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Thursday, November 26, 2009

Thanks for nothing, Giants

Let me start off by saying that I love Thanksgiving. The food is delicious, it's great to see family I haven't seen in a while, and nothing beats a turkey and red wine nap.

Of course the Giants had to ruin the whole day by stinking up the joint out in Denver, with a performance that nearly brought the 5 pounds of turkey, stuffing and pie back up my esophagus. Watching them play on a normal NFL Sunday is gut-wrenching enough, but to have them ruin the end of a holiday with that stinkbomb of a performance is just too much, especially considering that I'm one of the poor saps that has to work tomorrow.

(Note: to those of you planning on Black Friday shopping in the Times Square/Rockefeller Center area, the sidewalks are for walking, not gawking.)

Getting back to the Giants, I have a friend who periodically posts on this blog who is one of those "glass half full" type people. I'm curious to know what positives he can take out of the utter disaster in Denver.

The offense managed only 267 yards, most of which came long after the outcome was no longer in doubt. During the competitive phase of the game (the first half) they had just 38 yards of offense. To paraphrase Jim Mora, "they couldn't complete a pass, they couldn't run the ball, they couldn't get a first down, they couldn't do diddly-poo."

Just a pitiful showing.

Defensively, they weren't much better. The Broncos - a team that had averaged just over 9 points per game during their four game losing streak - marched up and down the field in the first half to take a 16-0 lead at halftime, and held the ball for more than 35 minutes in the game.

You tell me what the positives are. Only 45 penalty yards, I guess that's something. Also I heard there was a good in-flight movie on the trip out there. After that performance, they should be forced to watch Red Planet on the way home. Twice.

At 6-5, the Giants are entering "must win" territory beginning next week when the Cowboys come to New York. Naturally, they beat their annual Thanksgiving Day patsy (in this case, the Raiders), and now have a two-game lead in the division.

Knowing the Giants like I do, they'll do something stupid like win that game and the following one against the Eagles, then lose to the Redskins and Panthers. They only really have the luxury of one more loss anyway, since it'll probably take 10 wins to secure a playoff spot.

In any event, I'm casting my vote against the Giants ever playing on Thanksgiving again.

Hope you all had a lovely holiday despite the game.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Seven's the key number here

In the previous three games before last night's matchup with Columbus at the Garden, the Rangers scored a total of six goals.

In a span of just over 22 minutes during the 1st and 2nd periods last night, they scored seven.

This is a team that had scored more than three goals in a game only once since October 26, and had been held to two or fewer 8 times in that 11-game stretch. I have no idea where last night's outburst came from, but we can only hope that it's a sign that the offense is going to start getting back on track and not an incredible fluke against a brutal defensive team that has allowed a whopping 79 goals this season.

My money is on the latter.

Still, for one night at least, it was nice to see the puck actually going in the net. I didn't get the game on until about 7:30, at which time the Rangers were already down 2-0. I fought the urge to just turn it off right away, and was rewarded almost immediately by Marian Gaborik (big surprise).

In less than six minutes, the 2-0 deficit had become a 3-2 lead. Li'l Michael Del Zotto scored the 3rd goal, as he continues to be the Rangers' best defenseman on a nightly basis.

Then in a span of just 1:11 in the 2nd, the Rangers scored three times, thanks to a combination of Gaborik's wizardry, brutal goaltending and absurdly criminal defensive zone play by the Blue Jackets. I thought for a second Michal Roszival and Marek Malik were getting a regular shift on their blueline, that's how bad it was.

Gaborik had another four points and makes it look incredibly easy on a nightly basis, and at least for one game he wasn't asked to do it all for this team. Sean Avery seems to be showing some signs of life in the last couple weeks, and they need him to keep that up.

Of course knowing the Rangers, this will be their goal-scoring output for the entire week and they'll lose the next three on the road.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Never a dull moment

Say this for the Giants, they really know how to keep games interesting right to the bitter end.

Sure, they could have taken their 14-point 4th quarter lead and put yesterday's game against the Falcons away, but what fun would that be when you can let a banged up team drive down the field for two touchdowns in the last six minutes to force overtime?

If you didn't know that was going to happen, you really should have. This is who the Giants have been for years, maybe even decades.

On the plus side, they actually didn't let the game completely slip away, thanks to the toss of a coin. If the Falcons had won the toss before overtime, you can bet this blog would have a decidedly more angry tone to it, because there was a zero percent chance the defense could have prevented them from driving for the winning score.

None.

Fortunately that didn't happen, and instead of talking about how the 5-5 Giants are plummeting out of playoff contention, we get to talk about how at 6-4 they are right in the thick of the race despite another less-than-stellar performance.

Anyway, a win is a win and I'll take it. It's amazing that Eli was able to put up the numbers he did behind that offensive line, especially without the threat of any running game whatsoever. It is nice that Eli and Kevin Gilbride figured out a way to get Kevin Boss involved, I almost forgot what it was like to see him catch a pass.

Still, if the 2007 season taught us anything it's that you only have to make it into the playoffs, then anything can happen. I sincerely doubt this team is strong enough on either side of the ball to replicate that magical run, but then again I wouldn't have believed that was possible either.

Now, it's off to Denver on Thanksgiving night. The Broncos have completely fallen apart, losing four in a row since starting 6-0. Yesterday they lost 32-3 at home against the Chargers, the fourth straight time they've given up 27+ points in a game.

It's a game the Giants should win, which means I have absolutely no confidence that they will. The game also cuts into my usual Thanksgiving nap time, which is a major pain in the ass.

After that game, it's the Cowboys then Eagles in New York. Win two of these three, and the playoffs look good.

Some Giants Perspective


Reading the boards and listening to the talking heads this morning one would think the Falcons left the stadium yesterday a winner.

They didn't.

This is probably going to sound ridiculous, but the Giants did a lot right in pass defense yesterday and the numbers bear that out. Ryan dropped back to pass 53 times yesterday; his 268 yards passing is a very low total considering the number of pass plays called. Granted, 250 of those yards came in the second half, but still on 35 attempts. They did call some shot plays and hit none of them, primarily because of a big bounceback game from Corey Webster. They hit one completion of over 25 yards; this is an improvement over what we've seen from this pass defense in the recent past. And if Tuck had better hands a well-timed zone blitz call by Sheridan would have put the game out of reach with an interception.

What happened yesterday is Ryan nickel and dimed the Giants to death, and on critical downs there was no answer for the immortal Tony Gonzalez. Covering the TE is going to continue to be a problem for the Giants as long as they remain slow at middle linebacker. Boley's speed and physicality have been a refreshing improvement to a painfully slow linebacking corps that certainly will need a free agent acquisition this spring (hello D'Qwell Jackson). As Boley, and hopefully Ross and Canty, continue to get healthier it should reflect positively on the pass defense. The pressure yesterday on Ryan was fairly consistent and he was forced to make a large number of throws under duress. To his credit he was largely successful doing so in the second half, especially on third down.

Chalk yesterday up to the offense and especially Eli Manning, but don't discount the trends of defensive improvement shown over the last two games. The big plays are down and the defensive pressure is up. Thursday's game in Denver is a good opportunity to build on that against a flagging Broncos team. If this team can win 2 out of these next 3 they should be at worst a live dog in the playoffs if for no other reason than no team wanting Eli Manning walking into their building for a one and done game.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Hey look, it's a hockey post

With the Yankees making their run through the playoffs (they won the World Series, if you recall) and the Giants embarking on a roller-coaster season to this point, the Rangers have managed to fall through the cracks on your favorite little sports blog. But with the NHL about one-quarter of the way through the 2009-10 season, I figure it's about time to give the Blueshirts some attention.

It's hard to be too disappointed with where they are at this point in the season, considering the amount of their roster that was turned over after last year's playoff exit.

Of course, there's a pessimistic way to look at their 23 points in 21 games, and that's that 14 of them came during a 7-game winning streak that may have been a complete mirage. Still, making the playoffs was always going to be a battle this season, and at this point I'm reasonably satisfied with sixth place in the Eastern Conference. Despite the fact that I'm a Rangers fan and should know better, there are some reasons to be optimistic about this team.

Marian Gaborik has been everything we could have hoped for, and then some. Injuries are always a concern with him, but when he's on the ice he's as dangerous as they come. I don't think I had an appreciation for his skills while he was toiling away in the Minnesota wilderness (or on their injured list) but he's lethal with the puck on his stick. Hopefully they can get 75 regular season games out of him, because he's the only reliable scorer on the entire roster. Look at it this way, the Rangers have scored 63 goals this season, Gaborik has 15 and has had a hand in 27 of them. Any long-term injury to him would be a death blow to their playoff chances.

Gaborik has played primarily with Vinny Prospal, who has been fantastic in his reunion with John Tortorella. He knew exactly what he was getting into from their days in Tampa, and has united with Gaborik to form a lethal combo up front.

Sadly, that pair has been forced to shoulder too big of a burden by the rest of the forwards, none of whom seem terribly interested in scoring. Ryan Callahan was their best offensive player last year, but for whatever reason hasn't thrived in Torts' more aggressive system. The same is true for Brandon Dubinsky, and I'd feel a lot better about this team offensively if those two ever got going.

Meantime, Sean Avery is playing like a kid who has been sent to the principal's office one too many times. He's at his best when he plays right along that line between "gritty pain in the ass" and "selfish prick who is a detriment to his team." He's been nowhere close to that line, instead settling on "3rd line glider looking forward to the next fashion week." He's worthless in that mode, and has been essentially neutered by Tortorella. Need to find a balance there.

Despite all that, the power play has actually improved dramatically. Of course, it couldn't have possibly been worse than last year, so I'm not sure how much of a accomplishment that is. Ales Kotalik's play at the point has been critical to that success, and with Gaborik waiting on the wing, that unit will hopefully continue to score.

The most surprising development of the early season is that Wade Redden hasn't yet made me want to strangle him (or myself) with an extension cord. That doesn't mean I'm thrilled at the prospect of paying Sniffy Cokerson for the next three years, and I reserve the right to change my mind about the whole extension cord thing, but he's been tolerable.

The same cannot be said for Michal Rozsival, who has been an utter disaster for literally every second he's been on the ice. Constantly out of position, always a step late, and eternally unsure of what to do with the puck. I wouldn't have let him get a regular shift on my old roller hockey rec league team, yet he's drawing a massive NHL salary and playing serious minutes for my favorite team.

Last season, Rozsival switched from #3 to #33 in honor of Harry Howell, who was having his #3 sweater retired. I happened to be at that game, and joked to my father that I hoped that didn't mean Rozsival wouldn't play 11 times worse. Looks like the joke is on all of us.

While Rozsival is unquestionably the team's worst defender, 19-year-old Michael Del Zotto has been their best, which is both encouraging and frightening. It's definitely a bonus to be getting production out of a rookie defenseman, but with Staal and Girardi there, I wouldn't have expected Del Zotto to shine so quickly.

Both of those guys seem confused by playing for a coach who doesn't have them electroshocked whenever they carry the puck up ice like Tom Renney did. Hopefully they'll adjust as the season goes along, because Staal has the ability to be a great two-way defenseman now that the shackles are off.

Then there's Matt Gilroy, the only defenseman to spend more time behind the opposing goal than his own, and the guy (besides Rozsival) most likely to give me a heart attack at some point this season. I love his aggressiveness and confidence, and I think eventually he'll figure out that he doesn't have to get trapped up-ice on every shift.

As for the goaltending, you know what you're getting with Hank, so there's really no reason to discuss it any further. Everyone knew he'd be called on to make a bunch of saves with the new system and inexperienced group on the blueline, and for the most part he's done his job.

So should we expect for the rest of the season? Honestly, I'm not sure. I figure they'll probably fluctuate between 6th and 10th in the conference standings, and will have to battle to get into the playoffs. Assuming that happens, I don't know any team that will want to face the Gaborik/Lundqvist combo in the spring. Just ask the Caps about facing a hot goaltender last year, and if the Rangers had a single reliable scorer, they would have won that series.

Just for the love of God, stay healthy, Marian.

Let's go Rangers.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Giants have great weekend by doing absolutely nothing

Heading into Week 10 on the NFL schedule, it was comforting to know that the Giants, on their off week, couldn't possibly lose. After four straight losses, that felt like a win, even before the two teams ahead of them in the NFC East both fell flat on their faces.

When you add in the fact that the Falcons - another team likely to challenge for an NFC wild card spot - also lost, and you've got yourself a great weekend without the usual feelings of frustration and despair caused by watching the Giants actually play football.

Let's talk first about the Eagles, who went to San Diego apparently intent on reviving the career of Ladanian Tomlinson, who had been appearing on milk cartons for the last month. He scored two TDs against Philly, and the Eagles are 5-4, tied with the Giants.

Meanwhile in Green Bay, the Dallas Cowboys were held without a point until they were down 17-0 with less than three minutes left, and fell to 6-3, just a game up in the division. The Packers lost to Tampa Bay last week, just for a frame of reference.

All three of these teams come to Giants Stadium over the next month, starting with the Falcons next week. Of course, this will all be moot if the defense doesn't get its act together and the offensive line continues to act like a sieve. Still, as poorly as they've played for a month, they're right in the mix, which is actually a sad commentary on the alleged strength of the NFC East.

Amazingly the, the Redskins were the only division rival to win this weekend, taking care of the rapidly plummeting Denver Broncos. Maybe that Thanksgiving night game in Denver won't be so bad after all.

Meanwhile, around the rest of the NFL:

-The Saints and Vikings remained on course for first round byes in the playoffs, the teams they defeated (the Rams and Lions) remain locked in battle for the #1 overall pick in the draft. the Browns, Bucs, Chiefs and Raiders are also in that mix, terrible teams all.

-I don't know what Bill Belichick was doing in the last few minutes of the Patriots game in Indy last night. Leading by six, Belichick blew his last two timeouts, went for it on 4th-and-2 inside his own 30, couldn't challenge the questionable call on 4th down because of the timeout situation, and essentially gave the game away.

I realize what Belichick must have been thinking with his decision not to punt the ball away with two minutes left. Peyton Manning had been shredding his defense in the 4th quarter and probably would have again, so if you have a chance to seal the game by getting two yards, you go for it. Still, the Colts needed a touchdown, not a field goal. I love Belichick's confidence, but I would have made Peyton drive the long field. Those two teams will see each other in January.

-The Jets lost a game in typical Jets fashion, scoring the go-ahead TD with just over 5 minutes left, then allowing the Jaguars to drive 80 yards and kick the game-winning field goal with no time left. Rex Ryan's team is now 4-5 after the 3-0 start, proving that even with a new coach and quarterback, the Jets can still find a way to build their fans' hopes to ridiculous levels before ultimately failing to deliver.

-Chris Johnson is a freak and is carrying my fantasy team right now. He and Randy Moss helped me win a second straight, and it feels like this could be another late-season charge to the playoffs for my boys.

Seven weeks left, Giants need five wins. Go.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Don't say I don't know what I'm talking about

With the 2010 baseball season months away and the Giants season on the brink of utter humiliation, I'm going to start a feature looking back on some of my favorite moments of the glorious 2009 Yankees season.

With that in mind, let me take you back to late June. It's a Wednesday night, and I'm sitting at the bar at Stout on 33rd street, watching the Yankees sleep-walk through another game in Atlanta.

They had lost 5 of 6 previous games against the Nationals, Marlins and Braves, including a 4-0 shutout the night before. The bats are silent. They don't have a hit through 5 1/3 innings, and despite the pleasant company, I'm getting irritated.

Enter: Francisco Cervelli.

After Joe Girardi was ejected for arguing a blown call at first base, Cervelli drilled a home run (his only one of the season) to tie the game at one. The Yankees would score two more runs that inning and cruise to an 8-4 win.

The next day, I wrote this:

If the 2009 Yankees end up making a run to the World Series and winning their 27th championship, you might be able to look back on last night's 6th inning as the turning point of the season ...

... Think about this for a second. Of all the guys on this Yankees team, Frankie Cervelli may have had the biggest hit of the season.


Please, please, no need to thank me. Thank my paesan, Francisco.

Heading into that game, the Yanks were 38-32. From that point through the World Series, they were 76-31.

It's still amazing how a season can turn in an instant. Even more amazing is when a savvy fan like myself sees it happening.

And yes, I will have a Rangers post at some point.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Are the Giants done?

After a 5-0 start, it didn't look like the Giants would ever lose a game.

Now after losing four straight, you have to wonder if they'll ever find a way to win one, especially after watching them give away Sunday's game against the Chargers.

Even with a botched field goal attempt and a disgraceful 104 penalty yards, the Giants could (and probably should) have won that game. That's more of a commentary on Norv Turner than anything else, but I'll leave that for San Diego fans to analyze.

That being said, if you allow a team to drive 80 yards in 1:46 to score the go-ahead touchdown in the final moments, maybe you don't deserve to win anyway.

The only reason Phil Rivers had a chance to do that was a brutal sequence of events after Terrell Thomas's interception return to the Chargers 4-yard-line with about three minutes left.

A touchdown there and the Giants put the game away. Instead, Chris Snee got a holding penalty on first down which put them back at the 14. After a conservative pass play, two running plays suggested that Tom Coughlin would be satisfied with a field goal and a six point lead.

If you're a Giants fan, you should have known what would happen after that.

So what now? Clearly this is a flawed defensive team, and the offensive line isn't performing anywhere near as well as they should be. Eli Manning hasn't looked right since hurting his foot in the Raiders game, the running game hasn't gotten on track, and the secondary is a total disaster.

And while they're still in decent shape at 5-4, the fact remains that four of those wins have come against teams with a combined record of 6-26. We might have to consider the possibility that this Giants team simply isn't very good.

I really have no idea what to expect from this team after they have this week off. The bye obviously comes at a good time for a team on the verge of a freefall, and how they respond in the four games afterwards will tell the story of 2009.

They host the Falcons, go to Denver on Thanksgiving night, then are home for Philly and Dallas. All games they could win, and all games they could lose. At this point, anything is possible. Would it surprise you if they lost all four? Won all four? Nothing would surprise me at this point.

All I know right now is that the Giants are on the outside looking in at the playoff picture in the NFC. I'm not ready to give up on the season yet, but they need to get this right, quickly.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Twenty-seven





Is there anything better than the day AFTER your team wins a championship? As great as the moment of victory is, there's nothing I enjoy more than basking in the glory the day after.

The primary reasons I'm nursing a moderate hangover today (which would be a million times worse under normal circumstances) are Hideki Matsui and Andy Pettitte. Pettitte delivered exactly the kind of outing everyone should have expected, and Matsui went absolutely nuts with six RBI.

It's official, Godzilla is Pedro's daddy.

If it was Matsui's last game in pinstripes, he certainly went out in style. A two-run homer off Pedro in the second. A two-run single off Pedro in the third. A two-run double off J.A. Happ in the fifth. A World Series MVP trophy.

I don't know what's going to happen with Matsui beyond 2009, but there's one thing I do know, there is a HUGE Hideki fan who has assured me that she'll never let me live down any bad things I've ever said about her boy. And you know what, it's well worth it. What he did last night was mind-blowing, simply one of the best offensive performances in World Series history.

It was also a big night for Matsui's translator "Roger", who got a lot of facetime after the game. That guy must have felt like he won the MVP award.

While Godzilla was destroying the Phillies with his bat, Pettitte was answering all the questions about how a 38-year-old would handle pitching on three days rest. It was a typical Pettitte outing - not spectacular, but effective. There's nobody I would have rather given the ball in that game than him.

Amazingly enough, even after losing in six games, Phillies loudmouth Jimmy Rollins (who hit a whopping .217 in the Series) actually had the nerve to say that his team was still the better one. (From the Daily News)

"They were the better team this series," Rollins said Wednesday night. "Do I think we're the better team? I really do. They just executed. I think we weren't playing bad, but they were playing that much better. ... They got the hits, we didn't. It's that simple."

Pardon my French, but go F yourself, J-Roll. You did nothing in this series to earn the right to say a damn thing. If you want to see how a real city celebrates a championship, head down to lower Manhattan tomorrow.

There are a lot of other things I could (and will) say about the 2009 Yankees, but they're all too cluttered in my mind right now to get them out. Maybe after I get some sleep I'll flush them out later this week.

I do have to turn off my jerkiness for a final thought on last night's victory. This is the first championship won by the Yankees since my grandfather passed away more than three years ago. Nobody is more responsible for my Yankee fanhood than him, and I constantly tell people the story of how he explained to me when I was six years old that I was born into a Yankee family, and thus could not root for the Mets, even though they were the better team at that time.

As I was counting down the outs last night, I couldn't help but think of that wonderful man and how much he would have enjoyed seeing them win another title.

I miss you, RFOC. Hope you enjoyed it as much as I did.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Time to end the 2009 baseball season

It's been nine long years since the Yankees last parade down the Canyon of Heroes, an unacceptable gap between championships that has delighted Yankee haters around the world.

Don't kid yourself, either, those people are armed with venom whether the Yankees win or lose this World Series.

If they close out the Phillies to win championship #27, prepare yourselves for the inevitable barrage of people complaining about how the Yankees "bought" another title. It's an argument made by people who don't grasp simple free-market economic concepts.

How dare the Yankees use their regional advantage to run a financially successful business, then use their vast resources to pay for the best available players? What a bunch of jerks.

These same people will also use the Yankees payroll against them in the event the Phillies come back to win this series.

"$200 million and they STILL can't win a title!!!"

This is the crap we've heard for the last nine years, and no matter what happens, you will hear it again in 2009.

With that in mind, the Yankees might as well just win the damn thing tonight. We're going to hear a bunch of nonsense from fans of the other 29 teams anyway, at least the noise of a parade would block some of it out.

I feel very confident in handing the ball to Andy Pettitte, even on three days rest. I feel very confident that Pedro Martinez is ready for a sound beating after a very good Game 2 performance.

I don't care how anybody has done up until tonight, one good game can erase a miserable postseason.

(Yes, I'm looking at you, Teixeira and Cano)

A-Rod, a big night tonight means the World Series MVP. After what he's done already in the playoffs, he should never have to hear another word about how he can't do it in the clutch, but a ring will guarantee it.

Get the ball to Mariano with the lead.

Don't let this series get to a Game 7, I don't know if I can take it.

Tonight is the night. Let's go.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Game six can't start soon enough

I guess all you jackass Yankee fans who spent the day before Game 5 saying asinine things like, "gee I really want the Yankees to win it at home" are happy, because you get a chance to get your moronic wish.

There's just no reasoning with people like that, who apparently think winning the fourth game of a series is a foregone conclusion that can be planned into their vision of a perfect celebration.

Here's my list of wishes for the 2009 season:

1) Win World Series

As I said yesterday, I don't care where that is accomplished as long as it is done as quickly and with as little drama as possible. Real Yankee fans understand this, which is why I get texts that say things like, "How awesome would it be to rub it in their faces and win on their turf?"

This is an example of a person who gets it.

But hey, some of you clowns like drama and apparently want me to need a quadruple bypass (and liver transplant) by the end of this thing, so let's bring it back to the Bronx, just for your amusement.

Remember the A.J. Burnett we saw in Game 2? Yeah, that isn't the one we got last night. We got the guy who started Game 5 of the Angels series and let four runs score before recording an out. I hate that guy. In his defense, maybe he heard the desperate pleas for the series to return to New York, and wanted to oblige those "fans" by making sure it happened.

A run in the first off Cliff Lee was exactly what the Yanks needed to get off on the right foot. What they didn't need was Burnett letting the first two hitters reach base before grooving a fastball to Chase Utley.

Speaking to my father after the game, he asked the rhetorical question: "what is the scouting report they have for Chase Utley?"

Apparently, it's to throw him nothing but thigh-high fastballs down the middle of the plate that end up in the rightfield seats. That's now happened five times in this series. Maybe move him off the plate some?

So congrats, Philly fans, your team managed to avoid being swept at home. Quite an accomplishment there.

Down 8-2 heading to the 8th thanks to the stellar relief work of Phil Coke - who allowed Utley's second homer and a Raul Ibanez rocket that landed in the Delaware River - the Yanks did manage to make a game of it with three runs to get to the 9th down by only three runs.

At that point, I was hoping for Brad Lidge, but it seems the Phillies have no faith whatsoever in their "closer" and went to Ryan Madson, who promptly allowed the first two runners to reach to bring the tying run to get to the plate in the form of Derek Jeter.

Captain Clutch then grounded into a rally-killing double play that nobody will talk about because he's Derek Jeter. If his name was something like, say, Alex Rodriguez, there would be four columns in the NY Post today about how he choked. I'll tell you this, Jeter clutched the hell out of the tailor-made 6-4-3 groundball.

In any event, another great at bat by Johnny Damon got the tying run to the plate once again, giving Mark Teixeira a chance to prove that he's not a total waste of a human life. Of course he swung at two changeups in the dirt and struck out to end the game, leaving A-Rod standing on deck.

It's funny, I found myself thinking before and during the 9th inning, "if only we can get A-Rod to the plate, we're going to win this game". As John Sterling would say, "isn't baseball amazing?" Two months ago nobody would have had such a thought. Now, 18 postseason RBI later, he's the man we want at the plate. Weird.

The highlight of the game from a viewing perspective was the two female Philly fans sitting in the middle of my favorite Upper East Side game-watching bar. As you might imagine, given the gene pool of the greater-Philadelphia area, they were "women" only in the most literal definition of the word.

Throughout the game, they would cheer every time a Phillie made contact or fielded a ball, regardless of the end result of the play. Several routine flyballs were applauded, as was a grounder that Jimmy Rollins fielded but made no throw.

At the conclusion of the game, as these two were whooping it up, a comment came from a table behind us that summed up the situation so perfectly, I wish I had been the one to make it.

A gentleman, apparently auditioning for the role of my new best friend, waited for the noise to subside just enough for everyone to hear him, before matter-of-factly unleashing this nugget:

"You're still ugly."

I love New York.

Anyway, Game 6, Wednesday night. Possible preview coming tomorrow.

Monday, November 2, 2009

One.

Thank you, Brad Lidge.

Thank you, Johnny Damon.

Thank you, Alex Rodriguez.

Does anybody still want to talk about how un-clutch A-Rod is? Yeah, I didn't think so. He's got two hits in the World Series: the first a two-run homer to start the Yanks comeback in Game 3, the second was last night's go-ahead RBI double off Lidge to put them a win away from winning their 27th title.

Yeah, clutch.

A-Rod wouldn't have even been in that position without the ridiculous at bat put together by Johnny Damon to start the rally against Lidge. Fouling off all those pitches before finally dropping a single into left. Then stealing second AND third on one play while the entire Phillies team was sleeping.

At that point, Lidge shifted into "deer-in-headlights" mode, and was freaked out about throwing his slider in the dirt that would score the go-ahead run. After hitting Teixeira, it was fastball-fastball to A-Rod, the second of which ended up in the left field corner.

Hey Philly fans, what's it like having such an emotionally fragile mess of a closer? That can't be fun.

The great thing about how the Yankees managed to win last night was that they did it after the Phillies took all the momentum by rallying from a 4-2 deficit. When Pedro Feliz took Joba deep to tie it in the 8th, it was looking like we could be headed for a 2-2 series.

Enter Lidge, and here we are at 3-1 after punching every Philly fan in the gut, which is about a foot higher from where they deserved to be punched.

So here we are. One game away. AJ Burnett on short rest against Cliff Lee, who has been lights out for the entire postseason. I don't care about that, I want to light him up. The Phillies are down, and it's time to put them and their fans out of their misery.

I heard a few people say last night that they want the Yankees to win it back at home in New York, and to that I say: stop being such a moron.

I want them to win ASAP, I don't care if it's in New York, on the moon, in Haiti, or someplace truly terrible like Philadelphia.

Finish this tonight.

******
I was just alerted to this wonderful ad from one of the Philly papers today



I guess they wanted to give any of their third-world readers a preview of the new fall fashions heading their way, since that's where the "loser" shirts typically end up after a championship series.

Call me crazy, but I think a kid in Nicaragua would rather not wear a shirt than put on something with a Phillies logo on it anyway. They've got their pride.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Two. Now let's ruin Philly's Sunday

Well, Jimmy Rollins is clearly no prophet, that much we know. His pre-World Series prediction of "Phillies in five" is now out the window, and the Yanks are just two wins from #27.

Go F yourself, J-Roll.

It definitely didn't look good early. Andy Pettitte had nothing and seemed like he had allergy to the strike zone in the first few innings. Trailing 3-0 and without a hit heading into the 4th, the Yanks looked dead against Cole Hamels.

And then, A-Rod showed up again with another home run, this one off a ludicrously-placed camera above the wall in the rightfield corner. Why you would hang the camera OVER the wall is beyond me, but they got the call right and suddenly it was 3-2. Some people were just waiting to play the "choke" card for A-Rod after two bad games. Hopefully this gets him going for however long this series goes, which hopefully is only two more games.

Pettitte settled down and delivered a classic Andy performance getting through six, AND delivered the game-tying hit in the 5th -- National League baseball, you've gotta love it. That seemed to wake up the rest of the lineup, finally, including Nick Swisher, who was something like 4-for-50 in the playoffs before his double/homer performance in Game 3.

Pettitte now has as many hits in this series as Robinson Cano, who looks clueless at the plate right now.

It's funny, after Game 1, Charlie Manuel took a shot at Yankee fans who left early by saying that Phillies fans would NEVER do such a thing.

If that's true, a lot of people at tonight's game had the same idea for a Halloween costume, because there were several dressed as empty blue seats during the last two innings. And keep waving your towels, because that's just so intimidating.

Oh, and to the guy with the non-stop wolf-whistle: shut the hell up. What is that accomplishing other than deafening the people sitting on either side of you?

Anyway, with tonight's win, the Yankees accomplished their first goal for the three games in Philly: make sure the series goes back to the Bronx.

The next goal is to put a stranglehold on this series by winning Game 4 on Sunday. CC (even on short rest) has an advantage over Joe Blanton, and with the Yankee bats suddenly waking up, they have a big chance to step on Philly's necks.

That of course is the nightcap in a phenomenal day in sports, with the Giants playing the Eagles early. Philly has had a lot of bad sports days in its history, let's make sure tomorrow is the worst.

Couple of other notes from the game tonight:

-Tim McCarver apparently doesn't understand Daylight Savings. After reminding viewers to set their clocks back tonight, he added that he wouldn't want any of us to be late tuning in tomorrow night's game. Of course, if anybody failed to set their clocks back, they would be an hour early, and FOX might actually get a ratings point for their pregame show.

-The Trident Layers commercial is the dumbest thing I've ever seen. "Do you mind if I pay you in gum?" Uhhh, yeah I mind. I can buy gum with the money you give me.

Two to go.