Baby Bombers roll to third straight win

Staten Island Yankee starter Shaffer Hall prepares to deliver pitch.

Staten Island Yankee starter Shaeffer Hall prepares to deliver pitch.

STATEN ISLAND, NY-It took a while but things are finally coming together for the Baby Bombers (4-6), who posted a third straight win by taking care of the Ironbirds 5-2 in front of a packed house (7,171) at Richmond County Bank Ball Park in St. George.

“It’s been a great couple of days,” said third baseman Rob Lyerly in the winner’s dugout following a three hit night. “We just gotta keep rolling here.”

One of those hits (leadoff double) started a two-run third that put the Bombers ahead to stay. He scored the go-ahead run on Kelvin Castro’s RBI single. With 1-2 punch Jim Paredes and Castro in scoring position, center fielder Zolio Almonte tagged one to the right field track but Aberdeen’s Jason Rook perfectly timed it taking away a home run. Instead, each runner got back to the bases tagging up with Paredes easily scoring to make it 3-1.

“I was fortunate. I had to struggle a little bit. So hopefully, I get rolling,” Lyerly modestly noted while heaping praise on the Staten Island pitchers, who nursed a one-run lead until first baseman Lyle Murton delivered two huge insurance runs when he crushed a two out eighth inning two-run home run to deep left that wound up as the final margin.

Staten Island got a solid outing from Shaeffer Hall, who worked the first four and two thirds splitting a pair of runs while striking out seven. Most impressive was the southpaw’s command tossing 52 of 70 pitches for strikes.

“I just went out there and I felt really good. Just being able to throw in front of the home crowd, it was really nice,” he said.

Overall, I felt good. All my pitches were working. Tried to mix in a few more change ups than I did last outing. Just trying to build every start. I wanted to be better than my first outing. … Overall, I felt really good. Got some run support and we played very well.

Hall also got help from a trio of relievers including winning pitcher Gavin Brooks (1-0), who came in with the tying run at second and got Booker to fly out to end the threat. He tossed one and a third scoreless K-ing two before giving way to Ben Watkins (2 IP, 2 H, 2 K’s) and Ryan Flannery, who closed it for his first save.

“The pitchers pitched great once again. They’ve been dealing. … We had only a one-run lead but they kept getting people out inning after inning after inning,” Lyerly pointed out.

“They did a great job. They did what they were supposed to do out there. They threw strikes. I know I had a couple of errors. Should have made a couple of plays that I didn’t make. But they did a great job throwing the ball there,” added Murton.

Still nursing a 3-2 lead, the Bombers blew a chance to pad it leaving the bases loaded in the seventh. However, they finally got the key insurance when Murton went yard with a runner on the next inning.

“It felt really good. Obviously, it was my first professional home run which was  nice to get it out of the way. … It was good to come up in the eighth inning with two outs and able to get a couple of insurance runs.”

Following Murton’s second miscue of the night, Flannery picked his teammate up by getting the final out with the first baseman appropriately enough, atoning with an unassisted putout.

“I think the other night made us feel a little bit better. Last night was just a great win,” Murton assessed of Staten Island’s five-run comeback in a wild 8-7 walkoff that saw them score six in the final two innings.

“The pitchers have been pitching great all year. And to pick them up yesterday. To comeback and win the game, it gave our team a lot of confidence. It gave our pitchers confidence that they’re gonna get the job done cause we’d struggled. And we know that they’re gonna get the job done for us if we struggle.”

“Come out. Take advantage of another good hitting performance and another good pitching performance. And come out with a win.”

Notes: Staten Island wraps up the six-game homestand later tonight when they aim for the sweep versus Aberdeen with first pitch at 7 PM. They’ll then kickoff a rare home-and-home by traveling to archrival Lowell for three before the Spinners visit the Ferry Terminal for three beginning on the Fourth of July with plenty of fireworks to follow. … S.I. Yanks have soldout four of the first five games. They had 16 sellouts last season.

… Of Paredes and Castro who wreaked havoc at the top of the order combining to go 4-for-6 with two runs along with two walks and a stolen base (Paredes 5th), Murton stated:

“Those guys are awesome. Once they get on base, they wreak havoc. Like tonight, Jimmy stole the first pitch. Foul ball. Next pitch, he goes and steals again. They’ve done a great job for us. They’ve been awesome.”

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The Beginning of the End

Editor’s Note: This is the first in a series for a special project.

They had just lost a memorable World Series in dramatic fashion coming oh so close to four in a row and five world championships in six years. But when Luis Gonzalez got just enough of a Mariano Rivera cutter floating it into the outfield for the winning run, it wasn’t to be as the Diamondbacks stormed out of the dugout to celebrate a thrilling come from behind 3-2 Game Seven win beating the game’s best on the grandest stage.

Just like that, then rookie second baseman Alfonso Soriano’s eighth inning leadoff solo home run off a tired Curt Schilling meant nothing as did all the second guessing from Fox baseball analyst Tim McCarver on Arizona manager Bob Brenly staying with his starter too long. Instead, Arizona had done the unthinkable rallying for a pair off Rivera to win the 2001 World Series.

Though they fell short, the Yankees had fought valiantly and done New Yorkers proud in an epic series which followed that awful 9/11 tragedy. This run by Joe Torre’s resilient ballclub saw them dig out of an 0-2 hole rallying back to beat Oakland three straight highlighted on what became known as the signature moment of Derek Jeter’s career cutting off a short throw and then in one motion flipping to Jorge Posada who tagged out a standing Jeremy Giambi preventing that tying run from being scored in the seventh of Game Three.They never looked back as Rivera came onto get the final six outs saving it for Mike Mussina en route to reeling off three straight advancing to face the record setting 116 win Mariners in the ALCS.

It didn’t matter how many more wins Lou Piniella’s team had during the regular season as they were no match for the championship experience of these Yankees, who took the first two in Seattle winning the series in five to advance to a fourth consecutive World Series. Even with the dynamic duo of Schilling and Randy Johnson standing in the way, many still believed the Yanks would find a way to win doing it for a beaten up city which experienced so much pain and heartache on that fateful September day. A day no New Yorker will ever forget.

Here we were six weeks later captivated by Torre’s Yankees who just wouldn’t die and seemed destined to deliver a 27th world championship to grieving New Yorkers. They gave us a reason to believe anything was possible. Still, after the first two games in which the Diamondbacks outpitched and outscored them by a combined 13-1 permitting only six hits, it looked like the run would end quietly.

Now, they needed the next three all at The Stadium to have any realistic chance of making a four-peat possible. Even the most optimistic Yankee fans wondered if this was asking too much. A couple of rounds earlier, they’d rallied from that deficit stunning the A’s by winning twice in Oakland before returning home for a 5-3 Game Five triumph. Could they do it again?

They got a brilliant outing from Roger Clemens going seven allowing just a Reggie Sanders solo shot and two other hits while fanning nine before giving way to Rivera, who again was called on by Torre to get a six out save. It had been a clutch Scott Brosius two out RBI single a couple of innings prior which gave them the slimmest of margins. 2-1 Yankees. But with Enter Sandman in the game, he made quick work of Arizona retiring all six batters including four by strikeout. A Matt Williams ground out to Jeter was all she wrote allowing the Yanks to hang on and get back in the series.

Trailing 2-1 in the series, now came the unenviable task of having to face Schilling. Orlando Hernandez opposed him and did the job keeping the game tied at one apiece with the only runs coming on solo shots by Shane Spencer and Mark Grace an inning apart. With Hernandez done, Mike Stanton ran into trouble in the eighth allowing two runs in putting Arizona six outs away from a commanding 3-1 series lead.

At that critical juncture, Brenly took a huge risk replacing Schilling with closer Byung-Hyun Kim to try for a six out save. Asking the lesser experienced closer to get the last six seemed a bit much. However, he showed no signs of nerves striking out the side in the eighth. Now it was down to the wire. A one out opposite field Paul O’Neill base hit put the tying run to the plate but Kim reared back and struck out Bernie Williams swinging for the second out. Five outs. The Yanks were down to their last out with first baseman Tino Martinez standing in. He kept battling until he got a pitch which he drove to deep right center. Did it have the distance? Yes! Amazingly, the game was all tied. Arizona 3. Yankees 3.

It came on Halloween Night thrilling the packed house delivering hope to so many. There was no way they’d lose. Following a 1-2-3 10th by Rivera, somehow Brenly sent Kim out for a third inning. It had to be one of the most baffling decisions in postseason history. He still recorded the first two outs before Jeter came to the plate as the clock struck midnight officially making it the first ever November postseason baseball. The shortstop had already had a couple of huge moments under the spotlight including that fortunate tying homer against the Orioles in the 1996 ALCS which forever became known as the Jeffrey Maier game.

This time, Jeter would use the short porch again taking a Kim offering to deep right. No fan would need to reach out as the ball cleared the fence for a thrilling walkoff making the Yankees 4-3 winners leveling the series at two apiece. Jeter was now known as Mr. November. A nickname which has stuck with the popular shortstop who’s been there for all four championships along with six pennants.

If you thought Game Four was stunning, Game Five was even more shocking. This time, the Yanks couldn’t score against Miguel Batista. The fifth inning homers by Steve Finley and Rod Barajas had held up for eight innings with veteran Greg Swindell coming onto get the final out. Would Brenly trot out Kim once more? You betcha! Posada greeted him with a double immediately bringing back images of Game Four. But Kim them retired the next two on a ground out and a strikeout to get within an out of a 3-2 series lead back to the Desert. Only Brosius stood in the way. But much like Martinez did the night before, the battle tested veteran third baseman battled and battled fouling off pitches before drilling one into the left field seats miraculously tying the game up.

This time, an embarrassed Brenly didn’t take any chances pulling a saddened Kim in favor of veteran Mike Morgan. A few innings later, it wouldn’t matter as a Soriano walkoff hit to right scored Chuck Knoblauch to give the Yankees another unbelievable come from behind victory.

Three straight wins. One more and they’d make history. Instead, two nights later the Diamondbacks destroyed them in Game Six hammering Andy Pettite for six runs in two innings before the pen got shellacked in a 15-2 laugher with the Big Unit working seven allowing two earned while K-ing seven for his second win of the series.

In their three wins all at home, Arizona had outscored the Yankees by a ridiculous 28-3 margin reminding many of the 1960 series which didn’t end well for the Yanks who had pounded the Pirates in three wins only to watch Bill Mazeroski walkoff in dramatic fashion for the only Game Seven World Series ending home run in history.

I can easily recall even my closest Yankee friend Ivan having zero faith in them being able to defeat Schilling in Game Seven with Clemens opposing him. One of those rare classic pitching match-ups you dream about before all the steroid allegations became public. Unlike him, I believed. Usually, I was the one who was negative but something about this team made me think they could still pull it off. They nearly would.

The Diamondbacks had squeaked out a run in the sixth but the Yanks came right back thanks to a one out RBI single from Martinez plating Jeter. Clemens had done his part striking out 10 in six and a third matching Schilling- a right handed flamethrower cut from the same mold pitch for pitch. After much criticism, Brenly decided not to go to his pen sending his ace out for the eighth. That’s when Soriano connected taking him yard to deep left putting the Yankees six outs away from what felt like their destiny. But this wasn’t about them as much as it was about the city of New York who needed this to recover from that dreadful disaster which still remains empty to this day. A sore spot for anyone who lives here.

The Yankees were going to win. Rivera came on in the eighth once more pitching around a two out hit by striking out Denny Bautista swinging to fan the side. Three outs to go. After the Yankee bats went quietly against Johnson in the ninth, Mo gave up a leadoff single to Grace up the middle. Everyone knew Arizona would sacrifice including Rivera, who had always been a great fielder. When the bunt came right back to him, he had a play at second. Unlike so many times where he makes the throw in his sleep starting a conventional 1-6-3 double play, he threw wildly allowing both runners to be safe with nobody out.

By now, you were getting uncomfortable. How could even the great Mariano wiggle out of this one? But then Jay Bell’s sacrifice failed to advance the runners with Rivera taking the out at third. One away. Two to go. Just when it felt safe to breathe easier, Tony Womack delivered a tying RBI double to right putting the winning run 90 feet away. Then the normally unflappable Yankee closer hit Craig Counsell to load the bases setting up the force at home. You still felt like he could somehow escape the dire situation and get the game to extras. But it wasn’t to be as Gonzalez got just enough of his broken bat on Rivera’s bread and butter putting it out of the middle infielders’ reach allowing the Diamondbacks to celebrate on their home field.

Even as a Yankee fan, I had to admit they’d earned it beating our best to conclude one of the most memorable World Series ever. Even if my team had fallen a little short, they had shown the heart of a champion which was what Yankee fans loved about those teams. They epitomized every hardworking New Yorker.

Even though they’d lost, I’d never felt prouder of them. As much as it stung, this was still one of those series you could hang your hat on.

Who knew at the time it would really be the last in which they were so close? Significant changes were on the way. O’Neill and Brosius would retire and Martinez was replaced by former Oakland MVP slugger Jason Giambi signaling the beginning of the end.

With a brand new network coming, the Yankees soon became transfixed on flexing their muscles by outbidding other teams on the biggest stars with Giambi becoming the first signing a preposterous seven-year $120 million deal.

There’s one quote which shall always standout about the competitiveness of George Steinbrenner which came moments following his team’s crushing loss in Arizona.

“I’m not a good loser. I believe in what Ernest Hemingway said: ‘The way you get to be a good loser is practice, and I don’t want to practice.”‘

Any Yankee fan could understand Steinbrenner’s sentiments. He was a perfectionist. In his world, losing was unacceptable. While it’s true you should have passionate owners like him who care about winning, it’s impossible to win every year.

Why mess with a winning formula which had brought them so much success mixing stars with solid fundamental players who knew what it took to win?

It’s one which continues to haunt the current Yankees who are headed for their first postseason miss since 1993.

Sometimes, the best moves you make are the ones you don’t.

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-The amazing Mets continued their clutch stretch play thanks to a two out ninth inning rally coming from a run down against shaky Florida closer Kevin Gregg. After he retired the first couple, ex-Marlin Luis Castillo kept it alive with a two strike single followed by a David Wright base hit. Gregg then hit the dangerous Carlos Delgado with the first offering loading the bases for Carlos Beltran. As unclutch a big name star in this town with only the chronicles of Alex Rodriguez worse, the $119 million center fielder drove the first pitch he saw over the right field wall for a go-ahead grand slam which WFAN play-by-play man Howie Rose nearly orgasmed to.

Did we just say that? Well, I was in the car and he did. Sometimes, you get the impression the Met announcers think this is some sorta miracle that the NL’s highest payroll is winning these kind of big games and now up two games over the reeling Phillies with a month to go. Granted. The Mets have had their share of injuries but you want to talk about over the top. Rose and Co. have lost their minds. If they sugarcoated anymore, you’d think they were adding even more sugar to a batch of cookies.

Take nothing away from Jerry Manuel’s club’s resiliency. They deserve to be where they are atop the NL East. But why shouldn’t they be? The Phillies are very flawed as proven with that eighth inning implosion in which Delgado tied it with a homer followed by a couple of more big hits including by David Murphy. They just don’t have enough pitching and their big hitters come up pretty soft in big spots. Paging Chase Utley and Pat Burrell. Jimmy Rollins is no better. Ryan Howard’s hit or miss literally. Honestly, the two guys I’d fear in a big spot are outfield overachievers Jayson Werth and Shane Victorino as they always seem to be in the middle of a comeback.

As for the fading Marlins, they’ve always been a flawed team due to the lack of fundamentals in the field and at the plate. Have you ever in your life seen a more undisciplined free swinging team which struck out more than Fredi Gonzalez’ bunch? Unless the ultra talented Hanley Ramirez matures and Dan Uggla (soon to be renamed Uggly for his dreadful 2nd half and fielding), they’ll continue to fail in big spots. As for their pen, Gonzalez deserves plenty of criticism for sticking with Gregg when he’s continually choked away leads blowing game after game to put them seven out. How in the world did he not send out ex-Met Matt Lindstrom for the ninth when he needed only five pitches to record the final out of the eighth? Just call it a case of bad managing 101. When your team desperately needs a game as much as his did, you don’t always stay conventional and remain loyal to struggling performers.

Precisely why managing by the book is vastly overrated.

Not surprisingly, the Marlins nearly tied it with a two out rally of their own scoring twice off Luis Ayala before he finally got Wes Helms to bounce out to short stranding the tying run at third and winning run at second. Does this mean the luster is finally off the ex-Nat pickup as temporary closer for the Mets? Who knows? Manuel is mixing and matching doing the best he can because he doesn’t got much no thanks to Omar Minaya. If the Mets do fall short, it won’t be for lack of heart cause they got plenty of that. But due to a pen which makes every Amazin fan squeamish.

Still, they should have enough to win the division. Especially with Jose Reyes playing well while Wright and Delgado rake. With plenty of contributions from unsung heroes such as Damion Easley, Murphy and even light hitting defensive catcher Brian Schneider who amazingly enough has gotten a couple of more big hits than A-Rod the past two months, they should score enough runs to support a superior staff led by Johan Santana, Oliver Perez and Mike Pelfrey. Now if only they could get Pedro back on track.

-I know it’s a few days late but what you saw from Joe Girardi’s Yankees those first couple of crucial games against the Red Sox was really how it’s been all year. They just never come up with the big hit or even the big pitches. It’s easy to point the finger at last year’s MVP along with Jason Giambi, who at least saved them the humiliation of a sweep driving in all three Thursday. However, it’s awfully hard not to get on Andy Pettite for his poor showing in such a big spot. To be outpitched by old and older knuckler Tim Wakefield is embarrassing. Even if a banged up Sox club didn’t hit every ball hard, there’s no excuse. Aside from that, who didn’t like that money showing by that pen in a Boston seven-run eighth featuring a Dustin Pedroia grand slam turning a close game into a laugher? Not like they couldn’t have used Kyle Farnsworth there?!?!?!?!?! Oh. That’s right. He was traded for the useless Pudge Rodriguez who looks about ready for retirement.

So, is there anyone out there who doesn’t believe the former Texas catcher didn’t cheat his way to an MVP season in 1999 and was still producing fairly well just a few years ago? I’ve always liked Pudge and he does belong in Cooperstown when it’s done but it’s very hard for me not to think he did something out of the ordinary to manufacture those numbers.

-Whoever would’ve believed that Carl “DL” Pavano would actually be 2-0 after two outings even outpitching Yankee killer A.J. Burnett last night?

-It’s not often you see Andy Roddick outslugged from the baseline but finding a way to persevere and pull out a well earned four set win over the other birthday boy six years younger talented Latvian Ernests Gulbis. Especially when the now 26 year-old American was dangerously close to being down two sets just a couple of points before reeling off the next seven games to assume control. Who knows. Maybe this big win gets the former 2003 U.S. Open champ going for a run and possible quarterfinal against No.3 ranked Serb Novak Djokovic. Who wouldn’t want to see that come down with probably Roger Federer waiting in the wings for the semis? In a year where the final tennis grand slam doesn’t have quite as much appeal on the women’s side with former champ Maria Sharapova sidelined and French Open winner Ana Ivanovic losing in the second round to a little known Frenchwoman, they sure could use the best players on the men’s side to go far.

-I don’t care about who Djokovic “hooked up” with at the Olympics in Beijing. What I want to know is why hasn’t he asked countrywoman Ivanovic out yet? At least it might better explain her poor second half bad thumb and all.

-When Osi Umenyiora went down during last week’s meaningless exhibition versus Brett Favre and the Jets, of course it was said not to be that serious due to the first MRI coming back negative. But anyone who saw the way the Giant sack leader landed had to know better. By the next day not surprisingly, he was done for the year putting a damper on Big Blue’s Super Bowl defense. There ya had it again. Just another reason there are too many NFL preseason games. How many times have you seen a big name star go down before the first real snap? Football more than any other sport can be brutal to its fans. This was just the latest example. Does it all end for the Giants now? Not really cause even if Michael Strahan doesn’t have his “heart in it,” they can move Mathias Kiwanuka back to his original position and get plenty from rising pass rusher Justin Tuck. I still think Steve Spagnuolo finds a way to keep his attacking D a step ahead. Especially with a secondary which should be improved with promising rookie Kenny Phillips. As much as we look at the D, the offense doesn’t have any injuries and should put up points. This is now Eli Manning’s team and time. I expect him to step up.

If there’s an area to be concerned over, it’s the kicking game where they don’t know if NFC championship hero Lawrence Tynes will be ready for next week’s opener versus the Redskins. Given how poorly Josh Huston has performed, they better get Tynes back sooner rather than later.

-It ain’t often they do something right but kudos to the Knicks for acquiring Patrick Ewing, Jr. from the Rockets in exchange for <gulp> all-time draft bust Frederic Weis. Where’s Ed Tapscott these days anyway?

-Is Chad Johnson plain crazy having his name legally changed to Chad Javon Ocho Cinco or just taken too many hits to the head? Here’s the link.

-Mike Lupica’s correct that the Yanks salvaging that final game versus Boston felt more like “saving face” than saving their season. However, the Daily News know it all columnist is quite wrong if he actually believes the best way for them to field a World Series contender in their new Stadium next year is to spend, spend, spend. That change in philosophy is what turned a once modern day dynasty into a colossal disappointment with little to no chemistry continuing to head the wrong way.

-Only in the NL West could the defending NL champion Rockies who improved to eight under .500 (64-72) thanks to a pair of Garrett Atkins homers and five RBI’s in a 9-4 road win over the Padres still be within six of the first place Diamondbacks. Who says history can’t repeat?

-I liked Barack Obama’s speech 45 years to the day after Dr. Martin Luther King’s historic “I Have A Dream” speech in accepting the Democratic Presidential nomination in Denver. However, what the heck were they thinking turning it into that fake Washington cathedral stage?!?!?!?!?!

-And finally, here’s a cool sports video on YouTube I just can’t get enough of of Olympic triple world record gold medalist Jamaican runner Usain “Lightning” Bolt featuring hilarious commentary.

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Somewhere

Lately, I just haven’t felt like writing about sports. I’ve stopped covering games and just don’t have the passion to write about what everyone knows. The Yanks suck and have zero heart while the Mets are the polar opposite and resilient as ever evidenced by last night’s eighth inning comeback over the Phillies. Kudos to them as they haven’t played like dead men walking as opposed to what’s taken place in the Bronx in what will be a very quiet and sad chapter closing the only Yankee Stadium.
One of these days, I’ll get motivated again and give everything and more. I just don’t want to half ass it. For now, another lyrical writeup waxing poetic which is how it’s gone lately.

“Somewhere”
by Derek Felix AKA D Flex

Somewhere you stand all alone
Smiling and laughing in your new home
You’re one of those cuties I used to know
And there ya are in your glory fully grown

Someone who’s clearly in touch with herself
And doesn’t need all sorts of wealth
Just fun, happiness and lots of health
Which explains why you smile even by yourself

Cause you’ve got it going on in more ways than one
That’s your beauty and why you’re in the zone
Nobody can ever rain down telling ya you’re done
Until you decide what you want cause you finally won

This is your entertaining kinda game
That keeps ‘em guessing in your domain
Cause lately you’ve been all in my brain
A couple of years later and still not the same

Somewhere you are like a shooting star
Living it up way too far
Driving your fancy car
While getting songs played on the guitar

You attract ‘em like magnets who want to stick like glue
Fantasizing of doing it every which way to you
While you call out as their wishful dreams ring true
But there you stand grinning cause they ain’t nothing but fools

You’re playing them better than ya ever had before
Yet they still get down on their knees begging for more
The next victim quickly knocks on your door
Then leaves knowing it meant nothing to ya

You always were smooth like butter on a roll
No wonder I wanted to take ya against the pole
At the time I didn’t know it was all just for show
And here we are later and it’s still taking a toll

Somewhere you stand in all your glory
While I ponder what’s been your story
Has it been everything and more without fury
Or is there something I didn’t envision making it blurry

Only you aren’t giving any warning signs
Instead just looking as good as ever feeling fine
Relaxing and taking it all in while sipping wine
If only God knew how much I wanted to make ya mine

Maybe it wouldn’t be so hard if I’d played along
Then perhaps I’d be hearing a different song
Instead the same tune plays in my head reminding me what went wrong
It’s why I still look around wishing for a new dawn

Finally there’d be a way to make things right
All these months later you’d still look out of sight
With the moonlight shining down on your face making you bright
Lighting up the night making me want to take you home tonight

Somewhere you’re sitting in your room
Cool and calm as ever in full bloom
Knowing full well in your world there’s never any doom
Where every night is perfect with a full moon

You always had such a nice way
Giving off the right vibes and knowing what to say
But there I stood older and confused on any day
Studying and admiring your eyes which could make it May

Enjoying the flirtation and that reassuring pretty smile
Always wishing I could stay for a while
Fast forward and here I am going mile after mile
Longing to run into you walking down an aisle

Knowing full well I already had my chance
But never really took it due to circumstance
Why does my conscience always take this sorta stance
Can still see you smiling and getting down while ya dance

Somewhere the party goes on
Somewhere it’s happening till the break of dawn
Somewhere you’re the center of it so well known
Somewhere I sit with my mind wandering totally withdrawn
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-It was a mixed night for both New York ballclubs. Let’s start with the positive if you can call hanging on for dear life against the lowly Padres that as the Mets did in a 6-5 win to kick off a vital six-game homestand on the right foot. Most of the offense was supplied by resurgent left fielder Fernando Tatis, who slugged two home runs including a huge two out three-run go-ahead shot in the home sixth which put the Mets up 4-2. The Mets tacked on a couple of key insurance tallies including a Nick Evans eighth inning run scoring double which wound up being the difference due to the pen. Though Aaron Heilman wasn’t helped much by his defense as he attempted to close out the game with Billy Wagner on the DL, he still served up a three-run homer to Jody Gerut which suddenly made it a nerve wracking one-run game with still a couple of outs to get. Jerry Manuel opted for Joe Smith to get the second out and then lefty Scott Schoeneweis came on to pop out Brian Giles to deep center on one pitch notching the save.

-Still, it was an important win snapping a four-game skid and allowing the Mets to regain some momentum as they also gained a game on the first place Phillies, who dropped an 8-2 contest to visiting Florida, who pulled within a game and a half while the Amazin’s are two behind. They need to go at least 4-2 on this stand against the Padres and Marlins to feel good about themselves as the stretch drive nears closer.

-There was no such encouraging news for the other New York team as the Yankees again lost in Texas- this time falling 8-6 despite a Richie Sexson eighth inning grand salami which at least made the outcome respectable. Truthfully, the Rangers aren’t a bad team and in fact are just a game and a half worse now than those Yanks in that wild card race. AL MVP candidate Josh Hamilton did some damage hitting his 27th home run off an ineffective Andy Pettite, who lasted only five while permitting five earned. Struggling rookie David Robertson and Brian Bruney provided little relief allowing three more Rangers to come home highlighted by a Chris Davis two-run double in the seventh that was the difference. The rookie knocked in half his team’s output as Texas captured the first two of the four-game set.

-That combined with a damaging walkoff defeat the previous night where Marlon Byrd got the better of Damaso Marte for a winning slam has New York seeing red. Boston won as Jason Bay had four hits and four RBI’s in an 8-2 win over the Royals increasing their WC lead to 3.5 over the Bronx Bombers. Oh btw…with the Twins and White Sox deadlocked in the AL Central both with superior records, the Yanks will also have to jump over them as well with Texas hot on the trail and even Toronto lurking in the background. They better get it in high gear soon or it really will be first October in 14 years without the Pinstripes closing out the House That Ruth Built for good earlier than expected.

-The worse news is that budding young ace Joba Chamberlain left Monday’s game in the fifth with shoulder tightness and already will miss his next turn in the rotation. Following an MRI, he’ll be reevaluated by Dr. James Andrews later today. Yankee brass and supporters better keep their fingers crossed it’s not too serious as they can ill afford to lose the 22 year-old former No.1 draft choice for an extended period. Especially when their staff is so thin after Pettite and rejuvenated vet Mike Mussina. Are you putting a lot of faith in veteran Sidney Ponson and the unheralded Darrell Rasner? Speaking of Ponson, he’ll face his former team tonight trying to give the Yanks a much needed jolt. So, who gets Joba’s next start? Ian Kennedy? He’s pitched well lately in Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. You’d think it would make sense to recall the rookie and give him another shot over say Japanese failure Kei Igawa or <gulp> Carl Pavano.

-I’m no genius here but good California buddy Brian Sanborn informed me that ESPN SC showed the replay of Prince Fielder getting into it with teammate Manny Parra over and over again. Why must they always show such replays of something negative when a younger audience just might be watching all their shows? Because if you know the biz as I have come to, it’s all about the most evil word in TV. RATING$. They don’t care just as you watch. When is enough enough? Sad to say but we all know the answer…

-Brett Favre’s back with Green Bay but won’t be for long. The question is if you were them, would you deal the legendary quarterback who’s meant so much to their franchise to the bitter rival Vikings? Tough question to answer. Personally, I think they should call the shots here for the reinstated 38 year-old future Hall of Famer. Unfortunately, that’s not going to happen anytime soon. Don’t expect a happy ending made for Hollywood.

-Remember when the Phillies were supposed to miss former center fielder Aaron Rowand, who left for greener pastures in San Fran? Truthfully, he’s not performing badly but given how well the gritty Shane Victorino is swinging the bat these days, they aren’t missing Rowand all too much:

Aaron Rowand

Shane Victorino

-Who would ever believe that Evan Longoria would become the leader of the first place Rays during his rookie season after signing a big extension? What a player!

-Alfonso Soriano missed all those games yet still leads the first place Cubs in homers slugging his 20th on a three hit, four-RBI night in an 11-7 victory over Houston. If he hadn’t gone down, 40 homers and 30 steals probably would have been locks.

-Daily News columnist Mike Lupica had another good piece in yesterday’s paper on long time Yankee catcher Jorge Posada having to be reduced to spectator status the rest of the way after undergoing successful surgery on his torn right labrum and capsule last week. It’s a good read with some very solid quotes from the 37 year-old veteran who’s been a huge part of the team’s success.

-As I noted in another entry, I really enjoyed the festivities of the final Yankee Old-Timer’s Day Saturday but when WCBS play-by-play man John Sterling actually referenced the weather holding off due to a rainy forecast as, “Once again, the sun is shining down on the Yankees,” that even got me. Talk about being overly dramatic.

Gee wiz.

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More HB

-The Yanks made two more deals yesterday sending Kyle Farnsworth to the Tigers for catcher Ivan Rodriguez and then saying good riddance to LaTroy Hawkins by moving the failed reliever to the Astros for Single-A infielder Matt Cusick. Trading Farnsworth is a little startling considering he had done a solid job becoming Joe Girardi’s trusted eighth inning setup man for Mariano Rivera. However, Brian Cashman had to address a pressing need upgrading at catcher with Jorge Posada getting ready for season-ending surgery. So, acquiring the 36 year-old 14 year All-Star and 13-time Gold Glover was understandable cause while Jose Molina is an outstanding defensive backstop, he’s basically an automatic out at the plate. Clearly, Pudge isn’t the player he used to be when on the juice but he’s still a solid bat which should upgrade the Yanks’ bottom third. As for losing Hawkins, nobody ever got that signing to begin with. Simple put. Addition by subtraction. Brian Bruney is also rehabbing there as well and could be in the mix as a replacement in the late innings.

-It’s also worth noting that on the same day they moved Farnsworth, the Yankees finally elevated relief prospect Mark Melanchon to Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre where he made a good debut tossing two perfect innings in a win which also saw Chase Wright fare well in his first start in AAA after being moved up from Trenton. However, it’s the 23 year-old Melanchon who bares following as he’s comeback strong from Tommy John surgery which forced him to miss 2007. Before this season, he was last seen on the winning mound out here in Staten Island saving the Baby Bombers’ fourth New York-Penn League championship. Baseball America still had him ranked the club’s ninth best prospect and the University of Arizona product’s done little to sway that going from High-A Tampa all the way to Triple-A this summer. Was he rushed? It’s hard to argue when he dominated in Trenton going a perfect 6-0 in 19 appearances with a 1.81 ERA plus a couple of saves. In 49 and two thirds, he allowed 32 hits while walking 12 and striking out 47. The Yanks appear to be readying both Melanchon and J.B. Cox for late August call ups. By the end of the season, the look of the Yanks’ pen could be totally revamped and much younger.
-On the field, the Bronx Bombers finally lived up to that name hammering the O’s for 13 runs in a 13-3 pasting avoiding a sweep and amazingly picking up a game on the slumping Red Sox, who again fell to the Angels 9-2 at Fenway. If you’re the Halos, you have to wonder why it’s so much easier to beat Boston in the regular season. Well, if they do trade Manny Ramirez in this proposed three-team deal which would send the big slugger to the Marlins while also involving the Pirates with Jason Bay being reported as returning to the defending champs, it might be a little easier to beat the Red Sox if they see October. No guarantee with how well the Rays are playing. They won again 3-2 over the Jays with Carlos Pena hitting a homer to go three up on the Sox and remain four ahead of the Yankees.

-Bobby Abreu was the big hitter for the Yanks slugging two home runs, scoring three and driving in three while A-Rod also went yard and Xavier Nady had a pair of hits, runs and RBI’s in support of Joba Chamberlain, who improved to 4-3 working six frames of two-run five hit ball fanning six and walking none. Even though they again struggled with Baltimore, the Yanks have to feel pretty good because they’re just a game behind the Sox for the wild card. The remaining question is whether Cashman will go out and get another starter with Seattle’s Jarrod Washburn being linked? We’ll wait and see as the deadline hits later this afternoon at 4 ET.

-As for the Mets who fell in Florida 7-5 losing two of three and falling a half game behind the Phillies, who got homers from Chase Utley and the underrated Shane Victorino in an 8-5 win over the Nats, thus far they’ve remained pat with the red hot Fernando Tatis becoming the starting left fielder. And really. What’s the point of changing something which is working with the veteran possibly in line for NL Player of the Month hitting over .400?!?!?!?!?!?! If Omar Minaya does pull off a deal, it should be for some relief help to shore up a pen which isn’t always reliable. Wouldn’t George Sherrill look good in a Met jersey setting up Billy Wagner?

-As for the game, Mike Pelfrey had a rough fourth permitting five runs to suffer his seventh defeat. Returning from Tommy John, Josh Johnson notched his first win in a couple of years working into the seventh permitting four earned on eight hits walking and K-ing a pair. He even supported himself with an RBI double in the big inning which saw the bottom of the Florida order come up with big two out RBI hits. Following a Damion Easley three-run dinger which pulled the Mets within one, All-Star second baseman Dan Uggla dialed long distance for a deciding two-run shot off Joe Smith in the eighth. The Mets didn’t go quietly against closer Kevin Gregg, who after getting the first couple allowed three straight hits including a Ramon Castro pinch hit run scoring base hit putting the potential go-ahead run at the plate in Jose Reyes. However, Reyes flied out to end it allowing Gregg to pickup his 23rd save pulling Florida closer in the NL East. Here’s a closer look:

1.Phillies 58-49 -

2.Mets  58-50 0.5

3.Marlins 57-51 1.5

Who wants it most?

-With the Manny rumors circulating in South Florida, a couple of rumored Marlins Josh Willingham and Jeremy Hermida both answered questions regarding the circus.

Willingham:

“I thought about it until about 7:05, and once the game started I was locked in on the game.”

Hermida:

“You put that aside when you step between the white lines. I’ve still got a Marlins jersey on. It didn’t affect me whatsoever.”

-As for Manny, the laid back future Hall of Famer had some fun with a sign saying he was getting traded straight up for Brett Favre. You got to love his sense of humor. :lol:

Is it a distraction for his teammates who have seen this act before? Probably not as they’ve won their first two World Series since 1918 with the guy. Remember last Fall when he said if they lose to Cleveland, it doesn’t matter or something to that effect? Of course, the media killed the former George Washington HS star for it but his team was down 3-1 and he was just trying to take the pressure off. The pressure was squarely on the Indians, who not surprisingly buckled under with Ramirez and those Sox reeling off seven straight sweeping the Rockies and bringing back images of 2004.

On whether this deal is going to happen, the Marlins denied it. Until I see it happen, I’m not buying it. Bay’s a fine player and might even be a good fit in Fenway but even if Ramirez wants out and wants a new contract, they can still win a third world title with him. He’s one of those rare star sluggers who doesn’t feel the pressure under the spotlight. If the Sox made October with him and somehow repeated, they would be called a modern day dynasty. I would go for it.

-If this Mike Jacobs for Bengie Molina rumor goes through, either it’s a ripoff like I believe or I’m just not seeing what the Marlins see here. Molina’s a solid catcher and has playoff experience. So, he’d be an upgrade behind the plate but Jacobs is six years younger and has 22 homers and 60 knocked in. It certainly would help the light hitting Giants.

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