During today's Yankees loss, it was mentioned that the Bronx Bombers have held at least a share of first place for 109 consecutive days during this season. That's a pretty terrific accomplishment, but the fact of the matter is, this season has been anything but a joyride.
Between the injuries to key players, beginning with Brett Gardner back in April, through many of the rest of the team, Pettitte, ARod, Teixeira all missing significant time, and the players that weren't injured but have slumped at key moments, like Cano and Granderson, as well as pitchers we have counted on who haven't performed up to expectations: CC and Nova especially, this has been a season that really couldn't be "enjoyed." Certainly Joe Girardi has literally managed to keep the team moving forward which is a significant reason of why we are where we are.
The Captain provided a huge bright spot, being as solid a hitter as he has ever been in his career, and Jeter continues to prove his worth to the team, and the addition of Ichiro Suzuki was an amazing surprise and a crucial plus to the squad. He's hitting just when we need.
But really even though they have been dwelling in or near the basement for nearly the entire year, it somehow still comes down to the Boston Red Sox. They have two games left against Baltimore @ Camden Yards, and three games remaining at Yankee Stadium.
We just know how it's going to go. The Red Sox will roll over and play dead at Orioles Park and then play like they're trying to win the Championship when they get to the Bronx. This is all that's left for them now. One final series of discomfort to deal with in a very uncomfortable new formatted season.
First, though, let's focus. A problem has been starting pitching. Pettitte is about as good as it gets right now, and he pitched very well despite not having his best, but he likely won't pitch again. Sabathia looked better recently, but he's been up and down all year, and no one seems to have the answer as to why, not even CC himself. Nova has been terrible lately, so any time he gets the ball, it's a roller coaster ride. And even Kuroda who has been solid for the bulk of the season, at times looking more the ace than Sabathia, is showing some signs of wear.
But on the other side: RISP. The Yankees, almost from the very start of the season, have not hit with runners in scoring position. And that hurt them big time today when they had the bases loaded several times and didn't come up with anything. Granderson's plate discipline has completely evaporated as he is swinging at shoulder high fastballs and pitches that bounce!
Yes, there have been several costly bad calls by umpires during this season, at least one that cost us a game against the Orioles, and cost us a first baseman for several weeks all on that one play. But the point is we needed to throw the knockout punch that puts these teams away, that takes the game out of the hands of an ump that can flick it to the other team in the blink of a blind eye. That's what's been missing.
How do I see it going from here? The Red Sox will lose tonight. They might accidentally win tomorrow, but I wouldn't count on it. I do expect the Yankees to win on Sunday. It'll likely come down to the final three games, with the Yankees and Orioles most likely tied for the lead. We still have an advantage: we are at home while the O's are in St. Petersburg for the Rays.
The issue is that Bobby Valentine's Beantown Boys, who have been so miserable and angry and jealous and with their whole season of frustration beginning with how we went up to spoil the 100th Anniversary of Fenway Park back in April, through their closed door meeting with the front office, to off-loading all that payroll, to them falling out of contention, can march into our house now and try to take all of that out on us. This is the Red Sox' October baseball moment. You know they plan to do their worst.
It's time for us to play our best.