The keys of success for the New York Yankees will be their starting rotation, hitting with runners in scoring position and the bullpen, especially Rafael Soriano to close the door.
Looking at the rotation ace CC Sabathia seems to have come back to form these last three starts of the season and should do his usual good job in the playoffs. Hiroki Kuroda has been better than the Yankees could have hoped winning 16 games and if he had any run support could have had a 20 win season. Kuroda in his last couple of starts has admitted to some fatigue, but with New York not playing till Sunday Kuroda will get the nod for Monday or Wednesday at home. This would give him a sufficient break to recharge his battery. Andy Pettitte should be ready to go since he hasn't pitched a full season. The wily veteran has the most playoff experience and wins in the history of the Yankees and even if he's off will always give a gutty performance. Phil Hughes has been anointed the fourth starter and with 16 wins of his own has the pitches to produce quality innings. His inconsistency this season has been an enigma at times because he has good stuff. Location has been the issue and giving up a ton of home runs this season won't sit well in the post season.
The Yankees set a franchise record with 245 home runs and have lived and died by the long ball all season. The playoffs are always a little different because of the quality of pitching in every game, so a three run jack may not be there every time like in the regular season. Ichiro Suzuki (batting .330 as a Yankee), Derek Jeter (216 hits this year), Eduardo Nunez and Brett Gardner will add the element of speed and bunting ability this team has lacked most of the season. Causing havoc on the base paths and making opposing pitchers on edge will help the Yankee hitters to maybe get mistake to drive the ball and score some runs. RISP has been the gorilla on the backs of the Yankees' hitters all season and going 1-12 or 0-8 in a game won't cut it by any stretch of the imagination. Quality at bats are key which means the sacrifice fly, moving runners over and a single up the middle to keep the line going is imperative for this team to succeed this post season.
The last couple of playoffs Alex Rodriguez, Mark Teixeira and Nick Swisher have been non-existent in the lineup with Teixeira and Swisher batting under the Mendoza line. This can't happen this year or it will mean another early exit from the playoffs and possibly some jobs in the future. Curtis Granderson also can't afford excessive strikeouts with RISP either, though he hit 43 home runs he had a career high 195 Ks this season.
The bullpen has been for the most part excellent through most of the season, with a little blip on the screen late because of fatigue. Derek Lowe and David Phelps in long relief, who can also pick up a start if needed, will be a welcome addition this year. Boone Logan and Clay Rapada as the left specialists have been outstanding with Logan getting out righties too. Cody Eppley has been one unsung hero this year giving a quality outing almost every time out. Joba Chamberlain, David Robertson and Rafael Soriano (42 saves this year) at the back of the bullpen is quite impressive. When Mariano Rivera went down nobody expected the stellar season Soriano has had as closer. You can only imagine where the Yankees would have ended up if Soriano didn't do the job this year.
Robinson Cano has been insanely hot hitting .615 with 24 hits in 39 at-bats to end the season. This post season Cano needs to step up as the number one guy in the lineup to drive in runs because of the uncertainty of the rest of the middle of the lineup.
Raul Ibanez and Eric Chavez have played above and beyond all expectations and will provide DH and bench help during the playoffs.
Let's put it this way if everyone plays to their capabilities the Yankees should be right there in the thick of things for a World Series bid. If the Bronx Bombers are hitting on all cylinders this team is very dangerous and almost unstoppable with the lineup they possess. This team overall is much better then last year's and hopefully will go pick up the 28th World Championship in franchise history.
New York will have their first game Sunday at 6:00 p.m. ET against the winner of tonight's Texas Rangers and Baltimore Orioles wildcard game. The Yankees will travel and play two games on the road before returning to the Bronx for the final three games, if necessary.
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