Just when the Yankees seem to be catching a good wave to ride into October, the Yankees announced their ace Masahiro Tanaka would miss his next start due to a muscle strain in his hamstring. There is never a good time to suffer an injury when you are in a tight pennant race, but the timing could not be worse for the Yankees. Remember that Joe Girardi tweaked the rotation to ensure that Tanaka would pitch in the Toronto series.
Typical for any ace starter, Tanaka made a strong case to stay in the rotation and pitch on Wednesday. Discretion being the better part of valor, the Yankees went the other way and chose to play it safe. How serious is it? It is a Grade 1 strain, which is the mildest grade, indicates no serious damage, no loss fo strength, and usually requires a few days’ rest. Still, there is enough discomfort for him that the Yankees are not letting him pitch. Consider, again, that the Yankees made sure he would pitch against the Blue Jays. Now they are not even letting him fly to Toronto, to give him all the opportunity possible to rest. My guess is that if it were as minor as they are saying, he would pitch on Wednesday. I am no doctor, but when the season is on the line and your best pitcher is sitting, his condition is such that there is just no way.
How bad is this for the Yankees? Tanaka is the ace. There is no escaping what that means. He is the best we have. When the chips are down, you want the best on the mound. He is the only man in the rotation with a sub-4 ERA (3.38). He is the only man with a WHIP below 1 (.987). Translation: he has been the best at keeping men from reaching base and runners from scoring. Ivan Nova will take his place. Don’t get me wrong, I love SuperNova. He has not been consistent. He has six Quality Starts out of 14 appearances. The Yankees will need one on Wednesday night in the worst way.
The Yankees managed to get to two games behind in the loss column. They need a sweep to take first place, and that will be a monumental effort. Really, the Yankees may only need to take two of three. After the Yankees series, the Jays have six games with the Rays and four with the Orioles. The Yankees have four with Chicago, four with Boston, and three in Baltimore. All are weak teams, and the team the gets hot will win the division. The Blue Jays are in a bit of a slump, going 7-6 over their last 13 while the Yankees won five out of their last seven. There is hope here.
I won’t lie, it feels like a curse. For the last 3 years, it feels like we could have a good team, a competitive team, except for injuries to key players at the wrong time. That was the first thought that crossed my mind. This is significant. It is huge. Other pitchers have to step up. Difficult circumstances always come. Champions find ways to win in spite of the circumstances.
--Ike Dimitriadis, BYB Senior Staff Writer
My blog is: Shots from Murderer's Row
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