Welcome to a frenetic final two weeks of a topsy-turvy season for the Yankees, where the only thing that seems certain about this pinstriped club is that it’s going to swing wildly between looking unbeatable and, well, playing something well below that.
If you’re looking for a one-word identity for this team, how about chaos? It’s what has brought the Yankees to this point, 1.5 games out of a playoff spot going into Monday’s tilt against the visiting Texas Rangers.
We don’t know if we’ll see unbeatable again. This could be recency bias, but beatable certainly feels more likely. That doesn’t bode well for their playoff chances.
The Cleveland Indians pounded the Yankees Saturday and Sunday, outscoring them, 22-4, and clobbered Gerrit Cole on Sunday. Uh, hasn’t nearly every MLB team thrown a no-hitter against Cleveland this year? Or something like that. Cole, the $324-million ace, got booed at Yankee Stadium after allowing seven runs and 10 hits in 5.2 innings.
“We’ve got to get better in a hurry, period,” Aaron Boone said after Sunday’s game.
Smashing Texas would certainly help. The Rangers are a bad team (55-94). Sweeping them is probably imperative to the Yankees’ October dreams. Can’t have a repeat of the way Yanks vs. Orioles has gone lately — contender goes belly-up against also-ran — and expect to still be a postseason factor.
After a three-game set against Texas, the Yankees travel to Boston and then Toronto for three games in each contender’s city. They are the teams in front of the Yanks in the AL Wild Card race.
That means — as absurd as it may sound for a team that followed up a 13-game winning streak with an O’s-esque 7-15 nosedive — the Yanks still hold some influence in the Wild Card chase. Lucky for them.
Unlucky for them — both teams look sharp. The Red Sox have won five straight. They’ve also beaten the Yankees 6-of-7 at Fenway Park this year. The Blue Jays are 15-3 this month and their young stars seemed unfazed by any percolating postseason pressure.
The Yankees are in fourth place at 83-67. Let’s do some math: If the Yanks finish 9-3 (a stretch, we know), they’d be 92-70. To get to 93-69, the Red Sox (86-65) have to go 7-4. The Blue Jays, who enter Monday at 84-65, would have to go 9-4.
If the Yanks were to play to the same winning percentage (.553) they’ve had all year, they’d get 6.6 wins in their final dozen games. Let’s be generous and round up. A 7-5 record would put them at 90-72. To get to 91 wins, the Red Sox need only go 5-6; the Jays 7-6.
Yes, we’re telling you there’s a chance. But, let’s let Boone lay it out for you again in this re-run: “We’ve got to get better in a hurry, period.”
Here’s a place to start: Hitting with runners in scoring position. The Yankees are 29th in average with RISP (.230) and 28th in OPS (.680). It’s been even worse recently — in 15 games since Sept. 6, the Yanks are hitting .167 with RISP.
They’ve hit more home runs (34) in September than any team other than the (gulp) Blue Jays. And they’ve homered in 12 consecutive games. But they only went 5-7 over that span. The Yanks are only averaging 4.11 runs per game this month. Overall, the Yankees average 4.33 runs, 0.20 runs below the MLB average.
A big streak by their best player, Aaron Judge, could infuse the offense: He’s batting .197 with a .719 OPS so far in September.
The Yanks’ pitching staff was a stealth strength for a long time and it could keep the team in contention despite a disappointing offense rife with big-name underperformance.
But the Yankees have a 4.68 ERA this month, nearly a run worse than their season mark of 3.76. The 4.68 ERA for September would be the second-worst single month this season if it holds up. Cole has a 4.64 ERA this month and injuries have contributed to the staff slide, too.
We’ll see. At various points this season, the Yankees have been 5-10, 28-19, 33-32 and 76-52. Streakiness is in this team’s DNA. Maybe making the postseason hinges simply on this:
Do they have one last terrific streak left?
Source: Yahoo Sports