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June 14, 2005

Thirteen Games
by Sean McNally

The Yankees open up a thirteen game home stand tonight and more and more Yankee Stadium feels like The Alamo.

Starting with three games against the Pirates (30-31), the Yanks play the Cubs (33-29) three times, Tampa (22-42) four times and cross-town "rival" Mets (32-31) before packing up and heading out of town.

Most people, myself included, are loathe to call any game in June a must win, but this home stand is full of them. The teams before them sport a combined .468 winning percentage - owing mostly to Tampa's wretchedness, so having a good stand isn't out of the realm of possibility, but the pressure will certainly be on the team and particularly management to try and make some hay over the next two weeks.

Moose opens up the series versus Kip Wells, who looks like he might be putting it together a little bit – though he’s still a little homer happy and he walks too many guys (10 HR and 41 BB in 82.1 IP), but he sports a 6.89 K/9 rate and an ERA of 3.39. After a fairly dominant May (4-1, with a 3.08 ERA and a 28/7 K/BB ratio), Bad Moose has been loose in June (1-1, 9/3 K/BB and a horrific 6.75 ERA).

With Ankle-Zilla’s streak in question, the Yankee outfield defense could be even more cover your eyes atrocious: picture Womack, Bernie and Sheffield picking balls up off the base of the wall with regularity if Matsui can’t go for the Yanks.

The Yankees need to win tonight to call off the dogs in the media and the owner's box and get the series off to a good start. If they do not get off to a good start, and indeed, if they don't have a good stand, it maybe time to use the "R" word with this team for the first time in a decade.

What's a good stand? Well, in my mind, the Yankees need to need to go 10-3 at least over this stretch - which is taking two of three from the Bucs, the Cubs and the Mets and sweeping the Devil Rays - a lofty goal to be sure, but one that is at least conceivable.

It’s also conceivable that the Yanks could put together that kind of home stand and not gain any ground. Baltimore gets Houston, Colorado, Toronto and Atlanta – which even after their stretch of uneven play should prove pretty easy for a team that even the most cynical among us must now consider "for real." Boston gets the Reds, Pirates, Indians and Phillies, which pretty easily the toughest row to hoe among the three "contenders" in the AL East.

So what happens if the Yanks either put together a lousy home stand or put together a decent one that's not good enough?

Well, then its time to look hard at the future of this team. There's little in the way tradable commodities, but the team's going to have to look long and hard and be creative in getting younger, faster if the next two weeks don’t go well.