By Sweeny Murti
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Top three reasons I think the Yankees will be OK:
1. Derek Jeter doesn’t look like he will let the Yankees lose. His attitude allows him to put losses away quickly and it’s part of the reason the Yankees bounced back from two devastating losses over the weekend. Jeter is hitting over .350 since July 1st and over .460 on this road trip. The Captain is setting a tone, and proving to be a legitimate candidate for MVP consideration.
2. The offense is cranking again. A-Rod came back and got right into a groove. Russell Martin finally got over the Mendoza line and has gotten a handful of big hits lately. Curtis Granderson might have gotten over his slump after a big Sunday in Baltimore. The Yankees kept coming after the Orioles all weekend, especially against their vaunted bullpen.
3. The Yankees’ bullpen looks solid again. The way Joba Chamberlain has thrown the ball the last couple times has been reminiscent of vintage Joba Rules days. In fact, the last time he struck out 4 batters in one relief outing–like he did on Sunday–was September of 2007. Minus a couple of hiccups, which are normal for the even the best relievers, David Robertson and Rafael Soriano make up as good of a combo for the 8th and 9th innings as you can find. If Joba can reclaim the 7th, then this bullpen could help take the Yankees far.
Top three reasons I think the Yankees will not go far in the playoffs — if they make it at all:
1. CC Sabathia isn’t pitching his best and time is running out to find it. Sabathia has blown leads in each of his last three starts and the Yankees have lost all three. His velocity is down about 2 mph and even though his hit, walk, and strikeout ratios are all about the same as last year, he’s already given up a career high in home runs despite a month on the DL and a career low innings pitched. His mistakes are a little easier to hit and some are wondering around baseball if 2500-plus big league innings aren’t starting to take their toll. And if he’s not going to be delivering a near-automatic ‘W’ every time out, who will?
2. The Orioles and Rays aren’t going away. After 140 games both teams are still right in step with the Yankees. And both teams have gotten stronger in the second half, chasing down a deficit that was double digits shortly after the All Star Break. The Orioles are slugging and the Rays are pitching, and the Yankees are only 15-18 against them this season. In 2004 they were 29-9 against the Orioles and Rays. The schedule slightly favors the Yankees down the stretch, but anything is possible at this point and the Yankees haven’t convinced anyone yet that they are the best team.
3. That same Yankee offense that got going in Baltimore just seems to be missing a few beats. Nick Swisher hasn’t had a hit in a week and Mark Teixeira could miss most of the stretch drive. Granderson has had a terrible second half and has been vulnerable to lefties again. Until some rallies in Baltimore, the Yankees were not scoring runs consistently and had confounded the team so much that there was talk of turning them into The Bronx Bunters. Can this team put together enough offense to win 11 (or 12?) postseason games with less than superior pitching?
Yes, some of these reasons could contradict each other. Part of the reason these Yankees are hard to figure out. No, they don’t look like world beaters, but nobody else in the AL is a team that scares you either.
They all have flaws, and what Derek Jeter always says come playoff time might be truer this year than in any other: In October it’s not always the best team that wins, it’s usually the hottest team.
And who that might be this year is anybody’s guess.
P.S. — Given the tight races down the stretch, this link might be helpful. It outlines all the tiebreaker scenarios for the Wild Card and Division Series matchups. Keep in mind that the Yankees, at this point, do not own tiebreakers over the Orioles, Rays, or A’s.
Well, will the Yankees be OK? Be heard in the comments below…