What a difference a win makes.
Last week, my inbox was flooded with email after email of absolute panic. One went so far as to say it was guaranteed, no doubt about it, that the Yankees were going to lose every remaining game.
With one win, the Yankees have locked up at least a tie for the wild card. They’re a half game out of the division lead, and their magic number to clinch a playoff spot is one. Between the Yankees and the Red Sox, there are 13 chances for that “one” to happen.
“I think it’s a huge win for us because we’ve been scuffling and we’ve lost some leads late in games or we wouldn’t necessarily be in this position,” Joe Girardi said.
For the past two or three weeks, Girardi has managed as if this were April or May, and he’s taken a lot of heat for it. He’s rested his regulars off and on all year — especially when his regulars have been banged up or coming back from injuries — and for better or worse, Girardi did the same down the stretch. The playoff chase did not affect his decision making until Saturday night when he decided to push Phil Hughes into a game that wasn’t quite must-win, but certainly felt must-win.
It will be somewhat lost after all of the late drama of Sunday night, but Hughes could not have been better. If that’s the guy the Yankees are going to have in the playoffs, he might be their best option for Game 2. In what had to be the biggest start of his career, Hughes laid the early groundwork for the Yankees biggest win of the season.
“It’s not really any pressure taken off,” Hughes said. “We know we still need to win these next games coming up. It’s not like we’re a lock to go, and we’d still like to win the division as well. We have to play well these last six games and see what happens.”
Associated Press photo of Hughes