Crunch Time

Here’s the good news. Since leaving Baltimore on September 9th with a one-game lead, the Yankees have gone 9-2. Here’s the bad news, the Orioles have matched that record.

I thought the Orioles would fade away, boy was I wrong. In fact, while both teams have been a lucky, from a runs scored/allowed perspective to go 9-2 over the past 11, the Orioles have been the stronger team, outscoring their opponents 58-34 as compared to the Yankees’ mark 53-41.

So, in a race that looks like it is going down to the wire, what could tilt the balance? Keep an eye on Tampa. The Rays close the season with three games at home against Baltimore. Before that, they have a game against Toronto, two @ Boston and four @Chicago. They currently sit 3-1/2 games out of a wild card spot, meaning those games against Baltimore could be tuneups for next year or could be critical.

On the other hand, today marks the last time the Yankees will play a potential playoff team. They close with three @Minnesota, 4 @Toronto and three against Boston. Obviously, if Tampa is still playing to win, the Yankees have a scheduling advantage over the final 10 days of the season.

One final note. At this point you have to wonder if the Yankees will make the playoffs, but burn out their bullpen in doing so. They have won seven-straight, but everyone of those wins has been by three runs or less. In fact, apart from their 13-3 victory in Baltimore earlier this month, the last time the Yankees won a game by more than three runs was August 13th. Joe Girardi did a great job managing the bullpen most of the season and you can’t blame him for overusing some of those arms now. It’s crunch time and he has no choice. But, there is a good chance that it will come back to haunt the Yankees in the very near future.