With the division clinched and home field advantage locked up, the Yankees had very little to play for in tonight’s game against the Royals. The long rain delay certainly did not add to their motivation either. The clinching of home field advantage allowed manager Joe Girardi to rest most of the regulars, with only Robinson Canó, Melky Cabrera (playing leftfield), and Jorge Posada (DH’ing) representing the starters. The result was very much a B-lineup. Brett Gardner led off and played center, Eric Hinske was at 3rd base, Shelley Duncan started in right, Juan Miranda started at 1st, and Francisco Cervelli was behind the plate, catching Chad Gaudin. This B-lineup, full of hungry young players, was enough to defeat the mediocre Royals.
Chad Gaudin continued to make a case for a spot on the postseason roster, and possibly, the 4th starter spot, with a strong outing. In 6 2/3 innings, Gaudin allowed 2 runs on 4 hits and 2 walks, and struck out 5. He gave way to Damaso Marte with 2 outs in the 7th, who retired the lefty Alex Gordon. Alfredo Aceves finished the game with 2 perfect innings and 1 strikeout.
The reserve squad was able to create more than enough offense to back Gaudin. An RBI single by Hinske scored Canó (who hit his 48th double of the season), giving the Yanks a 1-0 lead in the 4th. After a Mark Teahen homer off Gaudin tied the game, the Yankees struck back in the 5th with Ramiro Pena’s first major league home run, a solo shot off Kansas City starter Luke Hochevar. After the Royals tied the game in the top of the 6th, Shelley Duncan put the Yankees ahead for good with an RBI single that scored Posada. Pena added an RBI single in the 7th to give the Yankees a 2-run lead.
Red-hot Robinson Canó broke the game open in the 7th with his 25th homer of the season, a grand slam to right-center. putting the game out of reach for the hapless Royals. Canó was the offensive start tonight, going 2 for 4 with a double, a homer, and 4 RBI. Jorge Posada was an on-base machine as usual, going 2 for 2 with 2 walks. Pena and Cervelli each had a pair of hits, and Juan Miranda was the only starter held hitless (going 0 for 4 with 2 strikeouts).
This was not a game with much meaning for the Yankees at all, and at this point the Royals are only playing for pride, but nonetheless it is great to see the bench players stepping up when called upon to start. Pena and Cervelli in particular are starting to look like major league players, and in my mind have earned spots on the major league roster next season.
Gaudin’s solid outing makes a strong case for him to be on the playoff roster, and possibly be in the rotation as a 4th starter, though it should be noted that this outing was against a mediocre Royals team with a .408 winning percentage. With 5 games left, Joba Chamberlain will likely get one more chance to impress the Yankee brass, and if he puts together a strong outing, will likely earn the spot (with Gaudin possibly making the roster as a long reliever). If, however, Joba struggles, then Girardi may consider going with Gaudin and possibly utilizing Joba in the pen (cue Francesca salivation). These next 5 games may determine the last few spots on the playoff roster, but other than that, there is not much to be excited about. I expect all of the regulars to get rested over the next 5 games, as the big concern will be making sure that nobody gets injured, and everybody is healthy for when the playoffs start.