Bombers Getting Hot at Right Time
For everyone that counted them out earlier in the season, the Yankees have something to say about that. To all the so-called experts that read them their eulogy back on May 29, when they were eight games under .500; 14 1/2 games behind the Boston Red Sox in the division; and 8 1/2 games back in the Wild Card race - the Bronx Bombers were never out of it, just waiting for the right time to make their move.
By going 8-2 in their last 10 games, the Yanks have shaved 3 1/2 games off Boston's lead and are one percentage point behind the Seattle Mariners for the consolation prize. With a 64-51 record, they are tied with the Mets for the fifth best in baseball. Not bad for a team that has had issues all season with their starting and relief pitching, as well as first base.
For all the boos raining on him earlier in the season at Yankee Stadium, Alex Rodriguez has carved himself another incredible year worthy of AL MVP consideration. On Friday night in a 6-1 win at Cleveland, the third baseman belted career home run number 501 and number 37 for the season, to go along with his 110th RBI, putting his batting average at an even .300.
For a veteran-laden team, this past week's contributions from the young arms have given the Yankees a boost. Philip Hughes, the phenom righthander who recently came back from an injury, gained his second major league win in three decisions on Friday. In six innings of work, he struck out six Indians while giving up only four hits and one earned run, lowering his ERA to 4.64. Joba Chamberlain was called up to solidify the shaky middle relief and has done just that in two outings. In his first big league appearance on Wednesday, he threw two scoreless innings and struck out the side in one of them. Last night, he took over for Hughes with a three-run lead in the seventh inning and retired the side in order. An inning later, he repeated his dominating performance from two days earlier by striking out the side again, this time on 14 pitches.
"Two young kids with great arms and a bright future," Rodriguez said to reporters. "That's a recipe you need to win. We've seen Phil and we've seen he's capable. But this other kid, wow. That's pretty darn electric stuff."
Andy Pettitte also commented to reporters, "Their stuff is incredible. We not only like their stuff, we like their makeup. We need them."
This is the time in the long baseball summer that teams either show that they are contenders or pretenders. The Wild Card in the American League appears to be a three-horse race between the Yankees, Mariners and the Detroit Tigers. Cleveland leads Detroit by 1 1/2 games in the AL Central.
Detroit obviously is for real, winning the AL pennant a year ago before falling to the St. Louis Cardinals in the World Series. There are many questions surrounding Seattle and Cleveland, for that matter. For the Yankees to pull this off and qualify for the post season, they are going to have to stay hot in their last 47 games. Any stumble over a series or two can trigger the end for them. Because of their slow start, they have little room for error. The veterans in the pitching staff need to lead the way. Pettitte, Mike Mussina, Roger Clemens and have all been there before and know what to expect. They will have to lend some of that knowledge to the Phillip Hughes of the world.