It only took six days for Joe Girardi to finally realize the Yankees needed to start winning games or they wouldn't be going to the playoffs.
On Sept. 20, I wrote how there was a very real chance of Boston pulling within 4 1/2 games of New York with a sweep at Yankee Stadium and that Girardi needed to stop counting his chickens before they hatched by throwing Chad Gaudin and Jonathan Albaladejo into every game and continuing the farce of Phil Hughes' innings limit.
The skipper finally wised up by allowing Hughes to start Sunday's series finale against the Red Sox instead of spot starter du jour Dustin Moseley.
Hughes delivered six solid innings of one-run ball and the Yanks got a win they needed badly, despite Mariano Rivera's third blown save in his last six opportunities.
Girardi even managed a good game, pinch-hitting and pinch-running at the right times and playing small ball with steals of third and bunts.
The result was New York's magic number to clinch a playoff spot being cut to one, which means if it wins any of its final six games or if Boston loses any of its final seven, the Yankees are definitely in. Worst case scenario is a Wild Card tiebreaker with the Red Sox on Monday.
This doesn't mean Girardi should begin resting starters again and forget about winning the division to lock up home-field advantage, but it does mean we can start taking a look at what the Bombers' American League Division Series roster should be.
SS Derek Jeter (1)
RF Nick Swisher (2)
1B Mark Teixeira (3)
3B Alex Rodriguez (4)
2B Robinson Cano (5)
C Jorge Posada (6)
CF Curtis Granderson (7)
DH Lance Berkman (8)
LF Brett Gardner (9)
LHP CC Sabathia (10)—The big lefty will start Game One of the ALDS on Oct. 6th and the Yankees should use him again on short rest in a possible Game Four on Oct. 10th. That would line him up to start Game One of the AL Championship Series on full rest Oct. 15th.
LHP Andy Pettitte (11)—It doesn't matter if the Yankees use back-to-back left-handed starters; it's more important to have their two best guys pitch four of a possible five games.
Pettitte was certainly not as good in his last start against Boston as he was in his first outing back from the DL vs. Baltimore, but he's had a great season and will have another chance to right himself in his final regular-season start Wednesday against Toronto. He would be able to pitch Game Five on normal rest and we've seen what Pettitte is capable of in decisive playoff games.
RHP A.J. Burnett (12)—Burnett has had a very inconsistent year, but he's had a more stable 4.33 ERA over his first five starts this month. He is 1-0 with a 2.50 ERA in three outings against Texas this season and 1-0 with a 1.54 in two starts vs. Minnesota.
RHP Mariano Rivera (13)
RHP Phil Hughes (14)—Hughes has pitched well in his last two starts, but I'm sure the Yankees are shutting him down for the rest of the regular season, so I don't know if I'd want him starting Game 3 of the ALDS on 12 days rest. He's 1-2 with an 8.04 ERA this season on at least six days rest. Hughes hasn't made a single start against the Twins or Rangers this year, but he'd definitely be an asset as an eighth-inning guy or a long man.
RHP Kerry Wood (15)—I've been pleasantly surprised by Wood's performance since coming over to the Yankees at the Trade Deadline. He's allowed just one run on 14 hits in 25 innings (0.36 ERA), but he needs to cut down his walks (15).
LHP Boone Logan (16)—Lefties are just .197/.291/.224 against him.
RHP David Robertson (17)—His 1.47 WHIP is way too high for a reliever, but he should be used when the Yanks need a strikeout because he has 67 in 57 1/3 innings.
RHP Joba Chamberlain (18)—The Twins' roster is 6-for-27 (.222) off him, but Texas kills him (.391 avg). I'd seriously consider leaving him off the roster if the Yanks play the Rangers, but it's looking like they'll play Minnesota.
RHP Ivan Nova (19)—Hughes would be the primary long reliever, but Nova has proven he can hold a good team down for three or four innings much better than Sergio Mitre, Chad Gaudin, Dustin Moseley, and Javier Vazquez.
RHP Sergio Mitre (20)—Mitre has somehow put together a 3.51 ERA and 1.15 WHIP this season, but I wouldn't trust him in any situation other than a blowout. He allowed one run on four hits in five innings in his only appearance against the Twins, and pitched 1 2/3 scoreless vs. the Rangers.
DH Marcus Thames (21)—He's hitting .300 against lefties, so he should start against southpaws or pinch-hit for Berkman or Granderson when a lefty reliever comes in late in a game.
C Francisco Cervelli (22)—Burnett has a 4.31 ERA in 23 starts with Cervelli behind the plate as opposed to a 7.28 mark in eight outings with Posada.
IF Eduardo Nunez (23)—Nunez is hitting .298 and has been successful in all five of his stolen base attempts.
OF Austin Kearns (24)—Kearns is hitting just .239 with the Yankees, but he can be used as an extra outfielder. He hits .286 against the Twins' current staff and .290 vs. the Rangers.
IF Ramiro Pena (25)—He has stolen six out of seven bags.
Off the roster
RHP Javier Vazquez—He allowed five runs on eight hits and three walks over 5 2/3 innings in his only start against the Twins this year. Vazquez made two starts against the Rangers, giving up 10 runs on 14 hits over 9 1/3 innings (9.64 ERA). He has a 6.09 ERA since July 21st, so the Yanks should cut their losses on this deal.
RHP Chad Gaudin—He yielded a run on two hits and a walk in 1 2/3 innings vs. Minnesota. Gaudin made two relief appearances against Texas, going 0-1 with a 13.50 ERA and a 2.00 WHIP. He's surrendered 12 runs (nine earned) over his last 14 1/3 innings since Aug. 24 (5.65 ERA).
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Jordan Schwartz is one of Bleacher Report's New York Yankees and College Basketball Featured Columnists. His book Memoirs of the Unaccomplished Man is available at amazon.com, barnesandnoble.com, and authorhouse.com.
Jordan can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org