NFL: Week 4 Picks

5 undefeated teams remain as we head into week 4 of the NFL season.  I went 9-7 a week ago, bringing my season total to 26-22.

Bye Week: Philadelphia and Green Bay

Thursday Night Football

  • Dolphins @ Bengals: Miami barely squeaked by the Browns last week, while the Bengals were beat down by the defending champs at home.  The Dolphins got a big day from Jarvis Landry, but inconsistency continues to plague Ryan Tannehill, who threw a pick six in the win. Cincinnati got their running game going, but still lost to 1-2 for the first time in five years.  After two very good weeks, Andy Dalton couldn’t do much against the Broncos defense. I like the Bengals at home with another good rushing game to get their second win of the season. CINCINNATI WINS

Sunday Morning Football 

  • Colts @ Jaguars: London here they come! Indianapolis got their first win of the season last week, while Jacksonville is still looking for theirs.  Andrew Luck has the uncanny ability to turn a bad day into a big day passing the ball, but the Jaguars defense isn’t the problem so far, so he’ll need help.  Blake Bortles on the other hand, has been pretty awful for Jacksonville in his third year under center. So what happens this weekend across the pond? Give me a cleaner day from Luck to lift the Colts. INDIANAPOLIS WINS

Sunday 1PM Games

  • Bills @ Patriots: Three different quarterbacks have started for New England, but that hasn’t stopped the winning.  And as for the Bills, they got their first win over a team many think, myself included, are a playoff team destined for a deep run.  Both teams got big two-touchdown games out of their number 1 running backs, so look for another day of running the clock. The Patriots have to get through one more week without Tom Brady, and while they’ve done a great job doing so, and are very, very good at home, I’m taking the road team in this one. BUFFALO WINS
  • Titans @ Texans: It was a very bad week for Houston, who not only lost their Thursday game versus New England 27-0, they learned that JJ Watt re-injured his back and will be out the rest of the year.  Tennessee’s week wasn’t much better, as they scored just 10 points in their loss to Oakland. Both teams enter action having scored the same amount of points through 3 games, but of course that’s skewed with the Texans O-fer last weekend. Marcus Mariota and Brock Osweiler have both thrown 4 interceptions so far this season, so whoever can limit mistakes has the edge. A Titans win puts them in a tie for the division early.  But I don’t think they get it, because I like the Texans skill position players better. HOUSTON WINS
  • Lions @ Bears: The Lions are 1-2, but haven’t struggled in the passing game, as Matthew Stafford has found a new weapon in Marvin Jones after Calvin Johnson called it a career in the off-season.   The silver lining there for the 0-3 Bears is that their defense has actually done okay against the pass so far this season.  Chicago got a pretty good game out of Brandon Hoyer, who finished 30-49 for 317 yards, though most of that came with the game out of hand already. Both teams have the ability to get the points in the air, and with two middling defenses, that shouldn’t be a problem.  So this game will be won in the trenches, and the edge there lies with the Lions. DETROIT WINS
  • Panthers @ Falcons: Carolina is another team I thought would have a great season, but has disappointed so far.  Thanks to the struggles of the Panthers and the rest of the NFC South, Atlanta finds themself atop the division early on in the season.  This dispite allowing 31, 28 and 32 points in their first three games.  The Falcons may not be getting sustained success in their ground game early, they are getting it when it counts.  Tevin Coleman has just 110 yards on the ground, but has 4 rushing touchdowns, including 3 on Sunday in New Orleans. Carolina entered action red-hot at home dating back to 2014, but we shut down by a red-hot Vikings defense a week ago.  I still believe in the Panthers defense, and as hot as Atlanta has been, I think Carolina gets the win on the road. CAROLINA WINS
  • Seahawks @ Jets: The good news for Jets fans? Ryan Fitzpatrick can only be better than he was a week ago. The bad news? He has to be a lot better against the top defense in the league. After scoring just 3 points against L.A. in week 2, the Seahawks exercised some demons putting up 37 against the Niners.  Russell Wilson was hobbled in the game, but still managed to leave with a nice lead.  Big games from Christine Michael and Doug Baldwin helped get the offense back on track.  New York can solace in the fact that they have had a pretty good run game all season, and while some of it came in garbage time, Seattle did allow the Niners to get over 130 yards on the ground, finding pay dirt twice.  This shouldnt be as ugly for the Jets as it was last week, but it will still be a loss. SEATTLE WINS
  • Raiders @ Ravens: Baltimore finds itself among the undefeated teams heading into week 4, in large part thanks to their defense and a good day from kicker Justin Tucker.  The Ravens are second in total defense through 3 weeks of play.  Their opponents won their 2nd game by  forcing three turnovers, with a sack after entering week 3 having allowed the Saints and Falcons to walk all over them.  So based on defenses, Baltimore should have an easy win.  But I actually like Oakland’s offense a lot more, and as someone who thinks this is a playoff team, I’ll take the Raiders in the upset. OAKLAND WINS
  • Browns @ Redskins: Cleveland should’ve gotten their first win of the season in Miami a week ago, but an inability to stop the air attack, and three missed field goals left them at 0-3. They gave themselves a shot, but couldn’t take it.  Cody Kessler’s first career start wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t very good for Cleveland, though at this point, coming out healthy is huge for the Browns. Washington did get their first win, taking down the Giants on the road. After a couple lackluster offensive weeks, Kirk Cousins let it loose and got a number of big plays in the passing game to help get that first win and move back in the right direction to defend their NFC East title.  So can the Browns get their first win this week? Yes. Will they? I don’t think so. They stayed in last week thanks to mistakes by Tannehill, but Cousins won’t make those same mistakes. WASHINGTON WINS

Sunday 4/425PM Games

  • Broncos @ Buccaneers: The Superbowl Champs are showing no signs of slowing down as they look to start the season 4-0.  Denver got off to a slow start last week against the Bengals, but came on strong late thanks to a big day from rookie quarterback Trevor Siemian.  Siemian threw four touchdown passes, including two in the fourth quarter for the win.  Not to be outdone, the Broncos are a top flight defense that held down Andy Dalton and their rushing attack.  They’ve got another tough test when they take on Jameis Winston this weekend.  The Bucs 2nd year quarterback is tied for the league lead in touchdown passes so far with 8, though he has thrown six picks to.  It won’t be a blowout, none of Denver’s games really have been, but it will be another win for the Broncos. DENVER WINS
  • Rams @ Cardinals: I’m shocked at the start the Cardinals are having at just 1-2. Carson Palmer has had a bad TD-turnover ratio through 3 weeks.   Arizona isn’t getting quite out of David Johnson on the ground, while their defense is allowing the 5th most rushing yards per game.  This is as good a week as any to get back to what they want to do in all phases as they take on their division rival Rams, who find themselves tied atop the division at 2-1.  Los Angeles has rebounded nicely from a shutout on opening day, winning their last two games.  The Rams tend to play up or down to their opponents, evident by a 9-3 home win over Seattle and a 37-32 shootout on the road in Tampa Bay.  Going off those results,  I’ll take the Cardinals at home in what should be a close game throughout between these two West foes. ARIZONA WINS
  • Cowboys @ Niners: Dallas couldn’t have asked for more from rookies Dak Prescott and Ezekiel Elliot through three weeks.  The Tony Romo-less Cowboys were a game-winning field-goal away from being 3-0 right now. Dez Bryant has a hairline fracture in his knee but is still expected to play this weekend.  San Francisco was manhandled in week 3, and still isn’t making a change back to Colin Kaepernick.  The biggest thing the Niners have going for them is Carlos Hyde has looked pretty good.  I like what the Caowboys have done this season, but I have a feeling about San Fran this week. It might be a bad feeling, but I’m rolling with it. SAN FRANCISCO WINS
  • Saints @ Chargers: It’s still early, but the Saints need to start picking up some wins quickly if they want to make the playoffs as I predicted they would as a wildcard team in the NFC.  The offense hasn’t been the problem.  Drew Brees is already over a 1,000 yards passing, with an 8-1 touchdown to interception ratio, though that one interception last week was a fourth quarter pick six for Brees.  New Orleans defense hasn’t been been able to stop anyone, as they’ve allowed the 2nd most total yards.  Worst at stopping the run, that’s where the Chargers will need to take advantage this week.  But without Danny Woodhead, San Diego needs Melvin Gordon to get going, so this is the perfect opportunity for that.  I like Philip Rivers, but I like Drew Brees more.  Give me the road team to get win number 1 this week. NEW ORLEANS WINS

Sunday Night Football

  • Chiefs @ Steelers: What a defensive performance put on by the Chiefs this past week! Two defensive touchdowns and six interceptions helped Kansas City get the easy win over the Jets.  The offense wasn’t great, but they didn’t need to be with that showing on defense.  Alex Smith continued to show his game management skills, and why Travis Kelce is one of the better tight ends in the league right now. They’ve got a desperate Steelers team thsi week, who didn’t score a touchdown in a week 3 beatdown by the Eagles.  After two very good weeks, DeAngelo Williams was stymied on the ground, so the rushing attack will gladly welcome back Le’Veon Bell from suspension this week. The biggest test for the Kansas City defense will be stopping Antonio Brown, but I don’t think it will matter much even if he does have a big day. KANSAS CITY WINS

Monday Night Football

  • Giants @ Vikings: This should be a battle of two unbeatens, but a late game collapse left the Giants at 2-1 heading into today.  Too many penalties, a couple late turnovers and allowing Washington to open up the field multiple times led to the home loss for New York.  They lost Shane Vereen to a triceps injury as well.  Eli Manning and company need to do more in the passing game, and they have the capability with three wide receivers.  The bad news for New York is that the Vikings are running on all cylinders right now.  Their defense has been relentless through three weeks, and despite losing starting QB Teddy Bridgewater before the season started, the offense has been very good.  Sam Bradford has come in and fit in better in two weeks then he’s done in the first few seasons of his career.  It’s going to be tough for the Giants on the road, but I like New York will figure things out and get back in the win column.  NEW YORK WINS

NFL: Week 3 Picks

We’ve reached week 3 of the season, and still have 8 undefeated and 8 winless teams. There have also been a lot of big injuries early that will have a big impact on week 3 and beyond.  As for my picks, I’m 18-14 through 2 weeks. Here’s what I’m thinking going into week 3.

Thursday Night Football

  • Texans @ Patriots: Jimmy Garoppolo left with a shoulder injury for New England, who still managed to move to 2-0.  This was thanks in large part to Garoppolo’s 3 touchdown passes before his injury as well as a big performance from LeGarrett Blount in the run game. The Texans took down the Chiefs on the strength of their defense to move to 1-1, a stark difference from their 33-0 loss to Kansas City in the playoffs.  Without Garoppolo, I think the Texans will do enough to get another win to start off the week 3 action. HOUSTON WINS

Sunday 1pm Games

  • Ravens @ Jaguars: Baltimore got very lucky in week 2, as they overcame a 20-0 1st quarter deficit to improve to 2-0.  Cleveland never scored again, while Joe Flacco brought his team back with a 25-45, 302 yard performance.  Their opponents have been disappointing to me so far.  While I didn’t think the Jaguars were going to make the playoffs this season, I thought they’d be better than they’ve shown, starting 0-2 again after They crossed midfield only six times and committed three turnovers. BALTIMORE WINS
  • Lions @ Packers: Both teams enter 1-1 after losing in week 2, and are looking to keep pace with the 2-0 Vikings.  The Packers lost their game in the 4th quarter, turning the ball over twice, while allowing Rodgers to be sacked 5 times. Detroit also lost their game in the 4th quarter when they were outscored 13-0 by the Titans, including a 93-yard game winning drive.  The Lions didn’t have a go to back in week 2, losing Ameer Abdullah to an injury.   So who gets back in the win column this week? I’ll take the Packers at home with a much-needed big day from Eddie Lacy. GREEN BAY WINS
  • Redskins @ Giants: Washington won the NFC East a year ago, but have opened up this season 0-2.  Struggles in the red zone and an inability to force turnovers meant a loss in a back-and-forth affair with Dallas last week. New York’s offense moved up and down the field pretty easily on Sunday, but also struggled in the redzone, and had too many turnovers in the 1st half.  But the defense and special teams stepped up and they moved to 2-0. So who takes this division matchup?  Give me the home team to get over their redzone struggles and take advantage of Eli Manning’s league leading completion percentage, which should be even better as the Giants receiving core dropped at least 5 balls in week 2. NEW YORK WINS
  • Browns @ Dolphins: For the 5th week in a row (dating back to last season), Cleveland will be starting a different QB.  Someone should tell them this isn’t baseball, there’s no starting rotation in football.  Even with the QB carousel, the Browns almost, and should have, pulled out their first win in week 2.  They were up 20-2 on the Ravens, thanks in big part to their ground attack, but fell late.  Miami isn’t in any better a position than their week 3 opponents, as they enter action at 0-2 as well.  The Dolphins were down big early to the Pats, but made a comeback after Jimmy Garoppolo went down with an injury.  Cleveland will be in this game until the end because Miami has had issues stopping the run early.  But even of Isaiah Crowell goes big on the ground, I still think they pull out the win at home. MIAMI WINS
  • Vikings @ Panthers: Minnesota will now be without their starting QB and running back for the rest of the season after Adrian Peterson went down in their game on Sunday night. The Vikings defense looked stong against Aaron Rogers in week 2. As for Carolina, they rebounded offensively in week 2, but they still struggled a bit on defense, allowing the Niners to score 27.  They’ll be without their running back Jonathan Stewart, but were picked up by Fozzy Whittaker on the ground.  Despite the 27 points allowed, I like the Panthers chances of stopping Sam Bradford and the new Vikings weapon and league receiving yards leader Stefon Diggs. CAROLINA WINS
  • Broncos @ Bengals: Andy Dalton has gotten off to a nice start this season, leading the league with 732 passing yards, so here’s a good test for the Broncos league leading defense.  CJ Anderson is having a good start to the season, and we’ve seen the Bengals give up the most rushing yards per game to start the season, so he should be able to help eat a lot of clock for Denver. DENVER WINS
  • Cardinals @ Bills: Arizona rebounded from a tough week 1 loss by handily beating the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.  The Cardinals led the league in total offense, while the Bills dropped to 0-2 despite putting up 31 points of their own in week 2. Buffalo has let their offensive coordinator go, so they really need this game.  Too bad I don’t think they’ll get it.  Look for a big game from running back Daniel Johnson. ARIZONA WINS
  • Raiders @ Titans: Oakland has not been able to stop anyone through two weeks, something I wasn’t expecting, allowing 70 points so far.  Tennessee has actually done a very nice job on defense.  Both teams are 1-1 heading into this game, but I still like the Raiders better.  The Titans offense hasn’t shown the big play ability the Raiders have, so Oakland should be able to hold them down better than they did with New Orleans and Atlanta. OAKLAND WINS

Sunday 4/425pm Games

  • Rams @ Buccaneers: LA’s defense showed up in week 2, Tampa’s did not.  The difference between these two teams is the offense.  While the Bucs went from scoring 4 TDs to 1, I feel more confident about their offense than the Rams, who have scored just 9 points in two games.  The best chance the Rams have is if their defense can do what it did a week ago, and good game out of Todd Gurley. That being said, I’ll take the home team in this one. TAMPA BAY WINS
  • 49ers @ Seahawks: This is a big (albeit early) NFC West battle between two 1-1 teams.  San Francisco followed up a surprise week 1 win with a defensive breakdown against Carolina.  Seattle had one of their worst offensive games in this recent stretch of Superbowl quality teams, scoring just a field goal against the L.A. Rams. I can’t see the Seahawks being held down again, especially by the Niners.  Russell Wilson should be able to dominate in this one. SEATTLE WINS
  • Steelers @ Eagles:  I never thought this would be a game where both teams have a chance to move to 3-0, but here we are.  DeAngelo Williams has been huge for Pittsbrgh in the abscense of Le’Veon Bell, who is out one more week due to suspension. Philadelphia has gotten about as good as you can ever hope to from a rookie quarterback in Carson Wentz, who hasn’t turned the ball over yet. It should be a good game, but I will go with the experience in this one. PITTSBURGH WINS
  • Jets @ Chiefs: Two teams I picked to make the playoffs in the AFC face off in Kansas City this weekend.  New York picked up their first win last week, thanks to the offense.  Off-season acquisition Matt Forte finished with 100 yards rushing, and three rushing touchdowns. Eric Decker and Brandon Marshall both finished with 100 receiving yards as well.  The Jets defense wasn’t as impressive as it was week 1.  The Chiefs hope that’s the case again this week, as they couldn’t get much of anything started against Houston. A lot went right for New York last week, and I can’t see them doing quite that well against Kansas City’s defense as they did against Buffalo.  If this were a home game for the Jets I might choose differently, but it’s a home game for the Chiefs, so I’ll go with them this week.  KANSAS CITY WINS
  • Chargers @ Colts: San Diego is 2-0, Indianapolis is 0-2.  I really thought that the Colts would be able to do better than they have on defense, but they haven’t. San Diego has looked very good on offense to start this season, Indy has been very up and down. INDIANAPOLIS WINS

Sunday Night Football

  • Bears @ Cowboys: Chicago is 0-2 despite holding early leads in both week 1 and week 2.  And now they’ll be without starting quarterback Jay Cutler due to a thumb injury.   Their best hope to beat the Cowboys is to continue limiting the passing game, as the Bears rank 4th in the NFL allowing 224 yards a game.   As for Dallas, they picked up their first win thanks to another clean day from Dak Prescott and a big night on the ground. The Boys were already a better team than the Bears before the Cutler injury, so give me Dallas at home to move to 2-1. DALLAS WINS

Monday Night Football

  • Falcons @ Saints: Atlanta picked up their first win against an impressive Raiders team in week 2, while New Orleans dropped to 0-2 after a game winning field goal by the Giants.  Atlanta hasn’t had any problems scoring this season, but their defense has struggled at times.  New Orleans’ defense was much better in week 2, forcing 3 turnovers, but it wasn’t enough.  I picked the Saints to make the playoffs, so this is a huge game for them.  If they want to get their first win, they have to figure out how to run the ball.  The Falcons tend to be very inconsistent, so give me New Orleans at home in a shootout. NEW ORLEANS WINS

Running Out of Gas, Running Out of Time

You’ve heard this story before, Hiroki Kuroda gives the Yankees a chance to win, but the offense and pen can’t deliver in a 6-2 loss.  The problem this time is with 9 games left, there isn’t time for New York to work things out.

Kuroda struggled early, allowing 2 on in each of the first 3 innings, giving up 2 in the 3rd.  But he stuck with it, and gave the Bombers a chance to win the game, going 6 innings of 3 run ball.  But as it has happened often the last month, the bullpen wasn’t up to the task.  Joba Chamberlain,  whether he’s brought into close games or blowouts, the righty has struggled all year.  With two on and no outs, Chamberlain surrendered a 3-run homer to Adam Lind, blowing the game open.

The Yankees offense was stagnant once again, managing to get nothing but a Curtis Granderson solo shot off Jays starter Todd Redmond. 

It was the bombers 5th loss in their last 6 after a big series win over Baltimore, which put them just a game out of wild card.  But now another tough loss to the Jays could mean the end of the line for the 2013 season.  After starting the season 12-1 against their AL East foes, the Yankees are just 2-4 in their final 6 against Toronto.  Down 3.5 in the Wildcard, you can look at those 4 losses as being the difference.  Of course there are other games to point to, a blown sweep opportunity to Baltimore last month.  A sweep to the sox in Chicago.  4 losses to the Mets in June.  Yet somehow, with 9 to go, 3.5 with 3 to go against Tampa, they’re not mathematically out.  But there are 2 other teams between the and the Rays, so it would probably mean winning out and hoping the Orioles and Indians lose a lot.

Focus shifts back to the Bronx for what could be Mariano Rivera’s final 6 home games.  The closer will be honored Sunday before their finale with the Giants.  The hope is to make the last 9 count, force their way into a Wild Card, and give their first ballot hall-of-fame closer one more shot to do what he does best, perform in October.

CC Sabathia has had a down year, but he needs to put that behind him and give New York his best start of the year tonight.  The defending champion Giants are a shadow of the team they were last season, but they’re dangerous and want to play spoiler to finish their season on a high note.  They’ve got former Cy Young winner Tim Lincecum going, and he always has the chance to put up a big performance.  

Making that’s worse is that the rays and orioles play each other this weekend, meaning any loss means dropping down further. The Yankees are the point where just winning a series isn’t good enough.  They have to look at each game as a must win.

4-Run 8th Saves Yankees… For Now

It’s been awhile since Vernon Wells delivered a big hit for the bombers. Well that all changed in their 4-3 win over Toronto on Wednesday.

Robinson Cano got the bombers on the board for the first time in the series with an RBI single. Alfonso Soriano followed that up with an RBI double to cut the deficit to 1. Then Wells put New York ahead with a 2-run double.

Phil Hughes got the start for the Yanks, surrendering 2 runs in 3.1 innings. David Huff came in in relief, going 3.2, allowing the other jays run.

Mariano Rivera shut the door, recording a 4-out save, to keep the yankees relevant in the wild card discussion. (Save #44)

The Indians lost again to the Royals, while the Orioles topped the Red Sox in 12. The Rays evened up their aeries with fellow card holder Texas. What does it all mean? That the yankees are 2.5 back of Texas, 1 back of the Indians and behind the Orioles. There’s still hope with 3 remaining with the Rays. And they own the season series with Cleveland, texas and baltimore, which helps in the event of a tie. Now they just have to continue to win and get help. Of course, what awaits them if they win a wild card spot and find away to win the wild card game, the dreaded Red Sox. The Yanks are just 6-13 against them this year. But October is the land of strange occurrences, so you never know. You’ve gotta get there first.

10 games to go and there’s still so much to be decided, not just in the AL, but the NL wild card is set to be just that, wild til the end.

The Offense Sputters in Jays Opener

With a guaranteed chance to gain on a wild card holder, the yankees can’t capitalize on early chances, and drop their opener with Toronto.

New York got four runners on in the first two innings off RA Dickey, but couldn’t drive any home. And last seasons NL Cy Young winner settled down from there to go 7 shutout innings.

Andy Pettitte was 3-0 in his previous 7 starts, and was big time once again. But a solo homer to Colby Rasmus in the fourth was all Toronto needed. The lefty veteran left down 1-0 after 6.2 solid innings. Shawn Kelley came in and finished off the 7th, but no before allowing a solo shot to Rajai Davis.

The offense couldn’t do anything in the final 2 innings, and lost for the 4th straight game. Pettitte falls to 10-10 on the year despite a good effort.

The late season loss also meant losing more ground. The Orioles beat the Red Sox while the Indians came back to beat the Royals. The Rays lost, so the bombers remain 3.5 games back for the final wild card spot.

11 games left to make what would be a remarkable comeback. It starts tonight. Phil Hughes looks to put his nightmare season behind him and help the bombers avoid a 5th straight loss.

Vintage Andy, Vintage Bombers Show Up in Toronto


Andy Pettitte Warms Up 08/11/13

Andy Pettitte is in the midst of his best stretch of the season, and it couldn’t have come at a better time.

The veteran lefty is 3-0 with a 0.46 ERA in his last three starts.  And in a playoff push where every game is precious, coupled with the struggles of Sabathia, Kuroda and Hughes, Pettitte is back to his old stopper ways.

Pettitte was helped by a big 4-run first inning from his offense, an inning which wasn’t short on scares either.  In an injury plagued 2013, Yankee players, coaches and fans held their breathe when Toronto starter JA Happ plunked Robinson Cano in the left hand.  Happ is no stranger to hitting Yankees.  In spring training game number 1, he broke Curtis Granderson’s forearm, causing Grandy to miss the first 6 weeks of the season.

Cano would stay in to run the bases, and revenge came in the form of Alfonso Soriano.  The 2nd baseman turned outfielder has been nothing short of clutch since his return to the Bronx, and already up 1-nothing, Soriano jacked a mammoth 3-run homer to give Pettitte all the run support he needed.  But Cano would leave the game.  Fans and the team were able to exhale when x-rays came back negative, leaving Cano listed as day-to-day with a left hand contusion.  It remains to be seen just how swollen his hand is today, and don’t be surprised if Joe Girardi gives his 2nd baseman Wednesday off with an off-day Thursday.

Robbie wasn’t the only possible causality of the nigh.  The Yankees may also be without Eduardo Nunez for a day or two, as the infielder left Tuesday’s game in the ninth with a right knee injury.  Nunez replaced Cano at second, but tweaked his knee late in the game.

Already up 4-0, Soriano would blast his 2nd homer of the game, and 400th of his career.  He became just the 7th player to reach that mark as a Yankee, joining Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Mickey Mantle, A-Rod, Gary Sheffield, and Reggie Jackson.  Rodriguez and Mary Reynolds would each also homer in last nights game.

Pettitte went 7 shutout innings, and Adam Warren finished up the game, giving an over used pen a much needed break.

It was a big win after a 5-2 loss on Monday.  The 7-1 victory, coupled with losses 3 of the 5 teams (Cleveland, Tampa and Baltimore) they’re chasing in the Wildcard standings. kept them 4.5 games back.  However, they are closer to leapfrogging Baltimore, who they play at the Stadium this weekend.

Hiroki Kuroda looks to bounce back from his two worst outings of the year tonight, and get the Yankees a series win in Toronto.   Todd Redmond toes the rubber for the Jays.

The Captain Returns (Again)

Now batting… number 2. Derek Jeter.

Yes, the captain is back off this 3rd DL stint of a trying 2013 season.

Jeter will be batting second and playing short tonight against the Blue Jays.   Hearing that number 2 is back is nothing new for the Yankees and their fans, who’ve seen their leader play in just 5 games this season.  Jeter of course started the season on the DL after re-fracturing his ankle in spring training (the original injury happened in the ALCS against the Tigers last year).   The second injury (a quad strain) came in his first game back on 7/11 against Kansas City.  He would return 17 days later against Tampa, only to end up back on the disabled list on August 3rd with a calf strain.

Now here he is, back with a team just back 3.5 games back for a Wildcard spot in the American League.  Jeter’s return marks the first time all year that A-Rod, Jeter and Curtis Granderson, as well as the recently acquired Alfonso Soriano, will be in the lineup together.

It’s no secret that the injury bug has bit not only Jeter, but the entire Yankees team hard in 2013.  And at age 39, you have to hope this third return for Jeter doesn’t end the same way as the first two.  Shortstop has been a revolving door this season, and with the recent loss of Jayson Nix, another Jeter injury would not help the Yankees in their late season playoff push.  Eduardo Nunez, who was meant to take the majority of the reps at short when Jeter didn’t start the year, also spent time on the DL this season.  And since his own return, Nunez has been shaky defensively, having committed 10 errors in just 68 games.  He’s also only hitting .248, short of expectations.

To make room for Jeter’s return, reliever Preston Claiborne has once again been optioned down to Triple-A, though he’ll without a doubt be back next weekend when rosters expand on September 1st.  Some question why Claiborne, and not Chamberlain, who’s ERA is hovering around 4-and-a-half.   It’s simple.  Claiborne has options, while Chamberlain would have to be let go entirely, something the Yankees aren’t ready to do.  The organization would rather get something in return for the beleaguered reliever.

So it remains to be seen how Jeter will hold up the final 32 games, but for now, the Yankees are just happy to be able to pencil number 2 back into the lineup.  This team has fought through injuries all year, and have put themselves into a position to claw their way into the playoffs.

That push continues tonight against the last place Blue Jays, who the Yankees are 12-1 against this year.  Phil Hughes gets the ball for New York, coming off two straight solid outings.  R.A. Dickey looks to rebound from what was a very good outing against the Yanks, until he hung a knuckleball to Soriano in the 8th, which broke a 2-2 tie.