Here’s the part that matters most, and it might be the only part that matters at all: If the Yankees win tonight, they’ll have the best record in the American League and home-field advantage through the ALCS. It’s the best they could have done this season. If they’d won 140 games, the prize would have been no different.
“If you win, you win the division, that’s the bottom line,” Joe Girardi said. “We have a chance to have the best record, and that’s the bottom line. That’s a good feeling that you can control that.”
If the Yankees lose and the Orioles win, then the Yankees go into a one-game division tiebreaker. They don’t want any part of that. If the Yankees lose and the Orioles lose, then the Yankees still win the division and miss out on that wild card play-in game. But this fact stands above all else: If the Yankees win tonight, nothing else matters.
It was somewhat symbolic that Raul Ibanez had such a big game last night and put the Yankees in this position. There have been plenty of times this season when Ibanez looked totally lost, but he’s gotten hot at the right time, and if he can carry that momentum into the postseason, he could be a difference maker.
Isn’t that true of the Yankees?
There was a time in June when they looked unbeatable, and a time in July when they looked like the worst team in the league. I’m still not sure what to expect from them in the postseason, but they’ve played pretty well down the stretch, gotten some guys healthy, and put themselves in a good spot. If Robinson Cano keeps hitting like this, and CC Sabathia keeps pitching like this, and the back of the bullpen is at its best, and Andy Pettitte is Andy Pettitte, and guys like Ibanez and Eric Chavez and Eduardo Nunez keep chipping in …
If the Yankees win tonight and keep playing well, they will have done exactly what they wanted. There have been plenty of low points — plenty of times when the Yankees looked just as lost as Ibanez — but it’s Game 162, and the Yankees are in a good spot and in control of their destiny.
“Just keep fighting,” Ibanez said. “This game is a lot like anything else. It’s not how many times you get knocked down, it’s how many times you get back up. You just keep getting back up, keep fighting, keep working. That’s really all I know how to do, is just fight. It’s a blessing to be able to put on a Yankee uniform and to play Major League Baseball.”
Associated Press photo