Time to Bury Boston

When Andy Pettitte left Wednesday’s game after the fifth inning and 77 pitches, I thought I might have seen No. 46 walk off the field for the last time ever. Hearing “tightness in the elbow” with 37-year-old lefties who have been mulling retirement for four years is like hearing “broken leg” for a fallen horse at the Derby.

Hopefully the inflammation in Pettitte’s elbow is just that and a missed turn in the rotation will be enough to get him back on track and let him continue the best start to a season in his career. If not, then there’s a problem for a rotation that includes the incompetent Javier Vazquez who is being skipped over on Friday because of a mental injury and not a physical one. But we’ll cross that bridge if and when we get to it.

Pettitte’s injury, coupled with the minor injuries to Mariano Rivera and Jorge Posada has the Core Four suddenly being the Sore Four and people are just waiting to see what type of injury Derek Jeter will come up with. And all of this is apparently because the old guard appeared on the cover of Sports Illustrated. It’s obvious that the Sports Illustrated cover jinx is to blame for the injuries, and not the fact that Pettitte is 37, Rivera is 40 and Posada is 38.

I believe in the Sports Illustrated jinx and all curses as much as I believe in the abilities of Javier Vazquez and Boone Logan. I don’t understand the whole no-hitter or perfect game jinx thing either. How can someone watching the game at home on their TV who says “no-hitter” during one change the outcome of a pitch thrown by someone who doesn’t know they exist? Did no one in the world say “it” when Ubaldo Jimenez threw a no-no on April 17? Doubtful.

But the same way I believed in Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny, and the Tooth Fairy at one point in my life, I did believe in jinxes and curses, or at least one curse. A few games in October 2004 changed that.

This weekend the Yankees have a chance to do something they haven’t had a chance to do since 2006: Go to Fenway Park and end the Red Sox’ season. And in 2006 they didn’t get that chance until August.

Sitting five games up (six in the loss column) with two games in hand, the Yankees have a chance to bury the Red Sox in the AL East and make “run prevention” just as evil to say in Boston as it to say “Bucky Dent” or “Aaron Boone.” The Yankees have a chance to officially make the AL East race a two-team race (if it isn’t already) and push the Red Sox back under .500, where they have been treading water since the start of the year.

Yes, the Red Sox are winners of four straight, but those four were against the awful Angels (losers of seven straight) and who might be just as bad as the Orioles (who swept the Red Sox last weekend. I guess Mike Scioscia isn’t looking like much of a genius these days with that 12-18 record. The Angels are a mess, but at the same time, it looks like the Red Sox might be coming out of their month-long coma. If that’s the case, it’s time to pull the plug and make sure they don’t wake up.

There is enough trouble in the division right now with the Rays winning every day and Tampa Bay apparently not an option on the injury bug’s GPS. The last thing I need is the Red Sox coming around the corner like Super Saver. Let the city of Boston focus on the NHL and NBA playoffs and trying to keep their water clean. The Yankees need to further distance themselves from the Red Sox this weekend, and here’s how:

The Heart
When was the last time A-Rod dropped an A-Bomb over the Green Monster and onto the Mass. Pike? I don’t know either, but I am ready for him to revisit Lansdowne Street this weekend. I am still waiting for the best 3-4 combination in the league from 2009 to show up in 2010.

Tex has come alive in May, as expected, (7-for-20, five RBIs in five games), and with Nick Johnson showing a pulse on Wednesday, all the Yankees need is for A-Rod to find his power stroke to get the heart of the order to start beating again.

At some point in the near future, Brett Gardner and Francisco Cervelli are going to stop raking (at least I think they will) and the Yankees are going to need Mark Teixeira and Alex Rodriguez to be Mark Teixeira and Alex Rodriguez. Why not in Boston?

The Phranchise
Series sweeps and series wins come with your Game 1 starter, and in this case it happens to be Phil Hughes who gets the ball on Friday night. Hughes has made everyone forget about the deal that would have brought Johan Santana to the Bronx, and Johan has done his part (Thanks, Phillies) in helping everyone forget as well.

Hughes is 3-0 and could be 4-0 if Boone Logan and David Robertson weren’t so good at making leads disappear. His counterpart on Friday will Josh Beckett and his shark-tooth necklace, who is carrying around a 6.31 ERA with his new $68 million extension.

Hughes has allowed just 10 hits in 24 innings so far this season, and if he can do what he has done in his first four starts then it will make for a good night and a great start to the weekend.

The Bridge
Right now when the bullpen door opens, only bad things seem to happen. I’m not worried about Mariano Rivera’s health, but I am worried that he hasn’t pitched in a game since last Friday and is now available against the Red Sox in a place where he has had the most trouble in his career. After Mariano, the level of trust falls fast. Here is the pecking order of trust after Mariano:

Alfredo Aceves

Joba Chamberlain

David Robertson

Sergio Mitre

Damaso Marte

Boone Logan

Joba has yet to fully gain back my trust, but he has looked better of late. As for David Robertson, I think he left his deceiving fastball in 2009. If Sergio Mitre has to pitch this weekend, then you can forget a sweep. And if he has to pitch twice, then you can forget about a series win too. You should never be able to trust Mitre over any other pitcher on your team, let alone both the lefties in of the ‘pen.

I am still waiting for an explanation as to why Boone Logan is on the team because being a lefty just isn’t cutting it. He has put seven people on base in three innings, and the Yankees are 2-3 in games he pitches in, and were almost 1-4 thanks to his walk-a-thon in the ninth inning on Wednesday. I pray that the starters go at least seven, and then Boone can stay where he belongs: on the bench.