With Two Months to Go, Yankees Asking Familiar Questions

Pitching remains the eternal wild card for the Yankees

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    NEWSLETTERS

    TK
    Getty Images
    Hughes is one part of the pitching puzzle that the Yankees need to solve.

    The schedulers picked a nice time to send the Mariners to town.

    The Yankees snapped a four-game losing streak on Wednesday, their second since the All-Star break, and then had a day off to rest before closing out their homestand and, hopefully, a rough stretch of results. No better way to do it than welcome a last place team to town.

    Rough stretches are all relative, of course. They might be 7-12 since the All-Star break, but they still are tied for the best record in the American League and still have a 6.5-game lead on both the Orioles and the Rays.

    So it isn't like there's a need to start bailing water out of the rowboat in hopes of staying afloat long enough for an unlikely rescue. But a bad stretch has a way of spotlighting weaknesses that were easily ignored when the team was winning games.

    The injuries are the most obvious one, as exuberance over the way the team has dealt with adversity has given way to worries about how well the rest of the team can hold up over the rest of the schedule. Joe Girardi has done a very good job mixing and matching players -- Jayson Nix's work as a utility man has been underrated and important -- but the simple fact is that players like Raul Ibanez, Andruw Jones and Eric Chavez have been stretched pretty far with two months still to go.

    Those concerns aren't likely to go away when Alex Rodriguez and Andy Pettitte return, either. Both of them are red flags physically at this point because of history, age or both, leaving the Yankees to count on players who might not be able to answer the bell.

    Are they a championship team without them? The lineup could likely survive well enough, but the rotation is a different story.

    The reasons why Pettitte's return was so exciting for the Yankees is because there were questions about the rotation that still haven't been answered. Ivan Nova's moving in the wrong direction and Phil Hughes has been so good at getting out of trouble that you have to worry about Lady Luck deciding to pull the rug out at some point.

    If these questions have a familiar ring to them, it is because we've been asking some variation on them in each of the last four seasons. The Yankees always have the offense, even if it doesn't always hit exactly when you want it to hit, and that means the pitching is always going to be the wild card when it comes to predicting the Yankees' chances of winning a title.

    Make no mistake, the Yankees pitching has been good this season, something that hasn't always been the case in the Girardi era. It's just that they'll need more than good pitching to go the distance and it's not yet clear if they have it.

    Josh Alper is a writer living in New York City. You can follow him on Twitter and he is also a contributor to Pro Football Talk.