Friday night: CC Sabathia came off the Disabled List, and we really needed the big man to come through on the mound. He did: 7 1/3 innings, 1 run, 4 hits, just 1 walk.
Which wouldn't have mattered if the Yankees hadn't also gotten the runs they needed. They did. The big hero this time was Nick Swisher, who went 3-for-4, with his 19th home run. Yankees 3, Indians 1.
WP: Sabathia (13-3). SV: Rafael Soriano (32). LP: Cody Allen (0-1), a 23-year-old rookie reliever, who was having a really good season until he gave up Swisher's home run. We may be hearing more from him in the future.
Saturday night: Hiroki Kuroda, perhaps the Yankees' most consistently good pitcher the last few weeks, took the mound, and pitched pretty well again. He went 8 innings, allowed 3 runs, on 4 hits and 2 walks.
Which wouldn't have mattered if the Yankees hadn't also gotten the runs they needed. And, this time, they didn't. There was no big hero this time. Derek Jeter and Robinson Cano each got 2 hits, but the rest of the team combined only got 3.
Indians 3, Yankees 1. WP: Justin Masterson (11-10). SV: Chris Perez (33). LP: Kuroda (12-9).
So the Sunday game was, if not a must-win for the Yankees, then certainly a need-win.
So, naturally, Freddy Garcia was sent out to start. Cue the creepy music.
The Yankees scored 3 runs in the top of the 2nd, to give Garcia a cushion. Eric Chavez led off with a single. Raul Ibanez drew a walk. Ichiro Suzuki singled home Chavez. Chris Stewart sacrificed them over. Jeter grounded out, but that got Ibanez home. And Swisher concluded the scoring by singling home Ichiro.
Garcia was fine for 4 2/3 innings. But, needing just one more out to qualify for the win, he fell apart, allowing 2 runs. Joe Girardi panicked, and brought in Boone Logan.
At a time like that, you want to send a message. I know what you're thinking: "Teix message!" Nope, Mark Teixeira did get a hit yesterday, but it wasn't a home run. What Curtis Granderson hit in the top of the 6th, right after the inning in question, was not only his 33rd of the season, but the 200th of his career.
So, on this morning of August 27, with a little more than 4 weeks to go, here's how things stand:
The Yankees lead the American League Eastern Division by 4 games over the Tampa Bay Rays. The Baltimore Orioles are 4 1/2 back, 4 in the loss column. The Boston Red Sox are 13 1/2 back (14), and the Toronto Blue Jays are fading fast, 17 1/2 back (17).
The Magic Number to clinch the Division is 32, over both the Rays and the O's, 22 to eliminate the Sox, 19 to eliminate the Jays.
The Yankees trail the Texas Rangers by 1 game in the race for best record in the American League.
If the current standings hold to the end of the season, there will be a tie for the 2nd AL Wild Card between Baltimore and the Oakland Athletics, with the winner facing the Rays for the Wild Card berth in the Playoffs, with the winner of that facing the Rangers, while the Yankees would face the Chicago White Sox. The Detroit Tigers and Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim also have legitimate shots at the Playoffs.
In the National League, the St. Louis Cardinals would visit the Atlanta Braves. If the Cards win, they would face the Washington Nationals while the San Francisco Giants would face the Cincinnati Reds. If the Braves win, they would face the Reds while the Giants face the Nats. The Los Angeles Dodgers and Pittsburgh Pirates are both still very much in it, and the Arizona Diamondbacks have an outside shot.
The Yankees have come home, and will start a 3-game series tonight against those pesky Blue Jays. David Phelps starts against Henderson Alvarez.