By Sweeny Murti
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Jeter represents the last bit of hope for the Yankees, hope that he might be the final piece of the puzzle for a team that’s clawed back into the playoff race and now needs to keep piling up wins and move past the competitors to which they have inched closer over the last two-and-a-half weeks.
How much does Jeter have to give them? Hard to say when he’s only appeared in five games this year. It’s unbelievable to think he’s played in more games for the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders than for the New York Yankees, but that’s the kind of year it’s been.
It was always around this time of year that Joe Torre used to sit down players having subpar years and tell them their numbers aren’t going to be what they are used to for the year, so just let it go and try to think of your season as the next five weeks. “Hit .300 from here on out,” is how he would usually phrase it. That advice could go to Jeter and a handful of other Yankees in 2013.
Can Jeter give the Yankees enough of a lift to get them into the playoffs? There are plenty of other questions surrounding this team that will have just as big of an impact.
Can A-Rod hold up and give the Yankees needed production? He is only 3-for-19 since his big showdown with Ryan Dempster eight days ago in Boston.
Can Alfonso Soriano get hot again? He was only 3-for-31 before ripping the 11th-inning double on Sunday that led to the winning run, his steal of third base the latest biggest play of the year for the Yankees.
Can Robinson Cano, this team’s best hitter, play like a player who deserves a big contract? He is hot again, hitting safely in 17 of 20 games at a .410 clip. He batted .347 in each of the last two Septembers, the type of hot streak the Yankees will need again as they make their push.
Can CC Sabathia and Andy Pettitte and Phil Hughes and Hiroki Kuroda and Ivan Nova all pitch well enough over the final month? Take your pick — they all have to be able to shut down opponents and keep their team in the game every night; there are no room for throwaways. Even Kuroda has been disappointing his last two starts. A third bad start and you begin to wonder if he has enough stamina left to finish the Cy Young caliber season he began.
Sure, there are other players who need to step up. The Yankees need everything they can get from Brett Gardner, Ichiro Suzuki, Lyle Ovebay, Mark Reynolds, Vernon Wells, etc. You name him, the Yankees need him to contribute.
But the Yankees have always been about their stars, their MVPs, their Hall of Famers coming to play when it counts the most. Their stars have been missing for most of this season, being nursed back to health as the understudies kept them afloat. It’s time for the stars to take back the stage.
Five weeks to go. The Yankees need to be the Yankees or they will not see October. It’s still a pretty big task ahead, despite the turnaround they have made since being swept in Chicago a few weeks ago. I’m still not sure it’s possible given the difficulty of the schedule that lies ahead. But the opportunity is certainly there. It might take some old-fashioned Yankee magic.
Time to see if the captain and his crew still have some tricks up their sleeves.
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