Father Time is catching up to Yankees

NEW YORK -- The 36-year-old Alex Rodriguez hasn't made a meaningful contribution in the second half. The 38-year-old Bartolo Colon hasn't won in August and strangely abandoned his best pitch Tuesday night.

So we can debate all day and night if the Yankees would be better as the wild card (no Justin Verlander) or the division winner (home-field advantage), but the Yankees' biggest opponent outside of Yawkey Way may be age.

The tied-for-first-place Yankees have had a wildly successful regular season thus far, but the finish line is at the end of October, not the beginning of it.

Manager Joe Girardi can earnestly talk about the merits of a division title, but the only thing that matters are parades. There are no parades for even having one more regular-season win than the Red Sox.

It is all about the 11 victories in October -- and age may be the Yankees' biggest obstacle when the air becomes colder.

On Tuesday, they again showed they will just keep coming and coming at their ballpark. Down six runs in the eighth, Nick Swisher started and then nearly finished a dramatic comeback against Oakland.

Swisher nailed a three-run homer in the eighth off of the A's effective starter Brandon McCarthy. In the ninth, Andrew Bailey gave up a Jorge Posada solo homer to cut the deficit to two runs. Russell Martin doubled and Brett Gardner reached on an error.

Derek Jeter -- with three hits already in his pocket -- was somewhat questionably asked to bunt by Girardi. He wanted to avoid a double play and give Curtis Granderson, Mark Teixeira and Robinson Cano a chance. Jeter moved the runners over before Granderson walked to load the bases.

Teixeira again failed late, popping out. With two outs, Cano took a 3-2 pitch at the knees to score a run and extend the game for Swisher. Swisher hit a bomb to deep center. It looked as though he might have won the game with a grand slam.

"You always want to be that guy in that spot," Swisher said after the 6-5 loss had ended. "At least, I do. You try and be the hero, for sure. And I'm not going to lie -- if I didn't think right off the bat -- I thought I was. But the ball didn't carry as far as I thought it would. Either way, I want to be the guy in that spot. I just wasn't successful."

The Yankees have been successful and are tied for first largely because of their starting pitching. Colon has been a big part of it. However, it is starting to feel as though midnight may be minutes away on his stem cell Cinderella story.

A.J. Burnett should still be the guy to lose his rotation spot next week, but Colon's place as the No. 2 or No. 3 playoff starter is in question. He had another stinker Tuesday, going 6 1/3 innings and allowing five earned runs, while not throwing even one two-seam fastball -- which, along with his miraculous fat/stem cell surgery, seems like one of the main reasons he is here in the first place.

"I feel comfortable with that pitch," Colon said. "That is my best pitch. Today, I didn't use it."

Colon said he abandoned it because in his last outing against the Kansas City Royals, they hit both of their homers on two-seamers.

More disconcerting for his October prospects, Colon is suddenly not missing bats. He can't finish off hitters, which resulted in him giving up two bombs on Tuesday.

One, a second-inning solo shot from Brandon Allen -- a fourth-decker -- landed approximately 428 feet from home plate, according to ESPN Stats & Information's calculation.

"It just seems like he hasn't been able to put people away," Girardi said before Colon took the mound on Tuesday. "He's gotten into some deeper counts. They fouled more pitches off on him and eventually it's led to some mistakes that he's made."

Colon has now thrown 131 innings, which is more than the last three seasons combined. He didn't even pitch one inning last season. His arm may not have much ammunition left.

Rodriguez is hurt again. After playing his first game of the second half on Sunday, A-Rod was out Tuesday with a sprained thumb. Although the Yankees have already proven they can win without Rodriguez in the regular season.

Not only did they enter Tuesday night with the AL's best second-half record (24-13, .649), but they had scored an MLB-best 220 runs, thanks to a .292 team batting average since the All-Star Game.

A-Rod's second-half contributions to the attack are his zero hits in five at-bats on Sunday in Minnesota.

But, in the postseason, the Yankees must have Rodriguez to win. That has been the case since he has been here. It is not simply about him, but the Yankees have won when he has hit and lost when he hasn't.

In 2004, A-Rod was going strong in the playoffs before his bat turned cold in the ALCS and the curse soon followed. In 2009, he carried the Yankees' offense to his only World Series ring. Maybe A-Rod's prolonged hibernation will serve him well in five weeks.

Age could mean experience. Jeter, amazingly, has had a renaissance and is up to .295 on the year. Posada, who was nearly thrown overboard by Girardi, has hit in 15 of his last 20 games (at a .323 clip), and so there could be more to come from Colon and A-Rod.

But age is unforgiving. It may be what seperates this Yankees club and its ultimate goal. It could be what makes October feel a lot like Tuesday night -- close, but not close enough.