By Brad Carroll
With all of the big name stars and players with multi-million dollar contracts, it's amazing the one who saved the New York Yankees season was a journeyman pitcher who wasn't even on the team two months ago. Brandon McCarthy, acquired without much fanfare in a trade with the Diamondbacks in early July, came through with the biggest performance of the season Thursday against the Astros, pitching a complete-game, four-hit shutout to keep the Yankees in the postseason race.
The performance not only got the Yankees a much-needed victory, it also saved what would have been an embarrassing sweep at the hands of the lowly Astros. McCarthy has been absolutely stellar for the Yankees since coming over, and could be single-handily keeping the Yankees within striking distance of the wild card. Now, he needs some help.
The Yankees have a chance to build off the momentum gained by McCarthy with three games against the Chicago White Sox, a sub-.500 team. The Yankees can't let these opportunities, playing bad teams, get away. Here's a closer look at the series.
Chicago White Sox (59-68, 9.5 games back of WC)
at New York Yankees (64-61, 3.5 games back of WC)
Friday, 7:05 p.m.
John Danks (9-8, 4.94) vs. Shane Greene (3-1, 2.91)
Saturday, 1:05 p.m.
Scott Carroll (5-7, 4.99) vs. Hiroki Kuroda (8-8, 3.97)
Sunday, 1:05 p.m.
Chris Sale (10-3, 2.12) vs. Chris Capuano (1-3, 4.35)
Playoff Picture: The Yankees are nine games back of the AL East-leading Orioles with 37 to play, which leaves little time to make a run at the division crown. That leaves the wild card as the most realistic avenue to make the playoffs for the Yankees. In that race, the Yankees are 3.5 games back and trail both the Mariners and Tigers for the final spot in the postseason. The Athletics have a stranglehold on the No. 1 wild card spot. It might be a little too early to scoreboard watch, and the Yankees have to take care of their own business first to have any chance at making a postseason run, but it doesn't mean we shouldn't keep an eye out for what's in store for Seattle and Detroit. So, this weekend, the Mariners are in Boston for three games and the Tigers are playing four games in Minnesota. Yes, the Red Sox can help the Yankees.
Momentum: Brandon McCarthy's gem may have saved the season, but it still only meant the Yankees improved to a terrible 3-7 over their last 10 games. They won't make the playoffs putting together those type of runs. In August, the Yankees are 9-9. The White Sox were swept by the Orioles coming into this series and are 5-12 overall this month.
Who's Hot: For the Yankees, Jacoby Ellsbury has seven hits in his last four games with a pair of RBI. Martin Prado had seven hits with a home run and four RBI over the last two series against Houston and Tampa. Kuroda, who starts Saturday, allowed two runs on four hits in 6.2 innings in beating the Rays his last time out. McCarthy has been great for the Yankees, with a 5-2 record and a 1.90 ERA in eight starts. Masahiro Tanaka is getting closer and closer to returning to the team this year, as his rehab is going extremely well. His return could push the Yankees right into the playoffs. For the White Sox, Zach Putnam has allowed just one earned run in his last 10 relief appearances. Alejandro De Aza is batting .316 with four runs scored, two doubles and an RBI over his last two series. Avisail Garcia went 2-for-9 in the series against Baltimore, but had a home run and five RBI.
Who't Not: For the Yankees, Carlos Beltran has gone 0-for-14 over his last four games and has missed the last two games with an elbow injury. Brett Gardner went 1-for-12 against Houston. David Robertson allowed a three-run home run in the ninth inning and took the loss against Houston last series. For the Tigers, Scott Carroll, who the Yankees face Saturday, has allowed 12 runs in his last two starts and 16 in his last three. Matt Lindstrom has allowed three runs in each of his last two relief appearances, totaling just one inning, taking the loss in one game. Adam Dunn and Tyler Flowers both went 0-for-7 against the Orioles.
Looking Ahead: The Yankees travel to Kansas City for one game with the Royals Monday before flying to Detroit for a huge, three-game series with the Tigers.