Monday, August 8, 2011

Sabathia? Rivera? What else you got?

The Yankees rotation is a cobbled together collection of pitchers, to say the least. The mainstay is CC Sabathia. He’s a true ace, and will cover up for any other weaknesses once the playoffs come around. At least that’s what the Yankees fans have been saying. Sabathia pitching two or three times in a playoff series tilts the Yankees into favorites. He’s an automatic two wins in a series. Unless, apparently, they play the Red Sox.

What about the rest of the rotation? They can scrape by. They don’t need starters who go the distance. They have a great bullpen, anchored by Mariano Rivera. That’s a clear advantage in any playoff series. Unless, apparently, they play the Red Sox.

Yes, I know. It’s just one series. It doesn’t mean everything. But, the Yankees fans have been crowing for quite some time about their unhittable ace, and unstoppable closer. What happens if they are actually hittable and stoppable? Shouldn’t that be cause for concern?

OK. This isn’t a Yankees blog. So, maybe the conversation should be reversed. How confident can the Sox afford to be right now? The only team that anyone gives a chance of beating them in the American League apparently can’t beat them. That’s a pretty nice feeling. This was a series where the Yankees were really trying too. Joe Girardi said he wanted to win this series. In last night’s game, he didn’t try to string along the bullpen. He brought in Phil Hughes in the tenth inning. Like it was a playoff game or something. The Red Sox still won the series. The Red Sox won a series against the Yankees in which the only Red Sox starter to earn the victory was John Lackey. Go ahead, read that sentence again.

How confident should the Red Sox be knowing, it would seem, that Girardi has a knife to his back insisting that he play Derek Jeter? How telling was the Scutaro infield single last night? A slow grounder up the middle. Jeter takes the scenic route to the ball. Cano has to come all the way to the other side of the bag to try and make the play IN FRONT of Jeter. We’re talking about serious issues. The Sox get to spend the season being chased by a team starting a statue at shortstop. Very comforting.

Are the Sox really just that much better than the Yankees? It sure seems that way. Why aren’t the Red Sox running away with the division then? If they’re dominating the Yanks, they must be slacking against everyone else. Why is that? Is it luck? Maybe kinda sorta. The Red Sox have had their own troubles with the rotation. They have a few mediocre guys trying to fill a few spots at the back end. They haven’t exactly been setting the world on fire. So, the Sox are losing games here and there to the Royals and Orioles that they should win. But, those match-ups haven’t been an issue with the Yankees. It could be the luck of the rotation that the back-end hasn’t faced the Yanks much. Or, it could be a strategy by Francona to use those pitchers elsewhere. Much like this weekend. So, maybe the Yankees games are the best example of the fully operational Red Sox. These series are the ones where the Sox bring out their regulars. This is the true glimpse. And that’s a wonderful thing. The Sox look prepared to try things out when they’re facing other teams. They can lose one of those here and there. If it means losing the division, that’s OK. They can handle the wild card. They don’t need home field.

The Yankees can’t beat them anywhere.

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