The Yankees’ pitching staff has remained surprisingly healthy up to this point, with CC Sabathia, Hiroki Kuroda, Andy Pettitte and Phil Hughes all making twenty-five starts or more this season. Additionally, there have been no major injuries in the bullpen, with David Robertson and the ageless Mariano Rivera forming an effective one-two punch to end games. Even though there have not been many injuries pitching-wise, the quality of some hurlers has not been up to par. Sabathia is mired in the worst year of his career by far. His ERA is at a ghastly 4.86, and he has all but given up the role of ace to Kuroda. With all of the hitting issues the Yankees have dealt with, most experts claimed that the Bombers would have no chance to make the playoffs unless Sabathia performed up to his previously high expectations. Obviously, this has not been the case. Furthermore, Phil Hughes has continued to regress as a starter, forcing Joe Girardi to finally move him to the bullpen. Pettitte has been serviceable, but he too has had periods during the year where he looks tired and worn out. Also, after a mostly healthy year, the bullpen seems to be paying the consequences for its overuse: David Robertson and Boone Logan are nursing minor injuries, while Rivera was forced to attempt a six out save this Sunday.
So, with all these injuries and productivity problems, how do the Yankees find themselves locked in the playoff race instead of buried in the basement of the AL East? On the pitching side, the reason has been Hiroki Kuroda. He has clearly emerged as the ace of this staff, acting as a stopper of losing streaks (as he did this Sunday) and a catalyst of winning streaks. Sporting a tidy 2.99 ERA, he gives the Yankees a chance to win virtually every times he steps on the mound, which is more than you can say for the other members of the pitching staff. On a better team, he would definitely be in the discussion for Cy Young.
On the hitting side of things, Alfonso Soriano has singlehandedly kept the Yankees afloat. It seems like he hits a clutch home run every night, and he has added depth to a previously short lineup. Robinson Cano has also started to swing the bat better, which is a testament of the protection Soriano has given him batting fourth. Also, the return of Alex Rodriguez and Curtis Granderson from injuries gives the lineup some of its old mojo back.
Can the Yankees overcome their absurd amount of injuries to make the playoffs? Probably not, but the fact that The Little Team That Could has come this far is pretty impressive in itself.