The calendar now reads August and the Yankees are very much in a pennant race. The Yankees have a decent-sized lead at the moment, but this is baseball and anything can happen. If the Yankees are gonna keep this up in this division, they're gonna need some players to step up or keep playing at the solid level they've been at. I thought I'd ask the PSA staff who they think will be important in the final months of the regular season.
Q: In your opinion, what Yankee will be key down the stretch in the race for the division?
I'm looking for Chase Headley to step up down the stretch. I'm not asking for near MVP Headley, but better than now Headley would be awesome.
Mark Teixeira. One of the two best hitters on the team - and top 10 hitters in the league this season - alongside Alex Rodriguez, but also a great defender at first base, which is now of shallow depth behind him with Garrett Jones off the roster. The single player the Yankees can least afford to lose if they are to keep their spot atop the AL East.
I think it's a tie between Chase Headley and Carlos Beltran. If they can hit like they're capable of hitting, the Yankees would have the deepest lineup in the big leagues without a question. Didi has turned a corner and the top of the lineup has been solid all year. If Chase and Beltran can put something together it could be an interesting October.
The romantic in me would love to say that Luis Severino will play a key role down the stretch for the Yankees. With the rotation ailing, and a bit inconsistent, the Disney movie enthusiast in me pictures him coming in, going 8-1 down the stretch and leading the team into the playoffs. Realistically, however, I think the keys to the rest of the season are the same keys that have gotten the Yankees where they are so far in 2015. They need Alex Rodriguez and Mark Teixeira to continue producing runs, and driving in the guys at the top of the order. One thing that needs to change down the stretch is that Jacoby Ellsbury has to get back on track to where he was before the injury. Other than that, the key for the team the rest of the way is to just keep doing what they've been doing.
This is cheating, but I'll give the dual answer of Teixeira and A-Rod. If either of them goes down or stops hitting - and we've seen it already with how the Yankees have done when one or the other is sitting - they'll stop scoring. And if they stop scoring runs at a top-of-the-league rate, what they've built so far will crumble pretty fast. It's a little scary relying on a 35-year-old and a 40-year-old to carry the load, but we've been doing just that all year and so far, so good.
Down the stretch, the Yankees rotation is going to have to hold together one way or another. If Michael Pineda can come back quickly and be effective after his DL stint, and if Severino lives up to his potentially, they should be in good shape. However, if Pineda misses more time, that's going to put a lot of pressure on Masahiro Tanaka and the rest of the rotation. The offense and bullpen should continue to be strengths, so Pineda's health and Severino's potential look to be the keys to the rotation holding together well enough to keep the Yankees at the top of the division.
Masahiro Tanaka. The Yankees need him to pitch like an ace down the stretch given the swath of questions surrounding the rotation.
Mark Teixeira keeping up his Renaissance season. To this point he's exceeded any reasonable expectations and along with A-Rod's resurgence it's been the biggest reason for the Yankees success. In order to finish the job they'll need more of that from Marky Mark.
The easy answer is either Mark Teixeira or Alex Rodriguez. Their health and resurgent hitting is why we're in the position we are today. Pitching is a concern right now, but as long as the offense can be as dominant as it has been, we should be able to overcome a bad start here or there.
Gotta go with Brendan Ryan's mustache. If he lets that thing go a little longer, it has the potential to become sentient and starting attacking opposing team's players. To be serious, I'll say A-Rod. I was not expecting him to stay this healthy for this long (*knocks on wood*), and if he continues at anything close to the level he's been going at, then I think the Yankees offense can continue to be pretty decent.
Those are our answers and now we want to hear from you. Who do you think is key down the stretch for the Yankees?