By Steve Silverman
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It was never going to be easy for the Yankees this season.
If all had gone well, they would have found themselves in a fight for their lives with the Rangers, Angels or Tigers in the playoffs. On paper, all of those teams had the kind of explosive offense that could have given the Yankees’ relatively thin pitching a big problem.
But the regular season was not supposed to be anything more than an exercise for the Yankees. We knew the Red Sox were out of it almost from the beginning and were no longer a factor.
The Tampa Bay Rays were living up to expectations. Strong pitching, scrappy, well-managed and competitive. But when it comes to talent, they simply didn’t belong in the discussion.
The Yankees surely owned the American League East and manager Joe Girardi would be able to set up his rotation for his potential playoff opponents as he prepared for postseason baseball.
But it hasn’t worked out that way and the Yankees are now in a fight for their lives with the Orioles and Rays. When they take on the Rays in Tampa tonight, the Orioles will have a chance to tie for the lead in the division if they can beat the Blue Jays and the Yankees fail again in Tampa.
That’s a legitimate possibility. When the Yankees lost yesterday with CC Sabathia on the mound, it becomes difficult to take the field the next day with any kind of confidence. If you don’t win when your horse is pitching, you know that every day is going to be a struggle from this point forward.
The good news for the Yankees is that they are not last year’s Red Sox. After beating to the Yankees Aug. 31, the Red Sox had an 83-52 record and a 1 1/2-game lead in the A.L. East over the Yankees.
From that point, the Red Sox went 7-20 and were not only passed by the Yankees for the division title they blew the Wild Card to the Rays on the last day of the regular season.
The Red Sox opened an artery and bled out. The Yankees should know how to tie a tourniquet stop the bleeding.
The best development in the 4-3 loss to the Rays was the return of Alex Rodriguez. While he is no longer the dominant player he once was, he is a formidable presence who adds to the stress level of Joe Maddon and every opposing manager from this point forward.
The worst aspect – other than the defeat – was the strange play of Robinson Cano, who failed to run out a soft line drive in the eighth-inning that Tampa Bay third baseman Elliott Johnson did not catch. He thought Johnson caught the ball and then when he saw the ball on the ground, he attempted to turn on his speed and may have pulled a muscle around the hip in doing so.
Then in the bottom of the inning, that strained muscle may have played a role in Cano’s inability to come up with a ground ball by Chris Giminez that allowed Ryan Roberts to score what proved to be the game-winning run.
Normally, Cano eats that ball up and makes the play easily.
Cano is not having his best year, but he is capable of going on a streak at any time and carrying the team. If he can’t play for a few games or if his effectiveness is limited, there is even more trouble brewing.
But the level of professionalism is still intact for the Yankees. You don’t have players in the clubhouse munching fried chicken and drinking beer during games.
That lack of discipline reared its head in the Boston clubhouse last year and led to Terry Francona’s demise.
The Yankees are going through a challenge at a tough time, but like a good hitter in a slump, they will come out of it.
It may get darker before it gets lighter, but at the end the Yankees will almost certainly be a postseason team.
Do you think the Yankees will be a postseason team this year? Let us know below.