The David Robertson Express Keeps on Chugging

Robertson's work a highlight of a dreary day

If you ever wondered what it would look like if they played a Little League game at Yankee Stadium, you found out on Wednesday.

Thanks to the decision to play until the wee small hours of the previous morning, the Yankee lineup featured bold-face names like Brandon Laird, Greg Golson and Ramiro Pena while the Orioles featured immortals like Matt Angle and Kyle Hudson. Makes you wonder why they were so opposed to playing a doubleheader since they went ahead and treated the game like the rear end of the doubleheader.

The Yankees made four errors, the Orioles added two and there were several other plays that were only worthy of applause from parents who are just happy that little Johnny isn't eating grass instead of paying attention to the game. A.J. Burnett probably gets the blue ribbon on that front as he remembered that pitchers are supposed to cover first base on some grounders, but completely forgot that they are also charged with touching the base in order to get runners out.

The game went to extra innings, naturally, and the Yankees wound up losing 5-4 to snap their six-game winning streak. If the Yankees should wind up a game back of the Red Sox, they should probably blame their insistence on jamming in two games in less than 12 hours instead of postponing the game until after the end of the regular season when it would either be unnecessary or played with a full roster against a bad Orioles team.

And yet, amid all of the nasty weather and nastier play, there was a bright spot. The bullpen, always so crucial in games started by the human tomato can that is Burnett, did heroic work until Eduardo Nunez's second error set up the Orioles for the win.

Luis Ayala, David Robertson and Rafael Soriano, the three relievers who worked that are likely to contribute come October, threw 2.2 scoreless and hitless innings while striking out five. Ayala has been quietly effective all season and Soriano has had one bad outing since coming off the DL, but Robertson is the guy worth talking about right now. 

Robertson struck out the side on 13 pitches in the eighth inning on Wednesday, a couple of days after he worked two innings to nail down a save against Toronto. If those kinds of outings sound familiar, it is because that's the kind of performance that Mariano Rivera used to offer back in the days when he was setting up John Wetteland.

It's pretty much been like that all year with Robertson, even as Joe Girardi hesitates to use him as aggressively as Joe Torre used to use Rivera. He's passed every test put in front of him, outlasted Soriano and Joba Chamberlain to get the plum spot in the pen and has even generated some comparisons to the Great One thanks to his cutter.

The bullpen is always big in October, but it looms even larger this time around because of how unreliable the Yankee rotation is at this point in time. They will need to work a lot of innings and might need to keep the Yankees close enough to come back with a late rally, jobs that will put a lot of pressure on Robertson. 

He couldn't handle the freight last October against the Rangers. He's a better pitcher this season, but if 15 years of Rivera have taught us anything it is that success in the playoffs isn't merely a playoff game.

There's something else intangible that enters the equation. We'll find out soon enough if Robertson has 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.

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