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The Final Week
Let’s hear it for New York … New York … NEW YORK!
That’s right, folks — the New York Yankees are your 2011 American League East champions! It comes as no surprise to me or countless other baseball fans, but don’t forget the “expert predictions” that ESPN provided before Opening Day. In spite of the 45 people that chose the Red Sox to run away with the division, it was the boys in pinstripes that clinched last night vs. the Rays with a week to go in the season. Fittingly it was Jorge Posada who came through with the biggest hit of the night, thanks to his pinch-hit 2-run single in the 8th. I admitted last night on Twitter that I was more worried than ever before during the last two innings — and I’m glad that Rafael Soriano proved me wrong by nailing down the save.
So with the division all wrapped up, you may be wondering what’s left for Joe Girardi and the Yankees to do before September 30th. I already went through some impending postseason roster decisions that need to be made, but there’s plenty more to think about in the final week of the regular season:
Coming into today’s games, the Yankees (95-60) are ahead of Detroit and Texas (both 90-65) by five games in the race for home-field advantage in the ALDS and ALCS. While they have the propensity for winning just about anywhere, there is no question that the Yankees would prefer the extra home game — especially facing the prospect of seeing the likes of Justin Verlander, C.J. Wilson, Jon Lester, David Price and James Shields at least twice in either series.
37 games in 37 days with one off-day since August 23. That’s one brutal stretch of games for any team to play, without question. Now that the division’s been won, I’d look for the veteran players to get more games off to have them fully rested for October baseball. This is also the time for Girardi to get a closer look at the September call-ups to see what they have to offer moving forward.
LINING UP THE ROTATION
This is a rather interesting situation, thanks in part to the six-man rotation. As I’ve stated and linked to before, CC Sabathia is currently not in line to start Game 1 of the Division Series on the 30th (he’d have to start on 2 days’ rest). Actually, no one else is lined up to start any games the way we expect Girardi to set the rotation up. He’s going to have to get very creative with the current rotation over the next seven days. Maybe Sabathia starts Monday in Tampa; or maybe he’s skipped altogether. Phil Hughes is likely to pitch one of the games in Tampa — how will that help Girardi’s decision? It’s a lot to think about and not much time to do so.