MLB Playoffs: Win the AL East or Bust For The New York Yankees

By Steve Palumbo

Yes, the New York Yankees have punched their ticket to the MLB playoffs for the 17th time in 18 years. But, you would be hard pressed to find anybody in pinstripes planning a celebratory champagne bath. A weekend split with the lowly Toronto Blue Jays has put the party and the Yanks shot at an American League East title on hold, for now.

New York and the Baltimore Orioles are deadlocked at 92-67 heading into the final three games of the season. Keep in mind the Yankees had an eight game lead back in mid-July. A series of injuries and inconsistent play allowed the Orioles to make this a very interesting next three days.

It has come down to this, the Yankees vs. the  Boston Red Sox at the stadium.

The Red Sox have lost 90 games for the first time since 1966. Boston has dropped five straight, nine of 10, and is a major league-worst 7-23 since Aug. 28.

Should be a cake-walk right? One problem with that line of thinking…it is still the Red Sox and they still have a chance to dash the Evil Empires division title hopes. After being swept this weekend by the Orioles, the Sox are well on the way to accomplishing just that.

The Yankees’ send so-called Ace CC Sabathia (14-6, 3.42 ERA) to the hill to face Boston’s Clay Buchholz (11-7, 4.22) in the first game of the three-game set..

Sabathia has 21 strikeouts over his last two outings heading into his second start against the Red Sox this season. He hasn’t fared well recently against the Yanks biggest rivals, going just 1-4 with a 6.81 ERA in six starts against Boston over the last two years.

Although, facing Buchholz could change Sabathia’s luck. The Red Sox starter is 0-4 with a 4.31 ERA in his last seven outings.  In his one and only start against the Yankees he gave up five homers over six innings back on April 20. The loss dropped him to 2-4 with a 5.84 ERA against New York in eight starts.

New York should get a lift from the return of first baseman Mark Texeira. Manager Joe Girardi said Tex is healthy and ready to play after battling a calf strain that has kept him out of the Yankees lineup. Teixeira is fourth on the team in homers (23) and RBIs (81).

Another key play for New York will be Robinson Cano. The Yankees second baseman is 10 for 23 against the Buchholz, and is 15 for 24 with multi-hit games in each of the last six.

The Yankees have won 10 of 15 from the Red Sox, but the bitter rivals have split the six games in the Bronx. New York has won seven of its last eight at home. Time to stretch that to 10 of 11 and take the AL East crown.

The Yankees spent the better part of the last six weeks bending and not breaking. That is a testament to the veteran leadership in the Bronx. This could bode well for the playoffs. With the Orioles and the Tampa Bay Rays nipping at their heels, the Bombers have been in an October state-of-mind for the better part of a month.

New York put themselves in this postion by playing poor baseball down the stretch. It’s up to them to make it right by winning out. If, by chance, the Red Sox take care of business and stop the Yanks form winning the AL East title, it would be like pouring salt into an already festering and oozing puss-filled wound. Graphic…and true.

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