A three-game set against a depleted A’s team was exactly what the good doctor ordered for the Yankees to start the second half.
Facing a team with a weak offense and down a few pitchers after two recent trades, the Yanks made the most of this chance to win three at home while Tampa Bay dropped their finale on Sunday and the Red Sox lost three in Anaheim. With 64 games left, the Yanks find themselves 4.5 out in the AL East and just three behind Boston in the Wild Card. They face the Twins — the second-place Wild Card — before journeying up to Fenway. A big week awaits the Bombers.
Sunday’s speedy game was dominated by pitching. Andy Petitte threw eight stellar innings, giving up a run on four hits while walking no one and striking out nine. Yankee starters have issued just one walk since the All Star Break. On the other side, the A’s All Star starter Justin Duchscherer threw six effective innings, allowing just two runs but a sixth-inning Jason Giambi home run would give the Yanks the lead and the series.
Amusingly enough, after winning Saturday’s game on a walk-off HBP for the first time since the mid-1960s, the game ended yesterday with a caught stealing. How fitting.
But while the Yankees are riding a three-game winning streak that pushed them right back into the playoff picture, the team now faces a daunting proposition: They have to beat the Twins with Darrell Rasner and Sidney Ponson on the mound. It’s here, again, that I come back to Chien-Ming Wang and his ill-begotten injury. Had Wang not suffered some of the worst luck I’ve ever seen on the basepaths, the Yanks would be in a prime position to reach October.
Even if the team leaves 20+ runners on base, even if they’re aren’t the offensive powerhouse they should be, this team has the pitching to compete. Since the break, the Yanks are pitching to a 1.50 ERA with 39 strike outs in 30 innings. They walked a whopping five Oakland A’s this weekend. While not every team will be as impotent as the A’s, the pitching — at least for their front three — is there. Now we just have to hope that it holds up in the back as well. October depends on it.