CC Sabathia answered the bell on Thursday night in Game 1. And CC gave the Tribe the most beautiful ‘5 and fly’ you will ever see. In trouble from his first pitch to his last Sabathia gutted through 5 innings of minefields and sniper fire to leave with a 4-3 lead. The Indians responded with 8 unanswered runs to win going away, 12-3.
But make no mistake. This was not a laugher until very late. The Yankees scored early and threatened in nearly every inning that Sabathia was out there. Sabathia threw 114 pitches in sweating through his 5 innings. None were bigger than the pitches he threw to Jorge Posada in the top of the 5th inning. With the bases loaded and 1 out, Sabathia found himself down in the count 3-0 to Posada. They Yankees were threatening to not only take a lead, but to blow the game wide open.
Instead, Sabathia came back to strike out Posada and to get Hideki Matsui to pop out to Jhonny Peralta. To say the momentum swung is to do the job Sabathia did no justice. It was a game changing moment and potentially a series changing moment for both Sabathia and the Indians. The Indian put up 5 of their own n the bottom of the 5th to basically put the game away.
Perhaps more importantly was the fact that Fausto Carmona sat and watched Sabathia struggle and then overcome. This was absolutely critical in that Carmona went into Friday night’s Game 2 having watched the Indians ace get himself into a lot of trouble by being too amped up and overthrowing.
He also watched that ace never give an inch and battle back time-after-time to restore some order to the ballgame.
Carmona went out Friday night and was simply spectacular. He was poised and he was nasty and you’re not going to beat him too often when he’s all that. Consistently throwing between 94-96mph Carmona dominated a tremendous Yankee lineup. He threw 113 pitches, most of which dove down at the back foot of the Yankee right-handers. He gave up a solo to Melky Cabrera in the 3rd inning and then was never seriously threatened afterward.
Yankee starter Andy Pettitte matched Carmona zero for zero through 6 1/3 innings and it looked like an amazing outing by Carmona was going to be wasted. But in the 8th, facing tough NY reliever Joba Chamberlain it got weird. A swarm of midges descended upon Jacobs Field. Typically that’s not a big deal. But the Yankees and Chamberlain treated the bugs like they were missiles. Chamberlain was clearly bothered by the insects and wild pitched in a run scored by Grady Sizemore on a close play at the plate.
Carmona, unfazed by insects or Yankees, pitched through the 9th, striking out Alex Rodriguez with his 113th and final pitch. A Travis Hafner single with the bases loaded in the bottom of the 11th finished off an October classic and sent the fans at The Jake into a frenzy.
The game was a microcosm of October baseball. Outstanding pitching efforts, momentum changing moments and the formal arrival of a bona fide star in Carmona.
The scene shifted to the Bronx Sunday night.
The Yankees found some huge middle inning success against Tribe starter Jake Westbrook and won going away, 8-4. Despite an early lead built on a Trot Nixon HR and a couple of two out hits in the first three innings, Westbrook wasn’t able to protect the lead and the Indians offense wasn’t able to increase it. A Johnny Damon three-run HR gave the Yankees a lead they never gave back.
It’s now a series again, like it or not. And it sure doesn’t get much easier in sending Paul Byrd to the mound against a Yankee offense that found its legs Sunday night. Byrd throws strikes. The Yankees can hit. But it’s been an odd year for the Tribe in a wonderful kind of way. Surely they’d rather not come back home with a one game series to decide a berth in the ALCS against the Red Sox. But Byrd has pitched the club to some big runs this season. There’s always the chance, given this magical season, that Paul Byrd may have a little magic left to throw at the Yankees Monday night.
The Browns were beaten Sunday by the New England Patriots, 34-17. It was a game that could have been a lot closer.
Once again, there were plenty of missed opportunities, mistakes, shoddy tackling by the entire defense and terrible coverage in the defensive backfield. Derek Anderson did his best Charlie Frye impression, after impressively driving the Browns toward the Patriot goal line, when he inexplicably threw back across his body after being pressured and had his pass intercepted in the New England end zone by Junior Seau.
That was pretty much the ballgame from a competitive standpoint. The Patriots systematically increased their lead and never were seriously threatened on the scoreboard. This Cleveland team is not good enough to overcome mistakes against mediocre teams, much less elite teams. And Anderson threw three interceptions in total while Kellen Winslow lost a fumble that the Pats returned for a late touchdown.
But as I sat back and watched the entire game play out, I couldn’t help but notice a few things that bode well for the future.
This Browns offense is taking form. Despite Anderson’s errors (and let’s not forget he’s started just 6 more NFL games than you have) the guy does not quit. He did a better job today of checking down and of progressing through his reads than he did a few weeks back. You can see him improving each week. The Browns moved the ball pretty well against a tough Patriot defense all day and Braylon Edwards and Kellen Winslow continue to show big play tendencies.
The offensive line consistently opened up holes for Jason Wright, who looked good replacing Jamal Lewis after Lewis left with an injured foot after one 11yd carry.
Granted, the Patriots left some points on the field too. Which is a bit discomforting given they put up 34 as it was.
As long as you continue to see an ineffective pass rush and interior defensive line play you’re going to see linebackers making plays 5 yards from the line of scrimmage and the defensive backs being consistently hung out to dry. Sean Jones, Brodney Pool, Leigh Bodden and Eric Wright had difficult days. But how much of those bad days were attributable to them as opposed to the complete lack of a pass rush is a question that won’t be answered until next season.
Right now, you’ve got a developing offense that has shown the ability to put some points on the board. Until the defense can be addressed or improves, the Browns are going to need every single one of them.
And Just Like That …
You can criticize the schedule, you can question the strength of the ranked opponents they’ve faced, but the bottom line is the Buckeyes keep on winning and shooting up the national rankings.
Ohio State has climbed into the Top 3 in the country by playing solid, if unspectacular, football and beating all comers. And it certainly hasn’t hurt that seemingly every team ahead of them in the polls, including USC Saturday night, has come up a cropper during the season.
The Buckeyes bounced #23 Purdue in West Lafayette Saturday night 23-7 in a game that was not as close as the final score indicated (again). And they did it without a particularly good night from QB Todd Boeckman. Boeckman threw for 200 yards and two TDs but also tossed 3 interceptions on a night when the Buckeyes had neither a 100yd rusher nor a 100yd receiver.
But the Buckeyes defense didn’t give up a point until Purdue QB Curtis Painter finally found a receiver in the end zone with 10 seconds remaining in the game. Despite Painter’s 268yds passing, the dominant OSU defense continued to exert its will on opponents by holding the Boilermakers to 4 yards rushing.
Ohio State ran the ball for nearly 200 yards and Brian Hartline and Ray Small picked up Brian Robiskie for a night by each hauling in a TD catch from Boeckman. The Buckeyes scored twice early, took a 17-0 lead into the half, added on a couple field goals and then played keep away for the 2nd half.
Kent State is up next for the Buckeyes. The Golden Flashes come in with a 3-3 record and a loss to Miami (OH) this past weekend. I’m not sure if it’s Homecoming at OSU this coming Saturday, but if not it should be.
This has been a strange season. It would be downright crazy if the Buckeyes didn’t steamroll Kent State Saturday afternoon. And after they do the fun truly starts for Ohio State. Fur straight games of higher quality Big 10 teams plus the season ender against Michigan. With a BCS and possible second consecutive National Championship game as the payoff.