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The 2023 Yankees strongly rotated their lineup

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We know the Yankees can always hit, and they will always hit in big numbers. They hit more home runs than any other team in history, they just saw Aaron Judge break the Yankees and American League home runs record with 62 and led the world in home runs again last season with 254. Yankees, with the best home run numbers. But what if they had the best starting player in the league this season?

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Of course, they reportedly just lost Frankie Montas, who was supposed to be the No. 5 starter, for the first month of the season due to Frequent shoulder problems. But the four pitchers ahead of him in the rotation — Gerrit Cole, Carlos Rodon, Nestor Cortes, and Luis Severino — have the chance to be the Yankees’ strongest front four in exactly 20 years.

Here was the Yankees rotation that year, with Andy Pettitt as the ace:

Andy Pettitt: 21-8
Mike Mussina: 17-8
Roger Clemens: 17-9
David Wells: 15-7

That’s 70 wins — a lot — for four batters in Joe Torre’s rotation in a season when the Yankees ended up winning by 101. The irony here is that Torre’s No. 5 man in 2003, Jeff Weaver – pitcher in relief – gave up a home run to Alex Gonzalez of the Marlins in the 12th inning of Game 4 of the World Series on a night when the Yankees had a chance to go three games to one. Another irony is that in Game 6, when the Marlins shut out the Yankees, a kid named Josh Pickett blew the Yankees away at Yankee Stadium looking like the best pitcher in the world.

Since 2003, the Yankees have played in the World Series only once, winning it in ’09. By the time they got to the series, their rotation was three guys: CC Sabathia (19-8 in the regular season), Pettitte (14-8) and AJ Burnett (13-9). Sabathia was the star of them all in the postseason run, taking his place with other Yankees stars who carried their teams into October and, in the case of Sabathia that year, through November.

Between then and now, the closest the Yankees came to making the series was in 2017, when they were ahead against the Astros, three games to two, in the American League Championship Series. The top two rookies that year were Sabathia, still 36 years old, and 23-year-old Severino. Both have won 14 matches for Joe Girardi. But Severino was lit by the Astros in Game 6, pulling Girardi Sabathia with one out in the fourth inning of Game 7 after giving up five hits and walking three, although CC only gave up one run that night. And none of that mattered much in the end, because the Yankees only scored one run in their last two games and outscored them 11-1.

The following season, the great Red Sox played in the AL Division Series, and the Yankees returned to Yankee Stadium to tie the Red Sox at one game apiece. The first players in the last two games of the season were again Severino and Sabathia. Different year, same results. Severino lighted again in a game that ended in a loss for the Yankees, 16-1. Sabathia gave up five hits again in his three innings pitched, walking two runs this time and three earned runs. The Yankees lost the game, 4-3, losing their season in the process.

Now the Yankees appear loaded, at least on paper, even with their apparent concerns about the Montas. Here’s what General Manager Brian Cashman said the day the Yankees introduced Rodon as Aaron Boone’s No. 2 behind Cole:

“The best starting courses are the ones where you have a talented pitcher and every day, yesterday’s player hands the ball and competitive spirit to a mate and says, ‘Now top this.’ If you can get a bunch of talented pitchers with that kind of ability And makeup, that’s when you have an opportunity for some magical stuff.”

There was nothing magical against the Astros last October, when Cole and Curtis were the starters for the last two games of the Yankees season. But everyone knows what Cole can do when he’s healthy, even if he’s in a 13-8 season. Curtis was the surprising outfield star of the Yankees’ season with a 12-4 record and a 2.44 ERA. Severino played in 19 games after coming off the injured list, with a record of 7-3 and 112 strikeouts in 102 innings pitched. Now Rodon — with a 14-8 record, 2.88 ERA and 237 strikeouts in 178 innings pitched with the Giants — is joining the party.

Almost all the times since the Yankees last won the series, they haven’t had enough pitching. They never had the rookies to drag them across the finish line the way Justin Verlander and Framper Valdez did against the Phillies when the Series 22 was two games each, and the way Lance McCullers Jr. and Charlie Morton did against the Yankees in that ’17 ALCS.

The Yankees always have enough sticks. Maybe this time they have the gun to go with it. Long time since it was like this at Yankee Stadium.

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