By Brad Carroll
The New York Yankees may have been roughed up Sunday in a big loss to the Detroit Tigers, which included three home runs by J.D. Martinez, but winning two of three games against one of baseball's better teams is a recipe for making the postseason at year's end. So, fear not, Yankees fans, the Bombers did exactly what they needed to do this weekend.
Winning two of three games in their next series, against the downright terrible Philadelphia Phillies, won't be good enough, however. The Yankees have to find a way to sweep the three game set in the Bronx starting Monday night. It won't be easy, as sweeping teams in baseball never is, especially with the Phillies throwing Cole Hamels in the series finale Wednesday, but the Yankees have to take advantage of matchups like this, especially with how tightly-contested the ever-improving AL East has become.
Here is a inside look at the series with the worst team in baseball.
Philadelphia Phillies (24-47, 13.5 GB in NL East)
at New York Yankees (38-31, 1 GB in AL East)
Monday, 7:05 p.m.
Kevin Correia (0-1, 1.69) vs. Michael Pineda (8-3, 3.54)
Tuesday, 7:05 p.m.
Sean O'Sullivan (1-5, 4.79) vs. CC Sabathia (3-7, 5.31)
Wednesday, 1:05 p.m.
Cole Hamels (5-5, 2.96) vs. Adam Warren (5-4, 3.62)
The Yankees have won four of five games at home, reestablishing momentum they had completely lost on the road, where they lost four of five. The Yankees have gone 5-5 over their last 10, losing their lead in the AL East to the Rays, who've won eight of their last 10. The Phillies have lost 11 of their last 13 games and have lost five straight series. On a positive, Philadelphia has gone 2-2 over their last four, winning Sunday against the Cardinals to salvage one game of a three-game set.
Three Phillies To Watch
1. Hamels says he will pitch Wednesday's series finale after getting scratched from a start Sunday with a hamstring injury. He threw a successful bullpen session, giving him enough confidence to avoid a stint on the disabled list. Hamels is typically in the news for anything but on the field success or failures, as every team with a need for a starting pitcher is linked to him in trade talks. Since the Phillies are terrible, it only heightens the many possibilities and rumors of where Hamels might possibly wind up, if anywhere. This year, Hamels is 5-5 with a 2.96 ERA, obviously suffering from playing for the worst team in baseball. In his last start, a week ago Sunday, Hamels pitched seven shutout innings, allowing four hits and striking out 12. He's in the midst of a seven-year, $154 million deal that could make him a free agent in 2019. The Phillies have a team option for that season.
2. Maikel Franco is one of the few bright spots on the Phillies this season, batting .294 with eight doubles, seven home runs and 19 RBI in 35 games. The 22-year-old had his way with Cardinals pitching this weekend, going 7-for-13 (.538) with a double and RBI in three games. If he keeps putting up solid numbers Franco will be in contention for rookie of the year honors.
3. Yankees fans will get another chance to boo an old enemy, as Jonathan Papelbon is the Phillies closer. Papelbon is having a solid season, posting a 1.30 ERA and 0.98 WHIP with 13 saves in 27 games. He hasn't blown a save opportunity yet, but does have a loss on his ledger. Sunday against St. Louis he was tagged with a home run during a 9-2 victory. He's signed through this season, on a four-year, $50 million deal, but does have a vesting option for next season if he can combine to finish 100 games between last year and this. He finished 52 games last year (falling three short of automatically vesting that option) and has finished 25 this season, leaving him 33 away from another $13 million. With the way Papelbon talks about Philadelphia and the team, I don't believe he or the Phillies would want to go through another season together. But they might have to.
The Yankees head back on the road starting with a four-game series in Houston Thursday night.