Via Mark Feinsand -
The Yankees’ fate is in their own hands. Just look at the schedule.
With six games remaining against the Rays and seven against the Orioles — all 13 of those games coming during a 17-day stretch beginning Aug. 31 — the Yankees will have every opportunity to control their own destiny.
“We play everyone,” Derek Jeter said. “It’s going to be tough, but all the teams that are close to us, we play. If we win, we win.”
The Rays have been the hottest team in baseball, entering Thursday 18-6 since July 28 to trim their deficit in the AL East from 9½ games to three.
“They’ve played exceptional, that’s the bottom line,” Joe Girardi said after his team was swept in Chicago. “They go on a West Coast trip and do a great job out there. They’ve been playing really well. We went through a period like that, too. It’s unfortunate we didn’t play well here.”
The Orioles are 15-9 since that date, and although they have fallen from second place to third, they have cut an 8½-game deficit to five. That’s because the Yankees are 12-13 during that same period, watching their sizable division lead whither away.
Despite playing .500 ball in both May and July, the Yankees built up their lead with a 20-7 record in June. They’re hoping to go on a similar run over the final five weeks of the season to capture another AL East crown and punch their ticket to October.
“We had a monster June, so we just need to get back to that,” Nick Swisher said. “We’re not sweating anything or stressing nothing. I think we can make a lot of good things happen in a short amount of time.”
On August 16th, I had a chance to participate in a fan “Q&A” session with Joe Girardi. And, I asked him if there was one team that he would prefer to avoid in the post-season this year. (I also asked him if he had any reaction or comment on the situation with the Miami Marlins, since he was once part of that organization. And, of course, Joe took the high road and said that Loria gave him a chance to manage for the first time, and that he considers him a friend, and that he wishes him the best.)
In his answer to my question on the Yankees, Girardi said that he’s not looking that far ahead, and that his focus now is on getting the job done this season, noting that they have not locked up anything. And, he said that they still have a ton of games left with Baltimore, Tampa, Boston and Toronto (within the division).
Actually, today, the next six games for the Yankees should be pretty easy for them. And, their last ten games of the season should be an easy run as well. But, there’s a 22-game stretch in between those two soft spots where the Yankees have some tough games. And, how New York plays between August 31st and September 23rd may determine where they finish in 2012.
Further, I think Joe was correct. Even if the Yankees don’t finish first in the A.L. East, they are not a lock for one of the two wildcard slots as the Orioles, Tigers, A’s and Angels are still close to those two positions and in the mix here.
In Yankeeland, the real games begin in a week. And, in the meantime, it would do them good to take advantage of next six games against the Indians and Blue Jays and get at least four wins from those contests.