The win salvages a split with the last place Orioles after the Bombers dropped the first two games of the series, and the return of Garcia allowed the Yankees to push C.C. Sabathia back a day, lining him up to start the series opener in Boston tonight. More importantly at this point in the season, it also crystallized a fact that seems to be strangely debated by Yankees fans right now: Freddy Garcia is a playoff starter.
Honestly I can’t believe there’s even talk that Garcia wouldn’t have a spot in the October rotation at this point. Without question, Garcia has been one of the Yankees three best starters over the course of the full season. Over 128.1 innings he’s pitched to a 3.09 ERA, and a 3.66 FIP despite a K/9 below 6.0. That’s mostly because he’s been very good at limiting walks and home runs (even if his xFIP indicates he might be getting lucky on the latter count). It might be hard to believe Freddy has really been as good as he has been, but it’s very nearly September, so it’s time to start believing. I can appreciate concerns that Garcia’s arsenal of junk balls might not play as well against a good hitting team like Boston or Texas, and that he doesn’t look like the kind of pitcher you want taking the hill in game two of a playoff series, but at some point you just have to go with the guy who has gotten the results and hope for the best.
Really, the past two days have done a lot to bring the playoff rotation more into focus. Garcia has to be considered a near lock for a spot now, and would need to totally fall apart over the next month to be left out. Ivan Nova turned in another quality outing Sunday night, and also has to be considered a favorite for one of the four spots, again assuming the wheels don’t fall off for him in September. That leaves one spot for either Bartolo Colon or Phil Hughes, and after Bid Bad Bartolo showed that he’s got something left in the tank after all Sunday afternoon, I’d have to think he’s all but guaranteed himself a postseason start, assuming he doesn’t run out of gas before that.
That leaves Phil Hughes the odd man out, of course, and I’m okay with that. Sabathia, Colon, and Garcia have been the rocks of this very good rotation all year long, and Nova has come on strong in the last month to be a real weapon as well. And I wouldn’t discount Hughes entirely either. He can still pitch his way into the mix in the next month or so, or may be forced into one out of necessity. But with roughly a month to go in the season, and after the last three games, I think we now have a very good idea of which pitchers have spots to lose for the playoffs.
Now, if I could only find a way to go back to February and tell myself that the postseason rotation would be Sabathia, Freddy Garcia, Ivan Nova, and Bartolo Colon, if only to see the look on my face.