Yanks Split With Orioles; October Looking Bleak

Yanks Split With Orioles; October Looking Bleak

However much relief Yankee fans feel after the split of the four-game series with the Orioles - and it was oh, so painfully close to being 3 of 4 for the Yanks - and however good it felt to finally see the Yanks cut loose for 13 runs on Sunday afternoon, it's hard to come away with any sense of confidence.

Even if the Bombers hadn't been hosed on the last call of Saturday's game -- and they were  (badly), with replays showing that Mark Teixiera was safe by at least a yard -- and Alex Rodriguez had followed up with a hit, we'd still be waiting to hear if Tex was out for just six days or for the rest of the season after reinjuring a calf muscle in the game.

Either way, the prospects don't look very good for the Yankees, not if getting to the World Series is the goal. In fact, they leave Baltimore with more questions than answers. Given the state of the rotation, the biggest questions has to be whether C.C. Sabathia finishes as the ace.

Saturday's performance was typical of the mediocre-to-bad season that Sabathia has had since coming off the DL: 109 pitches got him only through 6.1 innings, and he gave up eight hits and five runs, including three home runs. Worst of all, he failed to hold on to the lead twice, which is the worst thing your number one starter can do in a big September game.

With a second rate Sabathia, Hiroki Kuroda, who has now had two mediocre outings in a row, is the closest thing the Yankees have to an ace. In fact, Kuroda is the closest thing the Yankees have to a seven-inning starter -- Phil Hughes and Freddy Garcia can scarcely reach the 5th inning any more, and on Sunday Freddy wilted after just 3 1/3.

In other words, even if the Yankees somehow hold on to win the AL East, there would seem to be no way they can get through the first round without a strong return by Andy Pettitte (and the latest reports on him are as uncertain as those on Teixiera).

Some other unanswered questions: Joba Chamberlain got the win Sunday for pitching 1 1/3 scoreless innings. But is there anyone who really thinks that he's anywhere near the Joba of a couple of years ago? Is there anyone who has any confidence in him when the game is close?

Curtis Granderson drove in five runs yesterday, and in fact came off the bench to do it. But does that mean he's found his 2011 stroke? Or is he the same baffling .230 hitter we've been watching all year? Is Teixeira's injury a double curse because now it outs Nick "0 for September" Swisher in the lineup every day? Why did it take American League pitchers so long to find out that Swisher, when batting left-handed, can't hit anything low and slow? And what reason would they have, from here on in, to throw him anything else, especially with two strikes?

To counter all of this bad news, the only thing the Yankees can offer is that A-Rod, with a 13-game hitting streak, is probably swinging the bat better than he has at any time this season. That and the slim hope that the Orioles and Rays can wear each other down this week while the Yankees try to fatten up their lead with the Red Sox. Still, it's beginning to seemlike we're heading for one of those first-round-and-out seasons.

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