BALTIMORE — This American League East battle continues to amaze, doesn’t it? Consider that the Yankees began Friday’s action nominally trailing the Red Sox by 1 ¹/₂ games … and on pace to win 109 games.
If it’s hard to see this breakneck pace continuing through the season’s final two thirds, it’s easy to anticipate these two teams running side by side to the finish line. Hence we scrutinize every game, every twist of fate, every inch to determine who will wind up with the considerable advantage of avoiding that win-or-go-home wild-card game.
Hence we examine the inches … of precipitation.
Will the Yankees’ weather woes make the difference in this clash of titans? For the Yankees have been far more impacted by the record-setting rate of postponements. And their obvious Achilles’ heel, their starting pitching,
looks at risk of further exposure. “You deal with different things during the season, so hopefully it doesn’t have
any impact,” pitching coach Larry Rothschild said Friday, before the Yankees opened their series with the Orioles
at Camden Yards … after the scheduled opener Thursday got banged by thundershowers. “Just keeping guys scheduled and, when the makeups come, not to have to use guys too much.
“It’s kind of a feast or famine thing. It puts you in that position. But you just have to manage it.”
By “feast or famine,” Rothschild referred to his pitchers getting either too much work or not enough due to the constant weather issues.
You’re excused if you heard “famine” and assumed that’s coming next in this year’s crazy progression of natural baseball inhibitors.
As per Major League Baseball, there had been 36 postponements through Thursday. Just 39 games were postponed all of last season. Already, baseball has experienced more postponements this season than in eight of the past 14 full campaigns.
The Yankees’ seven official postponements — that doesn’t count their suspended game at the Nationals on May 15, though it does include the postponed resumption of that contest on May 16 rank them second in baseball, behind the Tigers’ eight — and the forecast for here Saturday is awful. Only one of those games, the April 2 home opener, has been made up so far, which explains why Aaron Boone’s bunch has played five fewer games than the Sawx, and how
the standings are so muddled that the Yankees, at 35-17 (at press time), actually led the Red Sox (39-18) in the loss column despite trailing them in the standings.
“The inches we need are everywhere around us.”
Tony D’Amato, “Any Given Sunday.”
“It’s … something we feel we’re equipped to handle, and manageable,” Boone said. “We have no choice, so we just do our best to deal with the schedule that’s in front of us and some of the alterations that have been inevitable.”
The Yankees opted to keep their starting rotation in line after Thursday’s postponement, which puts Luis Severino in line to start one game of Monday’s doubleheader (both of them makeup games) in Detroit. The Yankees likely will call up someone from Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre to start the other game.
The call-up likely won’t inspire Yankees fans, a la freshmen like Gleyber Torres and Miguel Andujar; Justus Sheffield doesn’t hold a spot on the 40-man roster, which decreases his chances of getting the assignment. Really,
80 percent of the Yankees’ current starting rotation, outside of the Cy Young Award candidate Severino, isn’t inspiring many. As per FanGraphs, through Thursday, the Yankees’ starters ranked sixth in the AL in ERA (4.12)
and ninth with an average of 5.43 innings per start.
“[We’re] wanting to get some more innings consistently out of our starters,” Boone said. “It’s just managing the long haul of the season. … Especially with these weather issues that we’ve had to where we can protect guys knowing we’ve got some doubleheaders on the horizon.”
Can they pull it off, especially before the trading season starts in earnest? The forecast remains unclear.