Yankees Quest for Title 28

(The Verge)- There is nothing like October. The air is getting cooler, the leaves are starting to fall and the feel of Halloween is right around the corner. October is also great if you are a baseball fan, and are ready for some playoff baseball after the long summer months. The 2012 season has come to a close, and the New York Yankees are right back in the hunt for their 28th world championship. The Yankees won 95 games, but as Yankees play by play announcer John Sterling said on the radioduring the Yankees final win of the regular season against the Red Sox, “It was the toughest 95 win season he has ever seen for the Yankees”. The Yankees blew a ten game division lead, fighting with the surprising Baltimore Orioles for first place all season. The Yankees bent, but never broke, and didn’t allow Baltimore to pass them as the season wore down. The Yankees dealt with the injury bug quite a lot this whole season, losing prized acquisition pitcher Michael Pineda before the season even started. Mark Teixeira, Alex Rodriguez, CC Sabathia, Brett Gardner and Andy Pettitte all had stints on the disabled list, as well as losing legendary closer Mariano Rivera for the entire year in May. Still, whenever a player went down, there was a another player ready to step up and fill the role. Here are somethings to watch for as the Yankees try to make an October run at title 28.
Hitting in the clutch
The Yankees set a new franchise home run record in 2012, with 245 balls being knocked out of the park. That was one better than  their previous record of 244, set in 2009, the last year they won the World Series. Still, a criticism all year for the Yankees was not hitting with runners on base. The Yankees constantly hitting for the home run has left many men stranded on base, and sometimes it seems like the Yankees don’t know how to play small ball. Too many times this year the Yankees were 2 for 20 or 3 for 14 with runners in scoring position. With the pitchers only getting better in October, it will be essential for the Yankees to bunt men over, hit for singles and doubles when men are in scoring position and just make good contact with the ball. The home run is great and exciting, but the Yankees can’t rely on swinging for the fences every pitch, especially with the pitching they will be facing in the playoffs.
Battle Tested
The New York Yankees have experience. Derek Jeter is leading the way, and let’s face it, what hasn’t he done in October? Jeter batted .316 and led baseball in hits with 216. Not bad for a 38 year old who many said his career was on the decline last year. The Yankees have a deep bench with Raul Ilbanez, who won a World Series with the Philadelphia Phillies back in 2008, and played in another in 2009, as well as Eric Chavez and Brett Gardner (who just started playing again after missing most of the year due to injury). Ichiro Suzuki’s career was revived once being traded to the Yankees in July, as he hit .325 with 5 home runs and 13 stolen bases. He is one of the best pure hitters of all time, and is happy to finally be back playing October baseball.
The Yankees pitching has been up and down this season, but they look like they are getting it together at just the right time. 2009 World Series champion CC Sabathia looks to set the tone for the rotation, as he is the Game 1 starter. He will be followed by savvy veteran Hiroki Kuroda, who many argue was the Yankees best pitcher all year. Andy Pettitte, the 40 year old October legend to Yankees fans will pitch third. Pettitte is great in the clubhouse, and has pitched many huge games in October, including the Game 6 clinching game against the Phillies in 2009. Phil Hughes will most likely round out the rotation, with Freddy Garcia, Ivan Nova and David Phelps in the bullpen for long relief. The Yankees bullpen is one of the tops in baseball, and while not having Mariano Rivera closing out games in October will be a weird sight for Yankees fans, Rafael Soriano has proved he is more than capable of shutting down teams in the 9th inning. David Robertson, Boone Logan, Clay Rapada, Derek Lowe and Joba Chamberlain will look to round out the bullpen. The Yankees pitching should do the job, but the Yankees offense has to back them up and score runs, which was a big problem last year in Ocober. But look on the bright side, anything is better than having A.J. Burnett pitching!
Players need to show up
Many will be focused on certain players this October. Alex Rodriguez will be under heavy scrutiny as always. As one of the highest paid players in baseball, he is expected to produce, and his past October short comings have drawn the ire of Yankees fans (2009 aside). He had a decent season, one plagued by injuries. Rodriguez is important to this lineup, and offers protection to Teixeira and Cano. If he can get hot for October, the Yankees will greatly benefit. Nick Swisher is another one heavily looked at. Swisher is a free agent after this year, and his October performance can make or break him being a Yankees in 2013 and beyond. Swisher hasn’t performed well in past Octobers, frustrating many Yankees fans, and he will be looked to to step it up. Mark Teixeira is another player who hasn’t done much in October. He gets paid a lot of money and is definitely needed for the Yankees offense to get rolling. Teixeira provides phenomenal defense over at first base, but he will need to hit a lot more, especially with runners in scoring position . Curtis Granderson had a monster year with 43 home runs, but his .232 average and over 190 strikeouts left many men on base, something the Yankees can’t do this October. The same can be said for catcher Russell Martin. He had a brutal year average wise, ending the season with a .211 average. However, in August and September he had a lot of big, clutch hits, and he seems to be figuring things out just in time for the playoffs, a welcome sign.
Robinson Cano- Cano had a great season in 2012, and is regarded as the Yankees best overall player. He is in the prime of his career, and will be looked at to carry the Yankees offense. Cano needs to have a big October, especially if guys like Rodriguez, Swisher or Granderson don’t perform.Cano has all the skill in the world, and look for him and Jeter to carry the Yankees if the lineup falters.

Do the Yankees have what it takes to achieve October glory? (Taken From: NY Times)