Friday, September 24, 2010


By Tony Mangia


Yesterdays blow out loss to the Tampa Bay gave the Rays a 10-8 season-series record and the tiebreaker for home field advantage over the New York Yankees. Now, the Rays have a chance to control their own destiny. The match-up between CC Sabathia and David Price may have decided the Cy Young too. More importantly, the loss quickly pointed out deficiencies in the Yankee pitching and hitting. The Yankees split their final regular season series against the Rays by playing uninspired ball. Not the best segue into October.

The Yankees have a half game lead over the Rays but it feels like they are looking hard into the rear view. Ten days remain in the season and New York will face tough division rivals in Boston and Toronto while Tampa goes home to face bottom feeders like the Orioles and Mariners. The sluggish Yanks are 6-11 over the last three weeks. That's not going to have other playoff teams shaking in their cleats--especially the red-hot Minnesota twins who just won their tenth game in a row.

The last meeting between the Cy Young front runners Sabathia (20-7) and Price (18-6) had both hurlers putting up matching zeroes for eight innings. This game wasn't the pitching duel everyone expected but Price's effort in a critical game probably inched him ahead of CC for the award. Sabathia has faded down the stretch. The Yankee ace has struggled his last five outings and the rest of the staff is not coming up big either.

How bad is the Yankees' pitching? Last night, Joba Chamberlain lasted 2/3 of an inning and Javier Vazquez hit three straight batters, helping the Rays score two runs without a hit. More amazing was the fact that the umpire, in a game with pennant-winning implications, didn't even warn Vazquez about the plunks. He just chalked it up to the pitcher's ineptitude. Even Mariano Rivera has a few recent blown saves.

Sabathia may be the least of the Yankees problems. Manager Joe Girardi emphasized that CC always comes up big in the playoffs. Keep your fingers crossed. Who's number two? Andy Pettitte is coming off seven weeks of rehab and Phil Hughes shows up as often as Lindsay Lohan for a court appearance. A.J. Burnett still shows flashes of brilliance --until the second or third inning--and Vazquez (see above). If the Yankees can throw playoff-warrior Sabathia, a healthy Pettitte and the rested Hughes at an opponent, the rotation could be formidable. Not the Phillies' big three formidable, but it would enable the Yanks to put Vazquez in the pen and Burnett out to pasture.


The Yankees and the Rays both claim to be playing only to make the playoffs. The Yanks have blamed their lethargic hitting on injuries to Mark Teixeira and Alex Rodriguez and Jeter's temporary slump. Right now, the only things softer than their lineup are the pitches Vazquez lobbed at the Rays' bodies last night. They didn't even grimace or complain after the love taps.

Right now, the Rays look bigger, younger, faster and stronger than the Yankees. The two teams have a wide disparity in their upcoming opponents. You can't change the schedule. Girardi compared it with "where we started on April 1, with a lot less games to play." If they face the Twins (52-25 at home) in Minnesota for game 1, the Bombers are going to wish they won last night's game. Home cooking is always the best.

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