BRONX, NY – All that is left now for the New York Yankees is counting the days until October. There is also some unfinished business in the final regular season games of 2009 including the individual milestones and achievements that will put a cap on a successful regular season.
Pitcher A. J. Burnett attempted to get his the 100th win of his career at Yankee Stadium Tuesday evening, but the Kansas City Royals with a two-run seventh inning, helped by a throwing error from reliever Phil Coke, put the Royals ahead. The Yankees would eventually win 4-3 on their 15th walk off win of the season in the ninth.
The rookie, Juan Miranda this time was the hero. Miranda, who replaced first baseman Mark Teixiera in the eighth inning, lined a pitch off the leg of former Yankees relief pitcher Kyle Farnsworth that scored Eric Hinske with the winning run giving the Yankees their Major League leading 102nd win and 50th come from behind victory that also leads baseball.
Sunday, in the Bronx, the Yankees won their 16th American League east title since divisional play began in 1969. The work started since spring training returning to the post season was accomplished, and the Yankees can relax a bit having secured the best record in Major League Baseball and home field advantage in the playoffs.
However manager Joe Girardi has made it known the remaining games are there to win, also keeping the regulars sharp for the upcoming post season next week Another seven game winning streak and more milestones make this ending significant. Still to come is a Friday evening start for CC Sabathia, who goes for his 20th win of the season at Tampa Bay.
“Think you’re evaluating players and trying to keep them sharp and strong,” said Girardi in his post game comments. “But you are trying to win the game and we’ll continue to try and win series and games,” he said.
Still to be determined is who the Yankees will face in the first round of the American League Divisional series. It will be either Detroit or Minnesota who are still battling for first place in the Al central division. So the final games this week in the Bronx against the Royals, and down in Tampa Florida against the Rays, will be time for Girardi to also assess his roster plans and pitching rotation for the first round of October baseball.
Sabathia is slated to pitch game one of the ALDS, and then it could be Burnett or Andy Petttite in game two. Burnett has held opponents to two earned runs in his last three starts and may have pitched his way to be the number two starter striking out eight, walking three on three hits in 6 1/3 innings.
Explaining his recent success, this after struggling after the all-star break Burnett said “If I am going to pitch in the postseason I definitely have to go one pitch at a time. That’s just me. A little bit of the streakiness was due to mechanics but we looked at some videos and straightened out some kings,” Burnett also stated that most of his mechanic flaws may have been mental mistakes.
So Girardi will use his roster accordingly in the next few days. Some of the rookies will get playing time, including the newest hero Miranda who became the ninth different Yankee to record a walk off hit this season and the second rookie to do it, the other Francisco Cervelli at the stadium against Toronto earlier this month.
And as the Yankees play out the string and prepare for their quest of a 27th world championship they also honor their players. Prior to the game Melky Cabrera got a ring for hitting a cycle, Mariano Rivera got the rubber from the mound at Citi Field for recording his 500th career save and Derek Jeter received numerous items from the old stadium,.
Perhaps the only anticipation remaining besides the milestones is Burnett getting a chance to put a whipped crèam pie in the face of two important players who have yet to have a walk off hit for a win. Jeter and Teixeira are on guard.
“These are the two guys left on the list, Tex and Jeet,” said Burnett with a smile. And the Yankees hope to continue that smiling, so does Burnett when it gets more interesting in the Bronx next week.
In the game New York continued their drive to home run prominence. Mark Teixeira hit his 39th home run in the bottom of the sixth that got the Yankees closer and Nick Swisher hit his 28th in the bottom of the seventh that made it 3-2 Kansas City. The Yankees lead baseball with 239 home runs and are four shy of tying their franchise record of 242 set in the 2004 season
e-mail Rich Mancuso: [email protected]