At minimum, the Yankees will finish this weekend with a 4-1/2 game lead on the Red Sox. In the process of building that lead this weekend, they have answered the biggest question hanging over them since the last time they played Boston: can the beat a good team?
Since they started the year 0-8 against the Red Sox, that was an entirely fair inquiry. But, after going to Tampa and winning two-of-three and taking the first three from the Red Sox, that question is an overwhelming yes. Despite the good feelings around the team, a bigger question remains: does this squad have what it takes to win it all?
They certainly have a number of formidable weapons. C.C. Sabathia and A.J. Burnett are a fantastic 1-2 punch at the top of the rotation. Mariano Rivera remains as great as ever. Phil Hughes has turned into a dominant setup man and the lineup is dangerous from the first spot to the last one.
Yet, Joba Chamberlain is approaching an innings limit and Andy Pettitte can no longer be counted on every time out. Sergio Mitre has been a disaster as the fifth starter, though today the Yankees will add Chad Gaudin from the Padres. The back of the rotation is clearly the weakness of the team and it could be its undoing in a playoff series. With the current playoff format, teams need four different starters to compete. The question is, will the Yankees have that come October?