Category: CC Sebathia

Yankees play an important three-game series against the Baltimore Orioles

CC Sabathia from his website

CC Sabathia from his website

The Yankees play the first of three games against the Baltimore Orioles tonight at Yankee Stadium. Baltimore is currently 3.5 games behind the Oakland Athletics for the second Wild-Card spot and the Yankees are five games behind the Athletics.

The Yankees play 14 of their next 17 games against the Orioles and Boston Red Sox. However, it is crucial that the Yankees win at least eight of their next 10 games because they need to take advantage of the games that they have at home. The Yankees have lost four out of their last six games, but those games were at Tropicana Field and at the Rogers Centre.

In the Bronx, the Yankees have a 38-27 record behind the cheers from the Bleacher Creatures, but on the road in enemy territory their record stands at 32-36. Baltimore has a 33-32 record during road games this season, but at home at Camden Yards their record is a much better 38-29. The Yankees need to take advantage of a team that is virtually playing .500 baseball in road games. The Orioles are coming off of a series where they lost two out of three games to the Boston Red Sox.

In his career, Alfonso Soriano has hit .290 with 21 homers and 50 RBI against the Orioles. Derek Jeter, who will be starting at shortstop after making his return from the disabled list on August 26, has a .307 average in 270 games played agains the Orioles, with 24 homers and 135 RBI. Robinson Cano will be making his return to second base after being hit on his left hand by a J.A. Happ pitch during the Blue Jays series. The Yankees are lucky that his injury was not more serious.

CC Sabathia, who is tonight’s starter for the Yankees, has allowed five runs or more in four of his last seven starts. However, he has shown some signs of improvement as he allowed three runs or less in three of his last four starts. Sabathia needs to throw seven innings and allow three  runs or less tonight against the Orioles.

When David Robertson was asked about the upcoming series David Robertson said: “If we don’t fare well against Baltimore it could be the series that breaks us.” When asked about the 10 consecutive games at home Robertson said: We need to win nine of these 10 games if we want to have a chance at this thing. I hope we are up to the challenge.” Robertson, who is speaking his mind like he has not done much in the past, basically is saying exactly what the Yankees need to do.

Miguel Gonzalez, who is pitching tonight against the Yankees, has not started since August 20, where he allowed two earned runs in 5.2 innings. If the Yankees win during this series, they are guaranteed to gain ground on the Tampa Bay Rays and Athletics, since they play each other. The Yankees will be rooting for Tampa because they are ahead of the second place Athletics.

The Yankees will likely need 92 wins to get into the playoffs as a wild-card, which will mean they will have to go 22-7 the rest of the season. They will need Sabathia, Phil Hughes, Ivan Nova, Andy Pettitte and Hiroki Kuroda to pitch well the rest of the way.

Ivan Nova, who has struggled a little recently but has been the team’s second best pitcher this season, will pitch in the game on Saturday afternoon. Phil Hughes will start in the series finale on Sunday. It is important for the Yankees offense to come back to life during this series like it did during their hot streak earlier this month.

Update: Andy Pettitte has been bumped up to start on Sunday and Phil Hughes will now get the start on Monday. This move makes sense because it allows Pettitte to pitch in a game with more significance.

Sabathia and sloppy defense led to the loss to the Twins

CC Sabathia delivering a pitch.

CC Sabathia delivering a pitch.

The Yankees (51-44) lost their last game before the All-Star break, 10-4, to the Minnesota Twins after two errors and surprisingly shaky pitching from CC Sabathia. In his career, prior to this afternoon’s game, Sabathia had 17 wins, four complete games, 184 strikeouts and a remarkable 2.96 ERA, which makes this start an anomaly.

Only three of Sabathia’s eight runs were earned, as a result of Eduardo Nunez’s throwing error in the third and Lyle Overbay’s error in the fourth, but Sabathia still allowed eight hits and two walks in four innings pitched.

This has been Sabathia’s worst “first-half” (the All-Star break is not technically the middle of the season) of the season as a result of the 4.07 ERA that he has so far. His second highest pre All-Star break ERA was 3.86 in 2009, but he ended that season with a 3.37 ERA and 19 wins. He should be able to pitch much better in the second half because he usually improves after the All-Star break.

Nunez, who has been error prone throughout his career, made his fifth error in 35 games in the field this season. Nunez has made four errors in 32 games started as shortstop this season. In 2012, Nunez committed a combined seven errors in 26 games played at shortstop, third base and second base.  Overbay, who has been one of the best defensive first baseman throughout his career, committed his third error of the season in 77 games played at first base (He has also started games in the outfield and at DH this season).

The two offensive standouts for the Yankees were Ichiro Suzuki and All-Star Robinson Cano. Ichrio was 3-5 with two runs batted in and his sixth homer of the season. Cano, who was 2-4 with an RBI, is now on a nine-game hitting streak. However, the Yankees still stranded nine runners during the game.

It is disappointing that the Yankees did not win the final two games of the series against the Twins. They had won won the previous five, four at Target Field and one on Friday, and the Yankees had been 17-5 against American League Central opponents before the last two losses to the Twins (39-53).

The losses against the Twins as well as the two losses to the Royals in the middle of the homestand are ones the Yankees needed because the schedule gets more difficult after the Midsummer Classic. They play 10 games in 10 days against the Red Sox (56-39), Rangers (54-41) and Rays (55-41). The Rays have won 10 of their last 11 games and have been able to take advantage of inferior competition unlike the Yankees.

The Bronx Bombers basically did not show up for the last game of the series. They need to be rejuvenated by the four days off so that they will be ready for Boston. Even though Phil Hughes had 10 strikeouts against the Twins on Saturday, Brian Cashman should look into getting an upgrade at catcher for him because his is not reliable enough and would do better for a National League team.

The Yankees lost after scoring one run for their third consecutive game

Travis Hafner

Travis Hafner

The Yankees lost 3-1 to the Kansas City Royals on Tuesday night at Yankee Stadium. Their offense has now only scored three runs in the past three games. The Miami Marlins, who have scored the least amount of runs in baseball, have scored seven runs in their last three games.

The loss can be blamed on their non-existent clutch hitting in the first inning. It is rare that a team will have four hits in one inning while only scoring one run but that is exactly what the Yankees pulled off in the first. Robinson Cano hit a single that drove in Brett Gardner, but then Travis Hafner would strike out and Lyle Overbay and Eduardo Nunez recorded outs with the bases loaded.

The Yankees should have been able to score at least three runs in the first stanza. They can’t afford to waste opportunities when ducks are on the pond right now. From the second inning until the end of the game the offense only had a single from Gardner and a single from Chris Stewart.

The Yankees are hitting only .221 with the bases loaded this season, which is basically in line with the ineptitude that they showed tonight.

Raul Ibanez, who hit 19 homers last season for the Yankees and has 22 so far this season for the Mariners, should still be on the Yankees. The Yankees signed Travis Hafner in the off-season to 1 year/$2 million contract, but Ibanez signed a 1 year/$2.75 million contract with the Mariners.

Brian Cashman obviously should have decided to bring Ibanez back because he could have been the DH and played some outfield, and Ibanez has eight more homers and has driven in 14 more runs than Hafner. Travis Hafner has been part of the problem lately as he only had one hit in his last 14 at-bats.

CC Sabathia proved to be the workhorse that he has been so many times for the Yankees as he pitched a complete game while allowing three earned runs, allowing seven hits and recording seven strikeouts. Billy Butler, who hit a solo homer to deep left off of Sabathia in the seventh, now has four homers in his last six games against the Yankees.

It does not get much worse than the slump that the Yankees are in right now. The offensive ineptitude during the past three losses has ruined solid starts from Hiroki Kuroda and CC Sabathia.

Ivan Nova, who will be pitching for the Yankees on Wednesday, should pitch around Butler so that he doesn’t have a chance to drive in any more runs. After the momentum that the Yankees had coming into the series, having won six of their previous seven games, they now need to win the next two games against the Royals so salvage a split.

The Yankees need Ivan Nova to have a similar performance to the one he had on Friday, when he allowed two runs in a complete game win, and they need the offense to finally hit in the clutch like they did during the winning streak.

You can vote for David Robertson to get into the All-Star Game here. Voting ends at 4PM on Thursday. As of Tuesday, he was in second place behind Steve Delebar of the Toronto Blue Jays in the Final Vote competition. He was still in second place on Wednesday morning.

Yankees beat Tampa behind big games from Wells and Almonte

Vernon Wells

Vernon Wells

The Yankees beat the Tampa Bay Rays, 7-5, Saturday afternoon, for their second consecutive victory over their American League East division rivals. After scoring three runs in the loss to Tampa on Thursday, the Yankees have now scored more than four runs in consecutive games for the first time since May.

Zoilo Almonte gave the Yankees an offensive boost for the second game in a row as he had two walks, a run scored and three RBI. He is continuing to contribute in the on base percentage category like he did in the minors and is providing the offense that Vernon Wells was not. In four games and two starts, Almonte is now batting .625 with two runs, one homer and four RBI.

However, Wells did get the pinch hit three-run double that the team needed, which made the score 7-5 and gave the Yankees the lead for good. He hit for Chris Stewart in the seventh inning. Wells was in the middle of a 3-29 slump, (and he was 6-59 going further back) which made this hit even more important. Zoilo Almonte should continue to play the outfield until he cools down, but this could be a sign that Wells should get some at-bats at DH along with Travis Hafner, who has been struggling.

Joe Girardi can be praised for putting Wells into the game in a point that he might be successful. The relief pitcher that he was facing is known for his fastball and that is Wells’s strength.

CC Sabathia, who had not picked up a win against the Rays in his last six starts, was able to win his eighth game of the season. He pitched well overall except for the sixth inning where he allowed a walk to the number nine hitter, Sam Fuld, and then the talented rookie, Wil Myers, hit a grand slam a few batters later. (Brett Gardner almost made an outstanding catch on the homer.)

It is a good sign that the Yankees were finally able to bail out the starting pitcher and get him a win.

Mariano Rivera picked up his 26th save of the season after allowing a hit and striking out one batter in the ninth. He only has one blown save so far during his final major league season.

Yankees vs. Mariners Preview

Phil Hughes

Phil Hughes

Tonight’s game will be the first contest of a 10-game west coast trip that will go from Seattle, to Oakland and then to Anaheim.

The last time the Yankees faced the Seattle Mariners they lost two out of three games in the middle of May. The shocking part about that series loss is that the only game that the Yankees won was the game that Marines ace, Felix Hernandez, was pitching.

The Yankees have gone 9-9 since that series loss to the Mariners at Yankees Stadium. However, before this upcoming series in Seattle, the Yankees swept the Indians in The Bronx.

Seattle is coming into the series having lost three out of their last five games. They have allowed four runs or more in four of their last five games coming into this series. Since the Mariners have a 26-34 record, and are tied for third place with the Angels in the AL West, the Yankees need to take advantage of facing an inferior opponent. It will not be a successful series unless they can win three or four games.

Another reason that the Yankees should be able to win the series is that they are facing pitchers, besides King Felix, who are on the downside of their careers. The first three starters that they will face have had success (especially Harang and Saunders) with the Reds, Tigers, and Angels, but they are all struggling this season.

The offensive star so far for the Mariners has been Kendrys Morales. He has a .307 average, eight homers and 35 RBI. In 31 games, he has a .330 career average against Yankee pitching, so the Yankees will want to pitch around him at times.

In injury related news, it was announced that Derek Jeter is set to have his injured left ankle examined by Dr. Robert Anderson next week. After being examined, he will hopefully be able to increase his baseball activities.

Since CC Sabathia pitched in the final game against Cleveland, he will miss this series. Here are the pitching matchups for the series in The Emerald City.

Tonight at 10:10 p.m EST.

Phil Hughes (2-4, 5.27 ERA) vs. RHP Aaron Harang (2-5, 5.82 ERA)

Friday at 10:10 p.m. EST.

Hiroki Kuroda (6-4, 2.59 ERA) vs. RHP Jeremy Bonderman (0-1, 13.50 ERA)

Saturday at 4:10 p.m. EST.

Andy Pettitte (4-3, 4.17 ERA) vs. LHP Joe Saunders (4-5, 5.20 ERA)

Sunday at 4:10 p.m. EST.

David Phelps (4-3, 4.15 ERA vs. RHP Felix Hernandez (7-4, 2.58 ERA)

Jeter on the jumbotron

Jeter on the jumbotron

The Yankees start the series against Boston with a win

CC Sabathia dominated Boston.

CC Sabathia dominated Boston.

After losing four in a row to the Mets, and five games overall, the Yankees (31-23) got a much needed 4-1 victory of the rival Boston Red Sox. They are now one game behind Boston for first place in the AL East.

In three out of the last four games the Yankees only scored one run against the suspect Mets’ pitching staff. Jon Lester, who has a 3.53 ERA, turned out to the pitcher who would bring the bats to life. This was the game that first baseman, Mark Teixeira, and third baseman, Kevin Youkilis, finally made their return from injury.

In his season debut, Teixeira went 0-3 but did score a run after getting a walk in the second. The team has not been drawing walks recently so Teixeira’s ability to do so, in addition to his power, will definitely help. Teixeira usually struggles during the first month of the season so hopefully he will be able to hit like it is June. The team can’t have him take a month to start to hit like in past seasons. This is because once he gets in his groove he is one of the best hitters in baseball.

In Youkilis’s first game action since April 27, he was able to g0 1-4. His single drove in Ichiro Suzuki for the team’s third run of the game. His return from the disabled list will move David Adams into a reserve role. Adams started out hitting well but is now in the middle of a slump.

Ichiro went 2-3 with two runs scored and an RBI during the night game at Yankee Stadium and is showing signs of hitting like he did last season. He is now nine for his last 24, which is a .375 average. The Yankees need him to hit for a high average and score runs so that he can be a spark plug at the bottom of the lineup.

Also, just as importantly as Teixeira and Youkilis helping the offense is that CC Sabathia returned to his dominating ways. Sabathia has been the ace of the staff since 2009 but has struggled a little recently. He came into the game 0-2 with a 4.86 ERA in his last five starts (he had actually allowed two runs or less in three of those starts).

It appears that with this start Sabathia is continuing his trent of pitching better as the temperature rises. He also tied his season high of 10 strikeouts in the game against the Red Sox.

In the 7:05 p.m. game tonight on FOX, Phil Hughes will pitch for the Yankees (2-3, 4.97 ERA) and Felix Doubront (3-2, 5.29 ERA) will pitch for Boston. Hughes is coming off two successful starts where he allowed two runs or less in both outings so hopefully he will help the team start a winning streak.

Also, in other news, Curtis Granderson is donating $5 million to help his alma mater, University of Illinois-Chicago, build a new baseball stadium. The total cost to build the stadium is $7 million. It is great that even though Granderson has twice been the victim of bad luck as a result of being hit by a pitch, he continues to make a difference everywhere that he can.

Yankees have the edge over the Tigers

He could be a key piece in the ALCS

The Yankees won a very closely contested ALDS series against the Baltimore Orioles, 3-2,  where the last four games were decided by a total of four runs. The hero of this past series was Raul Ibanez, since he hit two homers in game three including the game winner in extra innings. Ibanez also went 1-3 while adding another RBI in the 3-1 win.

Ibanez, who was the DH for the series clincher, should stay in that spot for the upcoming match-up with the Detroit Tigers, since he has proven that he can hit in the playoffs. Alex Rodriguez was benched for game five and should only start again if he is able to come through in a clutch situation while pinch hitting in game one. In six games against the Tigers this season hit hit .375 so Girardi should use his binder to see who he matches up best against.

There really is not that much of a drawback between Eric Chavez and Alex Rodriguez. Chavez is a reliable fielder, but is lacking offensively at this point like A-Rod. However in nine games this season against the Tigers pitching staff Chavez hit .516 with two homers. Based on those stats alone he deserves to start at third over A-Rod. Rodriguez should basically be the most expensive playoff pinch-hitter in MLB history until he can prove himself.

The starting pitching for the Yankees was reliable in this series, as no pitcher allowed more than three runs in the five game series, but the offense will need to step up in order to advance to the World Series.  The Tigers’ ERA, 3.75, was the third lowest in the American League so the offensive underachievers for the Yankees such as Curtis Granderson (.158 and nine strikeouts), Nick Swisher (.111) and Robinson Cano (.091) will need to revert to their regular season form.

Granderson had 43 homers in the regular season, while Cano and Swisher had 33 and 24, respectively. They will need to display some of that power in this upcoming series as well as hit for a decent average. Detroit’s top four starters, Justin Verlander, Doug Fister, Max Scherzer and Anibal Sanchez have a more successful track record than those of the Orioles so it is even more important that the Yankees offense picks up the slack.

The Yankees are evenly matched wit the Tigers, if both teams perform to their ability, but an advantage that the Yankees have is that I see Cano and Granderson raising their level of play.  Overally, Cano is the best hitter all-around hitter on the team, excluding Jeter’s always reliable postseason production, and Granderson closed the series on a positive note with a homer and will have extra motivation facing his former team.

I see this series going seven games with the Yankees having the advantage because the have two playoff aces in CC Sebathia and Andy Pettitte while the one true playoff ace on the Tigers is Verlander. The Bronx Bombers also have the advantage when it comes to the bullpen because their top two of Rafael Soriano and David Robertson are much more reliable (and less emphatic) than Phil Coke/Joaquin Benoit and Jose Valverde.

The Yankees will have to shutdown sluggers Miguel Cabrera (44 homers) and Prince Fielder (30 homers), but they both struggled in the first round against the Oakland Athletics, and the Yankees can pitch around them when it makes sense. Above all, the Yankees will need Ichiro to continue to hit like he did in September, in addition to having Jeter, Teixeira and Ibanez repeat their performance against the O’s, while having Swisher, and especially Granderso and Cano produce like they are capable of.

The schedule will help the #Yankees win the AL East


After the second walk-off win in a row, against the Oakland Athletics, for the Yankees, they will be able to look ahead at the schedule to know that they should be able to hang and win the AL East. After tomorrow’s matinee game against the second place A’s, their remaining seven games are against the Toronto Blue Jays and Minnesota Twins, who are a combined 40.5 games out of first place.

The Yankees have now won seven games in a row and their current winning streak has been highlighted by late game heroics by Raul Ibanez and Russell Martin. Ibanez, who was only 1-19 before today’s marathon game, produced a much needed 3-4 performance, with two homers and three RBI. On Friday night, Russell Martin, who has been somewhat of a feast or famine player recently, hit the game winner in the 10th after failing to get on base in his previous three at bats.

Friday’s game against Oakland would not have needed a Martin long ball in extra innings if it were not for Rafael Soriano wasting a dominating outing by ace CC Sebathia. After being somewhat inconsistent recently, Sebathia’s 11 strikeout, zero earned run performance is one that Yankee fans know he is capable of.

Soriano has been a very reliable replacement for the Hall of Famer, Mariano Rivera, since it was only his fourth blow save, while his 42 saves and 2.10 ERA make up for allowing the game to go into extra frames.

The good news is that the Yankees will not have to face a team like the Athletics, who have been playing above their talent level, and have been one of the best surprise stories of baseball, for the rest of the season. The Blue Jays and Twins are both not playing for anything while being out of the playoff race for most of the season. The Yankees will need to capitalize on these inferior opponents.

The Yankees currently own a one game lead over the surging Baltimore Orioles. The Bronx Bombers are currently clicking on all cylinders after going 9-1 in their last 10 games while the O’s, led by Buck Showalter, have won eight of their last 10 contests.

The Yankees should not accept anything less than winning six of their last eight games. I could see them losing the game to the A’s on Sunday, who are currently tied with the O’s for the Wild Card, and then also losing a game to their division foe, the Blue Jays.

If I had to pick a game for them to lose it would be when Ricky Romero is pitching. Romero, who has been Toronto’s ace the past few years, has struggled in 2012, but has a history of pitching well against the Yankees. If my prediction is accurate the Yankees would end the season with a 94-65 record.

The Orioles also end the season against teams that are basically playing out the string. They have four games left against the Red Sox and three against the Blue Jays. I can see the Orioles winning six of their last eight games. I would have left the number at five, but I could see the Red Sox resting their starters to try and help the Orioles win the division instead of the Yankees.

The Yankees will need to continue to have unsung and under-performing players step up in their remaining games to help them come away with six or more wins. Those six wins would give the Yankees a 94-65 record, and if the Orioles also win six more games, the Yanks would win the AL East by one game.

A thrilling Wednesday night of baseball ends with the Red Sox missing the playoffs, with help from the Yankees

The action on Wednesday, September 28th was probably the most exciting evening of baseball in regular season history, and it surely ended well for the Yankees, even though they lost.

The first notable game was the Mets meaningless contest against the Cincinnati Reds, at Citi Field.  It did not have significance for either team because the Reds finished 11 games out of the Wild Card while the Mets finished the season 25 games out of first place, but the game was crucial in determining the batting champion.

Jose Reyes was only percentage points ahead of All-Star left-fielder, Ryan Braun, of the Brewers, before both teams played on Wednesday.  The batting title was very much up for grabs but Reyes did something that some people consider controversial.  He led off the game with a bunt single to give him a .337 average but then asked to be taken out of the game.  Braun “The Hebrew Hammer” went 0-4 in his contest against the Pirates giving him an end of season average of .332, which put him in second place.

I don’t really have a problem with this because Reyes was trying to secure basically the only highlight of the year for the Mets and this was the best way he thought he could accomplish it.  The Mets ended up winning, but if the Mets needed the game to make the playoffs it definitely would have been a major issue if Reyes pulled this stunt.

After possibly his last game with the Mets before leaving for greener pastures as a result of the Wilpon’s financial problems, he ends his stellar season with his batting crown, 101 runs scored, 181 hits, 16 triples and 39 steals.  However, this was only the beginning of the evening’s madness.

It seemed like there would be a one-game playoff between the Red Sox and Rays for the Wild Card, since it did appear as if Boston and Tampa would both lose, to the Orioles and the Yankees, respectively.  However, the Yankees bullpen, and the Baltimore’s Robert Andino, who drove in 10 runs against the Red Sox this season, did their part in allowing the Rays to win the Wild Card without the one-game playoff.

Some Red Sox fans might accuse the Yankees of tanking the game, since they were winning 7-0 at the end of the seventh inning, but then allowed seven runs to the Rays in the eighth and ninth combined, but there is not a problem with them playing the game like it was Spring Training since they had nothing to play for.  They earned this right after locking up the best record in the American League about a week ago.

Rookie Dellin Betances, who went to Grand Street Campus high school in Brooklyn, got the start, not allowing any runs in two innings.  I had been pitching out of the bullpen since being called up but this was valuable experience for him.  The Yankees would send out a grand total of 11 pitchers, but none of them would allow any runs until the seventh pitcher, Boone Logan (3.46 ERA), gave up three runs, which was in turn his worst outing of the season.  Luis Ayala pitched until there was one out in the ninth an surrendered three runs as well, to make the score 7-6.

Corey Wade, who was a very valuable under the rader signing by Brian Cashman, would come in to try and lock down the save.  Dan Johnson would be the first hero of the night for the Rays as he slammed a home run to right field, to put the game into extra innings.

The Yankees offensive star of the game, who drove in more than half of their runs, was Mark Teixiera.  He hit two homers (his 39th) for a grand total of five RBI (his 111th), but was taken out as were all of the starters except for Brandon Laird and Eduardo Nunez.

This is when the night started getting really dramatic because Scott Proctor was the final pitcher for the Yankees.  This gave the Rays the best chance at winning because he has struggled this go around for the team as well as when the pitched in the Bronx in 2007.  Just about at this point the Red Sox game was entering the ninth inning as their closer, Jonathan Papelbon, entered the game with a 3-2 lead.

For fans of the Yankees and Rays this turn of events definitely gave off optimism.

Proctor kept everybody in suspense while not allowing any runs during his first two innings, but right on cue he allowed a homer to Rays star Evan Longoria, in the 12th inning, that just barely cleared the fence and would start a celebration at Tropicana Field.  Seven of the runs that the Rays scored were off pitchers who have been productive for the Yankees most of the year so the talk of tanking the game is not really valid.

Only about three minutes later, Red Sox nation went from hoping for a one-game playoff to missing the playoffs altogether.  Papelbon has recently not been very reliable in save situations and this trend would continue.  Nolan Reimold (.247 average) hit a run scoring ground-rule double to tie the game, and the next batter, Andino, hit a single near Carl Crawford, scored Reimold and starting a celebration as if the Orioles made the playoffs.

It seemed like Crawford could have caught the ball, and he also did not give a very valiant throw to home in an effort to throw out Reimold, but he was just making sure that Boston ended their collapse in style.  They ended September with 20 losses, which is a worse September than the worst team of all-time the 1962 Mets, and they have the Orioles to thank for not winning the Wild Card as a result of five or of their last six games to them.

This was an exhilarating night of baseball as the National League Wild Card came down to a similar situation as well.  The Braves ended their collapse, which was almost as historic as the Red Sox one, and the St. Louis Cardinals seized the Wild Card spot and a first-round meeting with the Philadelphia Phillies.

After resting the starters for a portion of the game, and giving the reliable bullpen trio of Rafael Soriano, David Robertson and Mariano Rivera the day off the team should be ready for the AL Central champion Tigers and Justin Verlander on Friday.  It is imposing to have to face Verlander who has a 24-5 record, a 2.40 ERA, 250 strikeouts and has not lost in more than 10 starts.

However, in 11 starts against the Yankees during his career Verlander has a 4.00 ERA.  CC Sebathia will be pitching Friday night for the Yankees so this will be a classic match-up of aces.  The Yankees actually have not played the Tigers since May but they split the six-game season series against them.  The Yankees definitely need to take advantage of the games that Verlander is not pitching and if they can do that they should come away with a a trip to the ALCS.

Yankees clinch 17th AL East championship as Posada gets his one shining moment

With the win over the Tampa Bay Rays the Yankees were able to win their 17th American League East Championship.  They were able to do it after winning both games of the double header 4-2, combined with the Red Sox losing to the Baltimore Orioles.

This was Boston’s third loss in four games to the last place Orioles, who have done a great job of playing spoiler during the last two weeks of the season.  It is not very likely that the Red Sox will blow a 2.5 game lead with six games remaining but anything is impossible for them since they have lost 12 out of their last 15.  The Yankees have continued to help Boston by beating Tampa but the Red Sox have not been able to take advantage in the last few days.

It was very fitting that a member of the Core Four, Jorge Posada (who is 40), who rightfully got relegated to the bench with Jesus Montero’s arrival, was able to contribute a pinch-hit, two RBI, single to shallow center, that drove in Greg Golson and Mark Teixiera.  After having been such an important member of the Yankees since 1998 he was able to have a positive signature moment to join the two other members of the Core Four on the Yankees.

(I am sure this was an extra special moment for Posada because this game winning hit somewhat erases the incident of asking out of a game in which he was originally scheduled to hit ninth in the order.  At that time he was having trouble internalizing that he was not the player he once was, and he also deep down wanted to still be catching since he is a proud person, but now he has it in his head that he will be the best pinch-hitter he can be for the team.  His .239 average is not what he would like it to be but he has had some clutch hits towards the end of games since having his full-time DH duties taken from him.)

The members of the Core Four are Derek Jeter, Mariano Rivera, Jorge Posada and Andy Pettitte.  However, Pettitte retired before season to be with his kids in Texas leaving the number at three.  Jeter’s signature moment was slugging his 3,000th hit over the fence at Yankee Stadium, on July 9th during a 5-5 game, and Rivera’s was just this past Monday, when he picked up his 602nd save with a strikeout with his signature cut fastball to become the all-time leader over Trevor Hoffmann.

Being able to pop the champagne in the clubhouse after the win must have been a great feeling for catcher, Russell Martin, who had spent his previous five seasons with the Dodgers, and all the rookies because this was their true welcome to New York moment.  This is because they were able to celebrate but then hear from Jeter, Posada, Rivera, Granderson, Sebathia and the other veterans that more is expected.

Sebathia was able to get back on track only allowing two runs in his 7.1 innings.  He was able to strike out six batters while allowing seven hits and two walks.  The two runs he allowed were solo home runs by the light hitting Kelly Shoppach and Sean Rodriguez.

The Yankees ace was coming of two starts in a row where he was not able to last his normal workmanlike seven innings pitched.  They were not that bad by normal pitchers standards but they were worse than the elite level that he is accustomed to.  He allowed four runs in less than six innings pitched in his last start and in his start on September 10th he gave up eight hits and four walks.

Sebathia has pitched very well this season sporting a sparkling 3.01 ERA, with the chance at a 20 win season and the Yankees will need starts like this one in the playoffs.

The Yankees will either play the Detroit Tigers or Texas Rangers in the first round of the playoffs who are both very solid teams.  However, considering the Yankees pitching staff at the beginning of the season not many thought that they would have clinched the division with a week to play, over the Red Sox, especially ESPN who predicted across the board that Boston would win.

ESPN has a bias for the Red Sox but they can not entirely be blamed for unanimously choosing them before the season given that after Sebathia their rotation consisted of question marks Ivan Nova, Freddy Garcia, Bartolo Colon and A.J. Burnett.  Phil Hughes was not a question mark but did not at all live up to his stellar 2010 first half of the season that led to him being named an All-Star.

The division title is all the more special for the team and the fans given that they were able to overcome lack of production and professionalism from Burnett, only a few solid starts from Hughes while Garcia, Colon (who should be Comeback Player of the Year) and Nova (who should be Rookie of the Year) vastly exceeded expectations.