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Yankees Clubhouse Notebook: The dirty half-dozen

With six games left, the Yankees are not out of the playoff chase...yet
09/24/2013 6:21 PM ET
By The Associated Press

With just six games left in the regular season, Joe Girardi and the Yankees are still mathematically alive for a playoff spot.(AP)
It's not quite do-or-die for the Yankees as they open a three-game set with the Rays at the Stadium tonight, but everyone from manager Joe Girardi on down to the clubhouse attendants knows that it's pretty much win out or else.

"The feeling is that you have to go out and win, and hope that you get some help from some other teams," Girardi said, "and the thought hasn't changed on what we have to do. If we don't win, we have no shot."

As it stands, the Yankees are four games out of a Wild Card spot with six to go, and the worst-case scenario - a loss tonight to Tampa Bay combined with a Cleveland win in Minnesota - puts them officially in what golfers know as a "dormie" state, needing a perfect record the rest of the way and a lot a help to play in October.

Despite that huge uphill climb, though, Girardi isn't worried about his team's mental state.

"I'm not worried, I think our guys know they have to win out and understand that as long as you're still alive, you still have hope," Girardi said, "and I think they'll be prepared to play."

Hiroki Kuroda will be on the mound tonight, and he now knows that he'll be followed by Phil Hughes and Ivan Nova in this series as Girardi re-shuffles his rotation slightly due to CC Sabathia's injury.

"We'll go Hughes tomorrow, Nova Thursday, Andy on Friday…and then we'll go from there," Girardi said, officially announcing that Hughes, who had been set to be skipped this turn through the rotation at least, will indeed get what should be his final regular-season start at the Stadium.

Saturday's game remains a TBA, but as Girardi reinforced, he'll use anybody and everybody if he has to in order to stay alive over the next three days - saying "I think you have to" when asked if he's managing the bullpen as if it's a must win every day - and he'll worry about Saturday when it comes.

As for tonight's hurler, Kuroda has a countryman leading the way behind him, as Ichiro will lead off and get the start in center field with Curtis Granderson sitting against a lefty. Ichiro has played the second-most games of any Yankee this year, and even though 147 (counting tonight) is a "down" year appearance-wise for the future Hall of Famer, Girardi has been more than thankful for what he's gotten out of a man who turns 40 in four weeks.

"He's played well at some times for us…he's another player that has some age, but he was able to answer the bell every day and go out and stay healthy for us, which I thought was really important," Girardi said. "There was some consistency there with him, which I thought was also important, so I think he's done a decent job."

Robinson Cano is also in the lineup, as Girardi said "I haven't heard anything and the trainer hasn't come sprinting in" when asked if the ankle Cano twisted late in Sunday's loss was an issue.

Cano is assured of playing the most games of any Yankees player this year, and for a long time, the injury situation meant that the lineup had to be built around him more often than not - a fact Girardi said he thinks has helped the pending free agent blossom even further, knowing he can be "the man" in any given lineup.

"I think that's important, and I think that he probably thought that way last year too," Girardi said, "but you look at his numbers, they've been pretty darn good."

One key thing Girardi has noticed: Cano's plate discipline, which has allowed him to draw a career-high 64 walks (and counting) and come into the final week with an OBP on .384, which would also be a career high.

"He's walked more this year than he ever has, and there's two schools of thought there," Girardi said. "One being that he should walk more because they're pitching around him, but the other thing is that knowing what we've needed him to do, he might've become more aggressive and gone out of the zone more, and I didn't really see that from him. I also didn't really see him get frustrated at all, so I think he had a pretty good year."

The Yankees will need that and more to continue tonight, as they begin a climb that may be steep, but is not yet insurmountable - a thought Girardi punctuated by uttering the following quote in the midst of a media question:

"Darn right we are (still alive)."

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