Yanks turn to Phelps for a pressure-packed startThe 25-year-old rookie is tasked with keeping the Bombers in first place tonight
The Bombers have been atop the AL East standings, alone or in tandem with either Baltimore or Tampa Bay, since the minute they completed a 3-0 win over Atlanta back on June 11. But after Tuesday night’s loss to the Red Sox, the Yankees find themselves tied with the Orioles for the fourth time in 10 days, and they leave their fate in the hands of a rookie making just his ninth career start.
Pressure? Absolutely, especially when you consider that by the weekend, the AL East race could conceivably be a three-way tie, with one of the teams on the verge of completely falling out of the playoff picture altogether.
Phelps has seen the Red Sox three times this season, and in his one start and two relief appearances against Boston this year, he has gone 0-1 with a 4.26 ERA. Sure, those Sox lineups contained the likes of Adrian Gonzalez, David Ortiz, Kevin Youkilis and even Carl Crawford, and two of those appearances saw ace Jon Lester on the bump against him – but Phelps knows that whether he’s facing Murderer’s Row or a rec softball team, the goal remains the same: throw strikes, make your pitches, and give your team a chance to win.
In his last two starts (both against Baltimore), Phelps hasn’t quite done that; he failed to complete the fifth inning in both outings, allowed eight earned runs in 8.2 IP, walked eight against just six strikeouts, and seemed to be overwhelmed by the pressure during what ended up as a four-run first inning for the Orioles last Thursday.
But every day is a new day, and if Phelps can’t stem his September swoon, he knows that he could be the one who was on the mound the Yankees fell out of first place. After last week, the 25-year-old righty knows all about that kind of pressure, and come tonight, it’s at least partially up to him to make sure that he can still say he pitches for the first-place New York Yankees, and let his team wake up looking down on the rest of the division the same way they have for each of the last 93 mornings.
Outside of a Sox lineup that looks radically different than the ones he’s seen, Phelps’ other big obstacle will be his opposing starter, 33-year-old righty Aaron Cook (3-9, 5.17) – who, despite being in his first year in Beantown, likely knows just how important it would be, especially in the midst of this trying season, for him and the Sox to be the ones to knock the rival Yankees off their perch.
Here are the lineups for tonight's game:
SS Derek Jeter
CF Curtis Granderson
DH Alex Rodriguez
2B Robinson Cano
1B Nick Swisher
LF Raul Ibanez
3B Eric Chavez
RF Ichiro Suzuki
C Chris Stewart
CF Jacoby Ellsbury
3B Pedro Ciriaco
2B Dustin Pedroia
1B James Loney
RF Cody Ross
C Jarrod Saltalamacchia
LF Daniel Nava
DH Scott Podsednik
SS Jose Iglesias
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