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Video: The decisive play and the umps speak

By Mike Harrington

ST. LOUIS -- If you missed all the craziness at the end of Game Three of the World Series Saturday night, you can read all about it in my story at this link. That story is largely the words and thoughts of the principals involved.

I'm on the side that the umpires got it right, making the correct call with conviction at a key time. You can hear more in my postgame audio podcast that was posted early morning at this link.

To get the full impact, you should watch the play below. Even Joe Buck has a delayed reaction making the call not fully knowing what's going on in the instant the play happened.


The umpires' press conference with Joe Torre is well worth your time. (From left) Dana DeMuth, Jim Joyce and John Hirschbeck did a great job explaining lots of issues that many of you brought up to me on Twitter after the game Saturday. Really worth a look.

Pete Abraham of the Boston Globe does a great job going over all the goofy decisions John Farrell made late in this one as well as the dilemmas the Red Sox manager is facing with his lineup moving forward.

As Buffalo BB Hall of Famer Lovullo eyes World Series bid, Cubs eye him for manager's office

LovulloBy Mike Harrington

Buffalo Baseball Hall of Famer Torey Lovullo (left), now the bench coach under ex-Bisons pitcher and Cleveland farm director John Farrell in Boston, has the biggest game of his life on tap for tonight as the Red Sox try to wrap up another trip to the World Series in Game Six of the ALCS against the Detroit Tigers.

But whenever Boston's season is over, Lovullo may have even more on his plate becuase his name is getting plenty of play for open managerial jobs.

There are all kinds of reports today that the Chicago Cubs want to interview Lovullo to replace the deposed Dale Sveum. Aside from being a good candidate, Lovullo goes back with Chicago GM Theo Epstein because he managed the Red Sox Triple-A farm club in Pawtucket in 2010.

The Seattle Mariners also seem interested in Lovullo to replace another former Bisons skipper in Eric Wedge. Lovullo, remember, interviewed for the Red Sox job when Bobby Valentine was hired in 2012 (that sure worked well). He's also interviewed with Cleveland, Pittsburgh and the Los Angeles Dodgers. 

"Right now, our focus is on what’s happening here,” Lovullo said this week in Detroit. “I would like to manage one day, but I’m not here to fast-forward anything or make it happen before its time.”

Lovullo was one of the key members of the Bisons' championship teams in 1997 and 1998, and was a regular on the 1995 team that came within one win of another title. He then managed the Herd from 2006-2008, the final three years of the Cleveland affiliation. He spent the last two years as the first-base coach in Toronto under Farrell before joining him in Boston. 

(Lovullo photo: Getty Images)

Cleveland Rocks: Postseason memories covering the Tribe

By Mike Harrington

CLEVELAND -- I'm at Progressive Field for tonight's American League Wild Card Game between the Indians and Rays (8:07 first pitch on TBS). First postseason game here since the Tribe failed to close out the Terry Francona-led Red Sox in Game 5 of the 2007 ALCS. In the odd circle of life, Francona is now a first-year skipper here -- trying to will his team to a win that would send it to Fenway Park and a series against the Red Sox that opens Friday.

This is the 35th postseason game the Indians have played here since the park opened in 1994. I've been amazingly fortunate to be at every one.  Here's an off-the-top of my head list of the most memorable ones. The links are to my stories 

1995 World Series Game 3 (Indians 7, Braves 6 in 11) -- I was sitting in the right field auxiliary press box and I swear that when the Indians stormed on to the field it was like watching the same scene from the playoff game on "Major League." The movie was only six years earlier and was based on the absurd concept of the Indians winning. This was life imitating reality for the first World Series game in C-Town since 1954. Reality of the job soon set in as the game went extra innings past midnight and a guy who didn't talk to the media (Eddie Murray) got the game-winning hit. Read my story here.

1995 ALDS Game 1 (Indians 6, Red Sox 5 in 13) -- There were two rain delays, Albert Belle flexing his biceps at the Boston dugout after a game-tying home run in the 11th and, finally, a walk-off shot by Buffalo Baseball Hall of Famer Tony Pena on a 3-0 pitch at 2:08 a.m. Read my story here.

1997 ALDS Game 4-5 (a horse racing-style entry of wins over the Yankees) --
Game Four was the famous Sandy Alomar tying home run off Mariano Rivera in the eighth inning and the pinball single by Omar Vizquel in the ninth to win it. Game Five was a taut thriller that ended on a fly ball to Buffalo Baseball Hall of Famer Brian Giles in left. You could hear the car horns honking downtown for hours.

Read the Game 4 story here.     Read the Game 5 story here. 

1998 ALCS Game 4: The Indians had the 114-win Yankees in trouble with a 2-1 lead before El Duque shut them down. Orlando Hernandez, just a few months removed from escaping Cuba, pitched a 4-0 victory that evened the series and sent the Yankees on their way to a six-game winning streak that included a World Series sweep of the Padres. Read my story here. 

1999 ALCS Game 2: The Indians blasted the Red Sox, 11-1,  in a sun-splashed late-afternoon affair to take a 2-0 lead and looked headed back to the ALCS. I can vividly recall walking down the stairs to the clubhouse with screaming fans and Springsteen's "Glory Days" pounding over the loudspeakers. It was a glory run that seemed like it would never end. But it really did when I found myself in the park four days later to see Pedro Martinez throw six no-hit innings of relief in a 12-8 Boston victory that cemented a stunning three-game comeback. 

Read my Game 2 story here.  Read my Game 5 story here. 

2007 ALDS Game 2: The midges struck from Lake Erie just as Joba Chamberlain came on to preserve a one-run lead for the Yankees in the eighth. He spit the bit on the lead and the Tribe won the game in the 11th. But all anyone remembers is the bugs. And they were everywhere. Read my buggy story here. 

From the archives: Links to today's baseball memories

Dave Roberts' famous steal of second in the 2004 ALCS (Getty Images).

By Mike Harrington

I'll be joining Dave Roberts and Ernie Young tonight in the Buffalo Baseball Hall of Fame, and be sure to read my column in today's editions about my top memories on the Bisons/MLB beat the last 20 years. 

I also wrote a story today about Young's memories of Buffalo and Sunday's Inside Baseball column featured a chat with Roberts on his famous stolen base with the Red Sox in 2004. 

Want even more reading material? Jerry Sullivan wrote this column on Young after the 2000 Olympic gold medal game in Australia, four years before he joined the Bisons.

As for my memories list, here's a look back to the stories I produced on the scene at each of the moments in the article: 

1. Yankees-Arizona World Series Game 7 in 2001 -- Luis Gonzalez's game-winner.

2. 2004 ALCS/World Series -- Red Sox beat Yankees and Cardinals
    Game Seven of the ALCS        Game Four of the World Series 

3. Bisons 1997 clincher at Iowa --- Story one: Recap of Sean Casey's home run   Story two: Torey Lovullo presenting Bob Rich the game ball 

4. 2004 IL finals Game Four -- Bisons win title at home

5. 2007 Cleveland Indians -- A feature heading into the postseason

6. 1998 Bisons clincher -- Game Five in Durham

7. 2000 Subway Series -- Story one: The crazy Piazza press conference the day after BatGate. Story two: The Yankees' Game Five clincher. 

8. 2008 All-Star Game -- A web-only version filed at 3 a.m.

9. 2011 World Series Game Six -- Some scorebook pencils bit the dust in the 10th when the Cardinals tied it again.

10. 1995 ALDS Game One -- Ex-Bison Tony Pena sends us home at 2:08 a.m.

What didn't make my cut? Some pretty good ones.

There was Jeff Manto's three-homer game in 1997, the Bisons' 19-inning loss to Scranton in Game Five of the IL semifinals two nights before 9/11, Roger Clemens' one-hitter at Seattle in the 2000 ALCS, the opener at new Yankee Stadium in 2009, Stephen Strasburg's visit to Buffalo in 2011 and my chat with Hall of Famer Bob Feller during Strasburg's outing in Cleveland two weeks later, and last year's Triple-A All-Star Game in Buffalo.

(Bartolo Colon's no-hitter here in 1997 is not on any list because I was off that night, although I was in the ballpark to witness it.) 

Go to the video: In '04, new Buffalo BB Hall inductee Roberts became an October hero forever

By Mike Harrington

Dave Roberts and Ernie Young have been announced as the player inductees for the 2013 class of the Buffalo Baseball Hall of Fame today, and they will be enshrined prior to the July 19 game against Toledo in Coca-Cola Field.

(Full disclosure: Your neighborhood beat writer/columnist/blogger has been named in the Contributor category. Huge thanx to all who have texted, tweeted, called or approached today. Massive honor).

Young was the power-hitting first baseman/DH of the 2004 and 2005 teams while Roberts is the modern-era stolen base leader in a Buffalo career that began late in 1998 and stretched through 2001. Roberts, now the first-base coach of the San Diego Padres, is much more remembered for his stolen base in Game Four of the 2004 ALCS for the Red Sox and for the tying run he scored off Mariano Rivera that got Boston even and kick-started its historic comeback from a 3-0 deficit in the series.

I was pretty fortunate to be in the house on assignment that night in Fenway, and Roberts and I had a good chat about it the next day prior to Game Five. Little did anyone know at the time, of course, how historically significant the play would become.

Here's a pair of must-see videos on Roberts. The first is ESPN's "30 for 30" segment on the Roberts stolen base from the epochal "Four Days in October" episode on the 2004 ALCS. The second is an interview NESN did with Roberts last week when he was at Fenway Park with the Padres:

The Herd's new look and other news from a wild day in Bisonland


Here it is, unveiled today at Coca-Cola Field. The Bisons are going with this look for the 2013 season, their first with the Toronto Blue Jays. It's a throwback to their logo from 1988-1997, the red-white-blue with a swinging Buster. The red, however, is a little darker and the blue a shade lighter than that arrangment. Uniforms and caps will be revealed in mid-January.

As part of a wild press conference at the ballpark, the Herd re-introduced manager Marty Brown -- their skipper from 2003-2005 -- as their 2013 manager, and the Blue Jays also announced that infielder Jim Negrych has signed a minor-league with an invitation to major league spring training. Negrych, who played for Syracuse last year in the Washington chain, appeared in the Triple-A All-Star Game here last summer.

On top of those items, Blue Jays general manager Alex Anthopoulos and new manager John Gibbons made a surprise appearance in town less than four hours after wrapping up their introductory press conference in the Rogers Centre.  Anthopoulos' big trade with the Miami Marlins was made official Monday and his free-agent signing of Melky Cabrera was announced as final Tuesday.

Some quick comments from the principals:

Brown: "I've missed Buffalo very much. ... [Going to the Blue Jays] was a lot like the Cleveland organization when I got in with them. A lot of really good talented young players due to the scouting staff and some of the trades the organization did. We're all going to benefit here in Buffalo."

Anthopoulos on the stunning choice of Gibbons: "Players would run through a wall for him. They loved playing for him. The only thing that made me pause was what would the perception be, what are the optics going to be? How would it look? Is it a bit of a downer because he's already been here? But the decisions I've regretted are where I didn't go with my instincts and was more concerned with optics. I haven't done it very often, very few times. This is one that I find the best decisions I've made I did what I felt was right."

Gibbons: "I never expected this to happen. This is so far-fetched. The reality of it. I had to pinch myself to be honest with you. So I'm going to run with it and see what happens. How many times do you get a second chance, especially in a place you've been working with some good people that I know?"

Negrych: "It's always nice to know that you're wanted. They said they were interested, we told them what we wanted and it was important to me to find out it wasn't just to be in Buffalo. It was for my baseball ability, not for my hometown. They said if they were still in Las Vegas, they would be calling me. They had good reports from their scouts, positive things to say. When I heard all that news, their offer was more than fair for me."

--Mike Harrington
Twitter: @BNHarrington

AL champions: The Rangers do it again

CruzAfter a summer of talk that was basically all Yankees and Red Sox all the time, after a September marked by the dominance of the Tigers, the rise of the Rays and the colossal fall of the Sox, we are left with this:

The Texas Rangers are the best team in the American League. Again.

No AL club has gone to the World Series in back-to-back years since the Yankees went to four straight from 1998-2001. No AL West team, in either the two- or three-division setup, has been a repeat pennant winner since the A's took three straight from 1988-1990.

That all changed Saturday night as the Rangers pounded the Detroit Tigers, 15-5, to win the ALCS in six games. Texas will open the World Series Wednesday night in either Milwaukee or St. Louis. Pretty awesome accomplishment.

I'll admit I slept on the Rangers as a team that could get back to the Fall Classic. I picked them to lose against both the Rays and the Tigers. Yikes. Still, it is hard to gauge a team that played 38 games against the Mariners and A's and has the Astros as a chief interleague rival. They were clearly the best in the AL West but how far could they go after that?

But the Rangers are so balanced offensively with speed, for-average hitters and power numbers, and have such a deep bullpen that they've been by far the best team in the playoffs in either league. They're the favorite no matter who the NL produces.

No one gives manager Ron Washington much credit either but he's been terrific. You have to love, for instance, what he did with Alexei Ogando. A reliever with a 1.30 ERA last year, Ogando started 29 games this year and went 13-8, 3.51 with 126 strikeouts in 169 innings. With fewer starters needed in the postseason, he's back in the pen. He made three scoreless appearances in the division series against the Rays, and pitched to a 1.17 ERA with two wins against the Tigers.

In a bizarre regular season, the Rangers survived the discord about whether to bring back the beloved Michael Young, some of the worst heat in Dallas' history and even the trauma of seeing the fatal fall from the bleachers of one of their fans. They won their division, took out the Rays and got a postseason all-time record six home runs in a series from Nelson Cruz (above). Now they're four wins away from their first title.

The Mavericks. TCU in the Rose Bowl. And now the Rangers. Pretty good run for Big D.

Cheap plug alert: I'll be somewhere (either Milwaukee or St. Louis) for Media Day on Tuesday. Follow all our World Series coverage in print and online. Game One is Wednesday night.

---Mike Harrington

AP Photo: The celebration is on for ALCS MVP Nelson Cruz in the Rangers' clubhouse.

Pick your bizarro LCS winners

Tigers-Rangers and Cardinals-Brewers. Did you have that LCS combo in March? Heck, did you have it two weeks ago? This has become one bizarro October.

The Red Sox and Braves, who looked solid all summer, went bellyup before we even got out of September. The Cinderella Rays were gonzo. Then the Yankees went down -- and you'll note I picked that one. But the biggest shocker of all was the Phillies losing to St. Louis.

They were the best team in baseball all year but their offense failed them. That eight-game losing streak after they clinched the NL East was, in fact, a bad omen. And Cliff Lee blowing a 4-0 lead in Game Two when they were in complete control of the NLDS was another major issue.

Phil Sheridan of the Philadelphia Inquirer correctly says this is the lowest point for the Phillies since they won the World Series in 2008. And it appears Ryan Howard may have a torn Achilles tendon after making the last out.

So while the Phillies and Yankees try to figure out what's next (Cheap plug: Read more on the Yankees in Sunday's Inside Baseball column),  the final four play on. The ALCS opens tonight in Texas with the NLCS opening Sunday in Milwaukee. Here's my thoughts:

Tigers vs. Rangers -- Big loss for the Tigers came out today with Delmon Young being taken off the roster with a strained oblique. He's been huge since he was acquired at the trade deadline. Still, I like the roll this team is on.  I like Justin Verlander in Game One and potentially going three times.  Doug Fister and Max Scherzer provide great help in the rotation and the bullpen has been solid led by Jose Valverde. The Rangers looked terrific against the Rays, like they completely expect to go back to the World Series. Think the Red Sox still wish they had Adrian Beltre? FOX may wish this was Yankees-Red Sox but they will still get a great series. Tigers in seven.

Cardinals vs. Brewers -- All the momentum in the world has me wanting to pick the Cardinals but I have questions about their rotation after Chris Carpenter. The Brewers, meanwhile, are just about unbeatable at Miller Park. Great offense,  great bullpen,  solid rotation. Plus they know this is their one chance with Prince Fielder having one foot out of the door en route to free agency. Prince and old man Cecil have long been estranged so it will be interesting to see how he deals with all the questions about his father if he meets the Tigers, Cecil's old team, in a World Series. The Cardinals have been a great story but the road ends here. Brewers in five.

Now you make your picks.

---Mike Harrington

World Series: You make the call

Around the horn: Yankees, Phillies, Blue Jays

It's all over for the Yankees, who were lucky they weren't swept in the ALCS by the Rangers and were finally put away with Friday night's 6-1 Texas victory in Game Six.  New York Daily News columnist Mike Lupica said it actually felt like a six-game sweep. 

Cheap plug alert: Be sure to look for Sunday's Inside Baseball column for my thoughts on Joe Girardi. And be sure to keep tuned in to the blog starting Tuesday with my reports from the World Series.  Of course, I have no idea where I will be because the NLCS is still not decided. Game Six is tonight in Philly with Roy Oswalt looking to get the Phillies even with the Giants. And if he does that, I'm thinking Philly completes the comeback.

On the managerial front, the Blue Jays are apparently close to naming Red Sox pitching coach and former Bisons pitcher John Farrell as their new manager. Great choice to work with all their young hurlers. From my dealings with Farrell as the Indians' farm director from 2001-2006, he has a keen eye for talent and how to connect with players. I always thought he had GM stock but he wanted to get back on the field and joined Terry Francona's staff in 2007, promptly winning a World Series.

Might be a chance for old friend Torey Lovullo to get a big-league job as well. You would think Farrell would consider him for the Toronto staff from their days with Cleveland.

---Mike Harrington

It's time for the LCS picks: Yankees and Phillies

Go all the way back to our season preview section in March and you know how I'm going to pick both versions of the League Championship Series. I picked the World Series as a "reverse of 2009" and I'm staying with that. That means I got the Yankees over the Rangers (I'm going to say six games) and the Phillies over the Giants (I'll say in five). Here's how I see it shaping up:

ALCS: Yes, the Yankees have lots of question marks on the mound, headlined by Game Four starter A.J. Burnett and the middle relief. But CC Sabathia is an ace, Game Two starter Phil Hughes has been unbeatable in Arlington and Andy Pettitte is simply the winningest pitcher in postseason history. The offense continues to be strong and I think they'll really benefit from their quick division series win. Whereas a lot of rest isn't normally a good thing, this Yankees team has been pretty beat up all season. Guys like Alex Rodriguez, Mark Teixeira, Nick Swisher and Brett Gardner really needed some down time and should be in better shape now.

The Rangers, of course, are riding their hopes on Cliff Lee but the Yankees will only have to worry about him in Game Three. Unless it goes to Seven. That's the issue. The Yankees cannot let this one get to Game Seven, where Lee would be waiting again. It was a huge boost for the Yankees' hopes that the Rangers blew their two home games against Tampa Bay and had to go back to the Trop for Game Five. You have to love C.J. Wilson's transformation from bullpen to starter and the Rangers have feel-good stories like manager Ron Washington and veteran Michael Young but they're no match at the plate. Nor are they a match for Mariano Rivera in October.

NLCS: The only team in the NL that can approach the Phillies' big three of Halladay, Oswalt and Hamels is the Giants. Will any pitching matchup in recent time have more hype than the Game One showdown of Halladay and Tim Lincecum? Must-see TV. The Phillies are on a mission to become the first NL team since the 1940s to get to the World Series three straight times. I just don't see any way they're stopped now. They've won 30 of their last 38 games and seem to be far and away the best team remaining in the postseason. I'm thinking the World Series doesn't go past five games no matter which AL team they would play.

Pretty amazing Philly lineup now that it's healthy. Jimmy Rollins, Shane Victorino and Ryan Howard were all out for spells and that really accounted for the Braves' division lead that stretched into August. I can't really get excited about a Giants lineup featuring the likes of a journeyman like Aubrey Huff. Great closer matchup between Brad Lidge, who looks like vintage 2008 again, and Brian Wilson. I'm not expecting a lot of blown leads late.

So those are my picks. Be sure to make yours in our polls below.

---Mike Harrington


Mets' magic has Phils drawing blanks

Jerry Manuel's job status is suddenly quiet, the pitching is terrific and all is well in Mets land. That's what can happen when you go 5-1 against the Yankees and Phillies. The Mets' 3-0 win last night at Citi Field gave them their first shutout sweep of a three-game series since they blanked-blanked-blanked the Phils way back in 1969!

It was a big day in the New York Post, which blared the headline "Blanks for Coming" at the Phils to go with its game story.

Mike Vaccaro on the Amazins in the Post: "They are a baseball team again, not a traveling circus."

Crazy facts from the Post's Joel Sherman: Rod Barajas leads major league catchers with 10 homers.  R.A. Dickey and Hisonari Takahashi won more games this week against Philly (2) than John Maine and Oliver Perez won overall (1) in 16 starts. At least the Mets fixed the Maine-Perez mistake before Memorial Day. Memo to the Mets: Stop trying to convince Ollie to come to Buffalo!

In the Philly Inquirer, Chase Utley broke out the character building time cliche. Hope so. That's four shutouts in five games. Guess they're not stealing signs anymore. At least not on the road. If they return home and start pounding the ball again, suspicions are really going to be raised.

---Mike Harrington

More from Wedge on '07 ALCS

Be sure to check out my conversation with former Bisons and Indians manager Eric Wedge in Sunday's Inside Baseball column. Wedge talks about his time in Cleveland, his move to a new home in East Aurora, how he's refocusing his energy on finding a job for 2011 and on a charity golf tournament he's running with his wife June 5 in Akron in honor of his late mother in law. The web site for that event, the Carol K Golf Classic, is here.  

One thing that didn't make the column was some extra Wedge thoughts on the 2007 ALCS, the series the Tribe had a 3-1 lead but lost the last three games against the Red Sox. It was the first time television inserted a day off without travel and it came between Games Four and Five, after Cleveland's 7-3 win gave it a stranglehold on the series.

But the Tribe seemed to lose its momentum and the Red Sox seemed to regroup. I've always felt Cleveland wins that series if Game Five is planned the next day.

"We had young players, guys who were inexperienced in that situation and it might have played into it," Wedge said when I told him my theory. "You're rolling but now you had time to think about it, time to watch TV, read the paper, talk to family. You try to get into a zone and stay there and maybe teams that had been there before can do a better job. You can't say that was a determining factor because we had chances the whole series."

True. CC Sabathia and Fausto Carmona combined to go 0-3. Joel Skinner's fateful stop sign of Kenny Lofton in Game Seven didn't help either. The Red Sox outscored Cleveland, 30-5, in the final three games.

It's the closest any team with that many Buffalo connections will ever get to the World Series. Think of all the players on the team. Then there was Wedge, pitching coach Carl Willis, former Buffalo managers Skinner and Jeff Datz. Even trainer Rick Jameyson and broadcaster Jim Rosenhaus, in his first year in the bigs. It was a great run to cover, from a Division Series-clinching party in the clubhouse at old Yankee Stadium to some thrilling ALCS games in Cleveland and Fenway. Too bad it ended a game short of the Series.

---Mike Harrington

Yankee Doodles

I'm thinking everyone associated with baseball except for Mets fans is fine with this World Series. The Yankees took their place opposite the Phillies in the Fall Classic wiith Sunday's 5-2 win over the Angels that wrapped the ALCS in six games. Some quick thoughts:

---There is no one in baseball now or probably ever like Mariano Rivera. When he came on to start the eighth with a 3-1 lead, this one was over. Yes, Rivera gave up a run (his first in the postseason in the Bronx since Game Two of the 2000 World Series), but the Yankees' two-run eighth made that one moot.

---It's been six years for the Yankees to make the Series and you could see the joy on the faces of Rivera, Jorge Posada, Andy Pettitte and Derek Jeter. And there was unbridled jubilation from Alex Rodriguez as well. It's been six long seasons for him to finally get this far in pinstripes.

---The Yankees got the job done in Game Six, preserving ALCS MVP CC Sabathia for the Series opener against Philly's Cliff Lee. Mets fans who hate the Yankees and Phils are cringing over this series. But Indians fans are probably feeling even worse. at least for the Game One matchup after they traded back-to-back Cy Young winners and spent Sunday hearing their team had named ex-Nationals manager Manny Acta -- a fired Nationals manager -- as their new skipper. Ugh.

---What's up with the Twins and Angels? All those fundamentals fell apart against the Yankees. The Angels' woeful fielding reminded me of the '06 Tigers' troubles in the World Series. Hideous.

---Yankees/Phillies. Gotta believe this one will get the highest TV ratings in many years. Especially if we can get to Game Six for the first time since 2003.

I'll talk to you again on Workout Day Tuesday from the Bronx. This one should be good.

---Mike Harrington


Who does ALCS rainout help?

The Yankees and Angels try again tonight at 8:20 in Game Six of the ALCS after Saturday's monsoon in the Bronx forced them to wait yet another day (doesn't it seem like this series started three weeks ago?). There are two ways to look at this: One is that the Angels have lost their momentum from Thursday's thrilling victory and the return home will help the Yankees regain their balance. The other is the Angels get a huge boost from the rainout if they win tonight because they can come back with Game Six starter John Lackey on short rest.

And, you would think, Mike Scioscia would not make the same mistake twice and would agree when Lackey says, "This one's mine, Scios."

The big winner actually is the Phillies. They want this thing to go to seven games because the winner would have just one off day before starting the World Series. And it would mean both Lackey and CC Sabathia would be unavailable until Game Three Saturday in Philly and the Yankees would have to go to a fourth starter (likely Chad Gaudin) for the first time in the postseason.

It's absolutely crucial for the Yankees to wrap this up tonight in Game Six. They need a big game from Andy Pettitte. They get it done and everything goes as normal, where Sabathia can probably go in Games 1, 4 and 7 of the World Series. They don't and they're at a huge disadvantage against the Phillies. Should be interesting.

---Mike Harrington


Angels escape to New York

Angels So the ALCS goes back to the cold and rain of New York -- where there's a 90 percent chance of showers and the Yankees are suddenly and nervously trying to ward off the ghosts of 2004 after Thursday's did-you-see-that 7-6 loss.

New York Daily News columnist John Harper says you can blame it on A.J.

Joel Sherman of the Post says you can blame it on Joe Girardi. Here-here. The Yankees were coming off and off day and had another one scheduled today. Once they took the lead, I would have gotten Burnett out of there and tried to get the last nine outs with some combination of Joba Chamberlain, Phil Hughes and Mariano Rivera. Yes, Hughes got hit. But he came into the game with men on base. I would have started the seventh fresh with Hughes.

Still can't figure out which was the more bizarre move: The Angels walking A-Rod with two out and no one on in the ninth -- or the Yankees pinch-running for A-Rod with Freddy Guzman. A-Rod runs OK and were you really going to go into extra innings without him in the lineup after all that he's done this October?

You still have to like the Yankees' chances. They have Andy Pettitte and CC Sabathia lined up for Games Six and Seven. In 2004, they had Jon Lieber and Kevin Brown in 6-7. The Red Sox, remember, had bloody-socked Curt Schilling and Derek Lowe.

I know one guy probably rooting for a Game Seven: Cleveland GM Mark Shapiro. If Sabathia needs to pitch in an ALCS finale, Shapiro won't have to endure the indignity of a Sabathia-Cliff Lee matchup in Game One of the World Series, featuring the back-to-back Cy Young winners that cheapo ownership forced him to trade away the last two years.

---Mike Harrington


AP Photo: Bobby Abreu and Reggie Willits celebrate after the final out.

ALCS Game Five quick hits

Jeter-ARod The Angels pulled out a wild 7-6 win Thursday in Game Five of the ALCS as both managers took turns having braincramps in the late going. So it's back to New York for Game Six on Saturday night. Uncluttering my brain:

---Think plate ump Fieldin Culbreth was a little relieved the Angels rallied? Dude would have been banned from Disneyland for life after that ball-four call on Jorge Posada set up the six-run seventh.

---Five straight ALCS losses for the Yankees with the chance to clinch a World Series berth. Ouch.

---The season is on the line and Mike Scioscia brings in Darren Oliver for John Lackey -- in what might be Lackey's last game in Anaheim prior to heading into free agency? "This one's mine" was a pretty tame response from Lackey in my opinion.

---I know Jered Weaver doesn't pitch in relief but he looked razor-sharp. I would have left him in rather than bringing in the shaky Brian Fuentes in the ninth, and Fuentes totally walked the tightrope before finally getting pathetic Nick Swisher to pop up.

---The Yankees take the lead with that six-run uprising and Joe Girardi leaves in A.J. Burnett after he sat for like a half-hour? Brutal.

---Joba and Hughes are struggling. Marte and no Coke? How about Robertson in this one? He's been hot. Girardi blew his bullpen for the third time in the last four games.

---I guess Burnett's first inning was Jorge Posada's fault too.

---Not a great night for Fox. Showing the drunk fan in the rock garden was silly and no camera shot of the postgame interview with Lackey. Oops.

---FYI, there's a 90 percent chance of rain Saturday night in New York.

---You know the Phillies are rooting hard for this baby to go seven.

---Mike Harrington


AP Photo: Jeter and A-Rod watch Game Five slip away in the ninth inning.

Time for Yankees to seal the deal

Yankees It's Game Five of the ALCS tonight in Anaheim and the Yankees need one win to wrap up their I-95 World Series matchup with the Phillies. Better they do it tonight than prolong things to Saturday night back in the Bronx. As Mike Vaccaro's column in today's New York Post points out, the Yankees were a combined 9-0 in 1996, 1998 and 1999 in games where they had a chance to clinch a series en route to winning the World Series (they were 2-1 in 2000).

They need to finish this series now. A big reason? Everyone will spend the next two days revisiting 2004 if the Angels win tonight.

I was there for every pitch in '04 when the Yankees blew their 3-0 lead to the Red Sox and the shift in momentum was ever-so-slight when the Sox won the Dave Roberts game to get within 3-1. But when they pulled out their 14-inning thriller in Game Five, the shift was palpable. By the time we all got off the train back to New York, you felt you were on a runaway. You could feel the Sox gaining control. The Bloody Sock game then gave you that feeling of destiny in your midst.

Three hours before Game Seven, I was on the field leaning up against the railing in front of the Yankees dugout. A few feet away, venerable Boston Globe columnist Bob Ryan was screaming into a microphone doing a live hit for some ESPN show. He was saying there was no way the Sox could come this far and get Aaron Booned again. The Sox were loose, chatting and joking on the field. No Yankee cracked a smile. Few said anything. Game Seven was already over before either of Johnny Damon's home runs.

The point is clear. The Angels are reeling. Keep them down. If Girardi, A-Rod & Co. truly want this 103-win version of the Yankees to be different from the past four years, they have to take advantage of opportunity in October. They've been mostly brilliant so far in going 6-1.  They need to take care of business tonight so they don't face an uncomfortable weekend.

---Mike Harrington


Halfway to I-95 Series: Phillies in, Yankees got next in ALCS

Philly front The Phillies are back in the World Series, going back-to-back for the first time in their history by bouncing the Dodgers from the NLCS with Wednesday's 10-4 victory. They're just the fifth NL club in the divisional era to repeat and they'll be trying to match the Big Red Machine of the 70s with back-to-back World Series titles.

(At left, the cover of the Philly Daily News shows Brad Lidge and Carlos Ruiz after the final out)

What a battle of the titans we could have as Ryan Howard is just as hot this October as Alex Rodriguez. Ah, but the reborn-in-October A-Rod isn't there yet as the Yankees need one more win to make our I-95/Amtrak Series official. That could come tonight in Anaheim. It's been five years since the Yankees have been this close and we all remember what happened in 2004. So they want to get the job done at the first chance they have with A.J. Burnett on the mound.

Of course, if the Yankees win, we have to wait until Wednesday night for the thing to crank up because of this goofy, drawn-out schedule that Bud Selig & Co. allowed Fox to foist upon us. Hope we don't see any snowflakes along I-95. I'll be on hand for all the chatter and all the games, beginning with Tuesday's workout/media day.

On another note, our long national nightmare is over and we no longer have to deal with TBS in the postseason. That means Chip Carey is silenced. Mercy on all of us. Hopefully next year, the domos there get a real play-by-play man who knows what he's doing and don't kow-tow to family history. Pretty bad when you're breathing easier because you know Fox is doing the rest of the games.

---Mike Harrington


The morning view from the New York tabs

DN cover Tuesday morning's Daily News back cover, left, says it all. Yes, Joe Girardi, why in the world did you yank David Robertson for Alfredo Aceves?

If you haven't already done so, be sure to give a look at my quick reactions to Game Three of the ALCS I posted last night and here's some links to what the New York papers were saying this morning:

Daily News beat writer Mark Feinsand got the first 2004 crack in, pointing out that at least the Yankees don't have to worry about blowing a 3-0 lead in this ALCS. Ouch.

Post columnist and great friend of Inside Pitch Mike Vaccaro said Girardi has continued to roll the dice and they finally came up craps.

Daily News columnist Bill Madden had an interesting pregame chat with an unnamed scout that foreshadowed Girardi's braincramp.

How about the Angels giving A-Rod that intentional walk in the ninth? Mike Scioscia might have been skewered the way Girardi is getting it today if that didn't work out.

---Mike Harrington


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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 |

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 |