New York Yankees: 5 Players Who Can Save Their Season Down the Stretch

Stephen SkinnerContributor IISeptember 12, 2012

New York Yankees: 5 Players Who Can Save Their Season Down the Stretch

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    The New York Yankees are limping to the finish of the 2012 MLB season, and fans of the "Bombers" are worried that this will be yet another campaign of unfulfilled promise. 

    For the team to regroup and gain momentum heading into the playoffs, there are key players that can step up and carry the team to "the promised land."

    This article looks at those players and what they'll need to do to ensure that the Yankees have a successful year.

Nick Swisher

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    With news that RBI machine Mark Texeira will once again miss significant time with a calf injury, Nick Swisher's role with the New York Yankees increased in importance. 

    In the field, Swisher is the primary backup at first base and will no doubt see a majority of his time on the diamond spent at that position. When he is not there, Eric Chavez and Casey McGehee can adequately fill the spot.

    Where Swisher will be relied on the most is at the plate. While Chavez and McGehee are decent hitters, lately it has seemed that as Nick Swisher goes, so go the Yankees. Never has it been more evident than this past month.

    In a 10-game stretch from August 8 to August 17, the Yankees were 8 - 2. During that time the outfielder/first baseman hit .309 with 14 RBI and 4 HR. In the 22 games since, the team has gone 8 - 14 with Swisher hitting a paltry .204 and driving in just eight runs. 

    If the Yankees are to finish the season strong, one piece to the puzzle that must fall in place is Nick Swisher.

Andy Pettitte

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    When Andy Pettitte suffered a broken ankle on June 27th, the Yankees record stood at 46-28. It is no coincidence that without Pettitte in the rotation the team has gone 33-34.

    The team has tried to fill the hole in the starting five with Freddy Garcia, but the aging right-hander has gotten progressively worse going 4-4 with a 4.67 ERA and a 1.35 WHIP since taking over for Pettitte. Over his last four starts, Garcia is 0-1 with a whopping 7.64 ERA and 1.53 WHIP.  Those are unacceptable numbers for a team trying to win a division crown.

    The bottom line for the Yankees is that without the big southpaw from Texas, the team's rotation is shaky at best, and it certainly won't go deep in the playoffs depending upon inconsistent starters Phil Hughes and Ivan Nova behind Hiroki Kuroda and CC Sabathia.

    Andy Pettitte's return from the disabled list is just around the corner and it will be imperative for the Yankees to get him up to speed in time for the playoffs. 

    If they can't, the offseason will begin earlier than expected.

Alex Rodriguez

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    Face it Yankees fans, the man you love to hate really does make a difference to the team's lineup. 

    Since coming off the DL, Alex Rodriguez has hit .308 and driven in six over eight games.  Even more impressive is his .615 slugging percentage, as he has silenced those (at least for now) that questioned whether he had forever lost his power stroke.

    What "A-Rod" most gives the Yankees is depth.  Without him, the team is almost entirely dependent upon the health of a fragile Eric Chavez to not only man the "hot corner," but to provide a consistent threat in the batting order.

    While Chavez has done a fine job holding down the fort until Alex's return, he doesn't provide the intimidating reputation (regardless of whether or not it is still relevant) that Rodriguez has standing at the plate.

    A healthy Alex Rodriguez allows manager Joe Girardi the opportunity to occasionally rest players like Chavez, Andruw Jones, and Raul Ibanez where he otherwise wouldn't be able to.

    Given the struggles of power-hitting Curtis Granderson, and the inability of Mark Texeira to remain healthy, "A-Rod" has become an essential element to the Yankees stretch run.

Joba Chamberlain

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    Joba Chamberlain returned to the New York Yankees bullpen on August 1, and initially showed a lot of "rust" with his performances.

    With all of the Bombers' struggles in the starting staff, the bullpen has reached a point of being overused, and Joba's return was seen as an opportunity to alleviate that situation. 

    Unfortunately, he struggled to an 8.59 ERA and a 2.81 WHIP through the month of August. Many called on a trip to the minors for the once highly touted reliever.

    It seems that Joba has turned a corner.

    Since a rough outing against the Baltimore Orioles on September 2nd, Chamberlain has been nearly untouchable. In his last four appearances, the rifle-armed reliever has a 1.80 ERA and a microscopic 0.40 WHIP.

    If he can keep this up, Joba will provide the bullpen with a valuable shot in the arm.  Manager Joe Girardi will have his seventh-inning guy and won't have to worry as much about matching up with every batter.

    We Yankee fans know that the more we can keep Joe from over-thinking a situation, the better. 

    A Joba Chamberlain pitching to his full potential out of the 'pen means that Yankee starters need only focus on the first six innings of a game, and gives the team a complete set of relievers for the stretch.

Curtis Granderson

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    2011 seems to be decades ago for Curtis Granderson. Last season was his coming out party as he hit 41 HR and had 119 RBI for the Yankees while batting a decent .262.

    Through May it seemed that the Bombers' center fielder was well on his way to another MVP-type season, hitting .259 with 16 HR.

    Since then, things have gone south for the former Detroit Tiger. Over the past three-plus months Granderson has hit a paltry .218 with 19 HR and 57 RBI. Gradually, he has slipped from second to seventh in the batting order and rumors have begun swirling that this could be his last season in pinstripes.

    Joe Girardi has said from Day 1 that this Yankee squad will get its runs via the long ball.  Yes, Curtis Granderson has hit 35 home runs to date, but his .235 batting average indicates that this season, each at-bat is an all-or-nothing proposition for him. 

    The Yankees' best stretch of the season occurred with a hot-hitting Curtis Granderson batting second. The only way Girardi will put Granderson back in the "two-hole" (where he has hit 25 of his 35 HR) is if the center fielder starts hitting with consistency again. 

    Should he manage to do so, the Yankees immediately become a stronger lineup and will see the same success they had when they ran to a 10-game lead in the AL East. There are only a few others in the lineup that can carry this team like the "Grandyman" can.