The Yankees’ Last Chance to Make a Run at the Red Sox

The Yankees are 18-8 since they played the Tigers at home starting on Aug. 9. But even with a .692 winning percentage for nearly a month, the Yankees are still 2 1/2 games out for the second wild card and eight games out in the division. Their last chance to make a run at the division starts on Thursday night in the Bronx against the Red Sox. You know what that means. An email exchange with Mike Hurley.

Keefe: It seems like we don’t do one of these for months and then all of a sudden we are doing one a week since here I am talking to you just 19 days since our last one. I guess that’s a good job by Bud Selig and the MLB schedulers for stacking Yankees-Red Sox games and not spreading them out over the six-month season. Between the scheduling, the wild-card format and the replay system, which will put more value on innings 7-9 over 1-6 because that’s logical, well I would say that Bud’s legacy will be about being an innovator and genius and not the man who watched the PED era grow and blossom under his watch. I don’t think we have to worry about him reading this though since it’s an “email exchange” and contains the word “email” and Bud has never sent an email in his life. If there’s one thing I have learned in life it’s that you can’t trust a man who’s never sent an email. And since he’s never sent an email, he’s probably never been on YouTube either since he doesn’t allow MLB videos on YouTube and if we can’t trust someone who’s never sent an email, I don’t even want to know that a grown man that has never been on YouTube exists.

Somewhere in that last paragraph I mentioned the wild-card format. The decision to have two wild cards and a one-game playoff to advance to the division series was a decision made by MLB that I was strongly against and spent thousands of words destroying in a way that I have only ever destroyed A.J. Burnett, John Tortorella, Joe Girardi, Boone Logan, Nick Johnson and Brian Cashman. But here are the Yankees just 2 1/2 games out of playing in the wild-card game in a season that had it been pre-2012 they would be five games out of the only wild-card spot. So guess what, Michael Hurley … I love the wild-card format! I love it so much that I wish there was a third wild-card team. Can we get a third wild-card team? That way the Yankees make the playoffs and the top wild-card team could play the second and third wild-card teams in a one-game playoff before the one-game playoff. More one-game playoffs! Are you with me? Who doesn’t love one-game playoffs? I know Bud does. It’s too bad he can’t remember his AOL password to sign on and read this exchange.

Hurley: The funny part about Bud (just kidding, there’s nothing funny about Bud except for his Google image results page) is that prior to last year, I’m sure adding the wild card back in ’95 would have been near the top of the list of his proudest achievements. But now he’s completely thrown that system in the garbage, even though he used to think it was great, only to force some team that otherwise would have been in the ALDS to participate in a one-game playoff against a team that otherwise would be golfing.

For comparison with other sports, a one-game playoff in MLB accounts for a 0.6 percent representation of the regular season determining a playoff series. You may say, “Well, football has one-game playoffs, and that league is pretty good,” but one NFL game accounts for a 6.25 percent representation of the regular season. That would be a 10-game series in baseball. And in hockey and basketball, a playoff series lasts between four and seven games, which is between 4.9 percent and 8.5 percent of the regular season.

And the “just win your division!” argument is for dopes. The Braves could literally play the rest of the season with each player tying one hand behind his own back and still cruise to an NL East title, while the Cubs, Cardinals and Pirates will battle like crazy to avoid the stupid one-game playoff. All three of those teams could end up winning around 93 games, which could end up being enough to win the NL East and maybe even the AL West, but JUST WIN YOUR DIVISION! Even if the schedules are imbalanced and you play 90-win teams 36 times while another division leader gets to play four of the worst teams in baseball 72 times, I don’t care, just win your division!

So, sorry about that. Did you ask me a question?

Keefe: The last time we did this was on Aug. 16 and you said this regarding the Yankees’ playoff chances:

Do I think the Yankees can outplay the Royals, Indians and Orioles from now until Sept. 29? Absolutely. The Yankees have some soft opponents on the schedule, and they’re destined by a higher power to always split their season series with the Red Sox, so it won’t take an otherworldly effort for them to gain 5 1/2 games in a month and a half.

Since then the Yankees jumped the Royals, Indians and Orioles in the standings and the only thing that is between them and a playoff game is the Rays, who have lost seven of their last 10 games and still have five games left on the West Coast before returning home to host the Red Sox. Everything is falling in to place just like you had predicted and I want to thank you for that.

But before I buy a respirator, a defibrillator, steal someone inhaler, pick up two handles of Jack Daniels and a case of Bud Heavy for a potential one-game playoff involving the Yankees, the Yankees have to do some work against the Red Sox during this four-game series at the Stadium this week. And by work I mean they need to do what they did in August 2009 in the Bronx when they swept the Red Sox and put away the AL East and changed the way that season had been going. OK, so they don’t need to sweep, but they do need to win at least three games here at home in order to keep up with the wild-card race and even slowly drag the division back in the picture.

With the Red Sox holding a 5 1/2-game lead in the division over the Rays are you at all nervous about their postseason chances or can we put the clinched “x” next to them in the standings?

Hurley: To answer your question, yes I am very smart and yes I did nail that and yes I rule.

If 2011 taught me anything, it’s that nothing’s ever clinched. Those Red Sox had a much more daunting lineup than this year’s edition, and the ’11 Sox were 1.5 games up on the Yankees and nine games up on the Rays when September began. On Sept. 6, even after the Red Sox started the month 2-4, they still had an eight-game lead over the Rays for the wild card. Obviously you know that things didn’t turn out too well for the 2011 Red Sox, so no I don’t think anything’s clinched.

Where I do think the 2013 Red Sox are worlds apart from the ’11 version is just in guts. I’m sure the real stat-driven baseball analysts would laugh if they heard that, but I didn’t see any of them calling for this team to be a World Series contender when they assembled in Fort Myers in March. It’s a team that just has guts. They never feel like they’re out of a game, they fight and claw for wins, they pull for each other and they care about winning. Obviously they still need to hit and field the ball, but that type of effort is why I don’t anticipate they find themselves in another 2011 nightmare collapse.

I do see that the Red Sox are 7-5 against the Yankees though, so Boston is due to go either 3-4 or 2-5 against the Yankees the rest of the way. That’s just fact.

Keefe: That is just fact. The season series will end 10-9 one way whether one of the two teams only plays three fielders for the rest of the games against each other.

The last time we talked we also talked about how the rivalry had grown quiet because of the turnover on the rosters and because the Red Sox had been bad for the last few seasons. Then Ryan Dempster goes and throws at A-Rod three times before finally hitting him on the fourth try. The benches cleared, but unfortunately no punches were thrown because either A-Rod knew he might be 1-on-25 or because he realized that he’s appealing a 211-game suspension and he doesn’t need to give MLB any other reason to try and keep him off the field.

A lot was made about the incident since Dempster isn’t exactly Mr. Baseball with a career of mediocrity and A-Rod’s PED use and suspension appeal didn’t have any impact on Dempster’s career or life. On top of that, Dempster plays with David Ortiz, Boston’s own PED user, and I don’t think he threw at Ortiz in any simulated games or live BP in Fort Myers. But even though Dempster didn’t display his hatred for PED users against Ortiz, that didn’t stop Ortiz from taking A-Rod’s side in the incident and saying that Dempster was out of line.

Did Dempster drilling A-Rod lead the Yankees’ comeback in the game (they were down 2-0 when he got hit)? Probably not. Dempster not being a very good pitcher was really the reason for the Yankees’ comeback, but don’t you think Dempster ended up being a joke following the whole thing when you know that going into the game he thought he was going to be a hero?

And how about Ortiz? Why say anything about what happened? And if you’re going to, why go against your teammate? Is it because Ortiz is friends with A-Rod (because he is)? Or is it because Ortiz doesn’t give an eff about what he says since he did call Boston a “sh-thole” last season, which Boston has forgotten about along with his PED use.

Hurley: Good to know the tears still haven’t dried from your face since A-Rod got hit. Wah. Ever think Dempster wasn’t taking some stand against PED users and instead just thinks, like the rest of the world, that Alex Rodriguez is a dink? I honestly don’t know how or why more pitchers don’t throw at A-Rod more often. The man essentially is involved in litigation against the league and the team that pays him $30 million per year and is on his way to becoming the biggest sociopath in sports history. I’d put one in his back every chance I got if I could throw 90 mph. (I can throw about 60 mph.)

As for Ortiz saying something stupid, that’s what he does every year. Sometimes he calls Boston a “shit hole” even though he’s never once been booed at Fenway, even when he was hitting .050 for a couple of Aprils. Sometimes in July he complains about his contract negotiations from the previous winter. Even though he ended up getting more than he wanted, he claims the process was “embarrassing.” Now, he doesn’t agree with what his teammate did, probably because he likes A-Rod as a friend but more so because he hadn’t said anything stupid this year. But because the Red Sox kept winning, and because Dempster essentially received double his suspension because the Red Sox didn’t want him to pitch, it didn’t really blow up into a huge story this year.

You sound like such a sad loser, by the way. Go back and read what you wrote. It has “sad loser” written all over it.

Keefe: I don’t care that people throw at A-Rod, I care that Dempster did for no reason and you made my point. What does A-Rod making $29 million and suing the Yankees have to do with Dempster? Is Dempster’s aunt a member of the Yankees’ legal team and has to work late now to research and go over paperwork because of A-Rod’s lawsuit? Is Ryan Dempster suddenly baseball’s sheriff for no real reason other than that he wants to be?

Before we go on … Koji Uehara hasn’t given up a run since June 30, has retired 73 of his last 80 batters, throws a splitter basically every pitch and is 38 years old. Is Koji Uehara real life?

Hurley: You continue to cry like a school child. That’s weird to me.

I don’t understand the Koji thing. I mean, I understand it, but when you watch him pitch, he hardly looks like a dominant closer might look in your mind. What’s gotten it done for him is his splitter. Jarrod Saltalamacchia was saying last week that he doesn’t even know what the splitter is going to do. It’s got a lot of movement, and it’s not always the same, so hitters have just been baffled. I don’t know how someone hasn’t gotten into one over the past few months, and I don’t know how much longer it can continue, but to answer your question, no, he’s not real life. He was the team’s fourth choice at closer, behind Joel Hanrahan, Andrew Bailey and Junichi Tazawa. I don’t think a team has ever lucked into a dominant closer quite like this before.

Keefe: Ah, the Red Sox just lucking in to more things like going to Los Angeles for a three-game series and not facing Clayton Kershaw or Zack Greinke or getting Rick Porcello in the series finale against the Tigers or even getting the Dodgers to bail them out and stopping what looked like five-plus years of more bad baseball in Boston. And now a dominant closer down the stretch that they didn’t even consider for the role earlier this season?

On Thursday night the Yankees will face Jake Peavy for the first time with the Red Sox. Peavy has been very good in five of his six starts with Boston with the exception of one clunker against the Royals on Aug. 9. The Red Sox will face Ivan Nova 2.0 who has been dominant since returning from Triple-A and was just named AL Pitcher of the Month after going 4-0 in six August starts with a 2.08 ERA. On Friday we get Andy Pettitte and Felix Doubront, on Saturday we get David Huff in what would have been Phil Hughes’ spot and John Lackey and on Sunday we get Hiroki Kuroda and Jon Lester. Sadly, CC Sabathia will miss out on the chance to put the Yankees in an early hole and blow a lead and there won’t be a Ryan Dempster reunion.

When it comes to these two teams the pitching matchups never seem to matter. The Pettitte-Doubront game will end up being the 1-0 affair and the Kuroda-Lester game will turn in a 12-10 gongshow. But even knowing that the starters don’t matter since long gone are the days of Roger Clemens-Pedro Martinez games, which matchup or matchups intrigue you this weekend?

Hurley: You’re leaving out the fact that Miguel Cabrera missed two of the three games against Boston this week. That was pretty lucky too.

I don’t know which game will be best, but what is up with Sunday’s game being at 1 p.m.? I believe there is a sport called football on at that time. I wish that game was at 4 p.m., when there’s only one good football game on, but such is life.

I’m looking forward to seeing Jake Peavy pitch in Yankee Stadium. That dude gets charged up and drops F-bombs on the mound for throwing one ball. It’s nuts. I guess I like watching guys who look like Mutant Jeremy Renners curse angrily on live TV.

Keefe: Speaking of guys you like watching, I have somehow never ask you what your obsession with Cliff Pennington is. So what is it?

Like you said, the Yankees are due to win at least four of the last seven games of the season series because that’s just how it goes. When these two teams meet for important four-game series (or five in the case of 2005), crazy things tend to happen. And with the Rays playing the Angels on Thursday and then the Mariners over the weekend, the Yankees need to win this series or even do what they did in August 2009 in the four-game series in the Bronx that changed the division and the season.

The Yankees need three or four of these games this week to keep the pressure on the Rays and to even put some pressure on the Red Sox. And if that happens I will see you (well, your inbox) next week for the final three game of the season series.

Hurley: Cliff Pennington has a rocket arm. You should see that guy throw. Best player ever. No competition. He hasn’t figured out hitting yet, but maybe in his 30s he’ll get there.

I’m rooting hard for the Red Sox because if they win three of four and send the Yankees onto a slide, that means you won’t be invading my city next weekend. And any time you can stay away from me, I’m happy.