Boston/NYY over 5 even:
With another victory Wednesday night, the New York Yankees will enter the playoffs as AL East champions. The regular season isn't over, but the October drama at Yankee Stadium has already begun. The Yankees can clinch their 12th division title in 15 years if they complete a three-game sweep of the Red Sox in the potential finale of the embattled Boston tenures for both manager Bobby Valentine and right-hander Daisuke Matsuzaka. About a half hour ago, it was announced by cbssportsline.com that Valentine would be fired shortly after the season, as most dissatisfied Boston fans pretty much expected evident by their 69-92 mark.
Hiroki Kuroda takes the ball opposite his Japanese countryman with New York (94-67) one game ahead of Baltimore through 161 contests. If the Yankees lose and the Orioles win at Tampa Bay, the teams would meet in a one-game playoff Thursday in Baltimore, with the loser of that game forced to put its season on the line Friday in a wild-card playoff. New York would much prefer to go straight through to a division series with the AL's best record, which it would also secure with a victory.
Raul Ibanez put the Yankees in position for those feats with a pair of timely hits Tuesday. He delivered a pinch-hit two-run homer in the ninth inning to tie the game, then gave New York a 4-3 win with an RBI single in the 12th. The Yankees have won nine of 10 at home, and they've taken four straight against Boston to improve to 12-5 in the season series. There may not be a more fitting way for the Red Sox to finish their disastrous campaign than by watching their archrivals celebrate a division title.
Matsuzaka's six-year, $52 million deal - signed after the Red Sox paid a $51.1 million posting fee to bring him over from Japan - is due to expire, and he almost certainly won't be back. His first two years in Boston were promising, but the last four have been marred by injuries and woeful results. He's 17-21 with a 5.42 ERA in 55 games since the start of 2009. Matsuzaka (1-6, 7.68 ERA) seems an especially inviting adversary for the Yankees after going 0-3 with a 13.50 ERA in four September starts, with opponents batting .400. He hasn't pitched since Sept. 19 and hasn't faced the Yankees since 2010.
Kuroda (15-11, 3.34) turned out to be a much better acquisition for the Yankees, although he has not been at his best lately. Since his ERA dipped to 2.96 in August, the right-hander is 3-3 with a 4.73 ERA in seven starts. He won Friday at Toronto but allowed 10 hits in 5 1-3 innings. He's surrendered only 11 hits and three runs over 16 innings in two home starts against Boston this year.
We get the price we so graciously deserve here, and with the Yankees as a ridiculously huge favorite to win this evening, most already know how they've hit this season as evident by their 240 HR which is tops in the majors led by Curtis Granderson's 41. In fact, the Grandy man is one of 10 players in double figures in dingers despite an underachieving .225 BA to go with it. Derek Jeter (.315) and Robinson Cano (.308) have carried the Yankees all season long as has many others. Boston did most of their damage in the first half where they were still within striking distance, but have since dropped off in production despite a .261 clip with 164 HR. Most of the time injuries and some questionable lineups by Valentine was the beginning of their last place demise shortly after the ASB. Joe Girardi will have the full complement of his starting lineup in there for this evening, and while Boston would love nothing more than to at the very least force a one game playoff for the AL Division and wildcard, there should be plenty of offense in the finale of a game with all on the line for the pinstripers. Best of luck however you play!