Ah, the weirdness of having home field advantage through the first two rounds of the playoffs locked up despite still having regular season games to play while your two primary division rivals duke it out for the Wild Card.
James Shields had his way with the Yankees for seemingly the 8,000th time, coming within one out of a complete-game in pitching Tampa Bay to a critical 5-2 victory over the Bombers on Monday — critical for Tampa in that, coupled with Boston’s 6-3 loss to the Orioles, pulled the Rays into a rather unfathomable tie for the AL Wild Card with two games to go.
As regular readers know, I never thought this scenario had an ice cube’s chance in hell of happening, given how incredibly strong Boston looked all year (not to mention the fact that they wrecked the Yankees in the season series), and yet here we are with two days remaining in the regular season and the Red Sox suddenly have a very real chance of missing the dance.
As of now, it would seem like Boston’s best case would be forcing the one-game tiebraker against Tampa on Thursday. For as scary as everyone seems to find the Rays’ pitching, I can’t think of anything I’d like to see less than Dustin Pedroia in the ALCS, continuing to post a 1.000 OBP against the Yankees, and I’d have to think the Yankees themselves have also had enough of the Red Sox this season. So while they can’t really lose on purpose, I can’t imagine the Bombers will be going full bore tonight and tomorrow, given the opportunity to wreak a little havoc and force their rivals to have to expend that much more pitching in a one-game playoff.
Oh right, the Yankees played a game last night. Anyway, Shields continued his mastery of the Yankees, and finished the regular season throwing by far the most innings of any starter against the Bombers with 38 2/3, and posting an absurdly small 2.33 ERA. If we go back to the beginning of 2010, Shields has the third-lowest ERA (2.83) against the Yankees of all starters who have made three-plus starts against the Bombers. For as much as I don’t want to see the Red Sox in the ALCS, I can’t exactly say I’d be thrilled to see Shields either, but they have to get there first before expending any energy worrying about hypothetical match-ups.
Hector Noesi “started” this game, and only went two innings, giving up three runs on five hits, walking two and striking out one. Phil Hughes worked out of the bullpen for the first time all season, and threw a scoreless inning-and-two-thirds in the middle of the game, and this is a role we’ll likely see Hughes inhabit during the postseason.
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