees need to start playing more urgency with only 11 games remaining this season.

"If there's not, you're playing the wrong sport and you're definitely in the wrong organization," said Pettitte. "We just have to find a way to get a win."

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After a visit with Dr. James Andrews in Florida, Yankees left-handed specialist Boone Logan has been diagnosed with bone spurs in his left elbow. For the moment, it's nothing serious, and there's currently no damage to any of the ligaments in his elbow.

Logan is hoping that he'll be able to pitch again for the Yankees before this season is over, Friday at the earliest, but he will have to undergo surgery on his elbow this offseason to clean out the bone spurs.

If this sound familiar, its' because it is. CC Sabathia had the same procedure done on his elbow this past offseason, and he's come back to have no problems at all -- other than his decrease in velocity.

Logan has been sidelined with elbow problems ever since he first felt some pain on a pitch he threw to Mike Napoli that turned into a game-tying grand slam against the Boston Red Sox last Friday. With him out, the Yankees have had to rely on David Huff and Mike Zagurski as the only left-handers out of the bullpen.

Logan has been having a good season for the Yankees, posting a 5-2 record with a 3.26 ERA in 38.2 innings over 60 appearances in 2013. If the Yankees were to make the playoffs, it would be a great benefit to have him coming out of the bullpen to face a tough lefty in any late-game situation.

This season, left-handed hitters are batting .224 (17-76) with six walks, 13 RBIs, three homeruns and three doubles against Logan.

The New York Yankees need wins, and they need them now. The Yanks are coming off a terrible weekend in Boston the brought them three losses by a combined score of 22-7.

CC Sabathia, Hiroki Kuroda and Ivan Nova gave the Yankees starting efforts that all three would like to forget, and hopefully rebound from in their next starts. Now to mention that the bullpen wasn't very effective, although to Yankee pitcher was in the series.

With 12 games remaining, the Yankees are finally done playing the Red Sox, who beat the Yankees six times in the last two weeks. Now they head into Toronto for the final time this season to play a Blue Jays team that they have pretty much owned this season, winning 13 of the first 16 meetings.

Updated Lineup at Toronto:

Granderson CF
Rodriguez DH
Cano 2B
Soriano LF
Overbay 1B
Reynolds 3B
Ichiro RF
Ryan SS
Stewart C
Pettitte P

Austin Romine was a scratch from the Yankees' lineup. He said there was a miscommunication between him and the training, and he still needs a couple more days to get over his concussion.

Pitching Preview:

As mentioned, the Yankees only have 12 game left this season, and Andy Pettitte is likely to take the mound two more times for the Yankees, including tonight, and they could possibly be the final starts of his baseball career.

Pettitte started off the season great, but fell into s summer slump the lasted up until the past could week -- right about the time that Hiroki Kuroda and Ivan Nova began to turn south on the mound.

Ever since getting shelled for seven runs against the Chicago White Sox in August 5th, Pettitte has been 3-0 with a 2.13 ERA over the past seven starts, with a quality outing ins his last six outings. His last start was on Wednesday against the Baltimore Orioles when he gave up three runs on nine hits in 6.1 innings.

Pettitte has already faced the Blue Jays three times this season, with Tuesday's start being the fourth, and he won all three starts while posting an ERA of 1.77 while limiting the Blue Jays to four runs on 14 hits over 20 1/3 innings.

"It's just battle; figure out a way," Pettitte said after his last start. "We've been doing it all year. We're going to continue to do it. We're going to continue to push through this and no matter how you lose a game here or there, it's not over until we're eliminated, as far as I'm concerned."

 On the mound for Toronto Tuesday night is the reigning NL Cy Young award winner, R.A. Dickey, who started the season looking nothing with his 2012 form, but has since come around, going 4-1 with a 3.56 ERA after compiling a 4.66 ERA over the season's first four months.

Dickey has lost two of this three starts against the Bombers this season, giving up nine runs (eight earned) in 21 1/3 innings, giving him a 3.38 ERA against the Yankees.

"It means something, but it's only a silver lining to a year that for the most part has been a struggle," Dickey said after his last start on Wednesday. "But there is some optimism in that."

Stop me if you've heard this: It's not about the destination, it's about the journey. In the Yankees' case, it's the other way around, as in, it's all about getting to the World Series.

With only 12 game remaining for the Bombers this season, it's looking like a long shot that the Yanks actually make the playoffs even though they're just 2.5 games back of the second Wild Card spot as they enter play in Toronto tonight.

I say that because we all know what's wrong with this squad as they prepare for a 12-game stretch that includes playing against two last place teams -- the Houston Astros and Blue Jays -- with a three-game series against the fourth place San Francisco Giants, and then one important set against the Tampa Bay Rays next week in the Bronx.

The starting pitching is hurting the team more than anything else at the moment, and I guess you could also include the bullpen that hasn't been very good lately, either.

In the last seven days, the Yankees, as a team, have accumulated an ERA of 5.80 -- good for 13th in the American League, ahead of only the Seattle Mariners (5.98) and Minnesota Twins (6.85). For the entire month of September, their 6.27 ERA ranks them dead last in the majors -- Yeah, I know, that's behind everyone.

But that's just for the last few weeks, and, somehow, the Yankees are still in the Wild Card race. Yet, if the Yanks actually end up making the playoffs, none of that will matter, because all that will matter is that they made it to the playoffs regardless of how they got there.

Look at it this way: In spring training, no body picked the Yankees to make the playoffs. Joe Girardi probably thought that it would take a miracle to get this team to October.

The Yankees let go of Russell Martin, who's now walking into October with the Pittsburgh Pirates, one of the best teams in the National League, Nick Swisher, who's now in this postseason race with the Cleveland Indians, and not to mention Raul Ibaniez, who nearly has 30 homeruns for the Seattle Mariners.

On the opposite side of the subtractions, the Yankees brought in almost no one, apart from Kevin Youkilis, who the Yanks singed for 1-year $13 million to only play 28 games because of back surgery.

Along with bringing back aging veterans such as Andy Pettitte and Ichiro Suzuki, the Yankees rushed around in the spring to bring in Travis Hafner, Vernon Wells and Lyle Ovebay. Those three played big roles early, but the production value has dropped of dramatically lately, and, of course, Hafner is basically out for the year because of shoulder problems.

If you don't remember this, the Yankees' Opening Day DH was Ben Francisco -- who was also terrible. In a yea when the Yankees have used a franchise-record of 56 players, mostly due to the new injury suffered every day, they have managed to stay in this race.

In a season where Derek Jeter has played in only 17 games, they've managed to stay in the race. In a season where CC Sabathia is pitching like a No. 4 starter at best, they've managed to stay in this race. And in a season where Mark Teixeria has playing in 12 games, and Curtis Granderson was on the DL twice for broken bones, and I still haven't even mentioned what's been happening around Alex Rodriguez and his looming 211-game suspension.

The point is that the Yankees have been through so much this season, and yet they find themselves with still a great chance to make the playoffs with only 12 games remaining, even when every expert on the planet expected them to miss the playoffs -- even I expected them to miss out for the second time since
1994.

Now matter what happens in this final stretch run, just remember that no other team in the Wild Card race has been through half of what the New York Yankees have had to deal with this season.

The Yankees might not reach their destination this season -- a World Series championship -- but I'll be damned if it wasn't one hell of a journey.

Follow @GavinEwbank2013 on Twitter.

Monday, September 16, 2013

As they say, it's not over until it's over. Many of you might be able to argue that this season might actually already by over for the New York Yankees, but it you look at the facts in front of you, you might be able to ask, is it really over?

Well, the Yankees left Boston this weekend after and atrocious showing against the Red Sox, losing all three-games in the series, and being outscored by the Sox 22-7.

Yet, somehow, the Yankees "only" managed to lose one game to the Tampa Bay Rays, whom the Yankees now trail by three-games in the Wild Card. Even better, the Rays are actually tied with the Texas Rangers for the top spot in the Wild Card race, meaning the Yanks are just three games back of both of those teams.

Tonight in Tampa, the Rays and Rangers begin a critical four-game series at the Trop, with the first Wild Card spot, and possibly a playoff berth on the line.

With as well as the Kansas City Royals and Cleveland Indians are playing right now, you can almost write one of those teams into the playoffs if either the Rays or Rangers have their way this week.

Both Tampa and Texas has been playing sloppy baseball of late, but the only team playing worse than the Yankees did in Boston this past weekend is the Rangers, losers of six straight, and nine of their last 10 games.

Just as the Rangers did last season when they let the Oakland Athletics come all the way back to win the AL West last season, Texas is currently running themselves out of the playoff race again this season.

If the Yankees were to really make a run at this Wild Card, this would be their best chance to do so, as the Bombers are in Toronto for three-games starting on Tuesday, to face a Blue Jays team that the Yanks have owned this season.

Of their last 12 remaining games, the Yankees play nine of them against current last place teams -- three against Toronto, three against the San Francisco Giants, and three against the worst team in baseball, the Houston Astros to finish the regular season, with the other the three against the Rays next week in the Bronx.

"We've got 12 games to go, there’s no time to be concerned, we've got to go," Said Alex Rodriguez after Sunday's 9-2 loss. “You got to play as hard as you can and you never know, crazier things have happened, we just have to worry about getting back on a good winning streak on Tuesday.

"I know we are right in the mix, nothing that a two- or three-game winning streak can’t fix," A-Rod said. “If we go out and win four of the next five starting on Tuesday I think we are right back into this thing. If you take Boston away over the last two to three weeks, we've played really good baseball. Boston has done a number on us, they basically whipped our ass."

Right now, the Yanks would need to leapfrog over the Baltimore Orioles and Indians in order to grab a Wild Card spot. Cleveland's last 13 games are against Kansas City, Houston, the Minnesota Twins and the Chicago White Sox. They have the easiest schedule of all the contending teams.

The Orioles finish up with a tough 13 game fix against the Red Sox, Rays, Blue Jays and one more series against the Red Sox to end the season.

I'm not saying that it will be done, but it certainly can be done. The Yankees obviously have a ton of issues to sort through if they actually plan on making the playoffs -- with everything from injuries to terrible pitching, but I'll get into that later.

All I'm saying is that you shouldn't write off the New York Yankees just yet, because as we've seen in the past, anything can happen in these last few weeks.

Follow @GavinEwbank2013 on Twitter.