Last week, in advance of the Red Sox-Yankees series to determine first place in the AL East (which is, obviously, infinitely important in early August), WFAN.com's Neil Keefe asked me to share some thoughts on what was going to take place at Fenway Park. Obviously, I knew that Jon Lester would lose on Friday night, that Boone Logan would win on Friday night, that CC Sabathia would pitch like Robinson Cano's father on Saturday and that Mariano Rivera would give up a leadoff double to Marco Scutaro on the way to his 14th blown save against the Red Sox. I mean, who didn't see that coming?
Neil called for two Yankees wins over the weekend, and he's no doubt disappointed in the outcome. So I figured what better time to talk with a Yankees fan than when he's feeling down and out, right?
So, Neil, if you're to try to recap your feelings after that three-game set, what do you say?
Neil Keefe: Honestly, I don't know how to describe how I feel. Just weird I guess. Weird because a series against Boston obviously has a lot on the line for the Yankees and for me, but even with the Yankees losing two of three, they are still just one game back and lead the wild card by seven games (eight in the loss column). So, while you're probably thinking that this email was a way to check on me and make sure I'm OK after wasting four-plus hours of my life to watch the Yankees lose in extra innings after going 0-for-10 with runners in scoring position, well don't worry, I'm fine …
Obviously, I liked the Yankees' chances to win the series after winning on Friday night. You never see the Yankees come back against Jon Lester like that, and you never see Boone Logan do his job like that, and it felt like solid momentum going into Saturday. CC Sabathia disappointed everyone on Saturday. His being 0-4 against the Red Sox but 16-2 against the rest of the league is discouraging, but I'm tired of hearing about how if John Lackey is back, the Red Sox are dangerous. Three earned runs in six innings is back? I realize that's a quality start, but it's still a 4.50 ERA. I will take the Yankees against Lackey every day, twice on Sunday and twice in the ALCS if they are to meet then.
(Side note: Why is everyone talking about the two teams' seemingly inevitable matchup in the playoffs like I did in the last sentence of that last paragraph? The difference with me is that I only did it because I knew I was going to write this side note. I'm pretty sure both teams still have to (1) make the playoffs and (2) win their respective division series before meeting. I don't like that everyone thinks it's automatic that they are going to play each other in October. And if they do play each other in the ALCS, prior to Game 1, I'm pouring water all over my computer and setting my phone on fire, so that I have no connection to the rest of the world.)
Sunday night was the dagger. I have seen too many poor outcomes come in the form of Yankees-Red Sox Sunday Night Baseball to know it was a good idea to stay away from Fenway on Sunday night. I was right. The only problem was that I had to sit through four painful hours of the ESPN crew, which in their first season together has only accomplished being even less objective than the Fox crew. The Yankees had their opportunities to open up the game and didn't get a single hit with runners in scoring position, and it's hard to win any game like that. The Red Sox protected their home field in the series by winning two of three, but I only wish the Yankees would have done the same when they played the Red Sox in the Bronx. They do have a chance to do so in late September.
I know you're probably looking for some crazy rant from me that will have you wondering if I have slept since Josh Reddick's double early Monday morning, but this is about as sane and composed as it gets for me.
Hurley: Seriously, I have to say I'm more than a little disappointed. Is this really Neil Keefe, or has a reasonable, rational person hacked his email account? A world with a sane and rational Neil Keefe is not world I want to be a part of.
Probably the craziest thing you said is that it's not a foregone conclusion for the Yankees and Red Sox to meet in the ALCS. They're far and away the best teams in the AL, and Cliff Lee is no longer on the Rangers (were you aware the Yankees tried to sign him but failed?). Unless Verlander can pitch every game of the ALDS for Detroit, it would take a minor miracle for any other team to make the ALCS. Well, that, or Freddy Garcia and Bartolo Colon could completely melt down in the final two months of the season. (I mean that both figuratively and literally. The two players combined to lose 50 pounds of water weight this weekend. Garcia looked like he was pitching from inside a sauna on Sunday night. Not a good weekend for high definition television. Not. At. All.)
But let's get to CC Sabathia. You mentioned that he's 16-2 against teams not named "Red Sox" but 0-4 with an ERA over 7.00 against Boston. I imagine you've watched every single pitch that's come out of CC's massive left hand this year, so I'll ask you what's so different about his starts against the Red Sox? I don't think he was particularly horrible on Saturday afternoon, but at the end of the day when you look at the score sheet and it says seven earned runs in six innings (and the other side says John Lackey outpitched you!), it was obviously a bad day.
What's the deal with CC against the Red Sox, and if he's pitching Game 1 of the ALCS in Fenway, are you nervous (well more nervous than your usual, frantic self)?
Keefe: Well, I thought they were going to meet in the ALCS in 2005 and 2007, and in 2009, too (even though you claim the Red Sox were always going to lose to the Angels that year, which is your excuse for the 2009 Red Sox) but it didn't happen then, either. Yes, they are far and away the best two teams, but crazier things have happened … like Bubba Crosby and Gary Sheffield running into each other in the outfield, or a rainout for a night game that allows Joel Zumaya to throw 1,000 mph in the shadows in an afternoon playoff game at Yankee Stadium, or when a pitcher who allowed one earned run in 24 innings (Joba Chamberlain) is suddenly attacked by midges and gives up a 1-0 lead without giving up a hit. So, while there is a lot of baseball left to be played in August and September, there is still the ALDS, and it's no sure thing both teams will advance.
(Keep in mind, since 2001, the Yankees have only advanced to the ALCS when they play a team from Minnesota in the ALDS, and it doesn't look like Minnesota will be in the playoffs this year. The last time they advanced on a non-Minnesota team was when they beat Oakland in 2001. That was 10 years ago. I'm not saying the Yankees won't win their division series, because I think they will. I'm just stating facts.)
The CC Sabathia versus Boston matchup puzzles me, but it's not like he hasn't pitched well against the Red Sox in the past. I want to back this up statistically, but I'm actually too scared to open his Baseball-Reference page since I'm actually not in that depressed of a mood and I don't want to get in one. I really don't have an explanation for his struggles other than the Red Sox obviously know something that no other team in the league knows. It's almost like when Andy Pettitte was tipping his pitches to the Diamondbacks in the 2001 World Series. There has to be something. No other team even looks like they have a chance when they face CC, but the Red Sox seem to be all over everything from him.
When Jacoby Ellsbury is hitting a three-run bomb off arguably the best lefty in the league, there's a problem. (How much of a joke is this Ellsbury for MVP talk by the way?) Granted, it was a Yankee Stadium right field home run in Fenway Park, but you get the point. Sure, you can blame it on CC's location, but it's kind of odd that he is having an all-time season, yet is 0-4 in four starts against one team. Aside from his first start against the Red Sox in April (5 2/3 IP, 1 ER), he has been terrible against them, and it's not like that start was anything special either since he put 14 men on base in those 5 2/3 innings. I honestly don't know what it is, but if this inevitable ALCS matchup is going to happen like you seem to be so certain it will, then he needs to figure out what is wrong, or Larry Rothschild needs to figure out what's wrong.
To get to your real question: Am I nervous? Umm, is Francisco Cervelli deserving of a major league roster spot? Is that a real question? My level of nervousness on every postseason pitch can't be fathomed by most people, and my level of irrational thinking during the second season is off the charts, so yes, I'm more than a little nervous. I'm kidding, but also not really kidding about taking myself off the grid for a Yankees-Red Sox ALCS this fall. I would probably have to delete my Twitter account as well.
Like I always say, when the Yankees and Red Sox play, there is way more pressure on the Yankees and their fans. If they win, it's "whatever" because they were supposed to win anyway. And if they lose, it's the end of the world because they were supposed to win. If you care about my well-being, you will pull for a Yankees-Indians or Yankees-Tigers or Yankees-Rangers ALCS. And if you do so, I will gladly help you out during the NFL postseason.
For Part 2 of this conversation, click here.