Commentary

It's that time of year again, Yankees fans

As summer turns to autumn, your up-and-down Bronx Bombers can be great once more

Updated: October 3, 2010, 6:20 PM ET
By Rob Parker | ESPNNewYork.com

YankeesAnthony Gruppuso/US PresswireExpect Robinson Cano (left) and the Yankees to do some more celebrating this October.

NEW YORK -- If this New York Yankees season -- with just a week to go before the Yankees' 15th trip to the playoffs in the past 16 years -- doesn't feel good to you, you're not alone.

Most baseball fans would be thrilled. After all, the Yankees are just a half-game out of the top spot in the American League East. They not only have a shot at winning the division and securing home-field advantage in the postseason, but they also still have a chance to finish with the best record in baseball.

But for most Yankees fans -- the most spoiled in professional sports history -- it just doesn't feel as fun as 2009 was, the pie-in-the-face, laugh riot so many enjoyed throughout the regular season. It continued with a thrilling, heart-stopping postseason that ended with another World Series title.

For sure, 2010 has had so many ups and downs, so many hits and misses. Just when you thought the team was about to take off, it stumbled and looked as if it belonged in last place instead of the playoffs, with a chance to be the last team standing when the dust clears.

Worry not.

The Yankees are a good team. Better yet, they can be a great team over the next six weeks.

That's right. This team is capable of fitting all the pieces back together and mounting the charge most have been waiting for all season long.

That's scary when you think about it. The team with potentially the best record in the game can play better, do more.

Indeed. Mark it down.

Yeah, we know the pitching feels yucky now. CC Sabathia had his worst outing in years Thursday night. Andy Pettitte looked horrible against the Boston Red Sox on Friday. A.J. Burnett hasn't exactly had a lot of suitable-for-framing performances. And Phil Hughes hasn't really been lights-out in some time.

Still, these starters, plus a heck of a bullpen, can make it happen. All the pieces are in place.

There are two keys offensively. It starts with Alex Rodriguez. He has heated up just in the nick of time. At midseason many believed he had no shot at reaching 30 homers for a 13th straight year; that he had somehow lost his home run stroke.

With four homers in his past three games -- including a dramatic two-run, seventh-inning blast Sunday night -- A-Rod has 29 with six games to go. Most would consider 2010 a down year for A-Rod, as he's batting .274 instead of his usual .300. Somehow, though, he has 119 RBIs in a bad year, more than enough for most anyone else's career year.

We saw the damage Rodriguez can do, how clutch he can be. He, more than just about anybody, was the driving force behind the Yankees' 27th championship last season.

Expect another big autumn from A-Rod.

Expect one, too, from a guy who was missing in action a year ago when the leaves turned brown.

Robinson Cano, who has played well since day one this season, is a reason the Yankees are knocking at the door of another historic season. Put in that all-important No. 5 spot, Cano's done everything the team has needed him to do. He's hit for average (.318), power (28 home runs) and more important, he's hit with runners in scoring position. He had 105 RBIs entering Monday night's matchup with the Toronto Blue Jays.

Think back to last postseason when Cano gave up at-bats with impatient swings at pitches out of the strike zone. Sunday night, in a huge spot with the bases loaded and one out and the Yankees down a run to Jonathan Papelbon and the Red Sox, Cano smartly laid off two outside pitches. Then he tied the game, hitting a 2-0 fastball into right field to even the game at 3.

Expect more of the same in October.

Most of the other Yankees who have been up and down will be ready when the bell rings, too. Derek Jeter, batting just .266, will play better. Jorge Posada, batting .254, will ratchet it up. Mariano Rivera will come through.

These guys are older, yes. But they are battle tested.

So is this team. They are battlers. Many times when things were going rotten, they could have pulled back on their own expectations. For sure, they could have taken the easy way out.

No way. No how.

That's why you have to believe this team still has a great chance to put it together and play the way they've been expected to all season long. The timing is perfect.

Rob Parker is a columnist for ESPNNewYork.com.

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