Late last night, the Yankees actually clinched a playoff spot. The Angels lost the second game of a double header, and the Yankees were assured at least a wild-card berth. Not that it means much to the Yankees.
“I’m not even thinking about the wild card, man,” Nick Swisher said. “That’s not my thought process. My thought process is the division. Get ourselves another banner. Get ourselves another ring.”
Joe Girardi shook his head and quickly dismissed the idea when asked if he would start resting players if and when the Yankees clinched a wild card spot. Because of the new playoff format, the division is really the only guarantee. A one-game play-in game is a true roll of the dice — that’s the point — and so the Yankees have little choice but to keep chasing the American League East.
“This city, this team, expects to win,” Swisher said. “And that’s what I expect us to go out and do.”
A few thoughts as the Yankees prepare for this final three-game series that will determine the division…
• Robinson Cano has to keep hitting lefties. If there’s a way to strategically get past him, then the middle of the order is much easier to navigate. Cano has to be that all-around, can’t-get-past-him force that he’s been the past two years. “A lot of times clubs are gonna save that lefty for Robbie,” Girardi said. “And if Robbie does some damage on them, then they got to think about what they’re doing behind him.”
• Speaking of the middle of the order, does anyone know what to expect from Mark Teixeira? Anyone? The guy has four big league at-bats since August 27.
• Hard to believe that since July 24 the Yankees have played exactly one game with Teixeira and Alex Rodriguez in the lineup together. If in late March you knew that would be true, and that Michael Pineda wouldn’t throw a single inning, and Brett Gardner would go down in April, and Mariano Rivera would be lost in May, and Andy Pettitte’s comeback would be limited to 12 starts, and CC Sabathia would have two stints on the disabled list — would you have given up on the season right then and there?
• The Red Sox stink, but they’re dangerous in a three-game series like this. “Nothing would make their season more than to spoil our season,” Swisher said. Exactly.
• In the end, Phil Hughes’ numbers look a lot like his 2010 numbers. He had 16 wins (18 two years ago), a 4.23 ERA (4.19 in 2010) and a 1.26 WHIP (1.25 in 2010). Glass half full, the biggest difference might be that he struggled in the second half of 2010 but actually improved in the second half this year. Consistency might be the last thing to come with him, which doesn’t seem especially unusual. “I feel good, I feel healthy and I feel like my stuff’s good,” Hughes said. “It’s about consistency.”
• Assuming a seven-man bullpen in the postseason, can we agree that Rafael Soriano, Dave Robertson, Boone Logan, Joba Chamberlain, Clay Rapada and David Phelps are in? Given one more spot, has Derek Lowe done enough to earn the job over Ivan Nova or Cody Eppley? Lowe can get groundballs like Eppley, and he can pitch multiple innings like Nova. Plus he has a lot of playoff experience. “He’s kind of on a roll for us a little bit,” Girardi said. “He’s had some big innings for us.”
• Remember when Andy Pettitte was rained out in his return from the disabled list, how that cost him the ability to make four starts down the stretch? It also put him in line to pitch a potential tie-breaker against the Orioles. If not him, it would be Hughes.
• For the longest time I defended Girardi’s decision to keep playing Andruw Jones because the roster offered such limited alternatives. But now that Ichiro Suzuki is hitting lefties again and Teixeira is coming off the disabled list, Jones’ at-bats have to stop, right?
• What in the world are the Yankees going to do with Eduardo Nunez next year? Trade him? Move him to the outfield? Keep him as an emergency second stringer behind Jeter? The kid can hit and he can run, and he would be a nice piece if the Yankees could figure out a place to play him.
• I feel bad for Jayson Nix. The guy stepped in and did a really nice job for the Yankees this season. It will be a shame if he has to miss the postseason.
Associated Press photos