Saturday, September 15, 2007

The beat goes on

It took late-inning heroics from three Tribesman, but the Indians keep rolling on toward the Central Division title.

Tell the truth. When Brian Bannister was tossing a two-hitter through six and the Royals blew through the fifth inning like a heartland tornado, how many of you were wondering what it was going to feel like to wake up in the morning with only a 4 1/2-game lead and three games aganst the Tigers right around the corner?

But, before you could brood too long, Franklin Gutierrez lit the comeback flame with a two-run homer in the seventh, Victor tied it in the eighth and then - of course - Casey Blake hit the walkoff homer for the win in the bottom of the ninth.

And how would you like to be a Tiger fan this morning?

For one brief period last night - probably around 9:15 or so - the Tigers had a lead on the Twins, the Tribe was down 4-1 and the Yankees were losing big to the Red Sox. It was looking like the Tigers would pick up a game in both the division and the wild card races.

But, before the Tigers could get out of the visitors clubhouse at the Twinkie Dome, the Tribe had worked its Jacobs Field magic, and the suddenly tenuous Red Sox bullpen was crumbling at Fenway and the Sox had blown a five-run lead.

And so, despite winning 8 of 11, The Tigers have gained no ground against the Tribe or the Yankees - as both have matched the Tigers win-for-win over that period.

The Tribe continues to run out the clock on Detroit and if they can hold their own in the head-to-head series this week, it should be like running the four-corner stall with no shot clock.
One other side note. Be glad you are not living on the East Coast these days. The Yankee-Red Sox series, it seems, is getting more coverage than D-Day, the fall of the Berlin Wall or the Apollo moon landing.
The Sox began this series with a 5 1/2-game lead. They pretty much have to win one of three to put their stamp on the Eastern Division. Yet the New York media and Yankee fans (God love 'em - somebody has to) are approaching this as if the teams were tied coming in. They seem convinced that a Yankee sweep will insure a division title. My talk-show friend Michael Kay went so far yesterday as to bill the series a likely preview of the ALCS.
It didn't get any better today on the sports pages after last night's improbable win, as you can see here and here and here.
The hyperbole was just as evident in the Boston papers, singing the praises of the Yankees.
It's as if there are no teams west of the Hudson River. Here are just a few examples from one column in the The Boston Globe - written by Nick Cafardo.
This is why the New York Yankees are potentially the most dangerous team in the playoffs. That six-spot they put up in the eighth inning against two of the best relievers in baseball - Hideki Okajima and Jonathan Papelbon - is proof enough that the Yankees can hit good pitching.

What are the chances they'll come up against a pitching staff similar to the Tigers of last season and get shut down again?
Can you say CC Sabathia? How about Fausto Carmona?
It wasn't as if they whacked around Javier Lopez or Devern Hansack. They destroyed arguably the best lefty setup guy in baseball.
Can you say Rafeal Perez?
That "best lefty' referred to is Hideki Okajima. His numbers are not as good as Raffie Left's and are downright awful since the All-Star break. In the past 30 days they are off-the-charts bad.
We can sit and argue over who's better, Perez or Okajima. Or whether the Indians' starting staff can match that of the Tigers last year (I say it's better).
But the point here is my fellow East Coasters seem to think it doesn't matter unless it happens east of the Appalachians, if they've even heard of the Appalachians. (Aren't the Green Mountains in the New England the highest in the U.S.?)
I've been dealing with it for 24 years. It never gets any better.
I have to admit, part of me is rooting for the Tigers so they can knock the Yankees out of the post-season picture - even if that makes things tougher for the Tribe in the next two weeks.

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