Getting to game 162 and beyond

Open Thread: Thankfully, a day off
Can Nick Swisher reach .300?

It hasn’t, as we wrote yesterday, been the best of times for the Yankees lately. Mired in a 2-8 slump which has seen the team lost three extra-inning affairs and five one-run contests, the franchise hasn’t played baseball this frustrating since they went 3-15 to close out the 2000 season. Yet, the end is in sight.

Later tonight, A.J. Burnett and the Yankees will face off against Kevin Millwood and the Orioles, and thus the Yanks will begin the final tenth of their season. Only 16 games separate them from the end of the regular season, and the team is holding onto a six-game lead in the Wild Card while staring at a small 0.5-game deficit in the AL East. According to Baseball Prospectus, the Yanks’ Playoff Odds sit at 96.5 percent, and while stranger things have happened, the team is a near lock for October. Just how they’re going to do on the way there remains to be seen.

Over their next 16 games, the Yankees will face only their AL East teams. They play the Orioles three times, the Rays four times, the Red Sox six times and the Blue Jays three times. They don’t have to travel farther than Toronto, and seven of the final 12 are at home. Against these opponents, the Yanks are 31-24 this year, and if they can replicate that success, they should go 9-7 the rest of the way.

For the Yanks to win the American League East, though, they’re going to have to do better than that. Over their final 17 contests, Tampa Bay plays only one team over .500 — the Yankees. They host the 71-75 Angels this weekend before a four-game showdown in the Bronx next week. Seattle and Baltimore swing by Tampa Bay for six before the Rays play four against the Kansas City Royals during the last weekend of the season. Against those teams, the Rays are 24-15, and if they replicate that total, they’ll end the year with with a 10-7 record, finishing one game ahead of the Yankees. Talk about heartbreak.

The ultimate question then concerns the team’s ALDS opponents. Due to a late-season surge that saw them run roughshod over their AL Central compatriots, the Twins and the Yanks are currently tied for the second base record in the AL. Both teams are 5.5 games better than the Rangers, and the Twins seem destined to play the Wild Card team in the first round.

For many in New York, Minnesota’s success this year is a bit of a surprise. The Yanks went 4-2 against the Twins this year and haven’t had many problems downing Minnesota. How then did the Twins get there? Playing in the Central played no small role in that. The Twinkies are 42-20 against their division rivals and just 46-38 against everyone else. Francisco Liriano is a true Cy Young candidate who’s given up just four home runs in 178.1 innings this year, but the rest of their rotation is heavy on the Carl Pavano and Scott Baker and light on everyone else. As a team, they rely more on keeping the ball in the park than on blowing hitters away, but they do sport a top-three offense in the AL.

And so we hit the stretch drive with a road to October before us. The Yankees need to shake off their recent slump and finish strong. To win the division, they’ll have to take at least three of four from the Rays this week, and they ought to beat up on the Orioles. Of course, playing the Twins isn’t the worst first round match-up, but with bragging rights on the line, a division crown would be a nice prize. A solid run through the next two weeks would put this 2-8 play behind us, and we’ll start over come game 1 of the American League Division Series.

Open Thread: Thankfully, a day off
Can Nick Swisher reach .300?
  • Brad Toughy

    The Yankees are going to have to beat two other AL playoff teams regardless of whether they win the division or the wild card. I am confident that they can do that with or without an extra home game.

    Despite the 2-8 tumble, they are still only half a game back for the game’s best record and have plenty of games left to make that minuscule gap up.

    If Andy Pettitte comes back and is anywhere near what he was for the first three months of the season, they are all that much better.

  • AndrewYF

    I really, really, really want a Rays-Yankees ALCS matchup. Don’t screw this up for me, Yankees.

    A Phillies or Giants versus the Yankees in the World Series would be nice, too.

    • Benjamin Kabak

      A Reds-Yanks Series would be nice too. Basically any World Series match-up from the teams I expect to make the playoffs in the NL would be a solid series.

      • Brad Toughy

        Do you think the Braves make the playoffs?

        • Benjamin Kabak

          I think so, but between the Padres, Giants, Rockies and Braves, obviously only two of those teams can make it. I’d put money on the Giants and the Braves. That’s just my instinct though. I have nothing rigorous to offer as proof.

          • tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside the Elder

            I think so, but between the Padres, Giants, Rockies and Braves, obviously only two of those teams can make it.

            Philly is only three up in the loss column over the Braves, Giants, and Padres. A Braves NL East champ and the NL West having two of the 4 best NL records is still highly possible. So, technically, three of the Padres/Giants/Rockies/Braves could all make the playoffs.

            The only sure thing in the NL is the Reds.

            • Benjamin Kabak

              I think the Phillies will be ok. Nine of their final 15 are against the Mets/Nationals, and the other six are against the Braves. Plus, with Halladay, Oswalt and Hamels, it’s hard for them to lose too frequently.

            • RL

              I’m personally pulling for the Rockies to take the NL Wild Card and make it on to the WS to face the Yankees, just so I have a shot at WS tickets at Coors Field. Would love to see the Yankees take home #28 in Denver!

          • Brad Toughy

            I’m prone to agree. The Braves, like the Yankees have hit a rough skid in recent days, but are the most well-rounded team fighting for the wild card.

            Hell, with six games remaining with Philly, they could play their way into the division crown. I just don’t see the Padres pitching as well as San Francisco or hitting as well as Colorado to hold both off.

    • tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside the Elder

      “I really, really, really want a Rays-Yankees ALCS matchup. Don’t screw this up for me, Yankees Rays.



  • bonestock94

    This is very tense. A big contrast from what I felt a year ago. I would love to see utter dominance this weekend, and as a result, serious momentum going into the Rays series.

  • PaulF

    It’s all about the Andy Pettitte. I don’t think the Yankees will actually win the division, but homefield doesn’t matter if you win without going to a final game, which is what they did in all 3 rounds last year.

    • seimiya

      Everything is always all about Andy Pettitte.


      • bexarama

        well played

  • Kiersten

    The Yanks have only played 3 games against the Twins this year? That can’t be.

    • bexarama

      They played 6, a series in NY and a series in MIN, they’re 4-2 against them. NY won 2/3 in both series.

    • Benjamin Kabak

      I had the numbers wrong in the first draft. They’ve played six, not four, against each other.

  • BigBlueAL

    I think many of you guys are way too overconfident about the ALDS as if it will be a cakewalk regardless of who the Yankees play and if they have homefield advantage or not.

    To me all 3 teams that will make the playoffs this year in the AL are better than any AL team the Yankees faced last year. The Twins and Rays have better run differentials than any AL team last year other than the Yankees and while the Rangers have struggled lately the fact that they have Cliff Lee and Josh Hamilton in a short series is huge.

    As long as Pettitte, Swisher and Gardner are healthy come playoff time sure the Yankees should beat whoever they play in the ALDS and even the Rays in the ALCS (Phillies in the WS this year is a whole different story with the Top 3 of that rotation now) but it is not anywhere near a foregone conclusion. Im actually looking forward to it because there should be some great games/series and drama in October and unlike last year where the Yankees were such huge favorites any loss was annoying there is alot more doubt this year come playoff time which always makes the games funner and sweeter when the Yankees win.

    • tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside the Elder

      I never said it would be a “cakewalk”.

      I just said we’d win it.

  • dalelama

    It would be a pleasant surprise if AJ pulled his head out of his ass and got going. I won’t count on it but it would sure help.

  • Sean C

    The recent stretch of terrible play aside, I really like the way this team looks going into October. The offense is there. They’ve struggled as of late, but that will not stop them from being the top-scoring offense, by a bit, this season. Pettitte returning will significantly impact the rotation, as I’m sure he will return to being Andy Pettitte, where even at his worst is better than his replacements. The bullpen has again been stellar this season, and it is nice to not have to worry about games when the right parts get into close games (Robertson, Joba, Wood, Logan, et al.). Mariano is, as always, Mariano. This season he seems to have eluded his “nagging” late-season injury (which I find interesting…).

    I like this team very much. Making the postseason is the first step. I consider anything past the ALDS to be awesome. A World Series Championship would, of course, be the greatest thing for me as a fan. First, we have to reach that series. I’ve tried to approach the season series by series, and so far it has been extremely enjoyable. I do no want it to end anytime soon, so here’s to a successful ALDS, ALCS, and WS.

  • larryf

    Anybody think that, at this point in their careers, the 3,4,5 order in our lineup can be changed for the improvement of the team? Is our .320 hitter best at 5th in the order? He was pretty good at cleanup when ARod was out.

    /Just sayin…

    • larryf

      Cano strikes out less than ARod which we certainly need with our RISP woes lately.

  • JerZGuy

    I wouldn’t make WS reservations just yet. Clueless Joe will manage this team right into the ground.

    • tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside the Elder

      Joe Torre still manages the Yankees? O_O

    • Joe Pawlikowski

      It appears there’s a glitch on the site and we’ve let through a comment from 2009.

  • Fair Weather Freddy

    Is it safe to say Austin kearns will not be in the lineup in these next 3 games?

    • JerZGuy

      Maybe we could take up a collection and send Kearns to Vegas for a month.

    • Ross in Jersey

      Gardner is supposed to be back, but I don’t think Swisher is ready to play yet. It’s possible you’ll see Kearns in right. As much as he’s sucked lately, he’s still a better bat than Curtis or Golson.

      • larryf

        why is that? because he can hit 15 HR’s over a full season? We have enough power. He strikes out too much, can’t run and plays an average OF. I’ll take Golson right now.

        And Kearns is supposed to have an injury as well…

        • Benjamin Kabak

          Come on. Greg Golson sucks. He had one good play in the outfield this week, but that doesn’t make him the next coming of a viable Major Leaguer. His MiLB numbers are poor, and he strikes out a ton. Don’t let one bad week from Kearns fool you. He’s a much better choice than Golson.

        • Ross in Jersey

          Austin Kearns, 8/9 to 8/25 with NYY: 13 games played, .341/.438/.561. Clearly this guy will never get a hit again, ever.

      • JerZGuy

        I’d put a kid in there over this stiff any day and twice on Sunday. If for nothing else but their defense.

        • Ross in Jersey

          Austin is a plus defender. You’re letting a stretch of a few games fool you into thinking both Kearns and Golson are something they aren’t.

      • rek4gehrig

        All we need is someone who will put the ball in play (groundout to first, fly out) with a runner on 3rd and less than 2 outs. Kearns is not currently able to do that.

        • bexarama

          If you think Kearns is incapable of doing that because he’s in a bad stretch right now, I’m not quite sure what to say.

          • rek4gehrig

            The objective word here is “currently”

        • Benjamin Kabak

          You’re confusing “hasn’t” with “can’t.”

  • Tank Foster

    Usually I’m worried. I’m not worried this year, and I don’t know why.

    Now, “not worry” doesn’t mean I’m confident they will win it all; that’s too much to bank on, ever.

    But they’ve had their worst stretch of the year, with the most injury issues, and the worst that’s happened is that Tampa has a 1 game lead in the loss column, and Boston has crawled within 6….with just 16 to go.

    Slumps can go on a long time, but my money is on the offense getting hot and them getting a few breaks down the stretch. I say they win 3 of 4 v. Tampa and 4 of 6 v. Boston.

  • JoeNY07

    Time to flip a coin ………..Will we get the good AJ or the bad AJ tonight ????

    • Zanath

      I thought AJ has been fairly solid his last couple of starts. I think we’ll get to Millwood so we really just need him to be decent.