The Texas Rangers or the Baltimore Orioles are awaiting the New York Yankees Sunday night as the new wild card format this season has the lower seed teams hosting the higher seed in the divisional series. But, the Yankees don’t care where they go, or who they play.
Momentum has become a major player the last month or weeks of the baseball season. The Yankees have that right now, so similar to what the San Francisco Giants and St. Louis Cardinals had in 2010, and last year. Their late season surges continued right to a World Series championship.
And, as every baseball or sports fan knows, a New York Yankees season is not complete, or a success, unless they bring a World Series trophy back to the Bronx. They finished with the best record in the American League, decided when they clinched their second straight division title Wednesday night with a sweep over the Boston Red Sox.
Home field advantage for the first two rounds of the post season goes to the Yankees with a 95-67 finish, second best in baseball to the Washington Nationals. Though sweeping the lowly Boston Red Sox to finish off, and scoring 14-runs in their final game, don’t make that a barometer that they will dominate from here on in.
This was the Red Sox. Not the Rangers, Athletics, Tigers, or the Orioles where pitching, with perhaps the exception of the Rangers collapse, won them games this time of year. The Yankees inconsistency of their pitching staff could be their obstacle as to getting a 28th championship.
“Now the real season starts,” commented Derek Jeter, the Yankees captain who knows something about the meaning of October baseball with five World Series rings.
So, with a September that was one to remember, the Yankees had to fight to the end with Baltimore. The 27-time world champions are confident. Yes, momentum is on their side as the pitching and hitting have come together, as well as a healthy compliment of players off the disabled list.
The season of adversity, one key pitcher or starting player hindered by injuries hurt the Yankees as they struggled and surrendered a 10-game AL east divisional lead to the Orioles.
“This year we had to fight, scratch and claw,” said Nick Swisher who had his struggles and finished with a strong September.
The Yankees at one time or another this season, and Girardi utilized what he could from the roster, saw different players at third, first, in the outfield, at DH, and on the mound.
The losses of pitchers CC Sabathia, Andy Pettitte, Mark Teixeira, Alex Rodriguez, Brett Gardner, and other role players, for a short or extended period of time had an impact but they overcame the adversity.
That also included losing all-time saves leader Mariano Rivera, with a freak season ending injury in the outfield shagging fly balls prior to a game at Kaufman Stadium in Kansas City. Rafael Sorinao stepped in the closer role, and overall with 42 saves but had the tendency to throw the home run ball in the late going.
Gardner is back and could be on the post season roster, but getting on base and speed came when the Yankees acquired the able Ichiro Suzuki in the second half. Robinson Cano struggled, and the final three weeks the all-star second baseman had the highest hitting percentage in baseball.
The last seven years, New York has won the World Series once, so the obvious dynasty in baseball is a thing of the past with parity an obvious part of the game. However, as was the case with the Giants and Cardinals, pitching wins games this time of year.
“To have the best record and not know where you’re going is strange,” says Yankees manager Joe Girardi. They probably would prefer the Orioles. They split the 18-games between them and scored more runs. The Rangers, though struggling, know how to handle this time of year.
And when it comes to the Yankees and Rangers in October, Girardi is aware that Texas has come up short the last two years in failing to win the World Series, but the Yankees have never done well at the ballpark in Arlington in October baseball games.
The tentative starting rotation in the best- of- five opening round will be Sabathia, Hiroki Kuroda, Pettitte, and Phil Hughes. It looks good, though Hughes has been ineffective in his last three starts and gives up the home run ball. Hughes getting the ball in a game three or four could be detrimental.
“The fact we struggled, we overcame the adversity, I am proud we are at this point,” says Girardi. Driving in the timely run has been the inconsistency and striking out to much, and Curtis Granderson had a team high in strike outs when he was not hitting the home run ball.
Just about every position player is liable to hit the ball out of the park. The Yankees finished 2012 with a club record in round trippers. But we saw something the past few weeks that started to develop.
The Yankees played small ball with the bunt, steal, and that produced some run production that helped them win some close games on the road. They finished four games over .500 away from the Bronx.
The team works out at Yankee Stadium early Friday evening and will watch the wild card game between the Orioles and Rangers. From the Bronx they will have the bags packed and ready to begin the next journey.
The new season begin Sunday evening. The quest with momentum is to bring championship number 28 to the Bronx in a few weeks.
E-Mail Rich Mancuso: [email protected]/ Facebook.com/Keep it in the Ring