By Vin Mercogliano
During the current stretch in which the Yankees have won six of their last eight, their pitching staff has not allowed more than four runs in a game. That’s a recipe for success, no doubt.
It’s no secret who the culprit has been in the majority of their losses this season – that is to say, not the pitching staff – but if the starters continue to keep them in games, and the bullpen does what it’s done for the most part all year, then their slim playoff hopes will stay alive just a little bit longer.
Tonight, the Yankees will be a Kansas City for a makeup game from June 9, with Michael Pineda taking the mound for his third start since coming off the disabled list.
He’s been pretty good in his first two starts – he allowed one run over six innings last Thursday before putting the leadoff man on in the seventh, who eventually scored – and with Masahiro Tanaka continuing take positive steps towards a comeback, there may be more help on the horizon.
Joe Girardi used the old “we’ll cross that bridge…” line when asked how they’ll handle the rotation if Tanaka is added, but he didn’t rule out the possibility of a six-man rotation. It would certainly make sense for some guys – it would help Hiroki Kuroda get more rest in between starts, it could offer better protection to a young guy like Shane Greene, and it would be a good way to monitor Tanaka’s workload – but would they really do that in the midst of a playoff race when every game means so much?
Kuroda, Pineda and Brandon McCarthy – who has been brilliant since coming over from Arizona – would be shoe-ins to remain in the starting rotation, so if the Yankees were to cut it down to five with Tanaka, it would probably be Greene or Chris Capuano who would be sent to the bullpen. Greene makes sense because, as an MLB rookie, he’s never pitched this late into the year. It would be a way to ensure that you don’t overextend him. But Greene seems to have more upside than Capuano, and we all know how much Girardi loves his lefty options in the pen. (Plus, I’m sure you’re all tired of sweating every time that Rich Hill comes into the game.)
Of course, injuries could alter these plans, and there’s always the possibility that Tanaka has a setback. A lot can change in the next few weeks – for better or for worse – but the Yankees do have some momentum in their corner at the moment. It’s incredible to think about how good the pitching has been in spite of so many injuries, and if they can keep this up, the Yankees might just have a puncher’s chances.