The division lead is still a game and a half, same as it was when the Yankees won their series opener in Minneapolis. The Orioles won big last night to keep pace, and now this tight division race moves into the final week of the season.
“Every win’s big for us right now,” Nick Swisher said. “We feel good. We’ve been playing extremely well.”
The Orioles are off tonight, so the Yankees alone will decide whether they drop back to a one game lead or pull ahead by two for the first time since September 2. Clinching a wild card spot doesn’t mean a whole lot right now. The division is the goal, and the Yankees have a magic number of six to clinch the American League East (they’re also only a game away from the best record in the A.L., but first things first).
A few random thoughts heading into this four-game set in Toronto.
• Amazing how much better the Yankees are when CC Sabathia is rolling. Even with Hiroki Kuroda having a nice season, the team just seems to be lacking something when its ace is off his game. Sabathia’s past two starts give a real sense of the Yankees being a team that could do something in the postseason.
• Not too surprising that Alex Rodriguez missed yesterday’s game. Joe Girardi has been extremely cautious with him this season, and except for the broken hand — an injury that had nothing to do with fatigue — Rodriguez has stayed healthy this season. Is that proof that the DH days and occasional rest have been effective, or is that a case for increasing Rodriguez’s workload?
• It really seems that Chris Dickerson could play a role next season. He made some adjustments against left-handers, and those adjustments worked in Triple-A. He’s always been able to hit righties. Given the outfield uncertainty going forward, Dickerson’s September call-up could be a sort of audition for a part-time role next year.
• Russell Martin said it Tuesday night: Boone Logan’s ineffective slider might very well have been the product of a tired pitcher who couldn’t snap off a breaking ball. Logan’s had a nice year, but workload is an issue for the go-to arms in this bullpen. Cody Eppley and Clay Rapada have been more effective than expected, but carrying two different relievers who are almost exclusively limited to right-on-right or left-on-left situational outings hasn’t helped the workload situation.
• Can you imagine where this lineup would be without Derek Jeter?
• Speaking of guys who just keep getting it done: The new Bob Dylan album is just terrific (but yesterday my walking-to-and-from-the-ballpark album was still Blood on the Tracks).
• There’s something fun about watching Ichiro Suzuki hit. I’ve seen a lot of elite players during my three years on the Yankees beat, but I’ve said many times that I love the way speed plays in baseball. And Ichiro uses his speed unlike anyone else.
• The Tigers have pulled ahead of the White Sox, which seems like bad news for the Yankees. If the season ended right now, the Yankees would play the A.L. Central champion in the division series, and the Tigers seem much more dangerous than the White Sox.
• I still have no idea what the Yankees are going to do with Eduardo Nunez. He’d probably be better off traded to a team that will let him play shortstop everyday and get comfortable at the position, but there’s also obvious value in having a talented guy as a just-in-case option behind Jeter. Even this year, what’s he going to do down the stretch? Can the Yankees trust him in the field? Doesn’t Brett Gardner have to be the top pinch running option?
• The Yankees have to trust that these past two games are a sign that Robinson Cano is snapping out of his funk. He’s too talented to consider moving him out of the middle of the order. Nothing to do but let him do his thing and hope it works.
• Ivan Nova starts tonight, and his next turn comes in the next-to-last game of the season. If he struggles tonight, would you let him make that next start?
Associated Press photos