Now The Really Tough Stretch Begins

By Sweeny Murti
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Some thoughts with 29 games to play:

— Bad road trip.  No other way to put it.  Needed to go 4-2, not 2-4.  The road has been a bad place for the Yankees, as they’re only 32-36 away from Yankee Stadium.  Good news is the Yankees now have a 10-game home stand, but the bad news is they finish the season with 13 of 19 on the road.

And now begins the really tough stretch.  Starting Friday the Yankees play 14 of their next 17 games against the Orioles and Red Sox.  They certainly won’t clinch anything by the time this stretch is over, but they could certainly be left behind.

With the next 10 games at home the Yankees have put themselves in a position where they need to win eight out of 10.  They won nine of 11 home games before this last road trip, but that included eight games against the Angels and Blue Jays.  The Yankees can’t afford to wait for games against the White Sox, Giants and Astros to pop up on their schedule.  They need to win 20 of their last 29 just to get to 90 wins, and even that might not be enough, especially if Oakland and Tampa Bay don’t slip in September.

— Has the workload finally caught up to Hiroki Kuroda? Last season, at age 37, he threw more innings than any other season of his professional career (in both MLB and Japan).  It looked for most of this season, at age 38, that it had no ill effect.  In fact, he was pitching better than ever before and was a legitimate Cy Young contender two weeks ago.  Now he’s combined to allow 29 hits and 19 runs in his last 3 starts and you wonder if he can fix it fast enough for it to matter.

Kuroda has had an outstanding season and Phil Hughes has had a miserable one.  But neither one is helping the Yankees right now.  Every night now the Yankees need a starting pitcher to keep them in the game.  And it won’t get easier against Baltimore and Boston, two of the best offenses in the league.  Another struggling starter—CC Sabathia—gets the call in the opener Friday night.

— A-Rod has looked very good actually.  A healthy A-Rod is what we didn’t know if we would ever see again.  He has hit the ball with power and has moved pretty well in the field and on the bases.  Still, it didn’t look like a great move to send him first to home on Mark Reynolds’s double in the fourth inning Wednesday night.  He hasn’t been moving that well.

— From the moment he was traded, you would have taken 10 home runs from Alfonso Soriano the rest of the season right?  How about 11 home runs with another month to go?  I certainly didn’t see that coming.  He has been so energized by playing for the Yankees again.

— The Yankees will almost certainly have to get creative with a trade this winter.  They are not getting any younger with Soriano, Ichiro Suzuki, and Vernon Wells all signed for next year as well as A-Rod, Derek Jeter, and Mark Teixeira all coming off injury-filled seasons.

The young crop of outfielders did not move as quickly through the minors as the Yankees had hoped.  That was more like a hope than an expectation anyway.

But the reality is the Yankees are still looking at an aging roster susceptible to injuries in 2014 too if they aren’t able unload anybody.

— It’s nice to see Austin Romine starting to put his game together.  The back injury last year really cost him development time, especially as he tried to make the jump and hit big league pitching this year.  After a bad start he has really contributed both offensively and defensively.

— Dellin Betances will be the most interesting September call-up.  After finally being switched to the bullpen in May, he has posted some amazing numbers at Triple-A (1.39 ERA, .162 BAA, 79 strikeouts in 58.1 innings).  With Mariano Rivera retiring, David Robertson’s assumed promotion to closer, and Joba Chamberlain likely gone as a free agent, there are a couple of late-inning spots open and Betances could easily make his case for one with a strong September.

Sweeny Murti

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