What a week, Yankees fans. The Derek Jeter Show, also known as the All-Star Game, was a victory for the American League. Jeter rocked his two hits, was at the receiving end of a little controversy and left the field to thunderous applause by players, fans and even Bud Selig once he was reminded he was on national television. It was a beautiful night altogether, albeit, the MLB dropped the ball on honoring the great Tony Gwynn, but that is a rant for another time.
Then, the New York Yankees came firing out of the break. On Sunday, they completed a sweep of the surging Cincinnati Reds, who were 51-44 coming into the series, amid the hunt for the NL Central. The Yankees handled two starting pitchers that made the NL All-Star team (Johnny Cueto and Alfredo Simon) with relative ease, as well as getting to another All-Star in Aroldis Chapman for a walk-off victory. So, do these Yankees actually have a chance? The Bronx is boiling and I need to blow some steam.
SO YOU’RE TELLING ME THERE’S A CHANCE!
All season I have found something wrong with the current Yankee roster. Whether it be the wrong personnel on the field or the wrong people driving the bus, the first half of the season gave Yankees’ fans much to be remorseful about. Yet this past weekend, against a very good and extremely talented Reds’ team, they went old school Yankees and got the sweep. Maybe, just maybe, the Yankees are coming around.
The Boston Red Sox are drowning. They are chock full of youngsters with a bevy of aging veterans, that this season is a wash. It’s not so much a rebuilding year, as a retooling year, so they are out of the picture. The Baltimore Orioles exposed their weaknesses this past weekend against the cream of the crop of the AL — the Oakland Athletics. Their bullpen imploded one night. The next night the starter was cushioned a six-run lead and yet they still almost lost, and on Sunday they were blown out of the sky. This Orioles can be beaten. The Tampa Bay Rays pitching is coming around, and they are going to make a run, but is it too little too late? The Toronto Blue Jays are continuing to defy all logic with a mediocre pitching staff, and winning ball game after ball game. Still, I’m not sold that this team will be there come September.
That leaves the AL East title right there within reach for the New York Yankees. They couldn’t come through for poor Mariano Rivera last season, sending him off playoff-less after an amazing career. The AL All-Star team didn’t let Derek Jeter go out a loser, and neither will the Yankees. Brian Cashman has a few tricks up his sleeve (whether or not I will agree with them is another story altogether) and this team will make a move if not more than one. More importantly, we saw a few tremendous performances this past weekend that provide hope.
Brandon McCarthy and David Phelps showed that this rotation isn’t in as dire straights as many expected. Phelps had been a tough luck loser over his previous three starts, not allowing more than two runs in any of those starts, yet not coming away with a victory. Friday he pitched a decent game and the Yankees finally got him a win. Going back to mid-June, Brandon McCarthy has allowed just five earned runs. I admit I was skeptical at first, but there is no denying he looked like a top-end of the rotation pitcher this past weekend. That means the Yankees need to worry about Shane Greene and Chase Whitley’s spots. Whitley is not ready for the rotation, but Luis Severino is. I know the Yankees are not about rushing their Baby Bomber pitchers to the bigs, but this kid is the real deal. He has done it at every level this season and he could be a savior for the Yankees.
The most important piece of the puzzle coming around is Brian McCann. People want to rip on him because his power bat isn’t there, but do you know he has hit safely in 12 of his last 13 games? He has 19 hits over that stretch and slowly but surely, they are becoming more and more important, as justified by his game-winner Sunday. As much as Yankees’ fans don’t want to admit it, the resurgence of McCann makes Gary Sanchez very expendable. He can bring us a high profile pitcher for the stretch run, and the Yankees are deep at catching all the way down to Staten Island with Luis Torrens, that they can move on safely.
The Yankees may be just one pitcher away from a serious run. The minors have tons of bats should Kelly Johnson, Ichiro, and Brian Roberts continue to fade into obscurity, but for this team to be one starting pitcher away from contention after all they have been through says a lot — or maybe a little about the AL East. Either way you cut it, fasten your seat belts, because I think Derek Jeter and his Immortal Bombers are ready for one heck of a final ride.