Monday, August 18, 2008

Hey, I remember those guys!

The Yankees dropped a little deja vu on their exhausted fanbase Sunday at the Stadium, pouring 15 runs on the Royals to capture their first winning series in six tries. Two straight wins coupled with the two straight Red Sox losses pulled the Yanks within five games of the American League Wild Card lead.

The Yanks scored 10 in the first two innings alone, led by A-Rod (three-run shot) and The Stache (grand slam). All the support enabled Mike Mussina to grab win No. 16 in what's become an increasingly special season for the 39-year-old right-hander. If he stays healthy, he will have 7-8 starts to get to 20 wins for the first time in what suddenly appears to be a Hall of Fame career.

The Yanks are off today, a welcome respite for a team of beleaguered old men. It will be interesting to see how the offense builds off Sunday's outburst. A similar breakout occurred on July 2, when a slumping lineup exploded for 18 runs against the Rangers. They were shut out at home against Boston the next night.

The Yanks have scored 10 or more runs 12 times this season. They are 5-6 in the games that have followed these outbursts, including five losses in the last six such situations. The lineup needs to really takeoff to secure a postseason berth, and now is the time to do it.

Of course, this is easier said than done, especially when you're heading to Rogers Centre for a three-game series. The Blue Jays aren't much of a hitting team, but they can really pitch. And unfortunately for New York, the Toronto arms seem to get especially amped when facing their AL East rivals.

The Yanks are 4-5 against the Jays this season, losers of two of three in Toronto in their last meeting in July. Yankee Killers Roy Halladay and A.J. Burnett held New York to one run over 17 1/3 innings in the bookend games of the first half's final series. The Yanks will get both those pitcher again this week, 15-gamer winner Burnett opening the set against Darrell Rasner and 14-game winner Halladay closing it out against Sidney Ponson. The rotation couldn't be stacked any worse for the Yanks, but put simply, they need to find a way to take one of those games in tandem with beating up on left-hander David Purcey (2-3, 5.93 ERA) in the middle game.

There's really no more room for messing around. Just look at the numbers. The Yanks have 12 series from now until the end of the season. Being five games back in the Wild Card race, they'll need to win nearly all of them to make up the ground. Looking at recent history, the Yanks needed 89 wins to grab the Wild Card in '07 (they got 93), the Tigers needed 91 in '06 (they got 95) and the Red Sox needed 94 in '05 (they got 95). So, if I were a betting man, I'd say the Yanks need to get around 93 wins to snag the Wild Card in '08. At 66-58, they'll need to go 27-11 to pull that off. Even if the Wild Card is a race to as low as 90 wins, the Yankees are going to have to play well over .600 ball from now until Sept. 30.

An uphill climb to be sure, but hardly impossible. Hey Joba, how ya feelin'?

No comments: