The Yankees lead is back down to one game, which makes them not all that unusual in this tight American League.
In the National League, there’s one playoff spot that’s up for grabs. Atlanta and Washington still have to decide which will win the division and which will be a wild card, but the only postseason spot truly open is the second wild card.
In the American League, nothing is decided. Not a single division champion. Not a single wild card spot.
“I just think teams have improved,” Joe Girardi said. “The group has gotten closer together. People made offseason moves, and trades, and a lot of things. Teams improved.”
Not counting division leaders, four teams are currently within two games of an A.L. wild card spot. The Yankees have a one-game lead in the East, the Tigers have a two-game lead in the Central and the Rangers haven’t quite wrapped up the East, with a four-game lead over Oakland.
Meanwhile, the Yankees are wrapping their season against two of the teams that are out of it completely. Girardi was asked whether he can see a difference in the way a team like the Blue Jays plays vs. a team like the Yankees. Are the Blue Jays more relaxed? Do the Yankees have a greater sense of urgency?
“I think there’s a difference,” Girardi said. “But I think once you get out on the field, everything becomes the same again. It’s the thought process leading up to the game that maybe you think about it a little more. But once you get out there, your instincts just take over.”
• Eric Chavez sat out last night’s game and today he’s at DH. That’s because Girardi doesn’t want to risk hurting his back on this turf. “We’ve seen when he’s played on it he’s needed a couple of days off,” Girardi said. “Could I have put him at a position? Sure. I could have put him at a position, I could have put him at third or first, but I decided to DH him today because my thought is I’d like him to play again on Sunday.”
• Mark Teixeira took six at-bats today. He also ran and fielded ground balls, and the plan is for him to play five innings of an instructional league game tomorrow. Girardi said Teixeira will likely join the Yankees sometime during those final three games at home. “He’s passed every test he was supposed to up to this point,” Girardi said. “He’s on schedule for what was scheduled, so that’s a good thing.”
• As it stands, Ivan Nova is still the Yankees scheduled starter for Tuesday. “We haven’t changed anything,” Girardi said.
• Hiroki Kuroda has been great this season, but not so great his past few times out. “His control has been a little bit off,” Girardi said. “His fastball in to lefties has been a little bit off, and to me that’s been the biggest thing. His fastball command has been a little bit off. You know the last time he went on seven days rest, it was his seventh day. Could that have something to do with it? Maybe. I expect he’ll be good tonight.”
• It’s worth noting that Kuroda is 37 years old and has already reached a career-high in innings. “He’s logged in a lot of innings,” Giradri said. “I haven’t really seen it in the velocity, but obviously there could be (a connection). I’m sure all starting pitchers go through a little bit of that this time of year, whether you’re 25 or 37.”
• Obviously the immediate emphasis is on Kuroda, but hard not to look ahead to Andy Pettitte tomorrow. Girardi said he expects Pettitte to get up to 95-100 pitches. It should be his final appearance before the postseason.
Associated Press photos