The Yankees 2 1/2 Games Back? Inconceivable!

Well, today is International Talk Like a Pirate Day (as if I had to tell you), and fittingly we must report that the Dread Pirate Roberts is now in sight of the first-place Red Sox, and gaining rapidly. The Yankees, who were 14 1/2 games behind Boston in May, are now well within striking distance with 11 games left. Boston lost to the Blue Jays, 4-3 on Tuesday, while New York was beating Baltimore, 12-0. ... Anybody want a peanut?

A commenter over at USA Today, of all places, made the observation this morning that, if you listen closely, "You can hear sphincters tightening throughout the Boston area." The Dread Pirate Doug Mientkiewicz had a three-run homer for the Yankees, and Mike Mussina threw a three-hitter over seven innings to beat the Orioles. It's that last tidbit which should concern Red Sox fans. If Mussina is baffling hitters, it's bad news for everyone else. In Toronto, Eric Gagne gave up three runs in the eighth — including a two-run double by Russ Adams — as the Blue Jays beat the Red Sox.

Arrrrr. The Brewers lost Ben Sheets but won the game, moving into first place in the Central one percentage point ahead of the Cubs after a 9-1 win over the Astros. Sheets left in the first with tightness in his left hammy. Johnny Estrada hit his second grand slam of the season. To save time, here are your NL Central standings for the rest of the week: Thursday, Cubs in first place. Saturday: Brewers. Sunday: Cubs. Next week, repeat.

Arrrrr You just get the feeling that this is going to end up like the first Rocky film, with the Phillies sporting two swollen eyes and in second place, yelling for Adrian. But it's compelling while it lasts. Rod Barajas' two-out pinch single in the 14th drove in the go-ahead run as Philadelphia went on to beat the Cardinals 7-4. The Phillies are now a paltry 1 1/2 games behind the Mets in the East.

Arrrrrrrr. Time to honor Dummy Hoy, who played for seven teams between 1888 and 1902, most notably the Cincinnati Reds, where in his final season he became part of the first faceoff between deaf players in major league history. His three at-bats against Dummy Taylor of the New York Giants produced two hits. Because he was deaf, some say Hoy was the reason that umpires developed the first hand signals.

Arrrrrrrr .... Nationals 9, Mets 8. You've got to answer for Santino, Mets' bullpen. Did you think that little farce you played with my sister could fool a Corleone?