Close contests

It was one of those games up for grabs.

After splitting the first two contests in the series, the Blue Jays and Yankees – backed by Brian Tallet and C.C. Sabathia, respectively – had an equal shot at taking the rubber match last night at the Rogers Centre.

In the end, it was Hideki Matsui of the Yanks who rose to the occasion and provided the eventual winning run, belting a solo homer off reliever Jesse Carlson to break a 2-2 tie in the eighth. 

But the Blue Jays had just as much of an opportunity. After all, they squandered a leadoff double by Scott Rolen in the seventh. In fact, Rolen stood on third with one out after Kevin Millar moved his teammate over with a deep fly ball to center. John McDonald, though, struck out and Aaron Hill grounded into a force out with the bases loaded and two out.

The result was a one-run Toronto loss – just their third of the season. In fact, the Jays entered Thursday night’s contest with a 7-2 record in one-run games this year, second only to the Minnesota Twins (5-1) in the American League.

That’s a category that Blue Jays fans should pay particular attention to in 2009. Teams that make the playoffs are those that are able to win those one-run games – those games up for grabs – at a high percentage. Take the Tampa Bay Rays, for example. They shocked the AL last year by winning the East division with a 97-65 record.

But the Rays’ ‘pythagorean expected won-loss record,’ a Bill James-created value based on runs scored and allowed, was just 91-71. That would have put them in second in the AL East behind the Red Sox. The difference, though, was their 29-18 record in one-run games, the best mark in the division.

If the Jays hope to become the 2009 Rays, they’d best put up a similar mark.

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