So much for not being an ace anymore. Six games ago the Yankees had an endless list of questions surrounding the team. Six wins later, they certainly appear to be answering them.
CC Sabathia rebounded in a huge way against the likely top wildcard seeded Oakand A’s, throwing eight dominant innings of three hits, one run and 11 strikeouts. It was Sabathia’s first dominant start in close to a month and it could not have come at a better time as the Yankees managed one run in nine innings.
A Curtis Granderson sacrifice fly aside, the Yankees were shutdown offensively once again, only rising to the occasion in the bottom of the 10th when Russell Martin homered to end the game. New York would not have needed extra innings if not for a pinch-hit home run off the bat of Brandon Moss against Rafael Soriano in the top of the ninth. Nevertheless, New York made a big team statement in a small 2-1 victory.
- With the Orioles beating Jon Lester for the first time ever, New York maintains a one game lead in the East and two games in the loss column.
- The Yankees have been criticized for being one-dimensional offensively all year long. Suffice it to say those criticisms have been mostly fair and the game DID end on a solo home run. Still, it’s hard to deny what the team has done during a six game winning streak with three of the wins coming against playoff contenders. Last week, they won a game with seven stolen bases. In the double-header finale, it was a two-out hit in the bottom of the eighth. Yesterday, New York used one of its 10 Grand Slams this year to cap a decisive inning. Today, a sac fly is the only reason the game went to extra-innings.
- The Yankees entered the game stealing safely in 21 of 22 attempts in September. They stole two more without being caught tonight. Ichiro Suzuki, Eduardo Nunez and Brett Gardner might all be on a potential playoff roster, which means a lot of potential speed at the Yankees’ disposal.
- For all the criticism about the pitching staff, New York is 4th in the AL in team ERA, entering tonight at 3.67. That number will go down slightly thanks to Sabathia and company. New York will likely enter the playoffs with the second best team ERA behind the A’s for American League playoff participants.
- Much has been documented about the Yankees’ struggles in one run games. The A’s, along with the Orioles, are two of the best teams in one run games. If you recall, the A’s won all four games in Oakland against the Yankees by one run a month ago. Oakland entered the game 14-3 in its past 17 one run games, and the Yankees still managed to win tonight.
- In the past week, Sabathia, Ivan Nova and Andy Pettitte all pitched well for the first time since June. Ichiro had another hit, which disappeared into the shirt of Oakland starter, Jake Parker. If Ichiro hits, it changes the dynamic of the offense between his ability to make contact and his speed on the bases. The future first ballot Hall of Famer should absolutely be hitting leadoff in front of another first ballot Hall of Famer, Derek Jeter.
- If Pettitte and Nova pitch well in the playoffs, it gives the Yankees’ rotation enough depth to be a legitimate World Series contender. If Sabathia is dominant, it gives the Yankees a legitimate ace in the playoffs and without 230+ innings, CC may actually be effective in October.
Like any team, the Yankees have struggled and have question marks. This week, a lot of those questions have implied positive answers.