NEW YORK -- No team has ever faced the past three American League Cy Young Award winners in consecutive days, according to Elias Sports Bureau research. It is a tall challenge, but the New York Yankees are 1-0 so far.
Brandon McCarthy and four relievers, ending with David Robertson, outpitched Max Scherzer in the first game of the trifecta, a 2-1 Yankees win over the Tigers. The Yankees moved to just one game out of the AL's second wild card.
It all gets you thinking: This Yankee team is not really a playoff-worthy club, but the system allows for one qualifier -- the second wild card -- to be less than perfect. The Yankees definitely meet that specification, especially the imperfect part.
If the Yankees can sneak into the postseason and beat the Los Angeles Angels or the Oakland A's in the crapshoot that is the wild-card game, they may be a tough out in the division series or championship series. The reason why is because the year after Mariano Rivera retired, the bullpen is as good as ever.
New York Yankees
McCarthy took the game into the sixth inning, but it was Matt Thornton, Adam Warren, Shawn Kelley and Robertson who got the Yankees to the finish line. In the playoffs, with a healthy and dominant Masahiro Tanaka, Michael Pineda and McCarthy, combined with this bullpen, maybe Derek Jeter's career goes a little longer than anticipated.
"I've told you I really like our bullpen," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. "They have been a huge part of our success all year long. These guys, we have asked a lot of them and they have given us a lot. Whenever we have a lead, I like our chances because of what they've done."
Like Rivera's bullpens, these relievers are led by their closer. Robertson pitched for the third straight day and nailed down his 18th consecutive save opportunity.
In a short playoff series, the Yankees would be able to shorten games, utilizing a pen that is pretty deep.
Of course, they first have to hit a bit more. They scored only two off Scherzer, but it would have been more if not for perhaps the best catch of the year by Tigers center-fielder Ezequiel Carrera , who robbed Jacoby Ellsbury of what could've been a bases-clearing triple instead of an out.
"That was an unbelievable play, it really was," Robertson said. "I was warming up. I couldn't believe that, fully laid out on the warning track. You could see in Ells' face he was shocked."
McCarthy, though, matched Scherzer, working into the sixth and keeping the Tigers down, knowing in the back of his mind how important it was to break through against the Cy Young winners.
"I know this is a big series for us," McCarthy said. "I know what they are throwing at us. I took that as kind of a challenge for me. This was a chance to step up against one of the best to make our own mark."
The Yankees just limped off a 3-3 road trip against two last place teams. They are not a great team, but we have seen in the playoffs the best teams don't always win. Who knows if they will make it to October, but if they do it might not be a short stay.
"Let's get to the playoffs first," Robertson said.
They get to show how they might do there the next two nights as David Price and Justin Verlander take the mound. There is a little October feel in August in the Bronx. These flawed Yankees may be up for it.