Tag:CC Sabathia
Posted on: October 31, 2011 7:30 pm
Edited on: October 31, 2011 8:16 pm

Sabathia won't opt out, staying with Yankees

CC Sabathia is staying with the Yankees.

Sabathia announced his decision early Monday evening via his own website, saying that he has agreed to a contract extension and that he hopes to finish his career as a Yankee. According to sources, the one-year extension guarantees Sabathia another $30 million, on top of the $92 million the Yankees already owed him for the final four years of his contract. It includes a vesting option for a sixth-year, which would bring the entire package to $142 million.

Essentially, the 31-year-old left-hander has a new five-year deal for $122 million guaranteed.

Sabathia originally came to the Yankees as a free agent three years ago, signing a seven-year, $161 million deal that was the biggest ever for a pitcher. To convince Sabathia to agree to the contract, and to overcome any reservations he had about coming to New York, Yankees general manager Brian Cashman added a clause giving Sabathia the right to opt out after three years.

As it turned out, Sabathia and his family liked New York, and he helped the Yankees to a World Series title in his first season. And the opt-out clause became simply a way for Sabathia to get more money, rather than an escape clause.

Sabathia and the Yankees faced a Monday night deadline, although technically the pitcher could have opted out by the deadline and still signed a contract with the Yankees after becoming a free agent.

The Yankees had little choice but to retain Sabathia, because neither the free-agent market nor the trade market seemed to include any starters who could successfully take his place at the top of their rotation. With Sabathia off the market, the best free-agent pitchers available are C.J. Wilson, Edwin Jackson and Mark Buehrle, none of whom profiles as a true ace.

Sabathia is 59-23 in his three years with the Yankees, with a 3.18 ERA over 101 starts. The only pitcher in the major leagues with more wins in that span is the Tigers' Justin Verlander, who is 61-23 with a 3.08 ERA.

Sabathia put on considerable weight during the 2011 season, and Yankee officials whispered concern about whether committing too many more long-term dollars to him made sense. But their rotation needs help even with Sabathia, and no matter how heavy he was, he was still one of the very best starting pitchers in baseball this season.

Category: MLB
Posted on: October 29, 2011 6:47 pm

Best game ever? How about best month ever?

The Yankees don't think it was such a great month. The Phillies are sure it wasn't a great month.

Oh, and the Red Sox? No, the last 31 days weren't exactly pleasant for them.

But it sure was great for the rest of us, the best month of baseball most of us have seen, or will see, in our lifetimes.

If it gets better than this, I won't complain. But I'm not planning on it.

We had the best single regular-season night ever, on the final night of the regular season, and maybe the best game ever, on the next-to-last night of the World Series.

We had so many great games that the best individual offensive performance in World Series history barely makes the list. So many that Chris Carpenter's three-hit 1-0 shutout in a winner-take-all Game 5 wasn't even his most important performance of the month.

This is the third year now that I've written a postseason recap, and it's the first time that the best game of the month wasn't the first game I saw. Nothing against Tigers-Twins (Game 163 in 2009) or Roy Halladay's no-hitter (Division Series 2010), but it's a better month when the drama builds.

This month, we saw Albert Pujols and Miguel Cabrera, Chris Carpenter, Nelson Cruz and David Freese. We saw squirrels. We saw Na-po-li. We saw history.

We saw Game 6.

What a month.

Here's a look back:

Best game: Some people are insisting that Game 6 of the World Series can't be called great, because there were physical errors early and possible managerial errors late. Sorry, but that's ridiculous. So it wasn't the best-played game ever. Fine. It had thrills, it had drama, it had plenty to second-guess, it had great performances and gritty performances. You go ahead and say it wasn't perfect. I'm going to say it was the best game I've ever seen.

Best moment: The flashbulbs going off when Albert Pujols batted in the seventh inning of Game 7 were great. Yes, it could have been his final Cardinals at-bat. But the best moment of the postseason -- Pujols' best moment -- was when he called time out to allow the Miller Park crowd to honor Prince Fielder, who very, very likely was stepping to the plate for his final Brewers at-bat.

Best chant: In the end, maybe this wasn't the Year of the Napoli, after all. But it sure was the month of the "Na!-Po!-Li!" at Rangers Ballpark. Mike Napoli became such an instant hero that I saw a Rangers fan who had altered his year-old Cliff Lee jersey, adding "Na-po" above the "Lee."

Best crowd: It was incredibly loud all month in Texas. It was louder than ever in St. Louis for the final outs of Game 7. But everyone who was at Miller Park this month came back raving about the atmosphere and the Brewers' fans (and everyone who was at Chase Field said there was barely any atmosphere for the Diamondbacks' two home games).

Best player: Tough call. Freese was a revelation, and not just in the World Series. Cabrera was outstanding. So was Ryan Braun. But Pujols was the guy I'll remember most, from his great defensive play against the Phillies to his historic three-homer game against the Rangers.

Best movie review: Moneyball took a beating every time Cardinals manager Tony La Russa took to the podium. La Russa went to see the movie the night Game 6 was rained out, and the next night he said that it "strains the credibility a little bit." La Russa, like others, complained about the portrayal of scouts, and about the lack of mentions of Miguel Tejada, Eric Chavez, Mark Mulder, Barry Zito and Tim Hudson. "That club was carried by those guys that were signed, developed the old-fashioned way," La Russa said. "That part wasn't enjoyable, because it's a nice story but it is not accurate enough."

Most disappointing team: The Red Sox. The Phillies didn't make it out of the first round. Neither did the Yankees, who then apologized to their fans for their "failure." But Boston's collapse was so bad that it led to the departure of the manager and general manager who broke the curse. The Red Sox will recover, but they'll never be the same.

Best prediction: It's well established by now that I can't pick winners. But when the postseason began, I jokingly wrote that every series would go the distance. Turned out I was almost right, as 38 of a possible 41 games were required. Three of the four Division Series went the distance (and none were sweeps). Both League Championship Series went six games. And the World Series went seven, for the first time in nine years. Oh, and I even picked the World Series winner, Cardinals in 7, even if I did it because Rangers officials demanded that I pick against them.

Five who helped themselves: 1. Pujols. I'm not saying it makes a difference in his final free-agent price, but a great postseason reminded all of us how good he really is.

2. John Mozeliak. You think Cardinals fans will finally admit that it was a good idea to trade Colby Rasmus to help this team win now?

3. Mike Napoli. The Angels traded this guy for Vernon Wells. The Blue Jays then traded this guy for Frank Francisco. The Rangers will not be trading him.

4. Ryan Braun. MVP voting includes only the regular season, and not the postseason. But anyone who chose Braun over Matt Kemp in the National League race had to be happy to see him hit .405 with a 1.182 OPS in October.

5. David Freese. He was the best story of the month, the hometown kid who quit baseball after high school, and came back to become the World Series MVP. Now everyone knows him.

Five who hurt themselves: 1. C.J. Wilson. He's still going to get overpaid on the free-agent market, but imagine how much he might have gotten if he'd had a good October, instead of a lousy one.

2. CC Sabathia. He's still going to get a great new contract, too, but imagine how much he might have gotten if his postseason ERA was 1.23, instead of 6.23 (and if his waist size didn't expand just as fast).

3. Cliff Lee. The team he left went to the World Series without him. And the team he couldn't beat in Game 2, after his teammates gave him a 4-0 lead, went on to win the World Series.

4. Alex Rodriguez. Two years ago, he had a nice October and shed the label of postseason choker. This year, he went 2-for-18 against the Tigers and appeared on the back page of the New York Post as one of the Three Stooges (along with Nick Swisher and Mark Teixeira).

5. Tony La Russa (for about 48 hours). I'm guessing Cardinals fans will now totally forgive him for the phone/noise/bullpen mess from Game 5. He's now the guy who has won two World Series in St. Louis, to go with the one he won in Oakland. Still one of the very best managers in the game -- in the history of the game, that is.

Posted on: October 1, 2011 11:32 pm

No need to argue; Yankees have the edge

NEW YORK -- Argue all you want about whether Friday night's rain helped the Yankees or the Tigers.

Saturday night, there was no need to argue.

Could this night have gone any better for the Yankees?

Ivan Nova looked like a real postseason starter -- even though he was technically pitching in relief. Robinson Cano looked like an MVP -- even though the fans were chanting "M-V-P" for Curtis Granderson.

In a series where Justin Verlander can likely now affect only one game, the Yankees are already ahead, one game to none, after Saturday's 9-3 rout (in a continuation of the game that began in  Friday's rain).

And in a series where there could now be four games in four days, Nova pitched so well (and the Yankees eventually scored so much) that manager Joe Girardi could avoid using almost all his top relievers. He shouldn't have had to use any of them, but after Nova got the Yankees to the ninth inning, Luis Ayala was so bad that Mariano Rivera had to get the final out.

Nova took over for Sabathia, who pitched two innings before the rain. Doug Fister took over for Verlander, who pitched one inning before the suspension. On this night, it was advantage Nova, and advantage Yankees.

No one is saying, one game into a long postseason, that the Yankees look unbeatable. No one is saying, one game into a short series, that the Tigers can't come back.

But in one game over two days, the Yankees grabbed a clear edge.

They reminded us how strong their lineup can be. They showed us that they have a starter other than CC Sabathia capable of throwing some shutout innings.

And they can win the series even if they never beat Verlander -- and if they lose another game, as well.

As for the Tigers, they'll look back on the moments when Game 1 turned against them.

Specifically, they'll wonder about third-base coach Gene Lamont's decision to send Alex Avila home on a one-out Jhonny Peralta single in the fifth inning. It was a 1-1 game at the time, Nova had begun looking a little vulnerable, and the Tigers could have had the bases loaded with one out.

Instead, the Yankees got a perfect relay from Curtis Granderson to Derek Jeter to Russell Martin, Avila was out at the plate, and the inning ended with the game still tied. The Yankees then took the lead in the bottom of the fifth on Cano's double off the wall.

The next decision came an inning later, when Fister was beginning to falter. Tigers manager Jim Leyland allowed him to face Granderson (who walked to load the bases), then brought in right-hander Al Alburquerque to face the left-handed hitting Cano.

Cano is basically immune to lefties (during the season, his OPS against right-handers was .884, vs. lefties .879), and Alburquerque was very, very good against left-handed hitters (.176).

Alburquerque hung a slider, Cano sent it soaring to the right-field seats for the Yankees' first postseason grand slam in 12 years (Ricky Ledee hit the last one), and rest of the game didn't matter.

Cano ended up with six RBI, tying a Yankee postseason record set in 1960 by Bobby Richardson and tied by Bernie Williams (1999) and Hideki Matsui (2009).

The Tigers ended up with a one game to none deficit.

And no one was talking about the rain.
Posted on: September 30, 2011 11:49 pm

Could rain help Tigers beat Yanks again?

NEW YORK -- Yankees and Tigers in the playoffs, and rain in the Bronx.

Last time, it helped the Tigers. In fact, in 2006, the Tigers were convinced that a Game 2 rainout in the Bronx turned the series in their favor.

This time, they're not so sure.

"That was different," Tigers manager Jim Leyland said Friday night. "We'd already lost a game."

It was different. But it's possible to see this rainout as helping the Tigers, too.

The biggest effect of Friday's postponement, which came after 1 1/2 innings had been played with the score 1-1, is that aces Justin Verlander and CC Sabathia will most likely pitch just one more time each in the series. Both are expected to start Monday, and with Game 5 scheduled for Thursday, neither could come back for it, barring a lot more rain.

"With this team, it lines up well," Verlander contended Friday. "We have four starters ready to go."

The Yankees had planned to use just three starters in the series, with Sabathia pitching Game 4 and Ivan Nova coming back in Game 5. With the rain Friday, manager Joe Girardi said he would use Nova in the continuation of Game 1 on Saturday, with Freddy Garcia starting Game 2, now on Sunday.

Girardi didn't announce his rotation beyond that, but with games now scheduled on four consecutive days, it almost certainly means the Yankees will now use four starters. That likely means a start for A.J. Burnett.

In that case, the matchups for the rest of the series would be Nova and Doug Fister in the resumption of Game 1 Saturday, Garcia and Max Scherzer in Game 2 Sunday, Sabathia and Verlander in Game 3 Monday in Detroit, Burnett and Rick Porcello in Game 4 Tuesday, and Nova and Fister in Game 5.

First, baseball needs to get the next two games in, with rain possible both Saturday and Sunday in New York. Baseball officials were optimistic, but they had also been optimistic that Friday's game could be played.

Instead, rain began in the bottom of the first, and got heavier in the top of the second.

"I couldn't see anything," said Tiger catcher Alex Avila, who struck out against Sabathia in the second.

"I was just hoping he'd throw a ball," said Ryan Raburn, who took strike three. "He's tough enough to hit when it isn't raining."

At that point, officials called for the tarp, and eventually the game was called. Under a rule instituted after the 2008 World Series fiasco in Philadelphia, the game is picked up from that point, rather than re-started.

"Hopefully Doug [Fister] comes in and finishes the no-hitter," quipped Verlander, who gave up a run but not a hit in the first inning.

Verlander said he'd be comfortable pitching Sunday, but that even then, he would get only one start in the series, since he wouldn't come back on short rest (in Game 5).

"I think short rest after [Friday] might be asking too much," he said. "Fortunately, I have a manager who looks not only at the present but the future, too."

Verlander remembers 2006, because he pitched Game 2, which was played on a Thursday afternoon after originally being scheduled for Wednesday night. The Tigers believed that the Yankees were given more information quicker than they were, and that Yankee players were on the way home before the Tigers were told that the game had been called.

"I think that kind of rubbed us the wrong way," Verlander said. "I was out there warming up [on the Wednesday night], and I was the only one out there. This is a little different situation.

"This isn't what either side wanted."

In 2006, the Tigers used the rainout, and the hint of disrespect, as something of a rallying cry. Friday night, they felt that they'd been treated fairly by everyone but Mother Nature.

"This will be fine for us," Verlander said.

But maybe not as fine as in 2006.

Posted on: September 18, 2011 8:56 pm
Edited on: September 18, 2011 10:21 pm

3 to Watch: The doubleheader edition

BOSTON -- The Yankees don't have enough pitching. The Red Sox don't have enough pitching.

The low-budget Rays? They have enough pitching.

Crazy, isn't it?

If the Yankees or Red Sox had Matt Moore, you can be sure he'd be starting a game this week, with both teams faced with doubleheaders and cramped schedules.

The Rays have Matt Moore, the top pitching prospect who has scouts buzzing almost Strasburg-style. And while manager Joe Maddon talks about possibly starting him sometime in these final 10 days of the season, he's not yet listed among the Rays' probables.

While the Red Sox go into a doubleheader Monday with Kyle Weiland and John Lackey as their scheduled starters, and while the Yankees hope that Bartolo Colon and Freddy Garcia aren't running out of gas (or, in Colon's case, stem cells), the Rays have the most solid rotation this side of Philadelphia.

Yes, part of it was drafting high all those years when they were bad (the same way the Yankees got Derek Jeter). David Price was the first player picked in 2007, and Jeff Niemann was the fourth player picked three years earlier.

But the Rays took Wade Davis in the third round, got rookie of the year candidate Jeremy Hellickson in the fourth round and found Moore, the latest phenom, in the eighth round.

Maybe they just make better decisions, or do a better job developing pitchers.

They do it so well that they could afford to trade Matt Garza last winter, and could deal Niemann or Davis -- or even Shields -- this winter. Shields would be the toughest to let go (far tougher than Garza), but he would also bring by far the most back to a team that needs offense and has little money to pay for it.

First, though, the great rotation has brought the Rays back into the wild-card race, and gives them a chance of winning it.

On to 3 to Watch:

1. When the Red Sox were rained out on May 17 against the Orioles and rescheduled it as part of a doubleheader this week, they probably figured it would be simply an annoyance as they prepared for the playoffs. Instead, it's a major headache for a Red Sox team struggling desperately to hold onto a wild-card ticket to the playoffs. And this doubleheader, Orioles at Red Sox, Monday afternoon (1:05 ET) and night (7:10 ET) at Fenway Park, doesn't help. The worst part: The Red Sox are stuck starting rookie Kyle Weiland, who has yet to win and has made it past the fourth inning in just one of his four big-league starts. In the other game, they'll go with John Lackey, has the worst ERA of any regular big-league starter.

2. The Giants have won eight in a row, to put off elimination and put a little heat on the first-place Diamondbacks. The Giants are still five games out, but they go to Phoenix this weekend for three games with the D-Backs, so the race isn't over yet. But the Giants, who can't afford to lose, face Clayton Kershaw in Giants at Dodgers, Tuesday night (10:10 ET) at Dodger Stadium. In five starts against the Giants this year, Kershaw is 4-0 with a 1.04 ERA. He'll be going for his 20th win, so he'll be even more motivated. But his opponent, Tim Lincecum, will be pitching to keep the Giants' season alive.

3. While the Red Sox go with Weiland and Lackey in their doubleheader, the Rays will start Shields and Hellickson in Rays at Yankees, Wednesday afternoon (1:05) and night (7:05) at Yankee Stadium. Shields leads the majors with 11 complete games, which makes him perfect for a doubleheader. Wednesday should be interesting for the Yankees, too, if not nearly as crucial. Ace CC Sabathia, who is just 3-3 with a 4.56 ERA in his last eight starts, goes against Shields, while inconsistent Phil Hughes faces Hellickson.

Posted on: September 8, 2011 8:55 pm
Edited on: September 8, 2011 11:48 pm

3 to Watch: The 'Discourage them' edition

The Phillies' goals for the rest of the season would seem to be simple.

Stay healthy (or get healthy). Get rested. Figure out a playoff rotation. Try to break the club record for wins (it's 101, and after a win Thursday the Phillies need just a 10-10 finish to break it).

This week, as the Phillies have faced two potential playoff opponents, manager Charlie Manuel threw another goal out there:

Intimidate the opposition. Look as unbeatable as possible.

"If you play really well, it could discourage them," Manuel said, in advance of this weekend's series in Milwaukee.

The Phillies will likely open the playoffs against the Diamondbacks, who were 2 1/2 games behind the Brewers entering play Thursday. In that case, their second-round opponent would be either the Braves or the Brewers.

The Phillies swept the Braves in a three-game series. They opened a four-game series against the Brewers with a 7-2 win Thursday night.

The games barely matter in the standings, with both teams far ahead in their divisions. Manuel thinks they could matter in the minds of the players, especially if one team dominates the other.

"When I managed in the minor leagues, I had some big hitting teams," he said. "I always liked it when the other team watched us take batting practice. It scared them."

So Charlie, someone asked, does that mean you don't want your pitchers watching when Ryan Braun and Prince Fielder take BP?

"My pitchers can," he said, laughing. "My starting rotation can watch them."

Nothing will scare Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee et al, Manuel figures, probably correctly.

But there is some thought in Philadelphia that the one team that would really concern the Phillies would be the Giants, who knocked them out of the playoffs last year and also won two of three in Philadelphia in July (although the Phillies then won three of four in San Francisco).

The Phillies lost two of three to the Brewers in April, but the Phillies don't look at the Brewers the way they look at the Giants.

Not yet, anyway.

If the Brewers play really well this weekend, maybe the Phillies could be the team that gets discouraged.

On to 3 to Watch:

1. With Josh Beckett's ankle injury, the Red Sox have reason to worry about their starting rotation. They don't have to worry about making it to the playoffs. Right? Uh, I think that's right, but I also noticed that Boston's wild-card lead over the Rays shrunk to 6 1/2 games on Thursday night. And I noticed that the two teams have seven remaining head-to-head meetings, starting with Red Sox at Rays, Friday night (7:10 ET) at Tropicana Field. Great pitching matchup Sunday, with Jon Lester going against James Shields, but especially with Beckett out, the Red Sox might be more focused on what happens Friday, when John Lackey faces Wade Davis. Of the 140 pitchers that have started at least 15 games in the majors this year, Lackey (6.11) is the only one with an ERA over 6.00.

2. For the last three weeks, the Angels have had an easier schedule than the Rangers, and that's no doubt one reason why the Rangers' lead in the American League West shrunk from seven games to 2 1/2 games. But the schedule turns starting this weekend, when the Rangers begin a homestand against the A's and Indians, followed by a trip to Seattle and Oakland. Meanwhile, in Anaheim, it gets tougher, including Yankees at Angels, Saturday night (9:05 ET) at Angel Stadium. At least the Angels have their top three starters set for the series, with Jered Weaver facing Bartolo Colon on Friday, Dan Haren against CC Sabathia on Saturday and Ervin Santana against Freddy Garcia on Sunday.

3. When someone asked Manuel the other day if there's any way Vance Worley could find his way into the postseason rotation, the Phillies manager said: "I think that's a question that should be asked." While the Yankees and Red Sox wonder if they have enough pitchers they would want to start in October, the Phillies seem to have too many. Worley has been outstanding, but it's still hard to see Manuel using him ahead of Roy Oswalt, especially since the manager is on record saying he expects Oswalt's velocity to pick up in October. Worley gets another chance to make his case in Phillies at Brewers, Sunday afternoon (2:10 ET) at Miller Park. It's an interesting case, as the Phillies have won each of Worley's last 14 starts. If the Phillies win Sunday, Worley will tie the Philadelphia club record of 15, set by Steve Carlton in 1972, his 27-win season. The last longer streak in the big leagues was by the 2005 Cardinals, who won 17 straight Chris Carpenter starts.

Posted on: September 2, 2011 12:41 am
Edited on: September 2, 2011 1:09 am

They proved little, but Yanks come away happy

BOSTON -- This was never going to be the defining week for the American League East superpowers.

Short of a major injury, nothing that happened was going to change the course of this season for either the Yankees or the Red Sox, and nothing was going to help much in deciding whether this year goes down as a success or failure.

More than eleven hours of baseball in three days, and they proved nothing?

Pretty much.

At least the Yankees can go away thinking they got something out of it. They got a series win over the Red Sox for the first time in five tries this year, they got a CC Sabathia win over Boston for the first time in five tries this year, and they scored some runs off Josh Beckett for the first time in five tries this year.

"I don't know how much it'll help us [down the road]," hitting coach Kevin Long said. "But you put good thoughts in your mind."

The Yankees would like you to think that Thursday's 4-2 win was a major turning point for troubled starter A.J. Burnett, and their comments Thursday night would strongly suggest that Burnett will make the cut (and that Phil Hughes will go to the bullpen) when they cut from six starters to five.

Burnett gave up two runs, got one out in the sixth inning, and left with two runners on base. But manager Joe Girardi used words like "great" and "outstanding" to describe his performance, and catcher Russell Martin insisted that Burnett "just looked like a different person."

Is it possible that Burnett, who in three years as a Yankee has never shown any ability to sustain success, could pitch so well in September that he could become a postseason factor?

Theoretically, he could. But how well would he need to pitch, and how many times, for the Yankees to feel any confidence in using him in a playoff game?

"It's one step," pitching coach Larry Rothschild said. "It's a good one. Give him a lot of credit."

Give the Yankees a little credit. They were the team that had more on the line in this series, and they were the team that got something out of it.

And the Red Sox?

It's not like these three games exposed any great weaknesses. They lost Tuesday because they left 16 runners on base, and they lost Thursday because Alfredo Aceves walked one batter and hit another, and Daniel Bard made a bad pitch to Martin (who turned it into a two-run double).

Even then, they loaded the bases in the ninth inning against Mariano Rivera, who had to throw his best pitch of the night to strike out Adrian Gonzalez to end the game.

"I don't think there's a team better than the other," Martin said. "Each day, it's going to be the team that plays the best in that game."

The Yankees were a small bit better on two days this week, the Red Sox on one.

Does that mean anything? Not really.

By October, this series will be long forgotten.

Posted on: August 28, 2011 8:49 pm
Edited on: August 28, 2011 9:03 pm

3 to Watch: The Yankees start in Boston edition

Of all the pitchers who have ever made 90 or more career starts for the Yankees, A.J. Burnett has the worst ERA (4.82).

Of all the pitchers who have ever started 11 or more games in a season for the Yankees, Phil Hughes has the seventh highest ERA (6.46).

Good thing the Yankees don't really need to beat the first-place Red Sox this week, with Hughes and Burnett starting two of the three games.

Oh, they'll tell you that they do. They'll talk about the importance of winning the American League East, and of home-field advantage in the playoffs.

But the real importance of this week, and the real importance of every other week until the playoffs begin, is for the Yankees to figure out which of their shaky starting pitchers they can possibly hope to rely on in October. Boston is a good place to try to start figuring, in part because the Red Sox may be the team the Yankees eventually need to beat, and also because in 12 games against the Red Sox this season (10 of them losses), Yankee starters have a 7.54 ERA.

At the moment, Burnett would seem the least reliable, given his 11.91 ERA and 1.142 opponents OPS (Jose Bautista leads all major-league hitters at 1.092) in August.

In fact, with manager Joe Girardi once again promising that the Yankees will go from a six-man rotation to a five-man rotation after the series in Boston, Burnett is the leading candidate to be dropped.

The Yankees would like to think that Hughes is less of a concern, given that in five straight appearances heading into last week, he had a 2.08 ERA. Then Hughes was awful against the light-hitting A's (2 2/3 innings, six runs), and followed it up with the strange comment, "Hopefully I won't face the A's again for a while."

Instead, his next start is against the Red Sox, who lead the majors in scoring.

Hughes should know that; in three appearances against Boston this year, he has a 16.20 ERA.

Even when Hughes had good numbers, scouts weren't overly impressed.

"He was better," said one scout who watched him in a good performance. "But that's not the same Phil Hughes from when he was really good."

Hughes starts Wednesday night. Burnett, 0-4 with an 8.71 ERA in eight starts for the Yankees against the Red Sox, starts Thursday.

So the Yankees might want to win the first game of the series, behind ace CC Sabathia, on Tuesday.

And that, if nothing else, will make this feel just like a Yankee playoff series.

On to 3 to Watch:

1. The Diamondbacks ended the weekend with a four-game lead in the National League West (their biggest yet), which means they're guaranteed to enter September -- and next weekend's big series in San Francisco -- in first place. First, they'll play three games against the Rockies -- the team that was supposed to be challenging the Giants -- beginning with Rockies at Diamondbacks, Monday night (9:40 ET) at Chase Field. Monday's game also features Alex White, one of the two pitchers the Rockies got in the Ubaldo Jimenez trade.

2. At this point, it's probably worth pointing out that Sabathia is 0-4 with a 7.20 ERA in his four starts against the Red Sox this year, and also that his 4.95 ERA in August is easily his highest for any month this year. But there's no doubt that the Yankees trust Sabathia about 10 times more than they trust any of their other starters, so they'll expect him to win, in Yankees at Red Sox, Tuesday night (7:10 ET) at Fenway Park. Sabathia faces the unreliable John Lackey, with Josh Beckett and Jon Lester going against Hughes and Burnett the next two nights.

3. The Yankees talk about home-field advantage, and it's true that they're 41-26 at Yankee Stadium this year. But that's nothing compared to the Brewers, who have a 50-16 home record, with 17 wins in their last 19 games. That record has helped the Brewers turn the National League Central into a runaway, and has greatly diminished the importance of this week's series against second-place St. Louis. The Brewer record for home wins in a season is 54, and they could get close in the series that ends with Cardinals at Brewers, Thursday afternoon (4:10 ET) at Miller Park. Yovani Gallardo, who is 9-1 with a 2.51 ERA in 13 home starts, will be on the mound for the Brewers. One more thing about the Brewers: Despite playing in the smallest market in the majors, they'll sell their 3 miilionth ticket sometime this week.

The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com