I hate to sound like an alarmist, but the playoffs start today.
If the Yankees lose tonight, they will be 1 game ahead of the Tigers, 2.5 behind the Mariners for the Wild Card (4 in the loss column). It will officially be a three-team race, and the Yankees will be playing the worst ball of the three teams, with a tough, tough three-game set starting tomorrow in the Bronx.
Joe has to manage accordingly. I know the focus has been on the upcoming Boston series for weeks, if not months, but let's face facts. Without something like a 10-game winning streak, 7.5 games is too much ground to cover with only 32 games to go. Tonight is not a throwaway game, tonight is a crucial game. A loss breaths life back into the team that knocked the Yanks out of the playoffs last year. A win puts them 3 games behind the Yanks, and 5.5 out of the Wild Card lead.
So when Mike Mussina takes the hill tonight with his "Who do they have that's better than me?" attitude, two things need to happen. The team needs to score runs early, and Joe needs to have one hand on the bullpen phone immediately. If he doesn't have it, you can't let the hole grow so deep that there's no way you can dig yourself out of it. If you need to get 8 innings out of the pen, do it (Edwar for 2, Bruney for 1, Farnsworth for 1, Joba for 2, Viz for 1, Mo for 1). Pettitte is going tomorrow, and he'll give you length.
You cannot manage for tomorrow, you have to manage for a win today, and that's going to have to be the philosophy for the next 32 games.
You've rallied the troops before ('96 World Series, 5-game sweep in Boston last year, post-all star break this year, 9-game winning streak before the All Star Break this year), you need to do it one more time, Joe.
Let's go Yanks.