The battle for the American League East continues to show every indication that it’s going down to the wire. The good news for the Yankees is that they have not lost any more ground in the race for the division and they are getting healthy as a team at the right time. Now is the time where the Yankees are going to have to turn to their team leaders to pull them across the finish line.
If the Yankees didn’t know it before their weekend series in Baltimore, they know now that the Orioles are for real in 2012. It’s going to take a team effort for the Yankees to hold off Baltimore and Tampa Bay in September. It’s also going to take big contributions from the faces of the ball club.
The offense is going to have to pick it up. The Yankees are still a ball club that relies heavily on the home run. However, as the pennant race continues to get hotter, the need to manufacture runs becomes much more important. Alex Rodriguez has returned to the lineup and he’s brought his hitting shoes with him. The need for Rodriguez to be the glue in the middle of that lineup was glaring during his stint on the disabled list. He still brings presence and credibility and if the bat is hot it could carry the team.
Curtis Granderson and Nick Swisher have hurt the offense with their lack of production during this tough 22-game stretch against division opponents. Granderson has become an instant strike out waiting to happen whenever he goes up to the plate. Swisher is in the midst of a horrible slump at the worst possible time for one. Swisher may just need a day off to step back and catch his breath. Prior to this slump, Swisher was swinging a very hot bat. What the Yankees do with Granderson will be something to keep an eye on.
Manager Joe Girardi had to patch together his starting rotation over the summer because of injuries to CC Sabathia, Andy Pettitte, and Ivan Nova. It’s no longer about which three or four arms will pitch the Yankees through October. It’s now about which three or four arms can pitch the Yankees to October. Phil Hughes has stepped up lately and the Yankees need him to continue his progress. David Phelps and Freddy Garcia have done admirable jobs filling in for Pettitte and Sabathia. Hiroki Kuroda came up big-time for the Yankees over the summer.
Sabathia is the ace of the staff and has looked average this season. He’s had two stints on the disabled list and in his most recent start last night against Baltimore his velocity was down again and once again failed to hold onto a lead. Pettitte is still battling to make it back in time to contribute to the staff. It’s not far-fetched to look at Pettitte’s pending return as a potential deciding factor in the fate of the Yankees pennant hopes. He’s 40-years old and missed the entire summer, however he stabilized the rotation before he was injured. The Yankees are going to need Sabathia and Pettitte to pitch to their reputations as big-game starters.
Injuries have put a serious strain on the depth of the Yankees’ roster this season, however that’s no longer an excuse now. This team still is in control of their own destiny and that’s saying a lot considering how much talk has generated concerning whether or not the team is in panic mode. The role players should get a big salute for all the work they’ve done to help keep this team above water. It’s now time for the big names of this ball cub to step up and carry their team. It’s time to lock in and focus because this marathon of a season has now become a sprint to the finish line.