September has been a tale of two Yankees’ teams so far. The offense has shown some meager signs of awakening from their August slumber, and with it, some key wins to begin the month. The other side of the coin, continues to deal the Bronx Bombers bad news on the injury front. As if it wasn’t bad enough that the team is looking at the possible season-ending loss of first baseman Mark Teixeira, but the team’s best pitcher over the past two-plus months, Nathan Eovaldi, is done for at least two weeks. That’s assuming he has absolutely no setbacks in his rehab heading into the final week of the regular season.
What does this mean for the Yankees? You could look at it in one of two ways: with Luis Severino, Masahiro Tanaka, and Michael Pineda, the Yankees are still in prime position to compete with the first place Toronto Blue Jays the remainder of the way, not to mention the recent resurgence of Alex Rodriguez at the plate. Or, the loss of arguably the team’s best starting pitcher will add more pressure to an already taxed bullpen (thanks Joe Girardi) along with forcing the offense to step up their game to a once again elite level.
A-Rod has tied the all-time MLB record for most 30-homer seasons with Hank Aaron. Greg Bird has performed about as well as expected, showing some power and solid leather in the absence of Teixeira. But can Ivan Nova, who has struggled since his return from Tommy John surgery, and the creaky-kneed C.C. Sabathia step up their games to prevent a total meltdown both in the bullpen and the win-loss column?
With less than 30 games remaining in the regular season, the pressure mounting to keep up with Toronto, and a key home series with the Jays beginning this weekend, we should see what these New York Yankees are made of. For the past week, the closest the Bombers have been able to get is within 1/2 game. Then they lose and fall back to a 1 1/2. Toronto isn’t going anywhere, and anything short of winning two of three this coming weekend, could all but give Toronto the division crown. That would mean the Yankees would have to hold off the surging Texas Rangers and Minnesota Twins for the first Wild Card spot, and an impending one-game Wild Card match-up in the Bronx.
The loss of Eovaldi does not bode well for the Yankees, regardless of the performances of the other rotation members. Eovaldi was having a career year, and to have it derailed by an elbow injury has to scare the Yankees at the very least. Oftentimes, a minor elbow injury if not properly cared for, can turn into something nagging, and eventually something major. Forget this season, think long term. The Yankees could be doomed in 2015 without one of their best pitchers, and they could pay the price over the next two if Eovaldi’s injury turns out to be more than something “minor.” Let’s hope for the best, and prepare for the worst.