Let me get this out of the way.
The Yankees are a team that shouldn't be doing this well. A-Rod is having a terrible year, Wang can't even pitch anymore, their starting pitching has been lackluster, and their bullpen has been in shambles all year (besides for Rivera and Aceves).
Now the Yankees are leading the Wild Card and are three games back in the AL East. Every game truly counts if they intend to stay in competition for the playoffs, which I'm pretty sure they do. But a few things need to happen.
Early in the season the Yankees had to deal with Jorge Posada, Jose Molina, and Alex Rodriguez going on the DL for a long stretch of time.
Xavier Nady is still on the DL along with Chien-Ming Wang and Marte Damaso. If the Yankees want to contend with the Red Sox they need all their starting players healthy and not overworked. They have a deep enough bench that they can sit A-Rod or Teixeira when they play the Royals.
In the past couple of years the Yanks haven't had the starting pitching they had in the late 90s but when Sabathia and Burnett signed that problem should have been solved. Now, half of the season behind us, the starting pitching has been lackluster.
Sabathia has been the best with a 3.86 ERA, a 8-6 record and has been a workhorse pitching in 128.1 innings. Sabathia hasn't pitched like he did with the Brewers last year but C.C. can put together a very strong second half even putting himself in Cy Young talks.
A.J. Burnett has put together as strong numbers as C.C. with a 3.77 ERA, a 8-4 record and he's in the top 10 in strikeouts with 101. So, the two big dogs in the rotation have both been putting together a decent year and will hopefully use the second half to make this year look like last year.
Andy Pettitte has been playing a comeback year with a record of 8-5 and pitching well in big situations but has an ugly 4.85 ERA.
Joba Chamberlain, who should be in the bullpen, is having a mediocre year with a 4-2 record and a 4.25 ERA.
Chien-Ming Wang has been having a terrible season, and has an extremely high 9.64 ERA with a 1-6 record. Wang, who is on the DL right now, needs to have a good second half or his time as a Yankee is done.
If Sabathia and Burnett put together a great second half—as they usually do—then the rest of the rotation will fall in place.
The key is Sabathia and Burnett.
Just like last year and the year before, the Yankees have a unreliable bullpen.
There are only two reliable relievers, Alfredo Aceves and as usual Mariano Rivera. Phil Coke hasn't been terrible but his 3.99 ERA is a bad thing to have for a setup man. David Robertson has been pitching decent as well as Phil Hughes but that's about it. Everyone else has been terrible.
Brett Tomko carries around a 5.23 ERA, Brian Bruney hasn't been the pitcher he was last year and no one else can silence bats.
I will admit that the bullpen is much better compared to the beginning of the year but it still can't be relied on.
The first problem solver that comes to mind is if Joba Chamberlain can't put together a few good games in the beginning of the second half to put him in the bullpen, see if he's still that amazing setup man. Phil Hughes could take his spot on the rotation.
Another possibility is to make a trade for a journeyman.
Arthur Rhodes is putting together a great year with the Reds and with a good enough deal he could come over to New York. Either way the Yankees need to make a few moves because their bullpen will implode down the stretch.
The Yankees are 0-8 against the Red Sox this season. That is the main reason why they are in second place and not first. For some reason they can't beat them.
There are many things you could blame for this. A-Rod was injured for a few games, Posada was injured for a few games, the weak part of the starting rotation has pitched in most of the games against the Red Sox, the bullpen is weak and anything else you can think of.
All of these reasons did contribute to any loss against Boston and hopefully the Yanks have learned from their mistakes.
When the Red Sox come to town Sabathia and Burnett need to pitch in those games. Every Yankee starter needs to go at least six innings every game, if the Yanks are winning by six runs and Pettitte has thrown 100+ pitches but is still pitching good in the fifth inning keep him in until the sixth.
The Yanks need to try anything and everything to beat the Red Sox. There is only ten more games against Boston and if they split those 10 games then the Yanks should be in a very good position to win the division.
It's that simple.
If the Yanks play as good as they have in the first half they will win the Wild Card. If they split those last ten games against the Red Sox they win the Division and there is nothing better to a Yankee fan then screwing the Red Sox out of a Division win.
Well, maybe sweeping them in the playoffs.