The week started with a night of defense and pitcher's duels. Or was it just bad offense? On Monday, the Jets stunk up the New Meadowlands in their opener, only scoring by accident, the Yankees battled Tampa Bay for first place but lost 1-0 an 11-inning thriller and the lowly Mets beat the lowly Pirates 1-0 in 10 innings. I feverish flipped between all three games waiting to see who would score first, if anyone. Nick Folk and Nick Evans were the only players who came through. The rest of the week saw Derek Jeter's acting job and dropped ball at second on Friday (the Yankees sure live a charmed life), a smattering of walk-offs, a tense-yet-failed series for the Bombers in Tampa Bay, A-Rod's bomb and series win in Baltimore, a Mets four-game sweep of the Pirates, the Braves sweeping the Mets for Bobby Cox's last hurrah in Queens, the second Manning Bowl, which was also Brandon Jacobs Commemorative Helmet Night (and that's the last you'll hear of the in this post) and the Jets winning convincingly over the Pats despite the sore hamstring heard 'round the world. But the player who stood out the most, earning Player of the Week honors was . . .
CC Sabathia: The Yankees' hefty lefty hooked up with the Rays' David Price (is he the first left-handed pitcher to wear the number 14 since Vida Blue?) in a classic pitcher's duel that lived up to the pregame hype. Sabathia threw eight shutout innings, striking out nine while only giving up two hits. Unfortunately for him and the team, Tampa Bay won in extra innings. But on Saturday, he finally got his reward for another well-pitched game, when he lasted seven innings, allowing three runs, and became the major league's first 20-game winner. Twice Sabathia's won 19 games (2007, 2009) but never 20. His record now stands at 20-6, with a 3.05 ERA and 1.18 WHIP. He's proving to be the anti-Ed Whitson (or Kevin Brown, or Carl Pavano, or . . .), earning his money while thriving in the New York City limelight.
Runners Up & Other Notables
Mark Sanchez: The young, beleaguered QB could have been the winner, but both Jets games were played this week so both performances qualify - one awful (though the beyond conservative play calling had something to do with that) and one fantastic. We'll completely skip last Monday's debacle and concentrate on his bounce-back game, which was probably the best of Sanchez's career. And anytime Tom Brady gets outplayed and loses to a New York team is worth mentioning (and we can't forget beating Bill Belichick always leaves us with a warm and sunny feeling, and brings to mind a line from The Office: "Ever wonder what a rainbow tastes like?"). Yesterday Sanchez threw a career-high three touchdown passes with zero picks, and efficiently completed 21 of 30 passes for 220 yards. He went from disaster with all of New York and New Jersey in full panic mode to outstanding in a span of six short days.
Dustin Keller/LaDainian Tomlinson/Nick Folk/Steve Weatherford: Again, we have two games to take into account here for the Jets, and again we'll gloss over Monday's badness. Keller redeemed himself from his bizarre last play of the game against the Ravens with a TD catch and overall productive day yesterday (seven catches, 115 yards). Tomlinson had a bounce in his step, and averaged 6.9 yards per carry (76 yards, with a 31-yard ramble). The kickers are the only Jets with two solid games, though, as Folk has started the season five for five in field goal attempts and Weatherford has been booming the ball.
Angel Pagan: The Mets non-pitching MVP this season, Pagan came up with his signature play of the year on Thursday night, when he made a Tommie Agee-like catch in right-center field and then picked himself off the ground, whirled around and threw the ball back to the infield for a double play. If Carlos Beltran is still on the team next season, he better be prepared to move to right field (or go back in time with those knees of his), though it sound like he wants no part of a position move, which is a controversy waiting to happen in March. What a difference between last year and this for Pagan. He showed he had the talent in 2009, but made one blunder after another on the base paths and in the field. This year he's eliminated the mental mistakes, improved his baseball smarts and decision-making, and is turning into a complete player. At the plate this week, Pagan batted .384, with seven RBIs.
Alex Rodriguez: With the Yankees down to their last strike on Friday night, and in danger of falling deeper into second place, A-Rod blasted a three-run homer in the pouring rain into the light stand with the cover being torn off the ball, a la Robert Redford. Ok, the scene wasn't quite that dramatic, but it was one of the biggest clutch hits in the Bombers' season. Just call him The Unnatural. That wasn't all he did this week, though, picking up the slack for the slumping Jeter and other less-than-productive teammates. In the six games played this week, A-Rod banged out seven hits, smoked three homers and drove in six.
Robinson Cano/Curtis Granderson: Cano and Granderson joined A-Rod in tearing the cover off the ball this week. The smooth second baseman had one multi-hit game after another and moved past the 100 RBI mark. He batted a whopping .520, with two home runs and seven RBIs. Granderson also had a fine week, with two long balls, six RBIs and seven runs scored.
Andy Pettitte: He's back and not a moment too soon. The veteran lefty pitched six stellar innings in his comeback yesterday, only allowing a run on three hits. He did his job, but the best win/save combination in baseball history couldn't add to their record as Mariano Rivera couldn't hold up his end of the bargain, in a rare blown save leading to an extra-inning loss.
Mike Pelfrey/A.J. Burnett: The big, inconsistent Met right-hander notched his 15th win of the season on Thursday, making him 15-9 for the year, with a 3.84 ERA and 1.43 WHIP. And that's now six out of his last eight starts that would be considered solid, quality efforts. Is he finally finding some type of consistency? He also drove in the go-ahead run with a single. Is it my imagination or are Mets pitchers on fire at the plate this year? Jon Niese also drove in a run this week, and R.A. Dickey, (the healthy) Johan Santana and even Dillon Gee all seem to come up with a big RBI hit on a nightly basis. And as for the also-inconsistent Yankee, Burnett took the mound on Friday with a mysteriously gotten black eye (was he hanging out with K-Rod?), and the bar has been lowered so much for him that the team is doing cartwheels because he pitched seven quality innings (three runs, five Ks, one walk) against a last-place team.
Game-Winners, Broken Feet & September Call-ups: Jorge Posada and Greg Golson ended Tuesday's game with a bang. Posada hammered a towering home run for the eventual-winning run, while Golson gunned down Carl Crawford to put the finishing touches on the win. Where was Crawford going, by the way? Not a smart play. The preceding evening, Nick Evans was the hero as he singled in the winning (and only) run, in a 1-0 extra-inning affair at Citi Field, attended only be a few dozen family and friends. On Saturday, Luis Hernandez fouled a ball off his foot, and then on the next pitch smashed a home run. He could barely make it around the bases as it turned out he had a broken foot. It would have been more more dramatic had the game meant anything. Dillon Gee was impressive in his two starts this week, throwing six shutout innings on Monday against Pittsburgh, and then facing a real-live major league team on Saturday was solid again, lasting seven innings, and allowing three runs. In his three starts, he has a 1.80 ERA and 1.15 WHIP. And we can call off the suicide watch for Lucas Duda. He hit his first big-league home run on Friday, and in his last four games, he went five for 10, with three doubles and four runs driven in.
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