After the Rockies, Diamondbacks, and Red Sox dusted off their opponents in three games and the Indians got off to a 3-0 lead over the Yankees, I was all set to title this article "Sweeps Week." Well, so much for a clever title.
Phil Hughes shut down Cleveland for 3 2/3 innings and Johnny Damon delivered a run-scoring single to get New York on the board in the third and a go-ahead, three-run jack in the fifth to lead the Bronx Bombers to an 8-4 victory over the Tribe. The series resumes tonight with Chien-Ming Wang coming back on three days' rest to face Paul Byrd, who hasn't pitched in 11 days.
The Yankees are heavy favorites to win Game 4 and force a Game 5 in Cleveland on Wednesday. Did manager Joe Torre live to die another day or will New York do it for Joe? I have mixed feelings about the outcome. On one hand, I wouldn't want the Yankees to lose if it results in Torre getting fired in this manner. Then again, if they win the series, that means having to put up with the media giving George Steinbrenner credit for lighting a fire under his troops. Aargh!
With respect to the latter, it's funny how long it took for the men in pinstripes to respond to the Boss' threat (if indeed they did at all). Play-by-play announcer Chip Caray made it an issue in the fifth inning but only AFTER Damon had homered to put the Yankees ahead. More than anything, it just goes to show how the media likes a good story. Had New York lost, I'm sure Caray would have laid the blame squarely on the shoulders of Steinbrenner for putting too much pressure on his players. If the Yankees win this series, it will have NOTHING to do with their owner (other than the money he shelled out to acquire all of those free agents). By the same token, if they lose the series, then give credit to the Indians. Cleveland is a well-balanced team and tied Boston for the most wins in the majors this year. It's not about Steinbrenner; instead, the focus should be on the players on the field.
In any event, the winner of the Yankees-Indians series will earn the right to meet Boston in the American League Championship Series. The Red Sox swept the Angels in the ALDS for the second time in four years. The Halos scored only four runs in three games, putting up nothing but zeroes in 25 of the 27 innings. That type of output isn't going to win many postseason games unless you have Christy Mathewson on your side.
Although David Ortiz and Manny Ramirez will get a lot of the credit for lifting the Sox to the first-round victory, Josh Beckett and Curt Schilling shut out the Angels for 16 innings. These two righthanders are putting up postseason resumés that rank among the all-time greats. The bottom line is that Boston can hit, pitch, and field with the best, will be well rested for the League Championship Series, and have home-field advantage the rest of the way.
Over in the National League, did anybody predict that the Diamondbacks and Rockies would vie for the right to represent the senior circuit in the World Series? Both teams did the NL West proud. Including the San Diego Padres, a case could be made that the West may have had the three best teams in the league this season. With all of the young talent in this division, the West could become the powerhouse of the National League for years to come.
But, in the here and now, it's unlikely that Arizona or Colorado has what it takes to beat the Red Sox, Indians, or Yankees in a best of seven series. However, if one of these Cinderella teams pulls it off, it will make for a much-better story than what the Boss is saying.