The Big Man leads off a small seriesBy
Despite a recent 1-6 run of uninspired baseball, the Yanks’ odds of making the playoffs have dropped a whopping 1.48 percent, according to Baseball Prospectus’ postseason odds report. Perhaps watching the club leave 32 runners on base over two games made us want to strangle baby animals out of frustration, but it has done little to lessen the likelihood of October baseball in the Bronx.
Coming from me, the complaints about meaningless September baseball are hardly new. While the Rockies are trying to reach Rocktober and the Padres are trying to stave off a last-season collapse, Yankee baseball games don’t carry much weight. The team is playing for the right to play, at most, two extra home games over the course of the first two rounds of the playoffs, and the lack of urgency has made the team a bit complacent on the field.
Lately, a theme of “It doesn’t matter” has emerged from both sides of the AL East coin. RJ Anderson at the excellent Process Report broke down the playoff scenarios last week and noted that the Wild Card team could benefit from not winning the division, and Moshe Mandel noted that facing the Rangers with home-field advantage or the Twins without are nearly equivalent. Neither opponent will be easy to beat, but the Yanks would be the favored team in either match-up.
Still, as fans, it pains us to watch the Yanks struggle as they have. We’ve seen games where the team can’t get a hit with runners in scoring position, and we’ve watched starting pitchers struggle to make it through 12 outs, let alone 15 or even 18. We’ve seen Joe Girardi hand the ball over to volatile relievers far too often for the Yanks to feel good about their starting pitching, and we’ve seen relievers fail as relievers inevitably do.
Today, though, hope comes in the form of one Carsten Charles Sabathia. The Yanks’ ace is 19-6 on the season with a 3.14 ERA. Because of his win total, he’s emerged as a quasi-legitimate Cy Young contender, and he’s the guy the Yanks want on the mound amidst a stretch of poor play. Even when he struggled against the Orioles last week, Sabathia gives the Yanks length, and that’s what the team needs today.
Against the Rays this season, Sabathia has been superb. He’s 1-1 but with a 2.53 ERA in 21.2 innings. He has yet to surrender a home run to Tampa Bay, and the team is hitting just .221/.299/.273 against the Big Man with nine walks and 14 strike outs. Sabathia, oh so good at throwing that change, can neutralize Tampa Bay’s big lefty hitters and gets the ball tonight as the Yanks look to hold on to first place.
Opposing him will be another Cy Young contender, David Price. The Rays’ lefty is 17-6 with a 2.87 ERA in 178.2 innings. This is the Yanks’ third shot at Price, and they’ve battered him around a bit this year. He’s just 1-1 against the Bombers with a whopping 7.11 ERA in 14 innings. I’d take those results again tonight.
Despite what many in the print media who need to sell papers are saying, this isn’t a particularly big series. The Yankees and Rays are both bound for October, and if the two best teams advance to the ALCS, they’ll face off in that huge seven-game set. This week, though, bragging rights and fan pride are on the line, and the guy I want to have the ball gets it. Now let’s see ‘em win.