To be fair, in October, the Yankees wouldn’t be starting Dustin Moseley against Cliff Lee (or against anyone else for that matter, though Moseley didn’t pitch too badly yesterday). And in October, they might not need to stretch their bullpen quite so thin to take advantage of an off-night by C.J. Wilson. But a sweep is a sweep, and when that sweep comes at the hands of a team the Yankees might face in the first round of the playoffs, and when that sweep includes two walk-off Texas wins, and when in the first of those games they strand eighteen runners on base, and when that sweep reduces the Yankees’ A.L. East lead to the absolute slimmest of margins — well, the Yankees better hope that’s not a preview of things to come.
The Yankees bullpen, which had become such a strength over the past few weeks, faltered this weekend. On Friday, Joba Chamberlain, perhaps out of habit, allowed an eighth-inning home run on his very first pitch that tied the game at five. (It wasted an encouraging bases-clearing, go-ahead double by Alex Rodriguez; Texas would eventually win in thirteen.) And on Saturday, Mariano Rivera struggled badly with his control, eventually plunking Jeff Francouer to force in the winning run. (Remarkably, Frenchy didn’t try to swing at the pitch.) Texas, by the way, has now gotten to Rivera twice this year. The Yankees better hope that’s not a preview of things to come, either.
For months now, it’s seemed like the American League East would be decided in the season’s final weeks, and in particular by the seven September games between the Yankees and Rays. For months, whatever the Yankees have done, the Rays have more or less matched: Leads of two-and-a-half games have dropped to half a game and then back again.
The Rays have pulled even on occasion, but then fallen back, just slightly, into second, where they’d still have a comfortable lead in the wild card. It’s how an eight-game winning streak through last Saturday earned the Yankees just a two-and-a-half game lead. And how their current slide — they’ve lost six of seven — still allowed them to maintain even a half-game lead. The pitching match-ups in Texas may not have been October-worthy, but the one in tonight’s Yankees-Rays opener certainly is: CC Sabathia against David Price. It’s quite literally what we’ve been waiting for.