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Yankees Five Up & Five Down List As Regular Season Finishes Without Postseason Berth, Including Mariano Rivera, Andy Pettitte, Robinson Cano, Alfonso Soriano, CC Sabathia, More

Mariano Rivera and Metallica? It happened this season. (AP photo)
  By Brad Carroll  
The 2013 version of the New York Yankees is one most fans will want to forget. There was countless injuries, a couple of suspensions, an offense that couldn't score runs, and a pitching staff that fell apart over the last month of the season. It all added up to 85 wins and no postseason berth.

The Yankees finished 12 games back of AL East champion Boston and six games behind the final wild card spot, which was still in play with one week to go in the season. It was a tough season to watch, especially given how the team, save for a few select players, decided to play its worst ball at the most inopportune time. If the Yankees were plain old good over the month of September, they could have been playing in October, instead of packing up for the winter.

The Yankees went 13-14 in the final month of the season and went 17-18 when the important stretch run of the year began August 23 with a series against the Tampa Bay Rays. Later, having to go 9-0 just to have a chance at a playoff berth in the final two weeks, the Yankees went 5-4.

It's no surprise the Yankees didn't make the postseason.

Red Sox Five Up & Five Down List For Regular Season, Including Jon Lester, Clay Buchholz, Will Middlebrooks, Daniel Nava, Jake Peavy And More

  By Matt Straub  
The Boston Red Sox have to wait until Friday to start their American League Division Series. They won’t even know until Wednesday night who they’re playing, and that’s if Mother Nature doesn’t get in the way this week.

Fortunately, there is plenty to talk about while we wait for the meat of the playoff schedule to begin.

Last week, we used this column to go over who helped Boston have its incredible turnaround and what players will be the least deserving of their playoff share, however big it ends up being. This week, I thought I’d use it as both a look back at the season and a way to take a peak at the playoff roster. The players who are Up emerged as key pieces and should get a shot to help in October, while the ones on the Down side had some high points but struggled down the stretch and might either miss the postseason entirely or will make fans nervous when their name is called in October.

Chiefs 31, Giants 7: Season Goes From Bad To Worse After Another Blowout Loss Drops Giants To 0-4 On Year

Eli Manning and the Giants got beat again Sunday. (AP photo)
  By Brad Carroll  
For those who believed the New York Giants would finally find their rhythm on the football field Sunday afternoon against the Chiefs, the end result was another shocking reminder this just might be one of those years to forget. The Giants actually played exponentially better Sunday than they did last week against the Panthers, but still lost the game 31-7 in Kansas City.

That fact might be most troubling of all, as the Giants played better, yet still lost by 24 points. An 0-4 record is bad no matter how a team got there, but the Giants haven't even been close to winning a game this season when the fourth quarter rolled around. A sudden turnaround is always possible, but when a team hasn't even been competitive late in a game this season, that possibility is extremely slim. So, the way the Giants have gotten to 0-4 may just be worse than the simple record itself.

The Giants have allowed the Cowboys, Broncos, Panthers and Chiefs to all put up over 30 points, with all four being able to claim run-away victories. The Giants offense has become completely inept over the last two weeks, totaling just one touchdown against Carolina and Kansas City. They ran exactly zero plays in the red zone against the Chiefs Sunday.

Titans 38, Jets 13: Geno Smith Gives Game Away As Jets Get Embarrassed In Tennessee Once Again In Big Loss

Geno Smith had his worst game of the season Sunday. (AP photo)
  By Brad Carroll  
The New York Jets had the opportunity to take a giant step forward in their development as a playoff contender Sunday night against the Tennessee Titans. Win and they would be 3-1 at the quarter point of the season, putting themselves in great position to make a run at the postseason. Instead, the Jets put together one of the most embarrassing performances of the Rex Ryan era, losing 38-13. It was worse than last year's trip to Tennessee, which set in motion the switch from Mark Sanchez to Geno Smith.

Sanchez was so bad in last year's game, with four interceptions and a fumble lost, Ryan didn't even wait until the team returned home before letting the one-time franchise quarterback know he was being benched. Smith was even worse Sunday in Tennessee, putting together an utterly embarrassing performance, with four total turnovers and a complete lack of control of the ball and the team.

He won't be benched, though. He's still the future.

Jets At Titans Preview: If Geno Smith And Jets Are For Real This Season, They Must Beat Titans In Tennessee

  By Brad Carroll  
Jets fans should remember vividly the last time the team played the Titans in Tennessee. It was Week 15 last season when the Jets were still alive for the final wild card spot, but needed to sweep their last three games, against Tennessee, San Diego and Buffalo, each of which had little to no chance of making the playoffs, and get a little help along the way.

Instead of taking the next step in working their way back into the postseason, the Jets responded on Monday Night Football by playing one of the worst games of the Rex Ryan era. Mark Sanchez threw four interceptions, but still had a chance to right all the wrongs after a 19-yard punt gave the Jets the ball at the Tennessee 25 with 47 seconds to play. On the first play, however, Sanchez fumbled, Bilal Powell accidentally kicked the ball away and the Titans recovered and won the game 14-10.

The loss set in motion a series of events that have changed the franchise around completely, except for the head coach. General manager Mike Tannenbaum was fired and John Idzik was brought in from the Seattle organization. The Jets got younger and faster on both offense and defense. They brought in a new offensive coordinator and Ryan took back control of the defense. Biggest of all, the team began the process of moving on from Sanchez completely, drafting Geno Smith in the second round of the NFL Draft.

Giants At Chiefs Preview: Giants Try To Save Season And Avoid 0-4 Start Against Undefeated Kansas City

  By Brad Carroll  
It's rather easy to ask the question "how did we get here?" when discussing the 2013 New York Giants season. The Giants have gone from favorites to win the NFC East before the season kicked off, to being talked about in the same breathe as the Jacksonville Jaguars as one of the worst teams in the league after Week 3. So, what the heck has happened to Big Blue?

First, the offensive line has been a horror show, as injuries and poor play have led to an offense that hasn't been able to produce much more than padding stats when playing from behind. Past those troubles, quarterback Eli Manning has been off to a terrible start himself, already throwing eight interceptions in three games. The running game, with David Wilson as the ineffective feature back, gaining just 75 rushing yards in three games, has been historically bad.

Yankees What's On Tap: Andy Pettitte Pitches For Final Time And Mariano Rivera In The Outfield Vs. Astros

  By Brad Carroll  
If it wasn't for watching Andy Pettitte pitch for the final time ever Saturday and the chance of seeing Mariano Rivera play the outfield at some point this weekend, there would be no reason to watch the Yankees three-game series with the Houston Astros starting Friday night.

The Yankees are out of playoff contention, have been for a while, so there is nothing standings-wise to check out. And after the perfectly done farewell to Rivera Thursday night against Tampa Bay, which you can read about right here, watching the team play will feel like one big letdown.

The only thing the Yankees did right this season was in the way manager Joe Girardi allowed Andy Pettitte and Derek Jeter to go to the mound and make a pitching change with two outs in the ninth inning Thursday, allowing Rivera to be shown the love and admiration he so richly deserves. Nothing will be the same over the next three games. In fact, if I was managing the Yankees, Rivera would not pitch again. His moment at Yankee Stadium was that special, that emotional. There's no reason to have him out there again.

College Football Picks Week 5: LSU At Georgia, Ole Miss At Alabama, Oklahoma At Notre Dame, Wisconsin At Ohio State, Plus Many More

LSU at Georgia plus nine more college football picks below
  By Brad Carroll  
After a one-week hiatus without any marquee matchups, the SEC takes back the college football spotlight Saturday with a pair of huge games that could go a long way in determining who plays for a national championship at the end of the season.

First, No. 6 LSU travels to No. 9 Georgia for an afternoon showdown. Then, later that night, No. 21 Ole Miss takes on top-ranked Alabama on the road. LSU could finally gain some believers if it can knock off the Bulldogs on the road. Georgia could run the table if it beats the Tigers, as only a game against Florida presents a true challenge the rest of the way. Alabama will be favored in every game it plays this year, and the Ole Miss matchup is no different. And then there are those Rebels, where a young cast could turn a huge upset into a shocking run toward the top of the rankings.

After Perfect Ending, Mariano Rivera Exits As One Of Baseball's True Legends, One We Can All Tell Future Generations About Seeing Him Play

Derek Jeter, Andy Pettitte and Mariano Rivera for the final time. (AP photo)
  By Brad Carroll  
Mariano Rivera is the greatest pitcher of all time. Not just the greatest closer of all time, but the greatest pitcher of all time. All time. There isn't a single pitcher you can look back on that had a bigger impact on the game the way Mariano Rivera did. Forget once every five days, Mariano Rivera did it nearly every night. Nobody did it better and nobody will ever do it as well again.

Players come and go, but the greatest names in baseball resonate forever. There are those names that are synonymous with greatness, starting with Babe Ruth and including just a handful more, that everyone, not just baseball fans, know. Mariano Rivera is in that class now.

There will never be another Rivera. Just like there will never be another Ruth. Or Mickey Mantle. Or Joe DiMaggio. Or Lou Gehrig. Or Yogi Berra. There's not many players throughout history that can hold that status. Rivera does, now and forever.

Most of us never got to see the greatest names of yesteryear play, but we all got to see Rivera. For Yankees fans, it was an almost daily thing. For 19 years, we got to witness greatness. He was a once in a lifetime player. We might not have seen Ruth, Mantle, DiMaggio, Gehrig or Berra play.

We saw Rivera, though.

Red Sox What's On Tap: Boston Can Wrap Up Home Field Advantage Against Baltimore Orioles

  By Matt Straub  

This is it. For the last six months, I’ve been breaking down and previewing Red Sox series for this site, helping Yankees fans keep track of their arch rival. Thanks to Brad for giving me the forum to do so, and I hope I’ve provided a bit of a service for those here who wanted to know what they were up against this season.

Now, the final series of the regular season is here. Last week I had mentioned, and for the blog’s sake hoped, that this weekend’s Red Sox-Orioles series could matter in the AL wild card picture. Well, it doesn’t. The Red Sox are two up with three to go in the race for home field throughout the playoffs, but can’t win 100 games. (Though for those of us who expected a bad season, 98 or 99 is just fine.) The Orioles can’t make the playoffs.

Mets What's On Tap: Mets Close Season With Four Games At Home Against Milwaukee Brewers

  By Brad Carroll  
The end is finally here for the 2013 New York Mets, as they will host the Milwaukee Brewers for four games at Citi Field before packing up their things and heading home for the winter. It was another playoff-less season for the Mets, but the team and their fans can be proud of the way the season ended, especially winning two of three games against a team fighting for wild card positioning and a division title.

The Mets won the last two games on the road against the Reds after losing the first in extra innings, making Cincinnati's goal of a home playoff game that much harder to achieve. The fans in Pittsburgh are definitely happy with the way the young Mets squad came to play with nothing on the line but pride.

Yankees On Brink Of Elimination After Another Horrible Defeat

  By Brad Carroll  
The New York Yankees yet again showed absolutely no desire to win games when it matters most this season, losing to the Tampa Bay Rays 7-0 Tuesday night. The loss puts the team on the brink of elimination from the playoff race, even if the writing was already on the wall. With either one more loss or just one win from Cleveland, this disaster of a season will come to an end for the Yankees.

The Yankees, who have scored just one run in the past 18 innings, can no longer catch the Rays, so it's either tie the Indians or bust. Of course, that's going to be nearly impossible, especially for a team that has gone 3-7 over their last 10 games and can't even score runs.

Yankees Still Have Hope, Albeit Extremely Slim, To Make Postseason, Here's What Must Happen Over Final Six Games Of The Season To Get In

  By Brad Carroll  
Barring the biggest of miracles, the New York Yankees will play this final week of the season with nothing on the line. Of course, that's pretty much how they've played this entire month. The Yankees have been unable to make a move up the wild card standings despite every other team in the race faltering around them.

There is no fight in this team, and that was never more evident in the Yankees' 2-1 loss to the San Francisco Giants Sunday afternoon, the day the team honored Mariano Rivera and Andy Pettitte. That humiliating defeat made it nearly impossible for the team to make the postseason this year.

There's hope still remaining, of course, however small. But with how the team lost two of three to the Blue Jays and lost the series finale against San Fran Sunday, nobody can believe the team will find a way to win the final six games on the schedule, even if three come against the Houston Astros.

New Generation Of Yankees Should Be Embarrassed By Their Play, Especially In Letting Down Andy Pettitte, Mariano Rivera And Fans

Andy Pettitte finishes his tremendous career at home. (AP photo)
  By Brad Carroll  
The New York Yankees may have finally dug themselves too big a hole to climb out of with their loss Sunday afternoon against the San Francisco Giants. The Yankees, who won two of three in a series they had to sweep, again showed zero heart on offense and went down without a fight, even with the backdrop of celebrating the historic careers of Mariano Rivera and Andy Pettitte.

In fact, the only two players who actually played like the Yankees' season was on the line was Pettitte and Rivera. Pettitte had a perfect game going in his final start ever at Yankee Stadium until he walked a batter with two outs in the fifth inning. He carried a no-hitter into the sixth before Ehire Adrianza tied the game at 1-1 with a home run. Pettitte came out for the eighth inning and allowed just hit his second hit of the game, a double to the first batter, which forced manager Joe Girardi to bring in David Robertson.

Pettitte got a standing ovation as he left the field and received a curtain call as well. He should have received the same treatment from his teammates on the field, as in scoring better than one run to send him out with a victory. Pettitte certainly lived up to his end of the bargain, but the Yankees offense failed him.

Red Sox What's On Tap: Still Fighting For AL's Best Record In Colorado

  By Matt Straub  
I won’t lie to you loyal readers of this website. This isn’t an exciting week ahead for the Boston Red Sox. Yes the Red Sox still have some work to do before the playoffs begin, most notably locking up home field throughout the postseason.

There is also the fine line of rest vs. rust in the final week of the season, and the Red Sox must walk it. Which is why, with a series in Baltimore still ahead, the next two games in Colorado might see a lot of guys whose names you might not know. John Farrell likes to make moves to begin with, and playing in a National League park against a bad team while looking to give his players some breaks could mean a flurry of activity this week.

So if you like double switches and pinch runners, this is the series for you. It’s also a chance to reminisce about the 2007 World Series, or for someone to tell the subsequent Dustin Pedroia-Coors Field security guy-Jeff Francis story for the 217th time.

Mets What's On Tap: Mets Get To Play Spoiler At Cincinnati Against Reds

  By Brad Carroll  
While the New York Mets won't be celebrating a playoff berth again this season, they could do some serious damage to a team still fighting for their division, wild card and at least a home playoff game. The Cincinnati Reds currently are tied with the Pittsburgh Pirates for the two wild card positions, with both leading the Washington Nationals by five games in that race. The Reds trail the NL Central-leading Cardinals by two games with six to play.

For the Mets, they could do the Pirates a huge favor by winning two of three or even sweeping the Reds. A Mets' sweep could get the Nationals back in the wild card race as well. Of course, none of that is going to be easy, as the Reds have all the motivation in the world to win games and at least stay atop the wild card standings, meaning a home game in the postseason.

Red Sox 3 Up & 3 Down: Looking Back On Just How The Red Sox Proved Everyone Wrong And Won AL East

  By Matt Straub  

Boy, the guy who wrote the Red Sox season preview for this blog was an idiot. Brad should get rid of him. The Red Sox will win 78 games and have a chance at the second wild card if everything goes right, he said. The Red Sox lacked a clear direction, not loading up on young talent for the future or new stars to lead the current team, he said. 

Instead, he claimed, the Red Sox went out and got a bunch of guys who would serve as great complimentary pieces on a winning team, but lacked a clear role on a team appearing to be on the way to a mediocre season.

What the author of that post never counted on was the rare occurrence of atmosphere aiding talent. The Red Sox had everything come together in the clubhouse, and it spilled over onto the field. The 2013 Red Sox are a unique team which created some momentum, got a little lucky, and used that energy to get through rough patches.

Mets 3 Up & 3 Down: David Wright Returns In Big Way, Vic Black, Daniel Murphy Trending Up, Lucas Duda, Andrew Brown, Sean Henn Down

  By Brad Carroll  
David Wright returned to the New York Mets Friday night with a blast against the Phillies. In his first at-bat in nearly two months, Wright hit a two-run home run in the first inning in Philadelphia, sparking a 6-4 victory in the first of a three-game series.

"It was just fun to be back out there," Wright said after the game. "You get those competitive juices flowing again."

Wright, who had been out since August 3, didn't waste any time getting his second home run since rejoining the team, going deep in the second game of the series, a 5-4 rain-shortened victory.

Panthers 38, Giants 0: Season Already On Brink After Giants Suffer Worst Loss Of Tom Coughlin Era In Carolina

Eli Manning was sacked seven times Sunday. (AP photo)
  By Brad Carroll  
There's nothing good about starting a season 0-3. History is against any team in the NFL that wants to make the postseason after such a terrible start. But three games has never made a season, and it's way too early to write anyone off that early in the year. With the way the Giants reached that record Sunday afternoon in Carolina, however, nobody can look at the bright side of things.

The Giants' 38-0 loss to the Panthers was the worst loss of the Tom Coughlin Era. It was the biggest blowout in the history of the Carolina franchise. It was, in a word, pathetic. The offense and defense could both be blamed for a third straight embarrassing performance that has put the Giants at the bottom of the barrel in the league, slumming it with the Jacksonville Jaguars.

Jets 27, Bills 20: Despite Team-Record 20 Penalties, Geno Smith And The Jets Pick Up Impressive Victory

Mo Wilkerson celebrates after a sack. (AP photo)
  By Brad Carroll  
A lot will be made of the New York Jets committing 20 penalties for 168 yards, including an embarrassing stretch of four straight plays that resulted in a flag being thrown on a drive that allowed the Bills to tie the game at 20 in the fourth quarter. But this victory over Buffalo to get the Jets to 2-1 on the season is one of the more impressive victories in the Rex Ryan Era.

The Jets defense has reverted back to the group that terrorized the league in the first two years of Ryan's reign as head coach. The defense had eight sacks, survived two turnovers by their offense and a countless number of penalties that gave Buffalo second life. Take away the penalties and the Jets blow the Bills out of the stadium, with the defense leading the way.

The Jets offense was as good as it's ever been since Ryan took over. Quarterback Geno Smith looked like a bona fide star, throwing for 331 yards with two passing touchdowns and one more score rushing. He had no problem throwing the ball deep and trusting his wide receivers to make plays. More often than not, they did. He hit Stephen Hill for a 51-yard touchdown on a bomb. Later, in the fourth quarter after Buffalo tied it, he hit Santonio Holmes for a 69-yard scoring play, where he fit the ball in perfectly against tight coverage.

Jets Vs. Bills Preview: Battle Of Rookie Quarterbacks As Jets Face Must-Win Game Against Buffalo

  By Brad Carroll  
When the New York Jets host the Buffalo Bills in a late game Sunday afternoon, there will be a couple interesting subplots to the overall storyline of both teams needing a victory to stay out of last place in the AFC East. First, there is the obvious battle of rookie quarterbacks, with Geno Smith leading the Jets against E.J. Manuel and the Bills. Second, there is the behind-the-scenes defensive battle between Jets coach Rex Ryan and Bills defensive coordinator Mike Pettine.

Put them all together and this is a must-win game for both teams in many different ways.

The Jets need to bounce back after a frustrating loss to the New England Patriots a week ago Thursday, when they lost 13-10 in a game they easily could have won. Rookie quarterback Geno Smith threw three fourth-quarter interceptions and the Jets couldn't catch the ball, leading to a wasted opportunity at New England. The Bills, on the other hand, won with a touchdown pass in the final seconds, beating Carolina as E.J. Manuel shined on the final touchdown drive.

Giants At Panthers Preview: Giants Can't Afford To Start 0-3, Especially Against Winless Carolina Panthers

  By Brad Carroll  
Even though history has shown there isn't much hope for a team to make the postseason after an 0-2 start, this New York Giants season won't hit critical mass unless the team can't find a way to beat the Carolina Panthers Sunday. Only 12 percent of teams that started 0-2 since 1990 have made the playoffs, and over the last four seasons, none of the 30 teams that started winless made the postseason.

But the Giants are one of the teams that did it, back in 2007 when they won the Super Bowl. So, holdovers from that team can let the others know it's possible. In today's NFL, however, the past means nothing and can't be used as a crutch for what lies ahead in the future.

Better for the Giants is the NFC East is as weak as it has been in years. The Cowboys lead the division at 1-1. Then comes the Eagles, who lost Thursday night to the Chiefs, at 1-2, and the Redskins and Giants at 0-2. The Giants don't need history on their side, they just have to be better than what appears to be a bunch of mediocre, at best, teams in their division.

Yankees What's On Tap: Andy Pettitte Announces Retirement Leading Into Must-Sweep Series Against Giants, Plus Wild Card Breakdown

  By Brad Carroll  
While the New York Yankees head into a must-sweep series with the San Francisco Giants, for real this time, starting Friday night, a huge announcement has taken over Yankees Universe. Andy Pettitte, one of the greatest Yankees pitchers of all time, announced his retirement today. He'll get one more start at home, Sunday, unless the team can somehow make the postseason.

"I'm announcing my retirement prior to the conclusion of our season because I want all of our fans to know now - while I'm still wearing this uniform - how grateful I am for their support throughout my career," Pettitte said in a statement. "I want to have the opportunity to tip my cap to them during these remaining days and thank them for making my time here with the Yankees so special. I've reached the point where I know that I've left everything I have out there on that field. The time is right. I've exhausted myself, mentally and physically, and that's exactly how I want to leave this game."

Pettitte is 10-10 with a 3.93 ERA this season, but has become the most trusted pitcher over the final month of the season. While there are pitchers with better talent, Pettitte is by far the guy from the current group of starters you would want on the mound in a Game 7.

Mets What's On Tap: David Wright Should Return Against Phillies

  By Matt Straub  

There was a time when a Mets-Phillies series in September was important. The teams occupied the top two spots in the division for years during the last decade, but each has fallen on hard times of late, making this weekend’s set little more than a faint reminder of what used to be.

Still, this series has some value. The Mets expect to get David Wright back for the first time since the beginning of August, and anything he can do down the stretch should help him get some momentum going for next season. The same can be said for a number of young Mets who are trying to build something heading into 2014. For the Phillies, it’s another chance to reestablish Citizen’s Bank Park as a tough place to play, where they have won seven of their last nine.

Red Sox What's On Tap: Boston Should Clinch AL East Against Jays

  By Matt Straub  

The Boston Red Sox didn’t help anyone who reads this website over the middle of the week. The Yankees were hoping Boston could take at least two of three against Baltimore and push the Yankees up the wild card standings a little, or at least help stop their slide. The Red Sox, who did manage to clinch a playoff spot, didn’t win the division against the annoying Orioles, who continue to be a thorn in Boston’s side.

If you’re the Red Sox, the good news is the division should finally be locked up in the next couple of days. If you’re a Yankees fan, unfortunately Boston will be unable to help you for a while, though they will end the year against in Baltimore.

College Football Picks Week 4: Arizona State At Stanford, Tennessee At Florida, Michigan State At Notre Dame, Michigan At UConn, Plus More

Stanford-Arizona State plus nine other game previews below
  By Brad Carroll  
When ABC's primetime game of the week features the Connecticut Huskies, you know there's something off about the college football schedule. Saturday's slate of games features just one matchup where ranked teams will be playing each other, with the rest not eliciting much can't-miss excitement.

But this is college football, after all, where every game means something and a sports fan's weekend will be dominated by watching all of the action unfold on their television screens, even if the lineup of games resembles more spring scrimmages rather than a New Year's Day bowl fest.

The main event features No. 23 Arizona State traveling to take on No. 5 Stanford. The Cardinal have national title hopes, but the Sun Devils, coming off a huge, albeit strange, victory over Wisconsin, can destroy those Saturday night in primetime. Besides that Pac-12 showdown, Tennessee at No. 19 Florida, Michigan State at No. 22 Notre Dame and Auburn at No. 6 LSU all could turn into great games. And, of course, there are those Huskies hosting the No. 15-ranked Michigan Wolverines.

Yankees Wild Card Breakdown: Yankees Need To Keep Momentum Against Toronto, Plus Who To Root For Tonight As Yanks Chase WC

  By Brad Carroll  
For seven innings Wednesday night in Toronto it again looked like the New York Yankees couldn't care less that their season was on the line. They trailed the last-place Blue Jays 3-0 entering the eighth inning and there wasn't much hope of the team suddenly turning the switch offensively to come back and win the game.

But the Yankees finally woke up and realized they were in the middle of a wild card race. Robinson Cano singled in a run to bring the team within 3-1. Alfonso Soriano, the biggest acquisition the Yankees have made in a long time, doubled in another run to cut the deficit to 3-2. Vernon Wells, the former Blue Jay, completed the comeback with a two-run double to put the Yankees up 4-3.

Mariano Rivera converted a four-out save and the Yankees saved their season with the victory.

Yankees Wild Card Breakdown: Yankees Need To Show Some Heart As They Chase Playoff Berth, Here's What Must Happen Tonight

  By Brad Carroll  
The New York Yankees are the most hated team in baseball. They might be the most hated team in all of sports. And after watching the team play over the past three weeks or so, including the past four nights, it's extremely difficult for even the most die-hard Yankees fans not to hate this team right now.

How can the real Yankees fan not be extremely disappointed and frustrated and downright angry at the way the team has given away chance after chance to make a move up the standings? If the Yankees had a halfway decent month up to this point, they would be one of the wild card leaders. Instead, they are a huge underdog to even get to third place in the standings.

And it's all because the team has shown absolutely no heart, no fight in this postseason pursuit. It's almost like the Yankees don't even realize they are in must-win mode. They were shutout by the last-place Blue Jays Tuesday night, after all. They were swept by the Red Sox before that. How can you not hate the current cast of players for showing no will to win?

Of course, no true fan is going to give up on the season until it's mathematically impossible to make the postseason, and that's why all will continue to root for the Yankees to win and follow the scoreboard to somehow get back into the race.

Yankees What's On Tap: Another Must-Sweep Series Against Toronto, Plus Breaking Down Wild Card Race

  By Brad Carroll  
The New York Yankees could be the luckiest team in all of baseball. Despite the fact they keep on losing, including an embarrassing three-game sweep at the hands of the Red Sox this past weekend, they are still very much alive in the hunt for a postseason berth. With the way the Yankees have played over the past week and a half, they don't even deserve to have a chance to play in the postseason.

But not only do the Yankees have a chance, they have a great chance. It's all because the teams fighting along with them have lost at alarming rates as well. So even though the Yankees are just eight games over .500, have lost three in a row, have gone 4-6 over their last 10 games and are the only team in the chase with a run differential in negative numbers, they are 2.5 games back of the wild card.

Even the Yankees' schedule reeks of luck, as nine of the final 12 games are against losing teams. The other three are against the wild card leader, the Rays. The other nine are against the Blue Jays, Giants and Astros.

Red Sox What's On Tap: Boston Could Wrap Up AL East Against Orioles

  By Matt Straub  
The drama is all but gone for the Boston Red Sox this week. They control the race for the best record in the American League, and the division race is over. All that remains is the actual night when they get to party after wrapping up the East. The fun part comes from the next few games being in Boston, starting with three against the Baltimore Orioles. Popping the corks in front of Buck Showalter, not to mention the Fenway Faithful, will only make things even sweeter.

Let’s break down a series which also has big implications for the Yankees, whose fans will be rooting for the Red Sox to help them put Baltimore out of the race for the two wild card spots still very much in play.

Mets What's On Tap: Zack Wheeler Goes Against His Old Team Again, This Time At Home Against Giants

  By Brad Carroll  
The New York Mets continue their current 11-game homestand with three against the defending World Series champion San Francisco Giants. The Giants, however, aren't the same team that made a run through October a year ago, as this year they won't even make the postseason. San Francisco is actually just 1.5 games better than the Mets this season.

The matchup against the Giants begins a string of 13 straight games without an off day to conclude what is the fifth straight losing season for the Mets. After three at home against the Giants, the Mets go to Philadelphia and Cincinnati for three each and finish at home with four games against Milwaukee.

The final two weeks of the season will be exactly what the past few weeks have been for the Mets, finding out about how the young players deal with playing on the big stage, along with seeing what veterans have anything left in the tank to possibly set up a return for next season.

Red Sox 3 Up & 3 Down: Daniel Nava, Mike Napoli, Clay Buchholz Trending Up, Matt Thornton, Jackie Bradley Jr., Will Middlebrooks Down

  By Matt Straub  

I don’t need to tell Yankees fans this, but winning a division title in baseball is a special thing. Yes, the World Series is the ultimate goal, but winning the division means you’re the best team over the course of 162 games, not the short sprint of the playoffs, which can often turn on a single play or game.

Winning the AL East is especially sweet since it means surviving the season-long grind against the best collection of teams anywhere in baseball. Having to hold off Tampa Bay, the Yankees and Orioles while beating dangerous also-rans like Toronto is one of the biggest challenges in sports.

Sometime this week, the Boston Red Sox are going to win the division in 2013. While the season will be remembered for what happens in October, I think it’s important to stop and appreciate what has already been accomplished. Red Sox Nation should cherish this week and celebrate being the best of the best in 2013. 

Yankees 3 Up & 3 Down: Robinson Cano, Brendan Ryan, Alfonso Soriano Trending Up, CC Sabathia, Ivan Nova, Preston Claiborne Down

  By Brad Carroll  
The New York Yankees have received so many breaks in their hunt for a wild card spot it's almost unbelievable. The Yankees went 9-8 since their last off day and actually gained two games for the final wild card spot. The Yankees have lost six of seven games to the Red Sox in about a week and a half, and they are still just three games back of both the Rangers and Rays.

But time may finally be catching up to the Yankees, for real this time. The team with 100 lives may have finally dug their own grave and jumped in with their pathetic display against Boston this weekend. The Yankees weren't even competitive in any of the three games, losing by a combined score of 22-6. If you thought this Yankees team would show some heart, some drive to beat their rivals and stay in the playoff hunt, you got something completely different.

The Yankees, given so many second-chances to make their move, went 4-6 over their last 10 games. They went 3-4 in seven games this week against the Orioles and Red Sox.

Mets 3 Up & 3 Down: Travis d'Arnaud, LaTroy Hawkins, Daisuke Matsuzaka Trending Up, Carlos Torres, Juan Lagares, Frank Francisco Down

  By Brad Carroll  
The New York Mets clinched their fifth straight losing season after a doubleheader split Saturday, but still ended the week on a positive note, winning three of four from the Marlins. The week certainly didn't start out with a bang, as they were swept in four games by the Nationals, but a walk-off victory Sunday sends the team into the final two weeks with some momentum.

In that extra-innings win, catching prospect Travis d'Arnaud singled home the game-winning run in the 12th inning, giving the Mets a 1-0 victory. Rookie pitcher Vic Black, who was part of the Marlon Byrd and John Buck trade, pitched the top of the 12th and ended up getting his first career big league win.

With 13 games left the Mets might not have a shot at the postseason, but there's plenty of young talent to watch on the field. From d'Arnaud and Black to Wilmer Flores and Zack Wheeler, fans can get a glimpse into the future and learn a little bit about next year's team along the way.

Broncos 41, Giants 23: Eli Manning, Giants Already In Serious Hole After Loss To Peyton Manning, Broncos

Rueben Randle and the Giants fell to 0-2 this season. (AP photo)
  By Brad Carroll  
Over the last four seasons, there have been 30 NFL teams that started with 0-2 records. None went on to make the postseason. The Giants are going to have to buck that trend now, as they lost 41-23 to the Denver Broncos Sunday afternoon. Of course, while that piece of history is against the Giants, there is one big piece the team made sure to mention and use as a rallying cry in the locker room after the game.

The Giants started the 2007 season with two straight losses, but ended up raising the Lombardi trophy as Super Bowl champions at the end of the year. That's a pretty good motivational tool. But perhaps more important to those looking for a silver lining, there is also the fact the NFC East might be one of the worst divisions in football, as not only did the Giants lose Sunday, but so did the Redskins, Cowboys and Eagles.

So, even though history says just 12 percent of teams that start 0-2 have made the playoffs since 1990, there's no reason to write off this Giants season just yet. But if the Giants don't get a whole lot better, and quickly, they're not even going to get close to postseason contention.

Broncos At Giants Preview: Forget Manning Bowl Hype, Giants Need Win To Keep History On Their Side

  By Brad Carroll  
The New York Giants game Sunday against the Denver Broncos is so much bigger than just Manning Bowl III. While Eli Manning going head-to-head with brother Peyton has generated countless storylines and headlines throughout the week, and will be talked about endlessly during the actual game, it doesn't mean a thing to anyone outside the Manning family or the media.

The only storyline for the Giants and their fans is finding a way to pull off an upset to keep history on their side. In the NFL since 1990, teams that start a season 0-2 made the playoffs 12 percent of the time. If the Giants fall at home to Denver Sunday, they will have to buck that trend to continue playing after the regular season ends. For teams that start 1-1, 41 percent end up making the postseason.

Of course, the 2007 Giants started 0-2 and ended up winning the Super Bowl, so you never know. But history won't be on Big Blue's side if they can't find a way to beat the favored Broncos.

Breaking Down Floyd Mayweather Vs. Canelo Alvarez Fight, Including How Each Can Win And Who Will Win

Floyd Mayweather fights Canelo Alvarez tonight. (AP photo)
  By Matt Straub  
The big sports books in Las Vegas are expecting to get about $10 million each in action on tonight’s fight between Floyd Mayweather and Canelo Alvarez. The fight, along with Alabama-Texas A&M and a couple big NFL games, is expected to help generate one of, if not the biggest weekend of gambling in Las Vegas history, and none of those numbers count people who, shall we say, know a guy.

More than 2 million people are expected to buy it, which doesn’t account for bars or homes in which a group of people will split the fight. If the marketing campaign which took over your television a couple of days ago works, the fight could break the all-time record for pay-per-view sales.

There is more mainstream interest for this fight than any I can remember in the last five years.

College Football Picks Week 3: Alabama At Texas A&M, UCLA At Nebraska, Tennessee At Oregon, Notre Dame At Purdue, Many More

No. 1 Alabama at No. 6 Texas A&M plus 9 other picks below
  By Brad Carroll  
There's just two games that feature ranked teams playing each other this week in college football, but one of those matchups just might be the game of the year. Top-ranked Alabama comes into College Station for a mega-showdown with No. 6 Texas A&M Saturday afternoon. The game will go a long way in determining not just who the best team in the SEC is, but the entire nation as well.

Last year, Texas A&M upset Alabama on the road in quarterback Johnny Manziel's arrival on the college football scene. Manziel threw for 253 yards and two touchdowns, and ran for another 92, to lead the Aggies to a 29-24 upset victory. The performance spring-boarded Manziel to winning the Heisman Trophy, becoming the first freshman in history to win college football's biggest award.

For the Crimson Tide, it ended up being the lone blemish in a season that ultimately ended with winning back-to-back national championships.

When the two teams meet Saturday on national television, revenge will be on the minds of the Alabama players and fans, while the Texas A&M players and supporters will be out to prove they are for real and last year wasn't just a one-time highlight.

Mets What's On Tap: Last-Place Marlins Come Into Town For Four

  By Brad Carroll  
After getting swept at home in four games by the Washington Nationals to start the week, the New York Mets have to be counting the days until they get to go home for the fall. The Mets showed little fight in the series, getting shut out twice and scoring just five runs in the four games. It's not the way to finish a season and it just might be enough to get manager Terry Collins fired.

If the Mets aren't going to fight, then what's the point in keeping the guy in charge of keeping them interested in a season where they are playing simply for pride?

There are just 17 games left in another lost season, starting with four against the Miami Marlins beginning Friday night. The Mets have series against the Giants, Phillies, Reds and Brewers to end the year.

Yankees At Red Sox Preview: Rivalry Continues With Playoff Implications

  By Matt Straub  

It’s probably safe now to say the Boston Red Sox put away the AL East with a series victory over the Tampa Bay Rays this week. There’s still plenty on the line this weekend, however, when the New York Yankees come back to Fenway Park.

The Red Sox are playing for the best record in the AL and the chance to be home throughout the playoffs as well as momentum which will be valuable in October. The Yankees are playing for the chance to be alive in October. New York has done a spectacular job of clawing its way through injuries, bad luck and controversy to be positioned right smack dab in the middle of the playoff race, but the Red Sox would love nothing more than to make that hard work go to waste.

Even with the two teams out of contention, or more usually when one team is, the two fan bases go crazy over this rivalry. Put two teams in need of wins on the field and throw in the dislike now growing between the rosters, and this series will be as explosive as any this season. The Yankees want revenge for what happened last week in New York while the Red Sox want to be responsible for the demise of Yankee Universe.

Patriots 13, Jets 10: Three Geno Smith Interceptions, Dropped Passes And No Offense Waste Tremendous Defensive Effort In Jets' Loss To Pats

Ellis Lankster takes down Julian Edelman. (AP photo)
  By Brad Carroll  
The New York Jets' defense put together a near-flawless game against Tom Brady and the Patriots Thursday night. The defensive unit held New England to 54 rushing yards, 185 yards passing and just 4-for-18 on third downs. They held Brady to 19-of-39 passing, a 48.7 completion percentage. Best of all, the Jets defense held the high-octane Patriots offense to only 13 points.

All together, it should have been a recipe for a Jets victory on the road. 

But, alas, it wasn't to be. The wide receivers couldn't catch the ball, rookie quarterback Geno Smith threw three interceptions and the Jets ended up on the wrong end of a 13-10 final score. The Jets turned the ball over four times in all, something they simply couldn't do to beat the Patriots in Foxboro. It made this game so frustrating, as until the interception on the final drive, the Jets had several chances to at least tie the game.

There's no question the Jets could and should have won the game.

Jets At Patriots Preview: Jets Have To Pressure Tom Brady, Get Run Game Going To Upset New England On Road

  By Brad Carroll  
Having just four days to get ready for a game with the New England Patriots is a recipe for disaster for the New York Jets. After all, the team is still breaking in a new and inexperienced quarterback, the offense as a whole needs a lot of work, and, oh yeah, they're playing the Patriots.

But while there is never a good time to play their AFC East rivals, especially at home, Thursday's night matchup represents one of the few times the Jets will actually be catching a few breaks.

Patriots running back Shane Vereen was put on injured reserve this week with a broken wrist, Danny Amendola is unlikely to play and Rob Gronkowski shouldn't take the field either. Tom Brady will not have anywhere near the weapons on offense he's been used to. Last week, the Patriots needed a last-second field to beat Buffalo, so maybe New England isn't as good as everyone believes they are.

Of course, the Patriots are still better than the Jets, at least as this point in the season, so even though Brady has just Julian Edelman to throw to, it would still be a huge upset if they didn't win. The Jets are 12-point underdogs for a reason.

Red Sox What's On Tap: Rays Host Boston Trying To Stay In WC Lead

  By Matt Straub  

The Boston Red Sox have been working on maintaining breathing room in the AL East for much of the last month or two. Now they can go for the kill.

After taking two of three from Baltimore and stopping the Orioles charge, Boston has put the Yankees out of the AL East race by taking three of four in the Bronx.

Now they face the Tampa Bay Rays, probably the last team with a chance to make the East race interesting. This test will be harder since it’s on the road, but it serves a chance to knock out the last real threat to the banner the Red Sox hope to put on the fa├žade at Fenway Park in the coming months. 

Yankees 3 Up & 3 Down: Hiroki Kuroda, Robinson Cano, Brett Gardner Trending Up, Huff, Joba, Mariano, Claiborne, Hughes All Down

  By Brad Carroll  
If it wasn't for the struggles by the Tampa Bay Rays, the New York Yankees would have been knocked out of the playoff hunt altogether after their embarrassingly bad series against the Red Sox to end the past week. The Yankees lost three of four games to rival Boston, and came close to getting swept after the great Mariano Rivera blew his second straight save Sunday afternoon.

Luckily for the Yankees, the team came back to beat the Red Sox Sunday, and watched the Rays lose to the Angels Thursday and the first two games against Seattle, keeping them from losing ground in the chase for the final wild card spot. Both teams ended up winning Sunday.

So, after an utterly disappointing series, the Yankees still stood 2.5 games back of the Rays for that final wild card spot. Of course, it wasn't all good, as both the Orioles and Indians overtook the Yankees in the standings. Both of those teams are two back of the Rays. It may not seem like a big hurdle, but the Yankees went from having to jump one team with about three weeks left in the season to having to jump three.

Mets 3 Up & 3 Down: Mets Fans, Eric Young Jr., Dillon Gee Trending Up, Travis d'Arnaud, Jonathon Niese, David Aardsma Down This Week

  By Brad Carroll  
It was not a week to remember for the New York Mets, as they lost two of three games in each series against the Braves and Indians. It wasn't exactly a fair fight, all things considered, as Atlanta has the best record in the National League and Cleveland is still fighting for a wild card berth in the AL.

But the week did end on a positive note, as the Mets beat the Indians in the series finale Sunday. Eric Young Jr. doubled home the go-ahead run in the top of the ninth inning and the Mets held on for a 3-2 win. Daisuke Matsuzaka, who has been terrible since joining the team, took a one-hit shutout into the sixth before getting hit in the chest with a comebacker. Frank Francisco actually got a big double play later and a win in his first action of the season. Finally, LaTroy Hawkins saved the game to end the road trip with a win.

Red Sox 3 Up & 3 Down: Mike Napoli, Will Middlebrooks, Ryan Lavarnway Trending Up, Brandon Workman, Jacoby Ellsbury, Bullpen Down

  By Matt Straub  

For the Boston Red Sox, the mission was clear. Get out of Yankee Stadium with the division lead intact and without any injuries or suspensions which might have come from any retaliation from Ryan Dempster’s ill-fated attempt to be a man of virtue the last time the two teams met.

The Red Sox, however, did better than that. Boston took three of four from the Yankees, knocking them from the ranks of AL East contenders and sending a bit of a message. Despite how well the Yankees have been playing of late, the Red Sox would still be the favorites if the two teams meet in the first round of the playoffs.

Throw in taking two-of-three against the Tigers and it was a spectacular seven days for the Red Sox. A 5-2 week against Detroit and New York seems to have made the Red Sox the leaders in the clubhouse for the AL pennant as well, but there’s a long way to go.

Mets What's On Tap: Zack Wheeler Could Pitch For Final Time This Year

  By Brad Carroll  
The New York Mets begin a 12-game homestand Monday against a team they knocked out of the postseason hunt a week earlier. The Washington Nationals were on a tear before welcoming the Mets into town for three games. On paper, it looked like the Nats would continue their dominance and take out the all-but-eliminated Mets and continue to put pressure on the wild card leaders.

The Mets had completely other ideas, however, and ended up winning two of three and knocking the Nationals out of the postseason picture. The Nationals were 8-1 heading into the series and were tagged with two straight losses to ruin their momentum and allowed the Reds to take a near-insurmountable lead. The Nationals went 4-2 after the Mets' series, but they stand eight games back entering play Monday.

The Nationals now come into Citi Field for four games a completely different team. But they just might be looking to hand the Mets some payback for ruining their season. The Mets? They can sit back knowing they had a hand in the postseason race despite being long-ago eliminated.

Yankees What's On Tap: Must-Win Four-Game Series In Baltimore, Plus Breaking Down Wild Card Hunt

  By Brad Carroll  
Who would have thought the reason for the Yankees' struggles late in the season would be the pitching staff, from the starters to the bullpen and right on down to the great Mariano Rivera. For more than half the season, the Yankees offense was the reason for the team's failures, and pitching was the only reason the team was kept in the postseason hunt. Not anymore.

With the additions of Alfonso Soriano and the returns of Alex Rodriguez and Curtis Granderson, along with the resurgence of Robinson Cano, the Yankees can score with the best offenses in the game right now. But the pitching staff has imploded in the late going, especially when it mattered most, in a four-game series against the Boston Red Sox this weekend.

The Yankees lost three of four games, salvaging one win in the series finale Sunday afternoon. The Yankees scored 25 total runs in those three losses. Needless to say, the bullpen, which had been so great this season, failed the team. Luckily for the Yankees, however, the Tampa Bay Rays continued to lose as well. So, even with all those meltdowns on the mound, the Yankees somehow still have life once again heading into the final 19 games of the season.

Cowboys 36, Giants 31: Six Turnovers, Including Two Fumbles By David Wilson, Lead to Giant Loss In Dallas; Handing Out Game Balls & Falls

Eli Manning after 1 of his 3 interceptions. (AP photo)
  By Brad Carroll  
When the New York Giants got the ball back trailing 30-24 with 2:41 to play in the season opener against the Dallas Cowboys, fans of both teams had to be thinking "here we go again." After all, the Giants have owned the Cowboys in their brand new stadium, and despite playing their worst game in years, Big Blue was 83 yards away from leaving with yet another road win in Dallas.

Those thoughts only got more intense after Eli Manning hit Rueben Randle for 26 yards to push the Giants to their 46 yard line at the two minute warning. But on the next play everything came undone.

Manning threw short to running back Da'Rel Scott, but he wasn't ready for the pass and it bounced off his hands. The football landed right in the arms of Brandon Carr, who returned it 49 yards for a game-clinching touchdown. It was the Giants sixth turnover of the game.

The Giants finished with a 36-31 loss that ended their dominance in Dallas and started this 2013 season just like last season ended, with utter disappointment.

Jets 18, Buccaneers 17: Geno Smith, Nick Folk Give Jets Unlikely Victory In Season-Opener; Game Balls & Falls

Nick Folk kicks the game-winner. (AP photo)
  By Brad Carroll  
There are unlikely victories in the NFL and then there are victories like the New York Jets had Sunday in the season opener against Tampa Bay. The Jets, who fell behind 17-15 with 34 seconds left, looked to be headed for a devastating loss in the debut of quarterback Geno Smith. It would have been a heartbreaking beginning to a season many have predicted will be littered with failure.

It could have set the tone for a long season, as confidence would already be shaken, especially heading into a short week against the New England Patriots this Thursday.

But these Jets ended up making a statement instead. Starting with the ball at their own 20, Smith hit tight end Kellen Winslow for 25 yards over the middle. After spiking the ball, Smith scrambled out of the pocket and got out of bounds after a 10-yard run, putting the Jets at the Tampa 45. As Smith was a full step out of bounds, Tampa defender Lavonte David shoved the rookie and was flagged for a 15-yard penalty.

Suddenly, and shockingly, the Jets had the ball at the Tampa 30 and were in field goal range. The team, left for dead just 30 seconds earlier, not only had life, but a great opportunity to pull off a minor miracle.