These last three wins against the Orioles have been pretty stressful, but they were wins nonetheless. Much-needed wins, at that. In the process, however, the Yankees have had to use their main relievers, Mariano Rivera; David Robertson; Shawn Kelley (especially the first two), rather heavily, and has thus left the bullpen picture a little hazy heading into Boston for the weekend.
In the final three games against the O's, the Yankees had to use Rivera for the final three games (49 pitches), as well as four out of the last five days overall; Robertson in the final two games (43 pitches), and Kelley in games two and three of the series (27 pitches). Kelley may be fine for the Boston series, mainly Friday, but it may be a little shaky for Rivera and Robertson. I don't know the last time Rivera was used four days in a row, but I'd have to think it's been a while. Robertson, while going three days in a row wouldn't be anything new for him, was really bad last night. We also can't forget that he was coming off shoulder tendinitis that forced him to miss a few days just last week. At least for maybe the first game or two of the upcoming weekend series, the eighth and ninth innings aren't automatic.
Maybe Joe Girardi will stick to his guns, Mo and D-Rob, in the late innings of a close game, if needed. However, if he decides to take his foot off the gas pedal (and I'm not sure he can afford to, given the importance of these games), there will have to be some guys who step up. Great #analysis, I know. Preston Claiborne may have to be used in a big spot, though he hasn't been heard from really at all since getting smacked around by these same Red Sox a week ago. Cesar Cabral will surely face David Ortiz in a big spot this series. That feels inevitable. Not having Boone Logan could hurt. What's worse is we could see Joba Chamberlain in some high-leverage work. Seriously. In the top of the ninth inning in last night's game, Joba was warming alongside Rivera when it was still tied. Had the Yankees not scored in that inning, Joba would have certainly been used in a tie game in the bottom of the ninth. It's incredible how the team continues to have faith in him. One of the more stranger Yankee stories of the year, for sure.
It should help that Hiroki Kuroda is slated to start tonight, so perhaps he'll be able to give the team some length. Although he labored in his last start against the Red Sox, his stuff appeared to be crisper as the game went along, so hopefully he turned the corner from his little rough patch he had earlier. I don't know, maybe I'm just grasping at straws. Either way, the Yankees' offense will have to score runs and plenty of them. It doesn't help that they're facing John Lackey, Jon Lester, and Clay Buchholz, but if the bats can stay hot, while also avoiding more potential late-inning bullpen meltdowns like last weekend, the Yankees might find themselves a big step closer to making the postseason.