There's a storm coming. No, it's not another hurricane. It is, however, a whirlwind of problems the Yankees are about to face in the coming month.
These problems are individual and team-based, and must be addressed if they are to make a stand for the World Series title.
While the Bombers scuffle with the likes of the Oakland Athletics and the Baltimore Orioles, two teams with sub-.500 records, the Boston Red Sox are poised to break open the American League East lead and put New York away for good.
It isn't a secret that the Yankees have been awful against the Red Sox this season, managing two wins in 12 contests.
This week, they visit Fenway Park for the final time this season, and it is simply the most important series yet in 2011. This sounds daunting, but it is where the Yankees' two wins against Boston are this year. Due to scheduling adjustments in Baltimore from Hurricane Irene, the Bombers are likely to start three pitchers with a lot to prove in their own way.
First is C.C. Sabathia, a work horse who has been nothing short of spectacular for New York this year, posting a 17-7 record and a 2.99 ERA so far in 2011. Those numbers are a disguise for his atrocious ones against the Red Sox (0-4, 7.20 ERA). If the Yankees have intentions of winning the division, Sabathia must beat Boston this week.
Second is Phil Hughes, whose undecided nature in which he pitches is making his position difficult to predict. Lately, he has been very good, pitching to a different tune of, well, bad earlier this season. But with his last start being possibly the worst of the year, there's no certainty to whether Hughes can stay in the rotation.
Speaking of uncertainties, the Boston series' final pitcher will be A.J. Burnett, and let's face it, he has to perform. Even though he went five innings in his last start against Baltimore, he still gave up an insane amount of runs, something people are becoming accustomed to in a negative fashion.
If Burnett lays an egg against the Red Sox this week, it is possible that he may lose his starting job. Manager Joe Girardi has made it very clear that he will move back to a five-man rotation as soon as possible, leaving somebody out.
As a whole, the Yankees rotation must figure out and establish consistency to accelerate into October, not stumble. The aforementioned pitchers like Hughes and Burnett are obviously in the conversation, but everyone needs to make a statement.
Rookie and winning wonder Ivan Nova has a chance to be super if he can impose a sense of dominance on his opponents. He wins, yes, but he is very close to being the obvious No. 2 starter.
Also on the checklist are Bartolo Colon and Freddy Garcia, two veterans who have been questioned all season if they could make it. Well, here they are, but now it's time to use their pitching wisdom to will the team to much-needed victories on a consistent basis. If they can, winning the division could become much easier.
And though their offense is very good, they must be at their best over the next few weeks, starting with Brett Gardner. His speed is blazing, but his hitting is currently stuck in molasses. He is struggling, something that hurts the Yankees tremendously. Gardner creates mayhem on the bases, allowing big hitters to drive him in with relative ease due to his speed.
Without his on-base presence, the line-up slows, losing aggression and limiting their options on the base-paths.
Of course, every player, whether position or pitcher, must perform at the highest level at the most important time for the Yankees to have ultimate success. But if these glaring problems are addressed, both immediate and long-term, their chances of beating Boston will increase dramatically. If not, the New York will endure the wild card spot in the 2011 postseason.
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