Saturday, August 31, 2013

Playoff Hopes on the Line

Another important series for Yankees with Orioles in the Bronx goes their way

By Rich Mancuso

BRONX, NEW YORK, AUGUST 31- They are as important as they come now for the New York Yankees, every inning and each series as the games dwindle to a precious few with the September stretch approaching. In the Bronx Friday night, and with their ace CC Sabathia on the mound, the Yankees got the first of many more wins needed in this stretch to a playoff run.

And the Yankees got the win against the Baltimore Orioles, a team that is barely ahead of them in the standings for a second wild card spot in the American League. Now they need two more wins this weekend, or a sweep of the three-game series.

The Yankees are on a mission.

They need to win as many games down a stretch of 28 that are left to play. Baltimore came into the Bronx Friday night leading New York by a game in the standings for that all important second wild card. The other teams to bypass for a wild card spot are Cleveland, Oakland and Tampa Bay all with a difference of five games.

The first place division leading Boston Red Sox come to the Bronx to play four games Thursday night. That series is ever so crucial for the slim post season chances that the Yankees face. And if there was no second wild card, there would be no talk of any series being crucial, or important as September approaches.

After an 8-5 win over the Orioles, Yankees, manager Joe Girardi said, “We feel our lineup is a lot deeper. We have to click on all cylinders. One night we can score eight runs, one night we won’t.”

On this night, the lineup did what they had to do. They hit when they had to, home runs from Alfonso Soriano and Ichiro Suzuki. They got production from Mark Reynolds at first base, three hits, and two doubles. They played small ball and each of the Yankees first seven batters reached base safely with a hit, walk, or hit by a pitch.

And then there was Sabathia. He allowed five earned runs in 5.2 innings. Not the best outing for the Yankees ace, mediocre for sure. But he got the win, and the Yankees need him down this stretch in order to keep this second half surge to continue for October baseball.   

“The first few innings he was really sharp,” commented Girardi. “He just put some balls in some good spots.” The home run to Danny Valencia in the fifth inning, plus the five runs and seven hits, was not another outing you want from your ace, even though he got the win at this juncture of the season.

His counterpart on the mound, right hander Miguel Gonzalez, like Sabathia did not allow a hit for the first three innings.

“If I can keep these guys in the game we got a chance to win,” said Sabathia. “It’s grinding it out and trying to do everything I can to help this team.” The way his season has transpired, any win, especially at this time is that much more important.   

Saturday afternoon, Ivan Nova will be on the mound. The Yankees find themselves tied with Cleveland, trailing by 4/1-2   from the second wild card spot, a half game behind Baltimore. They opened a 10-game home stand with a win and they have been winning games in the Bronx.

Yes, there is a pennant race in the Bronx and the Orioles who have lost 10 of their last 16 games are fading and like the Yankees they have the same attitude. Take it one game at a time and win as many ballgames as possible.

“It’s a tight division, a tight race,” said Nick Markakis who led off the fifth inning with a single that was followed by the Valencia home run that gave Baltimore a 3-2 lead.

He added, “Until game 162 is played everyone has a chance. There is still a lot of baseball.”  Indeed, there is a lot of baseball left. And for the Yankees, who seem to have their hitting shoes on, now it is a matter of getting their ace to throw like one.

“These guys came up with a bunch of runs,” said Sabathia. But there are not always enough runs when Sabathia is on the mound. Girardi said it is all coming together, the pitching and hitting at the same time.

Eight runs saved Sabathia this time. The next outing will be more crucial, and the way this command has been, perhaps the Yankees will need eight more runs to keep their playoff hopes alive.

Comment:  Rich Mancuso: Mancuso

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