Having literally beaten the Tigers about the head and neck in the first game of their current series, the Yankees must now face two of the best road pitchers in baseball, Mike Maroth (2.03 ERA seventh in the AL among pitchers with three or more road starts, 0.84 WHIP) and Jeremy Bonderman (1.50 ERA fifth in the majors, 0.58 WHIP, 20:1 K/BB) with the task of beating one of them to claim their sixth-straight series victory and avoid entering this weekend's Red Sox series on two-game losing streak.
Speaking of the Sox, they fell to the Blue Jays last night on a walk-off home run by Reed Johnson (his second dinger of the game) off Alan Embree, allowing the Yankees (still tied with the Jays, of course) to creep within 1.5 games. Thus a series win against Detroit would also put the Yankees in position to pass the Scarlet Hosers with a weekend sweep regardless of what the Sox do between now and then.
The current price of the wild card . . . [is] equivalent to 94 wins, so expecting the Yankees to get there would be equivalent to saying we believe that the team is capable of going 71-47 the rest of the way, a .602 pace. Forty-seven of those games will come against the Red Sox (13), Orioles (12), Angels (7), Twins (6), White Sox (6), and Cardinals (3). Say the Yankees win one more than the lose against those clubs. They would then need to win two-thirds of their remaining games to maintain that .602 pace.
In other words, split with the good teams (the Yanks are 3-3 against the Sox thus far this season, though the O's and Angels have had their way with them), and win series against the rest. [Incidentally, Goldman's book on Casey Stengel is finally available for purchase. Also recommended reading: his review of Star Wars: Episode III in today's Pinstriped Blog]
Defending the home turf tonight is Chien-Ming Wang, who hasn't pitched since last Monday when he set down eighteen-straight Mariners while picking up his second straight win. Wang was bumped from his scheduled start on Sunday against Pedro Martinez and the Mets in favor of Carl Pavano, who turned in a fine performance of his own after early-inning struggles.
We can now see that that move was made not only to get Pavano in against the Mets, but to get Mike Mussina (who started in front of Wang yesterday on five day's rest) in against the Red Sox this weekend. That's certainly understandable considering how keyed in Moose has been of late and the fact that he generally does well against the Sox, but it carries the risk of the long rest resulting in a poor performance from Wang tonight that could aversely affect his standing in the rotation, which could lead to future skipped starts, snowballing into his being demoted if/when Jaret Wright ever comes back. Here's hoping that Wang performs up the standard he's set for himself tonight (6+IP, 3 or fewer runs), or, failing that, that Torre and Stottlemyre recognize the effect of the long rest give him a mulligan. Lastly, Wang's strikeout total to beat tonight is four. Tiger vs. the Tigers. As Alex says . . .