When CC Sabathia has his mojo working, baseball becomes a very simple game.
Figure out a way to bang out a couple of runs, play decent defense and, nine times out of ten, you're going to walk away with an anxiety-free victory. Why, then, did Monday night's Yankees win feel like a disaster was narrowly averted?
Injuries, of course. For all the hysterics about Javier Vazquez, who the team clearly thinks has the mental makeup of a puppy based on their decision to skip the offensively-challenged Red Sox in favor of a start against the Tigers, the thing the Yankees most have to fear this season is a series of aches and pains costing them their core players. It's a risk that's mitigated a bit by the wealth of talent on hand, but it's still a real fear given the advanced age of so many key contributors.
Two of them were feeling less than 100 percent on Monday. Jorge Posada left the game with a calf injury, less than a week after missing three games with a knee contusion, and Joba Chamberlain closed the game because Mariano Rivera felt stiffness in his side on Saturday and wasn't quite loose enough to fire up the Metallica. Neither injury sounds particularly serious, although Posada will probably relax for the rest of the week, but the general state of affairs is enough to make you uncomfortable.
Curtis Granderson, one of the younger Yankees, is already out for a month. Alex Rodriguez sat Sunday to rest something in his knee. Posada and Rivera have their little issues. Andy Pettitte has tired somewhat at the end of each of the last two seasons. The Yankees are well aware of these troubles, they're vigilant about making sure everyone gets their rest and they are well stocked with players to get them over short absences for most players.
Monday night's other heroes were a sign of that depth. While Sabathia was spinning his gem and the top six hitters in the lineup were combining for just one hit, Nick Swisher tied the game with one of his three hits and Randy Winn provided the margin of victory with a three-run home run. You don't want to count on that, it was Winn's first homer in 491 at-bats, but it's nice to know you have so many options.
The fear still exists, though, because the chance of something more serious exists. Having Joba close a three-run lead on a night when Sabathia goes eight innings isn't skin off anyone's back, but managing a shaky bullpen for a month without Rivera and with Joba pushed to closing games would greatly increase stress levels in the Bronx.
That's why you don't push things in May and why injury prevention is almost as important as run prevention for the Bombers.