Among the many reasons the Yankees should be glad they clinched the division on Wednesday: Matt Moore (0-0, 6.23), the much-heralded prospect will be starting for the Rays. The Yankees will send Bartolo Colon to the mound, as they attempt to figure out just how they will order their postseason rotation behind CC Sabathia.
Discussion of the Day: Do you think the Yankees should exert all effort for home field advantage, or would they be better served by taking the opportunity to rest their starters in the season's final week?
Behind Enemy Lines: Joe Henderson writes that the Rays are overcoming odds to stay in the playoff hunt. The Rays' playoff chances have been hurt by losing three straight to the Yankees, but the Red Sox collapse continues to leave open the possibility that the Rays, and not Boston, could be the other AL East team playing in October.
1) Kieran Darcy notes that the Yankees went to the playoffs on the back of the bullpen.
In the first game of Wednesday's doubleheader, Hector Noesi made an emergency start for the Yankees, gave up two runs, and was followed by seven other relievers (no doubt helped out by the expanded rosters), none of whom surrendered more than a hit. Although that game was the clincher for the Yankees' going to the playoffs in 2011, the Yankee bullpen has been excellent all season, ranking only behind that of the San Francisco Giants in ERA, an accomplishment which has further meaning when one consideres the Yankees' bullpen has performed so well in the AL East. That the bullpen has been so successful after losing Joba Chamberlain for the season and Rafael Soriano for a large part of it is even more remarkable. Cory Wade and Luis Ayala have also stepped up, probably more than anyone expected, and one can argue that manager Joe Girardi has once again turned the area of a baseball team often considered the most fluid into one of the team's biggest strengths.
2) Jay Jaffe at Pinstriped Bible writes that Russell Martin is one of the best catchers in the game when it comes to framing pitches, something that should not be underrated given how it effects ball and strike calls.
After a hot start in April, Martin's cooled off with the bat to the point that his season numbers on offense are actually below average. Jaffe's post, however, illustrates what Martin is far more valuable than just for his bat -- his defense is a stark contrast to that which the Yankees were getting from Jorge Posada in 2010. Given the proclivities of some of the Yankees' starters for called strikes, that Martin excels at framing pitches becomes that much more important. As Jaffe notes, Martin's value in this regard will make this offseason interesting, as the Yankees will have to decide if they want to re-sign Martin or else move full steam ahead with Jesus Montero and Austin Romine.
There is no understating how important Robertson has been to the Yankees' bullpen this season. Bumped up to the eighth inning spot after injuries to Chamberlain and Soriano, Robertson has excelled so much that he's kept his hold on that spot even after Soriano's return. The downside to this, however, is that Robertson has pitched a lot, and the innings will take their toll -- especially when, as in Robertson's case, they're often high-leverage spots. As Axisa notes, there's been a small, steady decline in Robertson's velocity -- probably not anything too serious, but more than enough reason for Girardi to give him some rest in the season's last week, now that the division has been won.