This last series against the Tampa Bay Rays could mark a bad omen for the New York Yankees heading into the playoffs.
It is well written that once a team clinches a playoff birth they rest their starters, attempt to give the younger players some playing time and hope the healing process of injured players resets itself around playoff time.
The problem that I can see the Yankees facing is that after battling through a regular season marked with rotation problems and a seemingly endless task of taking down a Boston Red Sox squad that owned them at the beginning of the season, they now have to re-load and dial it up to the face the Detroit Tigers in two nights.
For now, the pressure has subsided, and the Bronx Bombers have been going through the motions of playing out the regular season schedule. I know everyone plays to win, but for the Yankees, the playoffs have been the only thing on their minds. In the epic debacle that was the extra-inning game that Dan Johnson (Jonathon Papelbon’s arch-enemy) emerged from nowhere for the second time, Girardi used over 10 different pitchers, some of whom most diehards have never heard of.
The night before, in a game they should have closed out, Rafael Soriano coughed up a late lead, and on Monday another six Yankees toed the rubber maxing out at two innings, while their line-up couldn’t quiet this unrelenting Rays club.
Momentum is key when entering October and right now momentum is not on their side. What is very surprising and what can always bail out any team at any time is pitching.
The Yankees ERA is ranked third in the American League at 3.71, something I would never have guessed when the beginning of the season began with more or less CC Sabathia as their only guaranteed victory. To compare, their team ERA was 4.26 in their 2009 championship season. Surprisingly rookie hurlers have emerged, a strong bullpen has bridged the gap to Mariano Rivera, and the home run is not the be-all end-all.
While this last series has been a showcase of some new faces for fans, Girardi and his boys have to gear up for Justin Verlander and the Tigers. In the end, this epic night of baseball was brought to a close by Evan Longoria’s classic blast. Hopefully a loss like motivates a Yankee clubhouse that knows how to win when it counts.
Don’t forget, Mariano Rivera could have shut down the Rays (who would have gone on to face Boston in a one-game playoff; outcome unknown?). What will people say if Tampa battles New York with a chance to go to the World Series and beats them?
Devon is the founder of The GM’s Perspective
Devon is a former professional baseball player with the River City Rascals& Gateway Grizzlies, and is now an independent scout.