Let's take a quick look at the New York papers this morning as the Yankees stopped the bleeding last night and earned a much-needed win against the front-running Red Sox.
New York Post:
While Johnny Damon was mostly humble in his comments to the media after his home run heroics, he did manage to slip a little bravado into his exchange with the New York Post's Kevin Kernan:
Damon is not about to get into with Boston ownership, he has moved on and said he is happy in his new home, but he did make this point after his big home run.
"It's taken a number of players to replace me," Damon said of the Red Sox. "I'm Johnny [Bleeping] Damon."
Damon was smiling when he said his name, but the message was clear.
His career is not dead, and now that his legs are feeling good, he expects to energize the Yankees from the leadoff spot, just like he did for the Red Sox when he helped them win the World Series in 2004.
George King doesn't think the Red Sox have run away with the division and has Damon saying all that matters is getting into the postseason:
For what it's worth, the Yankees reduced the Red Sox' AL East lead to seven games, though nobody in pinstripes will admit the Red Sox are off the leash and aren't coming back. Even the biggest self-hating Red Sox fan doesn't believe they will gag on the comfortable advantage this late in the dance.
However, that doesn't mean the Yankees don't have a door into October. They trail the wild card-leading Mariners by one game after Seattle's 10-6 loss last night to the Angels.
"I don't think it matters how you get in," said Damon, who won a World Series title with the Red Sox in 2004 as a wild-card qualifier. "Just get in and the team that gets hot at the right time is the team that wins."
Mike Lupica writes that the Red Sox’ recent extension of their lead in the division has taken some of the luster off last night's win for the Yankees:
Finally Joba Chamberlain threw a dirty sinking thing on 3-2 to J.D. Drew and Drew waved at it like he was conducting the Pops and then Chamberlain ran into an even louder sound than he has been getting at the Stadium because this time the big eighth-inning outs had been against the Red Sox. Yankees 5, Red Sox 3. A good Yankee night when they needed one badly.
Just not the night it looked like it could be after the Yankees had cut Boston's lead to four games the Sunday before last. Not that kind of Yankee-Red Sox night at Yankee Stadium.
Lupica also has a looks at Damon not living up to expectations in just his second season in New York:
It is only Damon's second year in New York and already people have forgotten how big a deal it was supposed to be, the Red Sox losing him and the Yankees getting him. He broke in here like a star. Then he got hurt this year, had bad legs and a sore back and you heard his contract, for more than $50 million over four years, talked about the way the back end of Jason Giambi's contract is talked about, and Kei Igawa's, and even Carl Pavano's. Damon was another who was brought here to win the Yankees a championship the way he had done that in Boston, and early in this season he looked old and shot.
"Everybody's been in that boat," Joe Torre said in his office, "trying to play when you don't feel so well."
Damon still can't throw worth a lick, but never could. At least he is running balls down in the outfield, from left field last night with Hideki Matsui being used as DH. And Damon made the kind of swing from the leadoff spot he has been making for a long time. Good time for it, and about time.
"It's awful going out there knowing what everybody expects of you and not being able to do it," Damon said.
Then he said, "I was always a guy who could chase down fly balls. But when you don't have your legs underneath you, you start to worry."
Lisa Olson writes that the race for the pennant has just begun:
To the rest of the league, Boston is close to golden at every spot. Any other season and reliever Eric Gagne would've been nailed to the Green Monster after his horrendous post-trading deadline performances, while right fielder J.D. Drew would've been tossed into the Charles River. Boston fans, as usual, don't have to look beyond their fingertips to find fault with their team, and so it was that when Drew came to bat against Chamberlain, with two runners on and the Sox trailing by two, the light on a Boston reporter's laptop signaled new mail.
The subject line: Stand There Drew. And so it was that Drew, the go-ahead run, looked like a woodchopper who had lost his ax as he swung in vain at Chamberlain's fastballs. Mariano Rivera did what he does best to close out the ninth.
"He's got a good arm," Francona said of Chamberlain. "A very good slider."
The Yankees and Red Sox never fail to disappoint, the rivalry almost always unveiling something new. If it's not a pennant race in full, it's only because the starter's gun just went off.
Wallace Matthews writes that the Joba rules need to be broken and throws out the idea of having Yankee phenom Joba Chamberlain take Mike Mussina's spot in the rotation:
Yes, we are all well aware of the Joba Rules. He works an inning, he gets a day off. Kind of like a sportswriter. As Cashman said, "I'm not going to compromise this young man's health to win a couple of ballgames."
He tossed this off about as dismissively as Mussina tossed out his question Thursday.
He also had some other reasons for not moving Chamberlain back to his intended spot. He didn't want to shuffle the kid with the golden arm from starter to reliever back to starter again. He didn't want to expose him at the tender age of 21 to the pressures of a pennant race in the Bronx. After three weeks of spot middle relief, he wasn't sure the kid was in shape to throw 80 or 90 pitches a game.
But why not? Compromising just about anything to get into the postseason has always been the Yankee Way. When did that get supplanted by the Joba Rules? Besides, Chamberlian has been groomed to be a starting pitcher in the major leagues since the Yankees picked him in the second round of the 2006 draft. Twenty spots behind, incidentally, Ian Kennedy. Now, it seems that Kennedy is being handed a spot in the rotation precisely because he is less highly regarded than Chamberlain. With no margin for error and a starting rotation made up of 3 1/2 pitchers, the Yankees are trusting their October to a kid who has yet to pitch an inning of major-league ball.