Dustin Moseley almost started for the Yankees last night, and, at risk of falling victim to Michael Kay's fallacy of the predetermined outcome, the Yankees would have lost if he did. It would have meant three straight losses to Boston, and five overall. It would have meant that the magic number to clinch a playoff spot remained at three, same as it was on Friday. And it would have meant that Tampa Bay's lead in the East remained at a game and a half, with six to go.
So perhaps it's no surprise that Joe Girardi managed last night's game to win last night's game, and not just to make sure that everyone made it to next Wednesday in one piece. Phil Hughes, who was going to be skipped but would have ended up as the long man anyway, got the start instead of Moseley, and looked sharp over six-plus innings. The entire A-lineup played, and thanks to Alex Rodriguez's seventh-inning home run, generated just enough offense to put the Yankees in a position to beat Daisuke Matsuzaka. And Girardi managed his bullpen as he would in October, complete with Mariano Rivera entering the game in the eighth.
But that's where things got out of hand: The Red Sox would regain the lead on a single, two stolen bases, a single, two more stolen bases, and a sac fly. Blame it on Posada's arm, or on Rivera's inability to hold runners on, or on the slick ball, but one senses this isn't the last time we'll see this strategy this year. Rivera, by the way, has blown three saves this month, and has allowed an earned run four of his last six outings. We currently live in a scary, scary world where over the past month, Kerry Wood has been more reliable out of the bullpen than Mariano Rivera.
Of course, this one had a happy ending in the tenth: After Joba Chamberlain and Boone Logan breezed through the top half of the inning, Hideki Okajima walked in the winning run to give the Yankees the 4-3 win, despite getting to face Juan Miranda with the bases loaded instead of Mark Teixeira, who'd been lifted for a pinch runner. Girardi got his win, and no one needed to at least locate the panic button, in case it needed to be pressed later in the week. Now, the Yankees can clinch a playoff berth tonight in Toronto. A.J. Burnett pitches against Marc Rzepczynski.