The Yankees’ late season chase for a wild card is a narrative that gets rewritten practically every day. Six teams, all within three and a half games of each other, are competing for the two coveted spots that would have them in the unenviable position of having to win one game to advance to the playoffs.
Yankee fans have been experiencing a wide array of emotions over the past month or so. Each day we wake up, feeling either elated or dejected depending on the outcome of the previous night’s game, and obsessively check the out-of-town scoreboard on our iPhones to see who won the west coast match between, say, Tampa and Oakland.
Last week bore some hopeful moments for us, as the Yankees took three out of four in Baltimore and all Tampa seemed to do was lose. They closed to within one game of a playoff spot.
But then Derek Jeter’s self-proclaimed nightmare season ended, to no one’s surprise. Then Brett Gardner went down. (And then they got to Boston. ‘Nuff said.)
In other words, enter ginormous gaping hole in the first two spots of the Yankee lineup. Gardner will likely miss the rest of the season after straining his oblique looking at a called third strike during his first at-bat on Thursday. As if the Yankees needed any more proof that things weren’t meant to be this season, the man injured himself without even swinging the bat, for Pete’s sake.
If you’re looking at the injury-riddled Yankee lineup and thinking that nothing could be worse, think again. The bullpen, after a season of bailing out inconsistent starting pitching, is completely shot. On Thursday David Robertson blew a three-run lead in the eighth and was denied a win by the official scorer even though he technically left the game with a lead when the Yankees scored a run in the top of the ninth. (I have pointed out in a previous blog how I think this should happen a lot more often.)
The win instead went to Mariano Rivera, who pitched a spotless ninth, but whose track record this season has been less than perfect. The 43-year-old legendary closer has seven blown saves, including three in a row back in August.
Of course, no one is going to go after Rivera if the Yankees miss the playoffs. A few blown saves peppered among 43 actual saves are nothing compared to the pitching woes of Phil Hughes and Joba Chamberlain, who couldn’t have done less to help the Yankees this season if they tried. Hughes is a ghastly 4-13 with a 5.07 ERA. In his last appearance manager Joe Girardi kept him on a very short leash, removing him after only three plus innings even though he had only surrendered one run and three hits.
Chamberlain has been able to whittle his ERA “down” to 4.43, but probably because Girardi only trusts him in pressure-free situations. Even so, he’s given up at least one earned run in three out of his last four appearances, including a devastating loss to the Red Sox on September 5 that prompted me to light up my Facebook newsfeed with colorful adjectives for the beleaguered reliever. (It should be noted that Chamberlain only pitched in the extra-inning heartbreaker because Girardi had absolutely no other options.)
The Yankees finally received some good news on Sunday when David Phelps was re-activated after a stint on the 60-day disabled list. Phelps can provide some much-needed help in the bullpen, or Girardi can use him in lieu of Hughes in the rotation.
More rare fortuitous news came on Sunday when Alfonso Soriano, who had been a late scratch Saturday with an injured thumb, was announced in the lineup.
Could it be the start of a good luck streak for the Yankees? Stranger things have happened. After all, Robinson Cano had a push-bunt double the other day. And he actually ran down the first base line.