The Rivalry lives
For these three nights, let's forget about the standings. The Red Sox are in New York, and this is still about who's the best in the Super Heavyweight Division of the AL East.
Last night was a reminder that the road to a championship goes through New York. It was a grind-it-out affair, with the Sox staging two comebacks and a man who knows the rivalry better than anyone ending it with a seventh-inning homer.
Johnny Damon hasn't been at 100 percent this year. Not even close. But he's suddenly found a new home in left field and has that swing going again. His game-winning shot traveled about 315 feet. That's as far as it needed to go to instill a new dose of agita in The Nation. How many of those shots over the right-field fence did Damon hit in a Red Sox uniform? Some we'll never forget, like the grand slam in Game 7 of the 2004 ALCS. He helped the Sox get up off the mat then, and he's trying to do the same for the Yankees now.
We got our first look at Joba Chamberlain, the 21-year old phenom who started the year in Single A. Say what you will about J.D. Drew this season, but there isn't a hitter in this league that wouldn't have been baffled by a sequence of 98-mph paint on the corner followed by a 90-mph slider from hell.
Remember all the fun you had at Mariano Rivera's expense back in April? No one's laughing now. That cutter is as filthy as ever, shattering bats ... and dreams of a ninth-inning comeback.
In last night's pregame show, we asked if fans thought the Yankees would make the playoffs. The overwhelming majority of you said no.
I beg to differ. The Mariners have been the trendy pick, but they blew a 5-0 first-inning lead last night and are clinging to a one-game lead in the wild card. They've got a brutally tough schedule: after trying to avoid being swept in Anaheim tonight, they hit the road for a 10-game stretch through Toronto, Yankee Stadium, and Detroit.
Come October, the Yankees will be there. And there will be no more limits on Chamberlain. The bullpen, once a weakness, is becoming strong.
That's why these games are so important. For the Red Sox, the road to a championship goes through the Bronx. Always has. After last night, it's once again obvious that beating these Yankees in a postseason series won't be easy.