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Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Yankees to play six "home" games in Buffalo in 2012

If you're a fan of Yankees prospects in Western New York, there is going to be no shortage of opportunities for you see the Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre club in 2012. The Baby Yankees are barnstorming next season while a $40 million renovation of PNC Field is completed, and announced a six-city schedule of "home sites" for the 72 home games on their schedule Friday afternoon.

The biggest news in the arrangement is that six Scranton home games against the Bisons will be played in Coca-Cola Field, with the Bisons batting first as the visiting team and the Yankees batting as the home team. Those games will be played May 24-27 and Aug. 20-21.

Buffalo's other two road games against Scranton (July 7-8) will be played at Alliance Bank Stadium in Syracuse, with the Herd again batting as the visitors.

The big news announced Friday was that Scranton will play 37 home games at Frontier Field in Rochester and seven at tiny Dwyer Stadium in Batavia (April 20-23 against Norfolk, May 5-6 against Pawtucket and June 12 against Louisville).

In addition to the six games in Buffalo, Scranton/Wilkes-Barre will also play 10 "home" games in Syracuse, eight in Lehigh Valley, and four in Pawtucket.

The schedule adjustments mean the Bisons will actually play 78 games downtown next season, a year that will also see them host the Triple-A All-Star Game on July 11. The additional Scranton games mean Buffalo will be home for  16 straight games (May 15-31) and for 17 games in a 19-game stretch from Aug. 10-28.

Scranton had been hoping to play its entire home schedule at one site and had settled on Newark, N.J., but the New York Mets blocked that move last week, citing territorial rights. 

---Mike Harrington
(www.twitter.com/bnharrington) 

The postseason begins: Make your picks

While the Red Sox are going through the process of not renewing Terry Francona's contract today (e.g. he's getting fired), the real focus of the baseball world is the start of the postseason. The American League division series opens on two fronts with the Rays and Rangers meeting in Texas and the Yankees and Tigers meeting in the Bronx. That's Justin Verlander and CC Sabathia and that's must-see TV.

Right from the top, I'll put this out there: I got the Tigers and the Phillies in the World Series and I'm taking the Phillies in six. Sorry, Yankees fans. If Sabathia doesn't win tonight, I think it's possible the Tigers sweep the Bombers in three. And wouldn't that make for an interesting offseason. Remember, all division series games are on TBS.

So here's some quick analysis off the cuff. Hey, I gotta do Sunday's Inside Baseball column on the collapse of the Sox and Braves and I'm still working hockey previews too. Some multi-tasking. I give you some polls at the bottom too. Be sure and vote!

Tigers vs. Yankees -- I know all about the Bombers' offense but you have to like the Tigers' combination of Verlander, Doug Fister and Max Scherzer. You have to love closer Jose Valverde. Miguel Cabrera should get plenty of MVP looks. As for the Yankees, can you really count on Ivan Nova and Freddy Garcia in this spot? Seriously? And does A-Rod show up in this series or bat eighth like he did in when he was humiliated in Game Four in Detroit in 2006. Tigers in four. 

Rays vs. Rangers -- I'm tempted, very/very tempted, to pick the Rays to go to the World Series. Maybe I should. Now that they're actually in the postseason, they have the best starting pitching in the AL. I think they get through this series and avenge last year's division series loss but you wonder how much energy they have left after that crazy September. Rays in five.

Cardinals vs. Phillies -- I don't think a lot of analysis is needed. The Phillies' losing streak near the end of the season was rooted in injuries and boredom after clinching the division title. They're ready. Halladay-Lee-Hamels-Oswalt with Worley in the bullpen. Do they need a bullpen? This is one of Tony LaRussa's better managing jobs but this is a case of thanks for playing and please drive home safely. Phillies in three.

Diamondbacks vs. Brewers -- Who had this matchup in March? Thought so.  In Kirk Gibson and Ron Roenicke, you have your two main candidates for NL manager of the year. Think the Yankees wish 20-game winner Ian Kennedy had found his game when he was with them until waiting to getting to Arizona?  The Dbacks are a great story but the Brewers have the motivation of Prince Fielder's last season. They have an MVP in Ryan Braun, a great rotation, a supreme closer in former Canisius College pitcher John Axford. I think Brewers-Phillies could be a fabulous NLCS. Can't wait. Brewers in four.

Now you vote.

---Mike Harrington
(www.twitter.com/bnharrington) 

Linking to a wacky Wednesday we'll never forget

EvanI saw every minute of it, well past midnight, and I still can't believe it. No one has ever seen a baseball season finish like that. The Rays were once down seven runs and still a run short and a strike away from losing, the Red Sox were a strike away from winning, the Braves two outs away from winning. And every result changed.

See you, chokers from Boston and Atlanta. Welcome to the playoffs, Rays and Cardinals. Take your places in home run history, Dan Johnson and Evan Longoria (showering fans at the Trop above).

Dan Shaughnessy of the Boston Globe might have the start on new fodder for more of his Curse of the Bambino books. Wrote Shaughnessy on Page A-1 of today's Globe: "Truly unbelievable. This feels like revenge for 2004 and 2007. It is as if the baseball gods are punishing Red Sox Nation for hubris and arrogance and good times that seemed so good, so good, so good."

I like this Shaughnessy crack too: "They are the first team in baseball history to hold a nine-game lead in September, then fail to make the postseason. This makes them worse than the ’64 Phillies or the ’78 Red Sox. They are the poster boys of the Heimlich maneuver."

SaltyWrote great friend of the blog Jeff Jacobs of the Hartford Courant: "Now we know why 2004 happened. Now we know why 2004 was followed by 2007. Somehow the baseball gods knew Red Sox fans would never have been able to handle September 2011 if two exhilarating world championships hadn't interrupted all those decades of suffering. No, a few verses of Sweet Caroline and a pink hat under the Christmas tree aren't going to cure this hurt."

Another great friend, Mike Vaccaro of the New York Post, was in Baltimore and recaps the chronology of events by calling it "the single most-exciting, most intense, most exhilarating night in baseball history."

In the St. Petersburg Times, John Romano calls it "Miracles 2, logic 0" while recounting the Rays' bizarre finish through the eyes of several team personnel who weren't on the field. 

No one, of course, paid much attention to the Braves' collapse given the Red Sox situation. But as Mark Bradley of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution wrote, "But even a choking dog can have his day, or night, and the 2011 Braves tried to give themselves one Wednesday. They failed. They failed in the way this entire month had been a failure."

The Cardinals took until the last night of the season to finally get it together and win their 90th game. And it was shades of the 1964 team that came back on the Phillies.

So there we have it. Yankees-Tigers and Rays-Rangers in the AL. Phillies-Cardinals and Diamondbacks-Brewers in the NL. No Red Sox, no Braves. No way you thought that could happen when September started.

---Mike Harrington
(www.twitter.com/bnharrington) 

Photos of Evan Longoria (left) and Jarrod Saltalamacchia (right)/Associated Press

Welcome to Wildcard Wednesday

It all comes down to this on the final day of the regular season: The Rays and choking Red Sox are both 90-71 in the AL, the Cardinals and choking Braves are both 89-72 in the NL. Will we decide the wildcards tonight or get one-game playoffs Thursday in Tampa Bay and St. Louis?

The schedule remains the same as the last two days -- Tampa hosting the Yankees and Boston at Baltimore, while the Braves host the Phillies and the Cardinals are in Houston. All night games. Have your remotes ready to be clicking between YES, ESPN and the MLB Network.

The Red Sox are 7-19 in September with a team ERA of 5.90. Once-impenetrable reliever Daniel Bard is 0-4, 11.90 and not trustworthy. Look at the starters' ERAs: Bedard and Wakefield, 5.25; Beckett 5.48, Lester 5.96, Lackey 9.13. The Rays have pulled even by going 16-10 despite a .237 team batting average in September. But that 3.50 team ERA sure helps.

The Braves, meanwhile, have gone 9-17 and hit just .235. Their team ERA of 4.25 isn't ghastly, especially when you consider Derek Lowe fell to 0-5, 8.75 in September when he was booed off the mound last night. The Cardinals are 17-8, batting .293 and have a 3.25 ERA.

See SABRhounds, I don't need a lot of made-up acronym stats to tell me why these races have changed this month. 

How is this going to end up? Take the polls.

---Mike Harrington
(www.twitter.com/bnharrington) 

With Newark out, still no plan for Scranton/WB Yankees' home in 2012

We pause from the daily death watch for the Red Sox -- who look just about cooked after Josh Beckett couldn't beat the Orioles last night -- with this bizarre update on the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Yankees.

The Bisons' IL North rival, you may recall, announced last month they were likely going to barnstorm or at least find one predominant home in 2012 because PNC Field in Moosic, Pa., is being bulldozed and getting a $40 million renovation. The schedules have already been announced but no word where the team would play.

You'd think this would have all been arranged, rather than let the Baby Yankees have the league waiting. An announcement was supposed to come at last week's league meeting in Albuquerque but one never did. How come?

Turns out Newark Star-Ledger columnist Jerry Izenberg, a venerable veteran of New York City sports, uncovered a plan to have Scranton move to Newark for 2012 as a sort of reprisal of the famous Newark Bears teams the Yankees fielded there from  1926-1949. But according to Izenberg, the Mets balked, fearing a Yankees Triple-A team in Jersey would hurt them in Queens.

Negotiations between the teams have broken down and it appears the Scranton franchise is back to square one. Maybe the Mets have valid reasons and maybe they don't but that's really irrelevant. I can't believe the Scranton franchise and the International League have let this fiasco go on this way. 

Somebody better make a decision here. It's almost October.

---Mike Harrington
(www.twitter.com/bnharrington) 

Wacky AL race: Yankees clinch East, Red Sox lose again but gain ground as Rays lose two

YanksThat was one wacky Wednesday in the AL East.

The division race is over as the Yankees got the combination they needed to clinch -- a sweep of the Rays in a day-night doubleheader coupled with yet another Red Sox loss to the Orioles. The Yankees took care of business in the Bronx with a pair of 4-2 wins, using seven relievers to piece together the first game and getting a two-run pinch single in the eighth from beleaguered veteran Jorge Posada to win the nightcap.

Good friend of the blog Mike Vaccaro of the New York Post surveyed the champagney scene in the postgame clubhouse. This has been quite a ride for the Yankees and Alex Rodriguez says Joe Girardi should be manager of the year.  Pretty good point, although I would imagine Jim Leyland and Joe Maddon are going to get a ton of votes too.

The Red Sox, meanwhile, fell to a stunning 5-16 in September with yet another loss to the Orioles, a 6-4 defeat in their home finale at Fenway. But they somehow went from a two-game lead in the wild card race to 2 1/2 games. The Rays dropped a half with their double loss while the Angels pulled into position at 2 1/2 back with their second straight win in Toronto. Not even a Josh Beckett start or a 4-1 lead could save the Sox, who are in desperation mode to save their season from going down the drain.

“I’ve been here nine years. We’ve never collapsed that bad," said David Ortiz. “Trust me, we’ve been through some tough times. But this is bad. No matter what we do, things are going to be bad. Right now it’s depressing."

The Yankees' magic number to clinch homefield throughout the playoffs is two. The Rays and Yankees meet again tonight, and so do the Angels and Blue Jays. That will leave the wild-card contenders with six games left starting Friday, all played in a pair of three-game series. The remaining sets look like this:

Red Sox: At Yankees, at Orioles
Rays: vs. Blue Jays, vs. Yankees
Angels: vs. Athletics, vs. Rangers

 

---Mike Harrington
(www.twitter.com/bnharrington)

AP Photo: Jorge Posada and Mariano Rivera celebrate another division title.

Columbus wins Triple-A title again

With a week to go in the MLB regular season, we can finally put a wrap on 2011 for the minor leagues.

The Columbus Clippers did the honors Tuesday night, posting an 8-3 win over the Omaha Storm Chasers in the Triple-A National Championship Game at Isotopes Park in Albuquerque. It's the second straight title in the IL/PCL showdown for the Clippers -- and do I really need to remind you they're the Cleveland affiliate?

Columbus won last year's game over Tacoma, 12-6, in Oklahoma City. Oddly enough, the Clippers overcame 3-0 deficits in both contests. Columbus and Sacramento (2007-2008) are the only teams to win the game in consecutive years since it began in 2006.

I still hate the one-game idea, but it's better than nothing and it gets the season over so players can go on to an MLB call. Back when the Bisons played the Triple-A World Series (losing in 1998 to New Orleans in Las Vegas), it was a best-of-five affair. I'd love to see this go at least best-of-three but logistics are tough.

After five years in Oklahoma City, the game is now going to move around. Albuquerque hosted this year and the 2012 game is in Durham. After that, it's likely to alternate between the leagues. Would imagine the Bisons might throw their hat in the ring for it some year (the IL's next host role available is 2014).

One big plus: They got it on national television again, albeit on Versus when it used to be on ESPN/ESPN2 and probably should sneak on to MLB Network.

One negative: The name. Triple-A National Championship Game? Yawn. When it was in Oklahoma City, it was called the "Bricktown Showdown" because of the Bricktown region of town and the fact it was at Bricktown Ballpark. It was catchy but people outside that city didn't know what that meant either. Maybe they should just go with "Triple-A Showdown."

---Mike Harrington
(www.twitter.com/bnharrington) 

Facts on Mo's climb to the top of the saves charts

I saw Mariano Rivera get to the edge of a history-making save Saturday in Toronto and he went over the top today in the Bronx. The Yankees' closer pitched a perfect ninth inning in the Bombers' 6-4 win over Minnesota to earn his MLB-record 602nd save.

When it was over and Rivera had finished taking the congratulations of his teammates, they pushed him out to the mound and left him alone to take in the accolades from the roaring crowd. It was quite a scene. Reminded me of the Baltimore Orioles pushing Cal Ripken out of the dugout for his victory lap on that memorable night in 1995 when he broke Lou Gehrig's consecutive games record.

The Yankees issued a 15-page pamphlet about Rivera for reporters covering their games in recent weeks. Some pretty funny notes:

---Rivera has 602 saves, and the next Yankee is Dave Righetti at 224. Rivera had 230 saves at old Yankee Stadium and today was his 60th at the new one. Next on his list is Camden Yards at 38.

---He has 312 on the road and 290 at home. His ERA in those 602 appearances is a stunning 0.66 and opponents are batting .161 against him.

---He has saves at 30 ballparks, including six that no longer exist.

---Today was his 446th save of exactly one inning. Only 11 have gone two innings. Two have been one pitch.

---At the time of his first save on May 17, 1996 vs. the then-California Angels,  gas cost $1.30 a gallon and a stamp was 32 cents, only 13 of the current 30 MLB stadiums were in use and only 29 of the current big leaguers were active. Derek Jeter had 48 career hits and Alex Rodriguez had 12 home runs.

No question he's going to be No. 1 for a long time. Francisco Cordero is second to Rivera on the active saves list and he has a mere 323.

"It's a testament to Mo's consistency," Mark Teixeira told a group of us scribes over the weekend in Toronto. "His ERA in the postseason (0.71), oh-my goodness. He deserves to be on the top of this list.

"I can't think of, in sports, a better guy to play one position. There's usually arguments. Like basketball. Jordan or LeBron. People say Gretzky but Sidney Crosby in 10 or 15 years might have an argument.  At this position with Mo, there is none."

Sure isn't.

---Mike Harrington
(www.twitter.com/bnharrington) 

 

Yankees resting regulars but won't hold out Mo

TORONTO -- The Yankees and Blue Jays play their series finale today in the sunshine of the open-roofed Rogers Centre (it's on at 1 on YES if you want to channel surf from the action at One Bills Drive). And with no more off the days the rest of the season, and a makeup game in the Bronx against Minnesota tomorrow at 1,  Joe Girardi is giving lots of people some rest.

Derek Jeter, Curtis Granderson and Mark Teixeira are not starting today. Robinson Cano is the DH. The infield has Eric Chavez at first, Eduardo Nunez at second, Ramiro Pena at short and A-Rod at third. What is this, Tampa in March?

The biggest question centers around Mariano Rivera. Would Girardi keep him out today to ensure he gets his record-breaking 602nd save at home since there are eight games in Yankee Stadium over the next seven days? It appears the answer is no.

If there's a save today, Girardi said before the game it's going to be Rivera's to get, just like it was yesterday when he tied Trevor Hoffman's MLB mark with No. 601. The Yankees are in charge in the AL East but the lead over Boston is only 4 1/2 games with 12 to play. That's no time to be messing around in a close game.

Freddy Garcia (11-7) pitches for the Yankees against Toronto's Brandon Morrow (9-1). So the Yankees lineup today looks like this:

Gardner, cf
Nunez, 2b
Cano, dh
A-Rod, 3b
Swisher, rf
Chavez, 1b
Martin,  c
Dickerson, lf
Pena, ss

---Mike Harrington
(www.twitter.com/bnharrington) 

Mariano on 601: 'It's a great number'

MoTORONTO -- The celebration was relatively muted today in the Rogers Centre after Mariano Rivera pitched a perfect ninth inning in the Yankees' 7-6 win over the Blue Jays to tie Trevor Hoffman's all-time record with 601 career saves.

There was a big celebration Tuesday in Seattle for No. 600 and there will be a big one for No. 602 when Rivera breaks it,  be it here Sunday or if it happens when the Yankees return home.

"Don't get me wrong, [601] is a great number but you have to hit 601 to get 602," Rivera said. "It's a great number but the most important thing is we won the game. We were down 6-1 and came back, pitched good after that."

"By being a Yankees as a player, manager and coach, you get to see a lot of great accomplishments," said manager Joe Girardi. "This is another one. You feel fortunate. ... What can you say about Mo? 602 is the big one because it just puts the final stamp on it that he's the greatest closer of all time.

"I don't think in this room we have any question. I don't want to take anything away from Trevor Hoffman but when you've been around Mo as long as I have, you've seen a lot of special things."

Click below to hear the audio of Rivera's meeting with reporters:


Mariano Rivera

---Mike Harrington
(www.twitter.com/bnharrington)

AP Photo: Catcher Russell Martin congratulates Rivera on No. 601.

Bulletin: Mariano gets No. 601 in Yankees win

TORONTO -- Legendary New York Yankees closer Mariano Rivera has tied the all-time record with his 601st career save today, pitching a perfect ninth inning to wrap up a 7-6 win over the Toronto Blue Jays in Rogers Centre.

Rivera got Colby Rasmus to take a called third strike and got Brett Lawrie on a broken-bat grounder to first. With the Yankees fans in the crowd of 39,288 urging him on, Rivera got Eric Thames on a lazy fly ball for his 42nd save of the season and 13th in a row.

The Yankees trailed through five innings, 6-1, and were largely a trainwreck in the first half of the game. Bartolo Colon had very little in his four innings and light-hitting Toronto leadoff man Mike McCoy had three RBIs.

The New York offense failed to get a man in from third base five times -- five times! -- and Robinson Cano ran into a double play to end the fourth when he passed Mark Teixeira at third base. Cano, running head down from second, either thought Nick Swisher's liner to Corey Rasmus in center was either the third out or was dropping in. When Rasmus made the backhand catch, Teixeira retreated to third to tag up but Cano blew right by him.

The Yankees finally got it together in the sixth with four runs -- three on a first-pitch laser over the left-field wall by Alex Rodriguez, his first home run since Sept. 4.

They took the lead in the seventh on Curtis Granderson's 40th homer of the season, a two-run shot to dead-center off Carlos Villanueva. That was the at-bat of the game, as Granderson fouled off seven straight 2-2 pitches before finally connecting.

The New York bullpen set a remarkable red carpet for Rivera. Scott Proctor, Aaron Laffey, Hector Noesi and Rafael Soriano threw four hitless innings. In fact, they retired the final 11 in that stretch. Proctor gave up a leadoff walk to Jose Bautista in the fifth, but he was quickly erased on Adam Lind's double-play grounder and the Blue Jays never had another baserunner.

---Mike Harrington
(www.twitter.com/bnharrington) 

A-Rod back in lineup batting fifth

TORONTO -- Alex Rodriguez is back in the Yankees' lineup today and will be batting fifth the game against the Blue Jays in Rogers Centre (It's on YES at 1 p.m.). A-Rod has missed the last six games with a sprained thumb and has only played 10 games since the all-star break. But he had a good day Friday and manager Joe Girardi gave him the go-ahead this morning.

“We don’t know what version we’re going to get,” Girardi said. “We might get the version we had at the beginning of the season when he was healthy. If that version is in there, that’s really good.”

A-Rod is batting fifth for the first time since 2006. Robinson Cano is staying in the cleanup spot.

“It’s more that he’s just missed time,” Girardi said. “Really, he hasn’t played much in the last two months, so I figured we’ll just keep Robbie there for right now, and if Alex gets going, we can adjust our lineup as we see needed.”

Ex-Bison Bartolo Colon is pitching for the Yankees against Toronto rookie Henderson Alvarez, who has never faced the Yankees. Rookie Austin Romine is catching Colon in part because he batted against Alvarez this year in Double-A. 

The roof is open on a cloudy, chilly day. I'm a little surprised by that. The Yankees are an MLB-best 39-11 in days games. The Yankees are 3-5 on their current road trip and Friday's 5-4 loss here was their fourth walkoff defeat of the trip.

---Mike Harrington
(www.twitter.com/bnharrington) 

A-Rod still out but looking good for Saturday

TORONTO -- We're on the scene in Rogers Centre for the opener of the Yankees-Blue Jays series. Tonight's key items on the field will be CC Sabathia's quest for his 20th win, would would give him 20 back-to-back as a Yankee (a first since Tommy John in 1979-80), and Mariano Rivera's bid for his 601st career save (one behind Trevor Hoffman's all-time record). Rivera's family is here to see him go for the mark.

Most of the pregame chatter, however,  centers around the absence of Alex Rodriguez from the Yankees' lineup for the sixth straight game with a sprained left thumb. A-Rod hasn’t played since Sept. 9 and has been bothered by the injury since late August.

Manager Joe Girardi said A-Rod was going to play tonight when the Yankees were in Seattle but backtracked today. Still, Rodriguez took batting practice for the first time in a week and proclaimed himself ready to go Saturday.

"We decided he wasn't going to play both of these games (tonight and Saturday at 1)," Girardi said. "So why don't we see how he feels after taking these swings and a round of BP out there?"

Rodriguez was swinging with a knob of tape a couple inches from the end of his bat between his two hands and said that alleviated the pressure on his thumb, his bottom hand. He hit a few balls over the fence during BP.

"It's definitely goinng to be a little adjustment but anything that can alleviate pain is a good move," A-Rod said. "I'm excited about it. I haven't been this excited in at least a month. ... Today is a really good day. I'm really encouraged."

In other news: The roof was open during BP but it's been closed because the temperature is only 59 degrees. Dustin McGowan is pitching for Toronto as Brett Cecil was scratched because he cut his finger on a blender Wednesday in the clubhouse in Boston. ... Yankees beat writers, as well as Curtis Granderson and Brett Gardner, were floored during BP when they looked up and saw red-suited people hanging out of the CN Tower that soars over the right-field corner. Those folks were taking part in the new tower attractioon, Edgewalk

---Mike Harrington
(www.twitter.com/bnharrington) 

Bison-esque lineup for Mets today

The Mets play the Washington Nationals today at 1:10 on SNY and there's quite a Buffalo tinge in their lineup as Chris Schwinden, the Bisons' most valuable pitcher,  gets his second major-league start and Valentino Pascucci will get the call at first base.

Pascucci is scheduled to bat seventh in what will be his first MLB start since Oct. 3, 2004 with the Montreal Expos. He is 1 for 2 so far with the Mets in pinch-hitting roles after being called up from the Bisons, his first trip to the bigs since '04.

Pascucci earned Buffalo's MVP honors this season by batting .264 with team-highs of 21 homers and 91 RBIs.

Also from the Mets: Bisons infielder Josh Satin was named the organization's minor-league player of the year. Huge jump for him from organizational guy to prospect.

---Mike Harrington
(www.twitter.com/bnharrington) 

 

A-Rod likely out until Yankees hit Toronto

Things are getting quite a bit more interesting in the American League East. Yankees manager Joe Girardi said tonight prior to his team's game in Seattle that Alex Rodriguez likely won't play until Friday night's series opener in Toronto because his lingering thumb issues.

A major subplot for the Yankees this week will be the work of closer Mariano Rivera, who has 599 career saves. He's going to become the second man to 600 and is on the edge of breaking Trevor Hoffman's all-time record of 601. That would be something for Yankees fans to see this weekend in the Rogers Centre.

The Red Sox, meanwhile are taking the night off after a 1-6 road trip included getting swept at Tampa Bay. The Sox are suddenly just 3 1/2 games up on the Rays in the wild card race (pending Tampa's game Monday at Baltimore) -- and have four more this week with Tampa, starting Thursday in Fenway Park. No less an authority than David Ortiz said it is, in fact, time to panic. Given the way Tampa's pitching looks and the way Boston's looks, he's right.

First up for the Sox, however, are two games against Toronto. Tuesday's contest will mark beleaguered knuckleballer Tim Wakefield's eighth chance at his 200th win. We all properly crabbed at the start of September about having no races to watch and we were right at the time. Looks like we might get a doozy after all.

---Mike Harrington
(www.twitter.com/bnharrington)

 

 

Ten years later, Herd's 19-inning loss resonates as 9/11 anniversary nears

Ten years ago tonight -- Sept. 9, 2001 -- the  Buffalo Bisons played their last game before the world changed forever. And what a doozy it was.

The Eric Wedge-led Bisons lost, 6-2, to the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Red Barons in 19 innings in the decisive Game Five of the Governors Cup semifinals at then-Dunn Tire Park. It still stands as the longest game in both innings and time (5:13) in the ballpark's history.

A two-run triple in the top of the 19th by No. 9 hitter Jason Knupfer, who was 0 for 16 in the series to that point, snapped a 2-2 tie. Scranton went on to add two insurance runs to wrap up the best-of-five series, three games to two. The Buffalo offense struggled because cleanup man Chris Coste, who had a series-high eight hits, didn't play the last 15 innings after getting ejected arguing a call at first base in the fourth.

Scranton advanced to meet Louisville in the IL finals and lost Game One, 2-1, the next night at Slugger Field. That was September 10. The next morning was September 11.

Game Two was canceled due to the terrorist attacks and the entire series was called off the next day, with Louisville declared the winner. I've often pondered the 19-inning game because I would have been in Louisville on 9/11 had the Bisons won. All air traffic was grounded, of course, and I would have driven home from Kentucky. (I know some New York reporters who drove all the way home from Denver after the Giants' Monday Night Football game on Sept. 10).

"I talked to a lot of fans the day after we lost and you thought losing a 19-inning baseball game was devastating," Bisons GM Mike Buczkowski told me the day the IL canceled the series. "Then you get jolted to reality. Baseball games aren't significant given what's going on right now."

The Bisons made the finals the next year and hosted an emotional pregame ceremony prior to Game Two against Durham on Sept. 11, 2002, the one-year anniversary. Coste recalled starting the drive home to North Dakota the day after the 19-inning loss and stopping for the night in Toledo, Ohio, then watching events of 9/11 from his hotel room.

""We woke up in the morning and all that happened,'' Coste said. ""I thought about a million things and baseball was obviously way in the background but you wondered if they were going to finish the season. As the days went on, you started thinking, "I wonder what it would have been like if we had been stuck in Louisville.'''

When the calendar flipped to October, I was fortunate enough to cover the Yankees' emotional ALCS win over Seattle and the incredible '01 World Series against Arizona. And I got a first-hand look, even several weeks later, at the shocking aftermath at Ground Zero. 

Be sure to read about my reflections on baseball in New York and elsewhere in the wake of 9/11 in Sunday's Inside Baseball column.

---Mike Harrington
(www.twitter.com/bnharrington) 

Mets going to give Pascucci the call

Official word from the New York Mets has emerged during today's game at Florida that there's some good news coming out of today's dreary 5-1 Bisons loss at Scranton in the season finale: Valentino Pascucci is going to the big leagues for the first time since 2004.

Pascucci, whose last big-league time came in the final days of the Montreal Expos, will be going to New York along with outfielder Mike Baxter, pitcher Chris Schwinden (and manager Tim Teufel). 

Pascucci, 32, deserves the call. He's done nothing but produce here for two years after the Mets rescued him out of the independent leagues. He wasn't on their radar at all this year but forced his way in. And it's good to see the Amazins recognize that, both for Pascucci's sake and the view of future six-year free agents signing to play for them in Buffalo.

Be sure to check my column in Tuesday's paper for more on the Mets-Bisons relationship.

---Mike Harrington
(www.twitter.com/bnharrington) 

IL Items for the Labor Day season finales

Happy Labor Day and while you might be celebrating the unofficial end of summer, the International League is marking the official end of its season. Today is the final day of play in the regular season and here are some of the storylines:

---The Bisons finish their campaign with a 1 p.m. game at Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. After splitting Sunday night's doubleheader (with the second game cut short by rain), the Bisons are 61-81. They have thus lost 80 games in a season for the second time in three years with the New York Mets -- but just the third time in its 27 years of modern-era Triple-A ball. Not a good reflection for the Amazins.

---As for Scranton, today will be its final game in PNC Field. The ballpark will be bulldozed and completely rebuilt in time for 2013. Yes, 2013. That means the Yankees are going to spend 2012 barnstorming. A decision on that will be announced by Sept. 20. (An aside: The forecast is not good at all for today. Sunday night, in fact, might have been the end of the season for the Herd and Baby Yankees. (1:30 p.m. update: The game began on time under cloudy skies).

---Pawtucket (North), Durham (South) and Columbus (West) have clinched division titles. Lehigh Valley and Gwinnett enter the final day still battling for the wild-card. Lehigh Valley wiped out a 4-1 deficit Sunday night to post a 7-4 win at Syracuse and can take the first playoff spot in its four-year history with a win today at Syracuse. If the IronPigs lose and Gwinnett beats Charlotte, the teams will stage a one-game playoff Tuesday in Allentown, Pa.

---Rochester's 4-3 loss at Pawtucket was its 90th of the season -- the most in the minors -- and gave the Wings back-to-back 90-loss campaigns for the first time since 1903-04.

---Indianapolis won at Louisville, 5-3, to improve to 76-67 and will just miss the playoffs after an horrendous start to the season that saw the Indians open 1-8 and finish April 7-17. Indy had winning records in every other month; the Tribe just ran out of time.

---The playoffs are scheduled to start Wednesday but the remnants of Tropical Storm Lee could have a huge impact on that calendar. Starting with the potential playoff Tuesday night at Lehigh Valley.

---Mike Harrington
(www.twitter.com/bnharrington) 

The Presidents come to Buffalo

Perhaps it's a reflection of how completely unforgettable the Buffalo Bisons' season was on the field, but I have been deluged with inquiries about the Washington Nationals' Racing Presidents appearance Thursday night in Coca-Cola Field.

So I poked around YouTube and the folks at Buffalo.com posted a video of the Presidents' race, where Teddy -- who has never won -- got overcome by the aroma of Chicken Wing and forgot to finish a race he was leading and George got the win.

I haven't found any clip of the match race between Teddy and Celery that ended with neither one winning. The Presidents, by the way, visited Toronto, Niagara Falls and the Wilcox Mansion on their trip north and tweeted shots of each. They're also included at that link of the "Let Teddy Win" blog. Hey, the Nationals stink too so the folks in DC have to get some entertainment.

The Wilcox Mansion on Delaware, you ask? Come on, history buffs. That's where the real Teddy got inaugurated after the assassination of Wiliam McKinley here in 1901.

---Mike Harrington
(www.twitter.com/bnharrington) 

Video: Bisons wrapping up disappointing season

News Sports Reporter Mike Harrington takes a look at the team's season, which had its last home game Thursday night.

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About Inside Pitch

Mike Harrington

Mike Harrington

Mike Harrington, a Canisius College graduate who began his career as a News reporter in 1987, has covered the Buffalo Bisons since 1992 and Major League Baseball since 1995. A member of the Baseball Writers' Association of America, Harrington has reported on more than 30 MLB postseason series — including every game of the World Series in this century — and all three of the Bisons' championship runs in their modern era. He is a connoisseur of the famous Stadium Mustard at Cleveland's Progressive Field.

@BNHarrington | mharrington@buffnews.com


Amy Moritz

Amy Moritz

Amy Moritz, a native of Lockport, has covered the Bisons for The Buffalo News since 2002. She has a bachelor’s degree in journalism/mass communication from St. Bonaventure University and a master’s degree in humanities from the University at Buffalo. An endurance athlete, she has completed several triathlons, half marathons and marathons.

@amymoritz | amoritz@buffnews.com

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