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Friday, July 24, 2009

The Yankees Unobstructed July 24

Don't Get Too Comfortable

During last year's Presidential election, whether he was ahead by a few points in the polls, or behind by a few, Barack Obama reminded us often that he didn't heed the day-to-day ebbs and flows of approval ratings.

Yankee fans, let's take a similar approach to this whole "first place" thing. The Yankees are riding high right now on a seven-game winning streak and the Red Sox are mired in a five-game losing streak. Earlier this season Boston already treated its fans to a near fortnight of winning when they were victorious in eleven consecutive contests over the course of thirteen days. They are capable of repeating that, just as the Yankees are capable of laying another egg like this May's five consecutive loss fiasco.

This is going to be a torturous and entertaining pennant race, and first place is going to depend on how the Yankees play against Boston.

But before we can really assess how the Yankees stand in terms of winning the pennant, they need to get through their current stretch. Their seven straight victories have come at the beginning of a stretch in which the Yankees are playing everyday for seventeen days, and on thirty-three out of thirty-four days.

So, how can manager Joe Girardi and the Yankees keep the momentum going for over a month? A few suggestions....

Rest AROD at least once every ten to fourteen games. So far this season, Alex Rodriguez has weathered easily, but been absolutely dominant following a day off. Also, Girardi already learned the hard way that if Yankee brass think their number one investment is doggin' it, they'll step in without consulting the skipper.

Keep spreading the load in the bullpen. It was nice to see Phil Hughes notch his first save last night, it was even nicer to see Mariano take the night off. Mo has converted 24 straight save opportunities (the longest such streak in the Majors right now), but for the first time in a long time the Yankees have someone who might be able to share that burden, in Hughes.

Consistency from Joba Chamberlain and Andy Pettitte could really come in handy in relieving some of the burden on the rest of the pitching staff. Easier said than done, of course. For a while now, Pettitte has either pitched a masterpiece or a complete lemon. Runs surrendered by Pettitte in his last six starts: 1, 6, 2, 6, 6, 1. Figure that out. Joba has not been much better: 3, 3, 3, 8, 5, 1. If Joba and Pettitte can get through six innings regularly, they would drastically reduce the wear and tear on Yankee relievers as this coming month wears on.

Of course, all these things sound easy, but after Oakland is gone, the Yankees face very good teams for most of the next month. Coming up, in order, the Yankees have Tampa Bay, Chicago, Toronto, Boston, Toronto again and Seattle. If you can win more than half your games during that stretch, than you should count your blessings.

NOTE: Make sure to check back every Wednesday for Pinstripe Politics, your source for that gray area where the Yankees and society converge. Also, check in with the BNN on Fridays for The Yankees, Unobstructed, our weekly Yankee opinion column.

For more of Graham Kates' sports writing, check out his True/Slant blog "Coaches in the Crosshairs" (www.trueslant.com/grahamkates).


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