Three keys to Yankees getting a wild card

Yankees third baseman Alex Rodriguez prepares his bat

Yankees third baseman Alex Rodriguez prepares his bat for batting practice before a game against the Boston Red Sox. (Sept. 5, 2013) (Credit: Kathleen Malone-Van Dyke)

PITCHING IN

Andy Pettitte takes the mound Tuesday night in Toronto, trying to right the ship for a starting rotation that, after carrying the club much of the season, has fallen on hard times. With Ivan Nova's recent struggles after a brilliant August -- he was named AL pitcher of the month -- the 41-year-old lefthander has been the unit's most reliable starter, 3-0 with a 2.13 ERA in his last six starts. The bullpen, a strength much of the season, has been taxed of late and needs to get back on track.

A HEALTHY A-ROD

It didn't take long for many of the fans hostile to the return of Alex Rodriguez in early August to quickly change their tune as the embattled third baseman, hit with a 211-game suspension that he's appealing, helped jump-start a flailing offense. Though he hasn't had the impact of Alfonso Soriano, A-Rod has been far more productive than most expected, getting on base at a .385 clip and producing an .865 OPS. But his 38-year-old body is betraying him. A-Rod tweaked his left hamstring last Tuesday in Baltimore, then strained his right calf Sunday night. Rodriguez's ability to stay on the field the rest of the way is critical.

HELP WANTED

The best news of the weekend was the Yankees were done this regular season with the Red Sox, against whom they went 6-13. The remainder of the schedule is rife with opportunity. There are games against bottom-feeders Toronto, San Francisco and Houston, and the team the Yankees have been pursuing in the wild-card race the last month, the sinking Rays. Texas, improbably, is also collapsing, giving the Yankees another contender that can be chased down and passed.

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