The final regular season series of the year will, for the Yankees, be a chance to rest players and prime themselves for the ALDS. On the other hand, the Tampa Bay Rays, who still need help from the Red Sox/Orioles, are fighting for their playoff lives, and to try to cap a somewhat miraculous come back. The Yankees will have Hector Noesi (2-1, 4.14) make his second start of the season, while the Rays will hand the ball to James Shields (15-12, 2.84)
Discussion of the Day: Which playoff team do you think has the best bullpen? If not the Yankees, where would you rank the Yankees' bullpen among contenders?
Behind Enemy Lines: Gary Shelton writes that the Rays will be remembered for what they do in the season's final week. Losses to the Yankees and Jays last week hurt the Rays' ability to take charge of their playoff destiny, but one game back is not an insurmountable obstacle.
1) Wallace Matthews writes that Jesus Montero deserves a spot on the postseason roster for the Yankees.
Montero has certainly been impressive since his call up, hitting .346/.414/.635 with four home runs in 52 at bats with the Yankees as of Sunday morning. It’s not just that Montero’s hitting for average that’s impressing; he’s hitting for considerable power as well. With Francisco Cervelli unlikely to make the postseason roster while dealing with a concussion, manager Joe Girardi has an extra roster spot to play with than he might otherwise. Indeed, Girardi has more or less admitted that Montero will make the roster.
2) Steve S. at The Yankee Analysts argues that A.J. Burnett should not be on the postseason roster for the Yankees.
Although Burnett pitched extremely well for the Yankees on Sunday, his season statistics still do not inspire much confidence. The issue, however, is simply that Burnett isn’t a must on the postseason roster – he would be the team’s fifth starter, when four starters are needed, and he would be an odd fit in the bullpen, where David Robertson, Rafael Soriano and Mariano Rivera have well defined roles. Given that the Yankees are likely to include Jorge Posada on the roster as well as Montero, there simply might not be enough room to include Burnett as well, even if the case could be made.
The back end of the Yankees' bullpen in Rivera, Soriano and Robertson might be the best out of all the playoff teams; when one also considers the successes of Luis Ayala and Cory Wade this season, the Yankees would seem to have the ability to support a starting pitching staff that, on paper, may not seem all that threatening in the postseason. The bullpen is not as important as the rotation or the starting lineup -- which has to be able to keep a team in the game for the bullpen's work to matter, but a struggling closer can easily cause a team more harm than good.
4) Joel Sherman writes that whoever starts game three for the Yankees won’t determine their fate.
There is a lot of truth to Sherman’s argument. If the Yankees are in a situation in which they go into game three with the possibility of being eliminated, the third starter is hardly responsible for the team’s losses in games one and two. That said, there’s certainly an obvious difference between starting Freddy Garcia in the third game or, as the Red Sox might have to do, deciding between Tim Wakefield and John Lackey.