Enemy Territory: Yankees Vulnerable Without Pettitte and Sabathia

The New York Yankees have been on a tear as of late, posting the second best record in all of baseball.  They’ve been so good that they’ve catapulted to the top of the AL East and appeared quite comfortable in first place.

But now they are forced to deal with what many other division teams have endured; starting pitching injuries.

First CC Sabathia landed on the 15-day DL with a Grade 1 strain of the adductor muscle near his groin.  Then the resurgent Andy Pettitte was forced to leave Wednesday’s game after taking a line drive off his ankle in what is being determined a left ankle fracture.  He will miss a minimum of 6 weeks according to Daniel Barbarisi, a Yankees beat writer for the Wall Street Journal (via Twitter).  Pettitie won’t require surgery but will have a boot and crutches as he begins his recovery time.

Both Sabathia and Pettitte have been a major factor in the Yankees climb to the top and their absence will be felt.  Sabathia is 9-3 on the year with a 3.45 ERA while Pettitte is 3-3 with a 3.29 through 8 starts after his successful comeback from retirement.

Sabathia is only set to miss two starts but that will include a start he would have been scheduled to make when the Bronx Bombers come to Fenway for a four game set in just over a week.

Pettitte is the painful loss for New York as he will be out until likely August, meaning another hearty comeback will have to be made by the fiery lefty, right around the stretch run.

So here we are with the all-star game looming and the arch rival Yankees just lost their two big horses atop the rotation. Suddenly the Yankees may be vulnerable sitting in first in the division and could be ripe for the picking in the next ten days.

The offense has been stellar of late for New York with Robinson Cano leading the way at the plate.  But the pitching has also been spot on during an 18-5 stretch in June and the two injured starters have been an integral part of that success.

When they arrive at Fenway the Red Sox will see four of the following Yankees starters: the young, impressive Ivan Nova and Hiroki Kuroda who is proving he was worth the one-year $10MM deal he signed in the offseason.  After that the Yankees have Phil Hughes, who is about as consistent as Daisuke Matsuzaka, Freddy Garcia (who the Red Sox love), and likely spot starter David Phelps.

We have seen the Yankees light up Boston’s pitching earlier this year at Fenway, but given how hot the Red Sox bats are of late, it’s safe to say the Evil Empire’s pitching could be in for a long series as well.

Currently the Red Sox sit 6.5 games back and providing they can have a successful west coast road trip, the Yanks lead could be well within reach come July 6.

With the Orioles having cooled off and the Rays struggling, the surging Red Sox could find themselves well within striking distance of first place when the all-star break arrives.  With a rash of injuries to key players, Ellsbury and Crawford and others starting to get healthy, the second half of the season could be an exciting one; one that could include a push for the division.  And who would be too upset to see the Yankees struggle? Suddenly trading for another starter could be atop the Yankees to do list.

Tags: AL East Andy Pettitte Boston Red Sox C.C. Sabathia New York Yankees

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