This has been a surreal season for the New York Yankees. Right now, the Yankees sit atop the AL East by 1 game, a small miracle when you take all things into consideration.
The team entered the 2012 season with high hopes surrounding a revamped rotation that would feature C.C. Sabathia, Hiroki Kuroda, Michael Pineda, Andy Pettitte, and one of either Phil Hughes or Ivan Nova. The Yankees had so much pitching they were comfortable enough to deal A.J. Burnett away to the Pittsburgh Pirates. However, that depth didn’t last long.
Joba Chamberlain, who was supposed to come back earlier this year from Tommy John surgery destroyed his ankle and set back his rehab time by a couple of months.
Then Michael Pineda went down for the year with shoulder issues. This, combined with Pettitte not being MLB-ready, led to Freddy Garcia, Hughes and Nova starting the season in the rotation. Garcia was banished to the bullpen after going 0-2 with a 12.51 ERA in four starts. Then, Andy Pettitte got hurt and Garcia, who had seemed to turn things around in the bullpen, was promoted back to the rotation.
In the meantime, the Yankees dabbled in David Phelps and Adam Warren. Phelps has been a bit of a savior for the Yankees, filling in the rotation and bullpen when needed and getting bounced between the minors and the Bronx.
Things would only get worse. Brett Gardner went down for the year with arm issues. Mariano Rivera tore his knee up on the warning track in pregame warm-ups in Kansas City. David Robertson would follow him to the DL shortly after. Robertson and Chamberlain are back but for a spell it looked like the Yankees might hold a raffle at home games to see which lucky fan would get a chance to sit in uniform in the bullpen.
Then, Sabathia went on the DL for the first time since he was with the Cleveland Indians. Sabathia has actually had two stints on the DL and both times the Yankees suffered without their ace.
The offense hasn’t been spared either. Both Alex Rodriguez and Mark Teixeira have missed significant chunks of the season as well. In fact, Teixeira is back on the bench for at least 10-14 days after aggravating his calf injury.
The Yankees have not had an easy year. The ten-game lead they built into the month of August came crumbling down quickly. It is hard to win ballgames when your ace, closer, first baseman, and third baseman are all out at the same time, especially when two of those players are surefire Hall of Famers with a third looking Cooperstown-bound himself.
Still, the Yankees have managed to maintain a 1 game lead over the Baltimore Orioles after defeating them on Sunday 13-3 as a banged-up Curtis Granderson came off the bench to go 3-3 with a home run and 5 RBI, the first Yankees player to come off the bench and accumulate 5 RBI since 1918.
It is amazing that the Yankees are still atop the American League East after all they have been through this season. It won’t be easy to hold onto their spot as they travel to Boston to play the Boston Red Sox for a 3-game set, come home for the Tampa Bay Rays, Toronto Blue Jays, and Oakland Athletics, then go on the road for the Minnesota Twins and Blue Jays, before closing out the season with a three game set with the Red Sox who would love nothing more than to be in a position to end the Yankees season.
Will the Yankees be able to hold on or will they join the Atlanta Braves, Boston Red Sox, and New York Mets in the annals of epic collapses? Somehow, I think the Yankees will hold on and squeak into the playoffs. If they could keep it together so far, why can’t they do it another couple of weeks?