After 157 games of competition, it's hard to believe the Yankees' long season will be decided over just five games against the Toronto Blue Jays and Boston Red Sox. Yet, their performance over the next several days against those two teams will be precisely what determines their fate.
AL East division champs, Wild Card No. 1 or No. 2, or worse yet—no playoffs at all. All options are on the table, yet the most promising news for the Yankees is that they control their own fate. Take care of business against pitchers and teams that have dramatically underperformed your ball club for the whole 2012 season.
Sounds simple but considering the Yankees' inconsistency, it's far from it. New York has suddenly dropped three of their last six games and looked abysmal at the plate on Thursday night against a pitcher who had struggled since returning from a two-and-a half month injury.
The Yankees further showed their inconsistency by rebounding last night to score 11 runs in a rout of Toronto. Russell Martin, Eric Chavez and the bats exploded in the later innings to help preserve what had been just a two-run lead.
The Yankees are 10-6 against Toronto this season and they'll pitch three of their best pitchers over the next three games. Bombers' ace CC Sabathia who has been dominant over his last two starts goes on Monday at the Stadium.
Even with the Orioles' 17-9 record in the month of September, the team Baltimore will conclude the season against for three games—the Tampa Bay Rays—are just two wins behind Baltimore for the month and are red-hot, having won eight of their last nine games.
Over the last month the Yankees started a player for multiple games that they've now cut, Steve Pearce, and a utility infielder (Jayson Nix) who wasn't even been on the team for the first month of the season and has played sparingly.
The Yankees have turned to several players for contributions due to injuries and desired match ups against left-handed pitchers. They've worn down relief pitchers like Boone Logan, Joba Chamberlain and David Robertson because others in the 'pen have been unreliable.
The Yankees also have not relinquished first place throughout all of this adversity and in order for them to continue to stay atop the AL East, they'll need to prevent the Birds from landing on that perch. Here are five ideas for manager Joe Girardi to take heed of and employ over the final five games on the Bombers' slate.