The Big Man leads off a small series

Building a bench to plug a DH hole
Gardner gets cortisone shot after MRI reveals inflammation in wrist
CC delivers. Credit: AP Photo/Kathy Willens

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.

Building a bench to plug a DH hole
Gardner gets cortisone shot after MRI reveals inflammation in wrist
  • Ross in Jersey

    Totally right. The only problem I have is that the Yankees themselves seem to be playing inbetween. Not going all out, but not playing like these games are meaningless either.

    For example: Resting A-rod 2 days after he gets off the DL, but continuously playing Swisher on a bad wheel. Shutting down Hughes, but not letting Vazquez go past 5 innings and 80 pitches. Keeping the bullpen rested, but using Mariano Rivera on back-to-back days after he threw 2 innings. It’s like for every move that’s saying “we want to win” there’s another that says “these games don’t matter that much”.

    I can’t blame this on Girardi, because I’m sure some of these are Yankee organizational decisions. But it would nice to see some consistency on the part of the team itself. If you’re all in for the division, fine, act like it. If you’re not, then get people healthy and worry about the division later.

  • Zanath

    It’s funny, because the Red Sox are “only” 8 games back, yet we all know they really can’t make that up. It certainly is nice not to have the Red Sox as a legitimate contender for the post season. Makes the road ahead at least a little more easy. Though if you do think about it, if the Red Sox didn’t suck so hard, they’d actually be about 5 or 6 games back because of our losing streak.

    • AndrewYF

      Didn’t you know? If the Red Sox didn’t have injuries they would ‘easily’ have the lead in the division.


      • Zanath

        The Red Sox bullpen is better than the Yankees’


      • bexarama

        By fifteenth order wins, they’ve already clinched HFA.

      • seimiya


    • bexarama

      On Saturday night, I think YES said the Red Sox are 4-9 in their last 13 games. Yeah, when you basically have to go all 2007 Rockies to make the playoffs, that’s not gonna do it, guys.

  • larryf

    I know it means nothing to our wealthy players but is there any financial reward for finishing first? what about playoff series wins?

    After all, Evan Longoria only makes 950K and he jumps off of helicopters into Tampa Bay looking for his baseball cap :-)

    • Ross in Jersey

      Each team in the playoffs (and each 2nd place non-wild card team) gets a playoff share awarded to them. The further you make it in the playoffs, the bigger a share you get. There’s no bonus for being a division winner or wild card winner, just depends on how far you make it into the playoffs.

  • nsalem

    volatile relievers?

    • Benjamin Kabak

      As in, you never quite know what you’re going to get when you change pitchers 3-4 times per game. Sometimes, they’ll be good; sometimes, they won’t. See, for example, Joba Chamberlain.

      • nsalem

        I think the relief pitching has been excellent the last couple of months. I thought Joba was thriving in the seventh and Robertson and Wood have been lights out. Robertson seemed to slip down in the pecking order after he had back to back bad outings at the end
        August. I think it was the Monday night game against the Jays and the wild Saturday game vs the White Sox. Everything seems out of balance since then and our record has been 10 and 10 despite are 6 game winning streak. I think since Joba’s been performing so well in the seventh he should be left there (for the remainder of 2010). When Joba finds himself, Girardi seems seduced into bringing him back into the setup role and this doesn’t work and is what I don’t understand. If there is blame to be placed I would put it on Girardi’s handling of the bullpen. In Joe’s defense however there has been little consistency from the starting rotation which may be forcing his hand. I do agree that the Chamberlain in the 8th move on Saturday and throwing Mariano for two innings does seem pretty strange. We were glued to our sets for 10 hours combined on Friday and Saturday nights and had nothing to show for it. Very frustrating, this week will be better.

  • Mike HC

    I think I seem to be in the minority, but I think winning the division is a bigger deal than people are giving it credit for. I think there is a psychological edge there that many people discredit, let alone the actual real advantage of having an extra home game.

    • bexarama

      Meh, I’d agree with this if there wasn’t a history of Wild Card teams doing well in the playoffs, and sometimes even beating the teams that won their division. 2004 Astros came close, 2008 Red Sox came close, 2005 Astros did it. 2004 Red Sox did it. 2007 Rockies did it. 2003 Marlins, 2002 Angels, etc.

    • nsalem

      2010 Yankees
      .662 WP at home
      .551 WP on the road
      I think those are the most compelling numbers and it is a big deal.

      • tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside the Elder

        If HFA meant you got 5 home games and the opposition only got 2, I’d agree. As it is currently set up, it’s no big deal.

        And all the other contending teams have a similar home/away winning percentage split.


        • nsalem

          Increasing your odds of winning a game by 10 percent is a big deal.

  • bexarama

    This week, though, bragging rights and fan pride are on the line,

    Re: the team we’re playing this week. What fans?

    /cheap shot
    /running joke

  • theyankeewarrior

    Every day it’s something new with these guys. Come playoff time, I don’t want to read about someones barking hip or hand or leg or headache or period or whatever else is going on in that locker room.

    Sit the whole team down and play the AAA squad if these games don’t mean anything. They have 40 spots. Use em.