With everything seemingly falling into place for the Yankees on their current five-game winning streak, there are only two lingering concerns as they inch their way closer to clinching a playoff berth.
The first is getting Mark Teixeira back to be a middle of the order presence for this team once again. It would be difficult to fathom the Yankees going on a deep postseason run without their first baseman. But it would be even more difficult to envision the Yanks playing deep into October if ace CC Sabathia doesn’t return to form — and do so quickly.
“It’s important for us to accomplish what we want to accomplish,” Joe Girardi said of CC getting back to his dominating self. “I believe that we’re going to see it. I really do. If there’s a time to get on a roll, it’s right now.”
CC has given up at least three runs in each of his last three starts, and hasn’t recorded more than five strikeouts in any of those outings. The biggest concern has been his inability to protect leads, which has been a trademark of his in the past.
Andy Pettitte and Ivan Nova have given the Yankees’ rotation a boost of late, but they need CC to keep the momentum going. There have been rumors that he may be hurt, but both CC and the Yankees have denied that anything is wrong.
“A guy says he’s healthy, he gets up to 95 mph, he’s not getting a ton of treatment,” Girardi said. “He’s not coming in and saying his arm hurts. Those are the things that tell me that he’s healthy. What tells me that he’s locked in is when he has his good sinker and his good changeup.”
• Derek Jeter is back at DH tonight after starting the last two games at shortstop, with Eduardo Nunez taking his place in the field. He’s still nursing that bruised left ankle, but it hasn’t really hindered his production. Jeter is on a 14-game hitting streak, as his magical season continues. The fact is that this ankle issue is something that probably won’t fully heal until the offseason. “It’s not 100 percent,” Girardi said. “And you could say, ‘Well, why don’t you give him a week off?’ But I’m not so sure it’d be 100 percent if you gave him a week off… He said he feels better, but as I said, it’s not 100 percent. I know that, and he knows that. He’ll never admit that, so you have to pick your times to do it.”
• When I entered the Yankees clubhouse this afternoon, there was a swarm of reporters crowded around a somewhat agitated Jeter. Of course, they were inquiring about Jeter’s recent interview with ESPN’s Rick Reilly. Reilly was talking with Jeter about Peyton Manning playing for a different team this late in his career, and asked Jeter if he could see himself doing the same thing. In my opinion, Jeter’s answer was nothing controversial, just a simple statement that anything can happen in sports because it’s ultimately a business. The story blew up, but I didn’t even have to go over to Jeter to know exactly how he was going to respond to these follow-up questions. He pretty much said that he has no interest in playing anywhere else, dismissing the notion that there was some hidden message behind his answer. I chose not to even bother fighting through the crowd because I could have written out Jeter’s answers before he even gave them. To me, this is a complete non-story. As I tweeted earlier, if Jeter ever plays for another team, I’ll hop out of the press box and go streaking across the field.
• As for tonight’s opponent, Girardi talked about why he feels the Oakland A’s have been able to maintain their success this season. The A’s are firmly entrenched as the front-runner for the top wild card spot, and would really need to fall apart in these next two weeks in order to miss the playoffs. With MLB expanding the postseason with a second wild card spot this season, who would have thought the A’s and the O’s would end up filling those spots? “They pitch very well,” Girardi said of Oakland. “They hit the ball out of the ballpark. It’s a club that can hit the ball out of the ballpark if you don’t make your pitches. Their defense is very good, too. They have some guys that can run on their club, whether it’s a Coco (Crisp) or a Jemile Weeks, (Yoenis) Cespedes knows how to run the bases, so they do a lot of things right. But I think it always starts with their pitching, and it’s been really good.”
• Girardi also talked about paying close attention to the A’s knowing that they could see them down the line. “Sure you do,” he said. “You know that it’s a possibility, and with the way that they’re playing, it’s a distinct possibility.”
• Girardi confirmed that Pettitte should throw 85-90 pitches in his next start. “I think that’s pretty realistic,” he said.
• With Pettitte and Nova back in the rotation, David Phelps will resume his role in the bullpen, but he probably won’t be available in this series. “My guess is Monday,” Girardi said when asked when Phelps will be available. “We’ll have to see how he feels on Sunday.”
• Here’s the A’s lineup: 1. Cowgill (CF); 2. Gomes (DH); 3. Reddick (RF); 4. Cespedes (LF); 5. Carter (1B); 6. Donaldson (3B); 7. Norris (C); 8. Drew (SS); 9. Rosales (2B). RHP Parker.
• A big story around the league today has been former Yankee Melky Cabrera asking to be removed from consideration for the NL batting title. As you’re all well aware, Melky was suspended during the season after testing positive for a performance enhancing drug. Cabrera has enough at-bats to qualify for the batting crown, which had sparked some controversy. He’s currently first in the NL and it seemed that he would finish there, but after Melky’s request, Major League Baseball has ruled that he is ineligible. It’s probably the right move, and possibly a bit of a PR move on Melky’s part. Here is the story from Yahoo, with Melky’s statement.
Associated Press photos