Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Open Mike 10-31-12 Hurricane Sandy Edition

Have no fear people we are back. Listen to this recorded edition of the Open Mike program from Halloween as Michael Cohen and guest Mike Sanfilipo discuss the impact Hurricane Sandy had on the region. Mr. Cohen opens the show talking about the issues surrounding the New York Jets football team, then Mike and Mike talk Giants football.

LISTEN HERE!

In hour two of the Open Mike program, guest Mike Sanfilipo gives Michael Cohen his take on the Jets mess, and what needs to be done to get the ship straight from Mark Sanchez to Mike Tannenbaum. The duo then talk World Series, after the San Francisco Giants four game sweep of the Detroit Tigers, and look ahead to the off-season for the New York Mets.

Listen Here!

Giants Blow 23-0 Lead, but Luck Out in Big D

GIANTS 29 
COWBOYS 24






Giants coach Tom Coughlin should remember to send a bottle of champagne or at the very worst send a Christmas card to the officials who called Sunday's Giants-Cowboys game, because if it weren't for the refs reversing a Dez Bryan touchdown with :08 seconds to go, the Giants would have limped home with a disheartening 31-29 loss.

While Bryant appeared to have touched the back of the end zone with his fingers before resting the rest of this palm in the navy colored end zone, the play was so close, you could make the case that Dallas won this game.

It was not like the Cowboys outplayed the Giants. Tony Romo made his share of mistakes in this game, but the fact that the Giants built a 23-0 lead and fell asleep only to find Dallas in front 24-23 by the end of third quarter was unspeakable.

The Giants offense struggled throughout the afternoon to move the football against a Dallas defense that, while talented is very beatable. New York managed only 11 first downs on Sunday, and watched five different drives stall and result in field goals.

Even though Big Blue built a 23-0 lead, it could have been and should have been so much more. On the Giants opening drive, Eli Manning missed Hakeem Nicks on third down at the Cowboys 23, result Giants field goal. On the Giants second possession, New York faced a third and two at the Cowboys 19, result: Ahmad Bradshaw was stopped short of the down, and the Giants kicked again.

The Giants offense was bailed out by the Big Blue's defense. They forced Tony Romo to throw four interceptions, including one to Jason Pierre-Paul who rumbled home for a 28 yard score to give the Giants a 23-0 lead. Romo would later throw a huge interception on a fourth and one at the Giants 19 with Dallas trailing 29-24. While most people forget about this pick because of the phantom Bryant touchdown, it was a huge turn of events in the game.

That being said, while it is great to see the Giants defense step up, and while it is true that the Giants were fortunate to escape with their lives from this game, this game exposed some big flaws with this football team.

All season, the Giants have gotten off to one slow start after another, only to have Eli Manning and company turn it on in the fourth quarter and lead Big Blue all the way back with a barrage of touchdown passes.

While this might be great against teams like Tampa Bay, Cleveland, and even Dallas and Washington it will not fly forever. The Giants are entering the toughest part of their schedule, and the NFC East is still up in the air.

The Giants still have the Steelers, Ravens, Eagles, Packers, Saints, Falcons, and Bengals on their schedule in the second half of the season. While these teams have their own issues, most of them will not allow the Giants offense to score at will in the fourth quarter of these games like past opponents.

If the Giants are serious about repeating as Super Bowl champions they are going to have to get their offense moving earlier in these games. They need Eli Manning to play like an MVP candidate on a more consistent basis and they need Ahmad Bradshaw to do more than just hit the hole for short two or three yard gains.

This season the Giants and Eli Manning have gotten away with too much slacking off in quarters one through three for far too long. They act bored by the regular season instead of determined, and eventually this kind of attitude is going to cost them. It should have cost them against Dallas, but the officials had another idea. Yet people are willing to give the Giants a pass because they won a Super Bowl. Everyone considers Manning a first ballot Hall of Famer, and they all consider Tom Coughlin a sure-fire Hall of Famer too. That's all nice and all, but if the Giants should lose a couple games at hte end of the year, costing them the division, you can kiss that talk good bye.

The fact is this Giants football team has been woefully inconsistent. One could argue they should have lost to the Bucs, the Redskins and Cowboys. If they did, this would be a Big Blue disaster, and nobody would be talking up the praises of this football team right now.

One of these days, the Giants high powered offense is not going to click, and at some point the Giants are going to lose a game they had to win, or should have won. Teams around the league are taking note that these World Champions are the nothing more then a team that has been more lucky than good.

On Sunday, the Giants face a Pittsburgh Steelers team that is starting to get red hot, with a defense that can slow down Manning and the Giants passing attack, and an offense that can compete with the Giants on every level. Call it the first real big test for the Super Bowl Champs in a while. If Big Blue is down in the 4th quarter don't bet on Manning and the Giants to pull this one out of the fire too. The Steelers defense, while old, is too good for that.

So yes, it is good to be 6-2, but unless things change real fast for the Giants, they could be 10-6 and barely hanging onto a playoff spot with the flick of a wrist. 

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Step One for Inept Jets: Bench Mark Sanchez Now

 DOLPHINS 30
JETS 9

The collapse that is the 2012 New York Jets is now in full flower. A season that many feared would be the ultimate disaster, thanks in part to the lack of talent on this roster put together by an unscrupulous front office, is starting to live up to its low expectations.

Sunday's 30-9 meltdown to the Dolphins at MetLife Stadium was a microcosm of what is wrong with this franchise as well as what has to be done to get this team moving in the right direction.

There is plenty of blame to go around. Special Teams was terrible Sunday; the Jets were duped on a surprise onside kick in the first quarter and watched the Dolphins block a punt for a touchdown, the second time this year the Jets have given up a blocked punt for a score.

The defense was putrid as well, allowing the Dolphins to drive at will throughout the afternoon as back-up quarterback Matt Moore made a strong case to regain his starting job after starter Ryan Tannehill was knocked out of the game on a sack.

And the offense, led by quarterback Mack Sanchez, was ... well ... keep reading.

What is most distrubing about this 2012 Jets team is the horrific play this team is getting at the quarterback position, the lousy effort this team gives on offense week in and week out, and the lack of accountability from the sidelines.

After the game all Rex Ryan could talk about was how his team had a good week of practice, and how his players will have two days off this week because of Hurricane Sandy. Did Rex forgot the Jets have a Bye Week this week? They were getting time off regardless.

The lack of accountability by Rex Ryan is appalling. He sees the ship sinking in front of him and he has done nothing to stop it. He has watched his offense become the biggest joke in football and seems almost unwilling to fix it. He has watched his once-vaunted defense become average and has no answers for it, yet this is the same man who two months ago boasted that this was his best roster ever!

Not the case. Never was.

If Ryan wants to salvage this season, he is going to have to suck up some pride and make some changes to this team. One of the changes is going to have to be with the guy behind center, Mark Sanchez.

While Sanchez can't be blamed for the poor protection that surrounds him, it is quite clear that this guy just doesn't have it. He is not a franchise quaterback, and, in fact, has never been one.

His decision-making Sunday was once again suspect as he chucked footballs into the turf below the grasp of his receivers, threw a poorly timed interception when New York was on the move toward the end zone, took one bad sack after another, and even fumbled the football, twice. The deer in the headlights look? Still there.

He doesn't seem to be learning from the mistakes he has made over the past four years, and there is no indication that he will ever learn. What the Jets are doing by leaving Sanchez in as the starting quartback is both unfair to themselves and to Sanchez, not to mention the fans. New York clearly has no confidence in the current quarterback.

In addition, Tony Sparano's play-calling has been ultra-conservative from the get-go, which eerily echoes Hackett and Shottenheimer. There was no reason for the Jets to consistently run Shonn Greene on first and second down without attempting a deep pass when they are behind by double-digits. Because of Sanchez's inability to throw a good pass down field with any confidence, coupled with the coaching staff's lack of confidence in him, the Jets offense went south Sunday while Miami rolled over them.

The numbers don't lie either. In close games in the fourth quarter this year, Sanchez has completed only 39 percent of his passes. When the Jets are either trailing or tied, he has thrown eight interceptions compared to seven touchdowns and has even thrown three interceptions inside his opponents 20 yard line.

To this day, Sanchez still doesn't read defenses well, throws too often into double and triple coverage, and often misfires on his intended targets. That is not only a bad job on Sanchez's part for not learning from his mistakes, it looks worse on the coaching staff for not getting him to learn from his bad habits. There is only so much one player can do if he isn't learning from his mistakes; it reflects badly on the coaches, too.

Sanchez' defenders point to the fact that he won four road playoff games, and that he had a bad O-line last year. Well, Wayne Hunter is gone, so what is the excuse now? Some point to the fact that he has lousy wide receivers. Well, he had Braylon Edwards, Santonio Holmes and Plaxico Burress over the past two seasons, and he struggled to connect with those guys too.

These observations are not meant to suggest a campaign for Tim Tebow.

Tebow has been the biggest off-season bust in recent memory. The Jets' acquisition of Tebow was a publicity stunt; nothing more. The Jets don't know how to use Tebow, nor do they know what to do with him. They put him in punt formations, and he has been the reason why two punts have been blocked for touchdowns. They rarely use him in the wild cat, and only ask him to throw out of the fake punt formation.

Tebow is no stud. His numbers are slightly worse than Sanchez's career numbers; he will not make a big difference to this team that is destined for failure and a top 10 draft pick in 2013; however, with a season already lost, what is there to lose with at least giving Tebow one or two starts after the Bye Week? At least the Jets can get that part of the Tebow experience over with and begin to move on.

In a way the Jets would be doing Sanchez a favor by sitting him. Only then will he finally see that there are consequences for poor play. Maybe then the message will get through, and only then will he learn how to play the position with more determination and confidence when give the opportunity again.

One thing Jets' fans can be certain of is this: if the Jets had a franchise quarterback, he would have been playing already.

However, does anybody trust this organization right now to go out and get the necessary ingredients?

From top to bottom, the Jets are a mess. It starts with Woody Johnson, a guy with no real football IQ, and has never given football people outside the organization, the sense that he runs a tight ship.

Next, Mike Tannenbaum, the Jets embattled GM/capologist has got to go, and he has to go now. His drafts over the past four or five years have been awful. He drafted the likes of Shonn Greene, Muhammad Wilkerson, Quentin Couples, Vernon Gholston, Sanchez, and so many more who have not  panned out with this team. The reason the Jets are so deficient in talent is because of Tannenbaum. He might be great in managing money, but he is no football guy.

And that leads us to Rex Ryan. Ryan's job is safe for now, but at some point Ryan has to take some responsibility for the fact that his team is not ready to play on a weekly basis. Enough talk about how great practice was and will be. Time and time again this team looks unprepared on Sunday. Time and time again, this team looks like it is missing a lot of key pieces, resembling more of a low A-level college football team than an NFL franchise.

If the Jets are going to make major changes, they had better start doing it now. This team is going nowhere this year. They are 3-5 and staring at 6-10 or 5-11. The first step in this process is to bench Sanchez and teach him a lesson. Then watch as the rest of the dominoes will follow.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Islanders to Stay in N.Y., Will Move to Brooklyn

The New York Islanders are going nowhere.

After years of hard work, debate, local and geopolitical battles by the Isles brass, and owner Charles Wang; New York will keep it's Islanders in the Big Apple for a very, very long time.

Today it was announced that the Islanders will move to the Barclay's Center in Brooklyn, NY when their lease at Nassau Coliseum ends after the 2014-2015 season.

The new lease in Brooklyn runs for 25 years beginning in the fall of 2015.

The Coliseum, which has been open in Hempstead since 1972, has become the NHL's biggest dump. Falling apart at the seams, and serving as a virtual wasteland for hockey with a hockey team that has failed to grab the headlines from the Devils and Rangers over the past 20 plus years, it is easy to forget that the Islanders are part of the New York landscape.

And this is a franchise that won four Stanley Cup titles back in the 1980's, and ruled this town the way the Rangers, and even the Devils never have.

After Nassau County voters TKO'd a proposal by Wang to build a new arena and shopping mall at the site of the old building, it looked more and more likely that New York would lose its Islanders to either a Canadian city, or even Kansas City, Mo.

Yet, Wang hung tight. He kept looking and hoping for a deal and finally got it with the Barclays Center in Brooklyn. While the new Nets arena is not hockey ready at this point, with no locker rooms for hockey, and with the prospects of a very odd seating chart for hockey (people in front will be positioned in a U shape around the rink on the floor), it is tens times better than the unknown.

Wang even said in his interview on air with WFAN's Mike Francesa that is was Brooklyn or bust for the Islanders, which has to give Islander fans pause in knowing that they were this close to losing the team to another town. Thankfully for fans on Long Island, Queens and Brooklyn they will keep their Isles in town. Now, maybe the front can focus on resurrecting the franchise.


Open Mike 10-24-12 World Series, Islanders and NFL

In hour one of the Open Mike program, host Michael Cohen breaks down the 2012 World Series match-up between the Detroit Tigers and San Francisco Giants. Michael also breaks news on the New York Islanders new home, and analyzes the Jets performance against the Pats. Was Rex Ryan and company coaching not to lose on Sunday? Open Mike 10-24 pt1

In hour two of the Open Mike program, host Michael Cohen, welcomes in Triple Coverage host and producer, Sean Bretherick, to get his take on the NFC East through week 7 of the NFL season. Week 8 figures to be a pivotal week for the Giants, Cowboys and Eagles. A win by any of these teams this week, and the post-season could be within sights. Open Mike 10-24 pt2

Friday, October 19, 2012

Yankees Season Ends in Disgraceful Fashion in 2012 ALCS

TIGERS 8
YANKEES 1

The hapless New York Yankees had no answer for the Detroit Tigers. After listlessly playing through three games in the ALCS, the Yankees went quietly in game four, as Detroit swept New York out of the postseason 8-1. One would have to go back to 1980, against the Kansas City Royals, to find the last time the Yankees were swept out of a playoff series. That was 32 years ago!

For years, many have wondered when the "great Yankees dynasty" would come to an end; and now, you can rest assure that it is officially over.

The Yankees were overhyped, bloated and aging as the season wore on. They went from a team of superstars to a team of has-been's in a New York minute.

Think for a second, here is a Yankees team that was 10 games in front of it's division back in July. The Orioles were playing surprisingly well, while the Red Sox and Rays couldn't get out of the their own way, the division was theirs for the taking.

But the flaws of this Yankees club caught up to them. They lived and died by the home-run, going an extended period of time without winning a game when they didn't homer. They went to the last day of the regular season without pulling out a win after 8 innings, 1-59 overall this year.

The Yankees watched their 10-game lead shrink to a 1-game deficit by mid-September and battled the Orioles all the way through the division series, which they barely got through.

If it weren't for Raul Ibanez, this Yankees team would have been home for the holidays weeks ago.

In game four of the ALCS, the Yankees were no hit through five innings by Max Scherzer, and only managed two measly hits by games end.

Embattled star Alex Rodriguez was benched yet again, but did come to bat midway through the game, and went 0-for-2, adding to his whopping 3-for-25 this postseason. Rumors abound that Rodriguez has played his last days as a Yankee. The front office approved Joe Girardi's decision to bench Rodriguez in lite of his postseason struggles, and the PR nightmare that became phone number-gate.

The only hitting Rodriguez did this Ocotober was hitting up two hotties in the front row behind home plate, asking them for their number on a baseball. That disaster, shows how self-absorbed and distracted Rodriguez is. He has pulled these antics many times before in New York, and this time it might be enough to boot him out of town.

Keith Olbermann, (yes, that Keith Olbermann) spread the rumor on Wednesday that the Yankees and Marlins lightly discussed the idea of and A-Rod to Miami trade, whereupon the Yankees would get Heath Bell and a few other players to make up for the big contract of Rodriguez. Granted the Marlins or any team that is crazy enough to trade for A-Rod, will not have to pay for the entire salary, the Yankees will have to pay for most of it.

Either the Yankees go into Spring Training with more questions about A-Rod and lingering doubts about his declining skills set, or the ship him off now and start anew. There is a third baseman that is about to hit the free-agent market in the next year anyway who is no stranger to New York in David Wright. 

Rodriguez stated that he wants to return to the Bombers, but ultimately that is the clubs' decision.

Meanwhile, the rest of the Yankees anemic offense was on full display, Thursday. Robinson Cano added to his fantastic October with an 0-for-4. He batted .056 this fall. Could be worse, he could have batted .000.

Mark Teixeira, Curtis Granderson and Nick Swisher were all again unproductive. What a shock.

On the other side of the field, the Tigers destroyed CC Sabahtia. They tatooed him for six runs, five earned, in three and two-thirds innings.

Delmon Young, who killed the Yankees with six RBI in this series, drove in the game's first run on an sharp single to right in the first inning. Then the Tigers poured it on with the long ball. Miguel Cabrera and Jhonny Peralta each corked a two-run shot in the fourth inning, building a 6-0, Tigers lead.

The fireworks wouldn't end there. Former Yankees' farm-hand Austin Jackson cracked a solo-homer in the seventh, and Peralta blasted his second of the day in the eighth to make it 8-1, Tigers.

The Tigers are back in the World Series for the first time since 2006, when they lost in five games to the Cardinals. The Cardinals are a win away from returning to their second straight World Series, after thumping the Giants 8-3, Thursday. Thus it looks like we are in for a World Series rematch between Detroit and St. Louis; should be a good one. This time, I think Detroit is going to take it all.

Lastly, what is left for this Yankees squad? Nothing but questions. Derek Jeter will have to rehab for four to five months after having surgery to repair the fractured ankle, which means he may or many not be ready for Spring Training. Jeter, 38, is no spring chicken, and at some point the Yankees are going to have to find a replacement at short stop.

Mariano Rivera, was lost for the year this year. While he stated he plans to come back, the Yankees can't bet that Rivera will return to his old form in 2013. Therefore they have to decide if keeping interm closer Rafeal Soriano is a long term proposition. Soriano is a free agent this winter. Then of course there are decisions to make in the outfield as both Ichiro and Nick Swisher are free agents this winter. Don't expect either player to return to the Yankees in 2013. And what will the Yankees do about their catcher, starting rotation, and bullpen? These are all questions that have to be answered between now and March 1. It will be a fascinating off-season for sure.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Open Mike 10-17-12 Yankees Postseason Collapse

In hour one of the Open Mike program, host Michael Cohen and special guest host, Adam Clarkson discuss the Yankees 3-0 deficit to the Detroit Tigers in the ALCS. Can the Yankees avoid humiliation. Cohen and Clarkson also discuss the future of many Yankees, including Alex Rodriguez.

Listen Here!

In hour two of the Open Mike program, Michael Cohen and Adam Clarkson talk about the state of the NFL through week six. The duo talk about the Jets recent victory over Indianapolis, and whether they can muster enough of an effort to beat the New England Patriots. They then move on to the Giants, arguably the best team in the league, and finish the night with their week 7 picks. Listen Here!

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Yankees Season on the Brink after 2-1 Loss in Detroit

TIGERS 2
YANKEES 1

Once Derek Jeter limped off the field during game one of the ALCS, everyone knew that winning this series was going to be a monumental task for the 2012 Yankees. Without their leader, and arguably best player, the Yankees would have to dig down deep to find that extra something to pull this one out.

Instead, the Yankees have continued to play listless baseball, falling to the Tigers again 2-1, Tuesday in Detroit.

Through three games, the Yankees have scored only five runs, all of them in the ninth inning. In short the Yankees have been shutout in 25 different innings in the ALCS against the Tigers, as nobody can hit a baseball right now.

Bronx Bombers? How about Bronx Bums.

That is what the 2012 Yankees have become. Sure you can kill Alex Rodriguez all you want for his post-season futility, as he has spent more time trying to touch first base with women behind home plate, than he has trying to get on base during a ball game.

While, Rodriguez was ideal once again during a playoff game, benched in favor of Eric Chavez, the rest of the line-up went limp.

Granted the Yankees were facing one of the best pitchers in the sport in Justin Verlander, but the fact they couldn't even touch him was embarassing for a team chuck full of all stars and Hall of Famers.

The Yankees managed only five hits in game three, and only 15 hits as a team in this series. As a club the Yankees are hitting .192 in this series, .205 overall in the playoffs. The biggest culprits have been A-Rod, of course, who is batting .130 in eight playoff games, Robinson Cano, who is a woeful .083 this postseason. Not has Cano been bad, he has been really bad, at one point going hittless in 29 straight at bats for the Yankees in this playoff season.

Nick Swisher? Why ask. He's hitting .154. Russell Martin? .172. Even Mark Teixeira, who has a .310 average in the postseason has had his troubles, driving in only one run in eight playoff games. The entire Yankees offense has been awful, looking more and more like a team that is getting too old to catch up to the fastballs of younger pitchers.

If the Yankees were going to have any success this fall, they needed Cano, Swisher, Martin, Texieira to deliver, they have not. 

While there were lingering concerns about the Yankees pitching staff coming into the postseason, they have done the job. Outside of CC Sabathia's brilliance in two games against the Orioles, the rest of the staff has been solid. Phil Hughes threw to a 1.86 ERA; Hiroki Kuroda, was great in game two of the LCS, but didn't have any run support; Andy Pettitte was fair in two starts. So the starting pitching was not an issue.

While Verlander didn't have his best stuff on Tuesday, he still dominated the Yankees through eight and a third innings, before Phil Coke closed out the Yankees in the top of the ninth.

The Yankees watched Detroit build a 2-0 lead on a homer by Delmon Young and an RBI double by Miguel Cabrera, earlier in the game. When it came time for New York to rally in the top of the ninth, one never felt that the Yankees would ever really get back into the game.

Even though New York cut the lead in half on an Eduardo Nunez solo homer, and even though both Teixeira and Cano reached on singles, it felt like Detroit was in complete control, and they were, as Coke struck the lone Yankee hero, this October, in Raul Ibanez ending the contest. The days when the Yankees used to be feared for their late game heroics are gone. This line-up doesn't scare anybody. They are just a group of aging Hall of Famers, who are nearing their collective end.

The Yankees are now down 3-0 in a best of seven series; the Yankees have not been swept in a playoff series since the 1980 ALCS against the Kansas City Royals. Since the Yankees dynasty run began in the Autumn of 1995, the Yankees have never been swept in any stage of the postseason. If they should lose Wednesday, it will be a new first for this team, and possibly the beginning of the end.

The Yankees have a lot of work to do, not only in this series, but beyond. They have so many concerns in a rotation that will have to be fixed big time for 2013. In addition, the Bombers have way too many concerns about the age of this line-up, and and questions about the long-term health of their top two stars, Mariano Rivera and Derek Jeter. Not to mention the long term value of having an aging bat in Alex Rodriguez on this team. Perhaps the end of the Yankees run is finally taking place this season; -- it is now up to Brian Cashman to take this playoff run as an example of the work he must complete this winter.

Giants Look Like Team to Beat After Big Win in San Fran.

Through their first five games of this 2012 season, the New York Giants didn't look like a championship football team.

After wallowing in defeats to NFC East rivals Philadelphia and Dallas, and barely beating the typically punchless Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Cleveland Browns, nobody really expected the Giants to go into San Francisco and win against a team that had been very impressive heading into week six.

What the Giants were able to do on Sunday by not only beating the 49ers, but dismantling them piece by piece in a dominating 26-3 victory spoke volumes about where this Giants team REALLY IS this season.

The Giants defense which had been suspect all season long, had its best afternoon. They shut down Frank Gore, holding him to 36 yards rushing, and  made Alex Smith look like ... well, Alex Smith. The Giants picked off Smith three times, and sacked him four times. Smith was never comfortable in the pocket as the highly touted Giants front seven was all over the Niners quarterback.

In total the Giants recorded six sacks, with Jason Pierre-Paul recording two of them.

While the Niners offense doesn't scare a lot of people on paper, they have been very efficient this season, and even outscored their last two opponents (the Jets and Bills) by a combined score of 79-3. Thus making Big Blue's efforts all that more impressive.

Offensively, the Giants did just enough. A touchdown to Victor Cruz, check. A touchdown by Ahmad Bradshaw, check. Another solid effort by quarterback Eli Manning, check. While the numbers weren't explosive, we know better.

The Giants have one of the most dynamic offenses in football right now. Name a team in the NFL right now that has a better offense than Big Blue? Maybe Atlanta. Maybe Houston. Green Bay is not clicking right now. Neither is New Orleans, nor New England. So right now, one can argue the Giants are the best offense in football.

While statistically they are third in the NFL in total offense, one just has to watch all of the Giants games this season to see how explosive they can be. No matter how many points this team has been down this year, Eli Manning has been able to bring them back. Manning has helped the likes of Victor Cruz, Ramses Barden, Hakeem Nicks and Dominek Hixon become household names, and in turn, one of the more lethal receiving corps in the league.

However, it was the Giants complete effort in San Francisco that is raising eyebrows. Up to that point the Giants had yet to play a complete game. They were not expected to win in San Francisco. Many thought the Niners would get some revenge for last January's NFC title game loss. However, the Giants were more than up to the task, and looked more prepared for action than San Fran.

A look ahead toward the schedule, while not easy is very doable for these G-Men. The Redskins and Cowboys are up next before a home game against the underwhelming Steelers and a trip to Cincinnati to play the Bengals.

In a league where just about every team is virtually mediocre, if the Giants add some wins here, they could easily swing themselves into the top of the NFC, and into the conversation for a top seed.  The Giants are as good as any team in the NFC -- the conference is there for the taking. On Sunday in California, the Giants looked like World Champs. Now, they have to continue to play like one.


Sunday, October 14, 2012

Jeter Injured, Out for the Season as Tigers Comeback to Win

TIGERS 6
YANKEES 4

Going into the 12th inning the headline of the evening was the fact that Raul Ibanez once again erased a near defeat for the Yankees with a last second homer to pull the Yankees out of the cellar. Down to their final strike going in the ninth inning, Ibanez blasted a two run shot to the bleachers in right to tie the first game of the 2012 ALCS at four.

It was the third time in as just two and a half weeks that Ibanez had homered to rescue the Yankees.

Yet, his heroics took a back seat to a very scary moment for New York as short stop Derek Jeter left the game in the 12th with a fractured left ankle.

While trying to field the baseball, Jeter slipped and rolled awkwardly on his ankle, and had to be helped off the field. The stunned Yankees crowd, which had been at full voice after the Ibanez blast in the ninth was totally silent.

During the Yankees post game press conference, manager Joe Girardi announced that Jeter fractured his ankle and will be out for the remainder of the season. He will need to recover for three months, without surgery, and should be ready for Spring Training in 2013. Eduardo Nunez will be activated for Sunday night's game.

With Jeter out of the line-up for the rest of the season it creates a major hole for this Yankees team. Sure they have Hall of Famer's all over the line-up, but Jeter is the glue for the Yankees. Only once before have the Yankees lost Jeter for an extended period of time when he injured his shoulder on a slide into third in Toronto back in 2005, but that injury was in April. This is October.  

When Mariano Rivera was lost for the year back in May, it raised concerns, yet the Yankees overcame. Now without Jeter, you can almost certainly forget the World Series. Cross it off your list for this season.

The Tigers took advantage. Before the Jeter injury, David Phelps couldn't contain the Tigers. He gave up a lead-off walk to Miguel Cabrera, and an RBI double to Delmon Young to give Detroit a 5-4 lead. Then Jeter was injured, and the air totally came out of the balloon.

Andy Dirks added an insurance run for Detroit with an infield single to make it 6-4.

Drew Smyly would proceed to shut down the Yankees in the bottom half of the 12th to ice it.

In a game that featured so much emotion, it is fair to say that winning game one could determin who wins this series.

The Yankees struggled with their bats early on, as they squandered two bases loaded situations in the first and second inning respectively. The Yankees had the bases loaded again in the sixth, but Doug Fister once again got through the inning, striking out both Curtis Granderson and Russell Martin.

The Tigers slowly built their lead, tacking on two runs in the sixth on RBI singles by Prince Fielder and Young to make it 2-0.

Young later added a solo homer in the eighth to make it 3-0, and Avisail Garcia capped off Detroit's initial scoring with an RBI single to score Jhonny Peralta.

The Yankees knocked around Detroit's embattled closer Jose Valverde in the ninth, as Ichiro Suzuki and Ibanez homered to tie the game. Once again Valverde showed why he is not a reliable reviler for Detroit.

However, the biggest story of the day is the loss of Jeter. Without him, don't be shocked if Detroit takes it to the Yankees for the rest of the series.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Budding Rivalry: Yankees & Tigers Meet in 2012 ALCS

Baseball's final four is set, and it should be one heck of a finish for the World Series trophy.

In the National League, the Cardinals unbelievable come-back against the Washington Nationals in game five of the NLDS catapulted them into the LCS, where they will face the San Francisco Giants. The NLCS will feature the last two franchises to win the World Series (San Francisco in 2010 and St. Louis in 2011).

Meanwhile in the American League, the Yankees play the Detroit Tigers, the third time these two teams will face off in the postseason in the last seven years.

In their previous two playoff match-ups, the Tigers came out on top in the divisional series in 2006 and again in 2011. Each of those series featured dominant pitching by Detroit, while the Yankees pitching staff couldn't contain a potent Detroit lineup.

This time around, the Yankees believe they have a rotation that can stack up against the likes of Justin Verlander and company. That better be the case, because the Yankees offense was silenced against Baltimore in the last series, while Detroit put up runs against the A's.

Let's break it down.

Starting pitching: The Tigers got off to a slow start this season, and a lot of that had to do with the sluggish start from their rotation. While Justin Verlander won 17 games this year and struck out 235 this season, the rest of Detroit's staff has been shaky at best.

Doug Fister, who beat the Yankees in game five of the divisional series last year, struggled to a 10-10 record in 2012, but pitched much better in the second half of the year. Anibal Sanchez, will throw in game two of this series was very shaky losing 13 games this year, while Max Scherzer was quietly good winning 16 games. This rotation, while not impressive, has been pitching better of late, especially down the stretch as the Tigers overcame the While Sox for the central division title.

As for the Yankees, their rotation issues have been well documented. Outside of CC Sabathia, the Yanks had nothing but questions. From Andy Pettitte's health, to the inconsistencies of Ivan Nova and Phil Hughes, it has been a rough year for the Yankees staff. Pettitte, one of the most winningest postseason pitchers of all time, is now healthy, and gets the ball in game one, while the Yankees second best pitcher, Hiroki Kuroda gets the ball in game two, before CC gets his next turn in game three. The match-ups could play very big into the Yankees favor if they can win game one.
EDGE: Yankees

Bullpen: Base this on postseason experience alone, the Tigers have an advantage. Jaoquin Benoit and Jose Velverde have been a huge part of Detroit's postseason success in recent years. While their numbers weren't great against Oakland, these are two guys who have given the Yankees fits. Add Al Alburquerque and former Yankee Phil Coke to the list and the Tigers have four guys who can keep Detroit in a close game.

The Yankees pen has been good all year. Even without Mariano Rivera around, the bullpen is still getting the job done. The Yankees have five pitchers with ERA's below 3.75, including Clay Rapada, David Robertson and closer Rafael Soriano, who all have ERA's below three. While Soriano wasn't asked to come on and save game in the LDS, he sure will have a role in the LCS. Soriano was wonderful in the regular season; he has never closed games in this town when the lights were brightest. How, he handles the pressure will go a long way in telling the tale for the Yankees in this series.
EDGE: Even

Tigers offense vs. Yankees offense: The Tigers: Both the Yankees and Tigers struggled with the bats during the LDS, which means that eventually they are due to turn it around.

Tigers third baseman Miguel Cabrera, who won the Triple Crown during the regular season, is due for a breakout performance in a big spot. The guy hit .330, pounded 44 homers and drove in 139 for a reason. How the Yankees pitchers handle Cabrera will be a huge key to the series. Additionally, with Prince Fielder, in the middle of that order, the Tigers have as fearsome a middle of the order as the Yankees, if not more so. Add consistent hitters like Jhonny Peralta, Alex Avila and Delmon Young, and the Tigers have a group that can beat this Yankees team. Heck, they've done it before.

The Yankees line-up, while still potent, is getting old. Alex Rodriguez was benched for game five of the ALDS against Baltimore, and had a horrible series, batting .125. However it is not just A-Rod who has struggled. Robinson Cano batted .091 in the LDS, Nick Swisher hit .111 and Curtis Granderson hit .158.

The only plus for New York was the fact that Mark Teixeira turned it on during the division series batting over .300, and getting on base, but he too failed to deliver anyone home. Like the Baltimore series, the Yankees need A-Rod, Teixeira, Cano and Granderson to regain their form from the regular season if they are going to win this series. The Yankees can rely on consistent performances from Derek Jeter and Ichiro, as well as Raul Ibanez, who has been the big reason why the Yankees are in this series. Ibanez's two homeruns against the Orioles in game three, and his go-ahead RBI in the game five proved to be the difference. Expect Ibanez to have a major impact on this series once again.

EDGE: Tigers

Intangibles: Both teams have been hot after a sluggish regular season. The Tigers came back to win their division in a rather down year all around for Detroit. This year's team however seems to be getting hot at the right time. They have won 8 of their last 10, with improved pitching along the way. The Yankees held off Baltimore all season long from the race for the Eastern title to the Divisional series. The Yankees struggled with the late inning dramatics during the regular season, but have won three games in the last two weeks in the final innings, including two walk-offs thanks to Ibanez. Maybe the 2012 Yankees are ready for some more dramatic finishes?  EDGE: Tigers.

Prediction: Tigers in 7.

CC leads Yanks Past O's, A-Rod Benched

YANKEES 3
ORIOLES 1

Here's a shocker for ya, the Yankees are going back to the ALCS. For the third time in the last four years the Bronx Bombers are heading to the LCS after a 3-1 victory over the pesky Baltimore Orioles.

The Yankees completed the series victory behind ace CC Sabathia's dominating complete game performance, who gave up four hits and a run over nine innings. He struck out nine, and threw 121 pitches.

Sabathia dominated, never getting into any real trouble, as he pitched a one hitter through seven innings. With the Yankees leading 1-0 in the sixth, Sabathia served up a fat pitch to Orioles' Nate McClouth, who cracked the pitch down the right field line toward the foul pole. The play came under intense review, but the umpires determined that McClouth's foul ball, was not a homer since it didn't hit the foul pole.

However there have been numerous reports from people who were in the vicinity of the baseball, who said that the ball did hit the foul pole. If it counted, the game would have been tied at one, but with the way Sabathia was pitching it is hard to say that a McClouth homer would have changed the complexion of the night.

In the bottom half of the sixth the Yankees padded their lead, when Ichiro Suzuki lined a double to right to drive in Derek Jeter giving the Yankees a 2-0 lead.

Finally, Curtis Granderson, who has struggled in this postseason lifted a pitch into the bleachers in right to make it 3-0 Bombers.

After getting into trouble in the eighth, Sabathia settled down and struck out McClouth and forced J.J. Hardy into a ground out to get out of a bases loaded jam.

Sabathia closed the game out by retiring the Orioles in order in the ninth.

While the Yankees may be headed back to the LCS to face the Detroit Tigers, their 3-1 victory was muted by the fact that Alex Rodriguez was benched for game five. Rodriguez has, once again, struggled in the playoffs, batting .125 and looking totally lost at the plate.

In game three, manager Joe Giradi removed Rodriguez from the game in favor of pinch hitter Raul Ibanez, who led the Yankees to the come-back victory. Then on Friday, he sat Rodriguez for the  entire game in favor of Ibanez who drove in a run in game five.

Rodriguez is quickly becoming a biggest $114 million bust in Yankees history. This is a guy, who outside of the 2009 postseason, has been horrible for this ball-club in the clutch over the years. He has failed to deliever in big time situations, and has drawn the ire of Yankee fans' frustration every single fall.

With Rodriguez's benching, it is clear that A-Rod is no longer a top player in this game. Girardi and the Yankees don't trust him - why should they? Ibanez has provided a lot of energy to this lineup when inserted, and don't be shocked to see more of him in the LCS. Time will only tell, where A-Rod fits in the Yankees plans for the rest of this season. However it should end, the less A-Rod plays this month, the more red flags will be raised come 2013.


Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Ibanez leads Yankees to extra-inning victory over O's

YANKEES 3
ORIOLES 2

Once again Raul Ibanez found himself in the middle of a Yankees comeback. A week after leading New York to a division title with his homer and RBI single to beat the Red Sox in the next to last game of the season, Ibanez blasted two homers against the Baltimore Orioles in game three of the ALDS to send the Yankees to a 2-1 series advantage.

Ibanez spent most of the night on the bench, but came in the ninth inning to pinch hit for designated hitter Alex Rodriguez, who has struggled with the bat in this series, batting .083 (1-for-12). With fans growing increasingly tired of A-Rod's lack of clutch performances, and with a increasingly cold bat, manager Joe Girardi gambled with Rodriguez's precious ego and put in the ageless Ibanez.

The Yankees offense was listless for most of the night, as Miguel Gonzalez mowed down the Yankees order through seven brilliant innings and holding a 2-1 lead.

However, once the ninth inning came, Orioles closer Jim Johnson couldn't shut the door. He got Ichiro Suzuki to fly out on the first pitch of the ninth, and then, suddenly, Girardi made the move that will be talked about for the next 24 hours. He removed Rodriguez who was 0-for-3 on the night, for Ibanez.

The veteran didn't disapoint, as he launched a fastball into the bleachers in right to tie the game, sending Yankee Stadium into a tizzy.

After both teams failed to score in the 10th and 11th innings, it was Ibanez again who shined the brightest. Leading off the bottom of the 12th, Ibanez destroyed the first pitch, sending into the mezzanine level ending the night.

The Yankees now hold a 2-1 series lead, and can clinch the series on Thursday with Phil Hughes taking the ball. This is a big game for Hughes, who has struggled this season. If he pitches well, fans will quickly forget his miserable 2012 regular season. This victory also saves the Yankee rotation. Now the Bombers can have CC Sabathia ready on regular rest for a possible game five, or perhaps, game one of the ALCS.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Martin Blast Powers Yankees Past O's

YANKEES 7
ORIOLES 2

A five-run ninth inning highlighted by a solo home run by Russell Martin, proved to be the difference in the Yankees 7-2 victory over the Baltimore Orioles in Game One of the ALDS at Camden Yards in Baltimore.

For eight innings both the Orioles and Yankees went back and forth, tied at two for most of the night as neither offense could find a way to get the go-ahead run across in this tightly contested opener.

CC Sabathia, who struggled against the Orioles during the regular season, was his masterful self once again. He dominated Baltimore's powerful line-up for 8.2 innings of 120 pitch baseball, yielding only eight hits and two runs, while striking out seven and walking one.

With the Bombers ahead 1-0 in the third, CC ran into some trouble when Nate McClouth worked his way into a favorable count and laced a two-run single to right to give Baltimore a 2-1 lead.

The Orioles' lead turned out to be short lived. After walks to Alex Rodriguez and Nick Swisher to open the fourth inning, Martk Teixeira cracked a Jason Hammel fastball - off the right field scoreboard, allowing A-Rod to score. However, Teixeira was tagged out on second on the advance to second, preventing Swisher from scoring.

The Yankees would go the next four innings without scoring a run. They certainly threatened, including having two-men on with no one out in the seventh, but reliever Darren O'Day got both Derek Jeter and Ichiro Suzuki to ground out, before striking out Alex Rodriguez.

The Orioles had their chances as well. They had two-men on in the bottom of the fifth, but McClouth struck out, and Hardy grounded out ending the inning.

In the bottom of the eighth, Hardy led off with a double down the right field line, but never moved from second as Sabathia struck out Adam Jones; got Matt Wieters to pop up to first; and forced Mark Reynolds into ground out.

The O's missed opportunity in the eighth inning turned out to be their undoing.

With closer Jim Johnson on the hill, the Yankees tatooed the game's saves leader. First, Martin cracked a solo home run to left giving the Yankees the lead. The domino's soon fell. An infield single by Ichiro allowed Eduardo Nunez to score to make it 4-2. Next, Robinson Cano smacked a two-run double, and two batters later, Swisher drove in Cano with a sac-fly.

Game two will be Monday night in Baltimore. Andy Pettitte, one of the most reliable postseason pitchers of all-time will toe the rubber for the Bronx Bombers. Wei-Yen Chen, the Orioles ace, will get the start for Baltimore. 

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Ahmad Bradshaw Impressive as Giants Beat Browns

GIANTS 41
BROWNS 27 

Ahmad Bradshaw was on his way to becoming the goat of the day. On the Giants first play from scrimmage, Bradshaw fumbled the ball to the Browns at the Giants own 20-yard line. Three plays later, Browns running back Trent Richardson dashed up the middle for a 15-yard score to give Cleveland a 7-0 lead.

Things quickly got worse for Big Blue when quarterback Brandon Weeden found Josh Gordon in single coverage for a 62-yard touchdown stirke, and just like that less than five minutes into the ball game the Browns held a 14-0 lead.

Three weeks after the Giants last home game, which saw them erase a huge deficit to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, the Giants would have to equal that effort to beat the Browns.

This time the comeback was a lot easier. 

Thanks to the calm and cool demeanor of Eli Manning, and a sudden resurgence of Bradshaw, the Giants erased a 14-point deficit in the first half, including putting up 20 striaght points to take a 27-17 halftime lead.

First, Manning drove Big Blue on a crisp 11 play 92 yard drive, that culminated in a short touchdown pass to Victor Cruz cutting the Browns lead in half.

Trailing 17-10 in the second, the Giants got the break they needed, when Steve Brown picked off Weeden, setting up the Giants at the Browns 40. Manning hit Reuben Randel for 36 yards to the fou yard line, before Bradshaw got some revenge with a four yard touchdown to tie the game at 17.

The Giants would get another break on the kick-off when Browns return man Josh Cribbs fumbled the football into the hands of Steve Brown. Five plays later, Manning found Cruz in the end zone for the second time in the first half, giving the Giants their first lead 24-17.

In the second half, Bradshaw kicked it into high gear running for 58-yards on the first drive of the second half, including a 37-yard rumble to move the ball the Browns 40. Later in the drive, Manning found a wide open Cruz in the corner of the end zone for the touchdown giving New York a dominating 34-17 lead.

The Giants would add one more touchdown on a David Wilson 40-yard dash, as the Giants rolled to victory.

For his part Bradshaw ran for 200 yards on 30 carries with a touchdown. The Giants offense racked up 30 first downs, as Manning threw for 259 yards, and three scores.

With the Eagles defeat in Pittsburgh, the Giants are back in the thick of the NFC East race. Now they have to start winning some big conference games.


Yankees Ready for Clash With Orioles

As Derek Jeter said after the regular season concluded Wednesday, "now the season begins!"

While it wasn't an easy ride for the Yankees in 2012, and they come into October with plenty of worts; fact is the Bronx Bombers are here - back in the postseason for the 16th time in the last 17 years. Jeter and his Yankees teammates are now focused on winning the franchises 28th World Series title, and sixth in the Jeter era.

Standing in New York's way is the Baltimore Orioles, a very familar foe, who gave the Yankees all they could handle in the regular season, as the squad's split their 18 games, 9-9. Now they will have five games to determine who will have the right to advance to the ALCS.

The Orioles are a gritty lot. Forget the fact that they lost two of three to the Rays in the final series of the regular season, this Orioles team can and will create a lot of problems for New York. The O's roster doesn't jump out at you, but they won 93 games for a reason, and dismantled the two-time defending AL champion Texas Rangers in the Wild Card game just to get to this round.

On paper the Orioles lack a true stud in their starting rotation. Wei-Yen Chen won 12 games for the O's, but pitched to a 4.02 ERA. The fact is the O's pitching staff, while it may not have a true number 1, they keep their team in the game, pitching to a team 3.90 ERA.

The big plus for the O's pitching staff is the bullpen. Baltimore has five relievers with ERA's under 2.50, led by closer Jim Johnson, who burst onto the scene this year with 51 saves. The Yankees hitters have had their issues with Baltimore's pen, particularly Nick Swisher, who needs to have a big postseason this year to remain with the team. Swisher is 1-for-50 against these five relievers.

Swisher isn't the only one who has struggled. Russel Martin hit .208 against Baltimore, A-Rod had only two homers and five RBI against them, while Mark Teixeira (.244 vs. Balt.) and Raul Ibanez (.154 vs. Balt) have had their issues as well.

The key to this series for the Yankees from an offensive standpoint are Derek Jeter and Ichiro. Both provide the uncanny ability to get on base and create runs for the Yankees. If Jeter and Ichiro have a big series, the Yankees will walk away easily in this match-up. If the Orioles, somehow contain their effectiveness, it could be a long series for New York.

Then their is the Yankees rotation. Throughout the year the Yankees have had issues with their rotation. Inconsistency from Phil Hughes, Ivan Nova and Freddy Garcia, coupled with the long absence of Andy Pettitte gave Bombers fans plenty to worry about.

Now, Pettitte is back, and will start game two in Baltimore, before manager Joe Girardi turns the ball over to the Yankees surprising best pitcher Hiroki Kuroda (16-11, 3.32 ERA) in game three. If there is a game four, the Yankees are scheduled to turn to Phil Hughes. However, if the Yankees are desperate for a win in this series, don't be shocked to see them go back to CC Sabathia on short rest to either end the series or force a game five.

It is worth noting that the Yankees left Nova off the roster for this round. Nova was terrible this year, pitching to a 5.02 ERA, and never once resembled the young flame-thrower from 2011.

With all of the attention on the Yankees' rotation, the microscope will be huge on Sabathia. This year, Sabahtia struggled against Baltimore, posting an 0-2 record with a 6.83 ERA. He will have to figure it out on Sunday night if he is going to get this Yankees team in front in this series.

Another key to this Yankee postseason run: the bullpen. How Rafael Soriano pitches in the closers role in the most important games of the year will go a long way to determining the outcome of this years run. Remember there is no Mariano Rivera, lost for the year back in May. While Soriano pitched well in his stead, now is the time for Soriano to earn his pinstripes.

The Orioles offense is very potent, especially at Camden Yards, where they have hit 127 home runs.

Mark Reynolds, Adam Jones, J.J. Hardy and Matt Wieters all had success against the Yankees pitching staff, and if they get hot again, it won't be a lot of fun for the boys from the Bronx.

Expect a very tight series that will likely go five games. The Orioles have a lot of momentum coming into this series. They have nothing to lose, they are not the favorites, with a group of young kids who are playing in the postseason for the first time. Keep in mind the O's might even have the better manager in Buck Schowalter; however while Schowalter has been great in the regular season, he has never managed a team to the LCS.

I smell an upset in this series: Orioles in five.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Open Mike 10-3-12; Yankees win the AL East

In hour one of the Open Mike program, host Michael Cohen, welcomes Yankees 101 writer, and host of the Warning Track, Karen VanKat to talk about the MLB playoff race, as the Yankee clinched the AL East. The Yankees now wait to see whom they will place next, either the Baltimore Orioles or Texas Rangers. Michael and Karen break down the playoff picture.
open mike 10-3pt1

 In hour two of the Open Mike program, Michael Cohen and guest host Karen VanKat go on individual rants on their respective football teams. Karen dissects the Giants issues after their disappointing 19-17 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles. Can the G-Men rebound against the Cleveland Browns?  Michael then takes a heads on look at the nuclear waste land that is the New York Jets football team; from Mike Tannenbaum to Mark Sanchez, Michael breaks it down.
Open Mike 10-3pt2

Santonio Holmes Lost for the Season

Chalk up another Jets superstar as out for the season.

Jets wide receiver Santonio Holmes is done. Three days after falling to the MetLife Stadium turf in a heap, with an apparent foot injury, it was revealed early Wednesday that their star wide out had suffered a Lisfranc injury in his left foot, and will need surgery to repair the damage.

New York had been bracing for the bad news for days, and signed wide receiver Jason Hill to take his place, but let's be honest, nobody can take Holmes' place on this roster.

This is a Jets team that is so devoid of depth and talent at the major skills positions that losing a player of Holmes caliber is going to be a huge detriment to this football team.

Life has been hard enough for the Jets with Mark Sanchez's inaccuracy, and the inability of New York's other skills players Stephen Hill, Shonn Greene, et al. to produce in big moments during the early season.

While Holmes may be looked upon as a malcontent for his antics that tore apart the Jets locker room last season, his talent level is needed on this team. Keep in mind this is a franchise that rid itself of talented receievers in Braylon Edwards and Jerricho Cotchery over the last two years and failed miserably to replace them.

Now, the Jets are asking the likes of Hill and Jeremy Kerely to take the reigns as lead receivers, and it likely will not work.

Without quality depth on this team it will not work; it can't work.

The story of this 2012 season is still being written, but right now this injury is another ugly chapter to a book that many believe will have a truly ugly finish.   

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Ibanez Leads Yankees Comeback, Still Lead Orioles by 1-Game

YANKEES 4
RED SOX 3 

For a short moment, it looked like the 2012 regular season was going to come down to the final day. Even though the Yankees have a playoff berth secure, they were trailing the Boston Red Sox 3-1 in their game on Tuesday night, fully aware that the Baltimore Orioles had beaten the Tampa Bay Rays 1-0 earlier in the evening.

A Yankees loss, and the Bronx Bombers would go into the final day of baseball in the regular season tied for first place in the AL East. A 10 game lead back in July, which evaporated over the past two  months, would come down to one day to determine whether the Yankees would open the playoffs in the wild card game or in the division series.

The stakes were high, and Yankees DH/left fielder Raul Ibanez was up to the task.

The veteran powered the Yankees to a 4-3 victory over the Sox Tuesday night, perserving a 1-game lead in the Eastern divison, all but guaranteeing that the Yankees will win the East on Wednesday. All the Yankees need is a win, or an Orioles loss.

For eight innings, the Yankees offense was lifeless. 3-for-10 with runners in scoring position on the night before Ibanez's heroics, Jon Lester and the Boston bullpen dominated the ball game, and the Red Sox held a slim 2-1 lead.

When James Loney cracked a solo shot for Boston in the ninth, it looked like the game would end in bitter disappointment, and the Yankees would have to win and hope for Wednesday. Who knew their prayers would be answered so soon.

 With closer Andrew Bailey on the mound, the Yankees took flight. Curtis Granderson led off the inning with a sharp single to right; Ibanez followed with a two-run homer to right,tying the game and sending Yankee Stadium into bedlam.

After Derek Lowe pitched three shutout innings for the Yankees in extra innings, the Bronx Bombers tattooed their old nemesis Vincente Padilla in the bottom of the 12th.  Walks to Francisco Cervelli and Granderson set the stage for Ibanez, and, once again, he delivered. A single right through the hole in left was deep enough to drive in Cervelli from second, handing the Yankees a 4-3 win.

Now the Yankees can relax a bit and worry about winning just one game to celebrate a division title.