It’s time to pour some cold water on the Yankees‘ recent hot streak.
On July 4, the Yankees fell to 41-41 after letting a 5-4 win become a 10-5 loss in the ninth against the Mets. They were at .500 past the halfway point of the season for the first time since 2016.
They are 34-11 since their season hit rock bottom — and that includes three other “gut-punches” to the Houston Astros (led 7-2 in the ninth, lost 8-7 on Jose Altuve‘s walk-off three-run homer), Boston Red Sox (led 4-0 as Domingo German took a no-hitter into the eighth, lost 5-4), and Chicago White Sox (came back from 7-4 in Field of Dreams Game in the ninth, lost 9-8).
The Yankees are now winners of 12 in a row, and went from 5.5 games out of a postseason spot, to a comfortable 6.5-game lead in the AL Wild Card race that could expand by much more this weekend in Oakland. They are currently tied with the Astros for the second-best record in the American League.
The comeback, this winning streak, the rise from the dead — it’s all been a pleasure to watch. Even those nail-biting ninth innings have been kind of cool, sometimes. If you told me the Yankees would win 34 of their next 45 games after that Mets loss, let alone still be in the Wild Card hunt, I would have laughed at you.
But now that they are almost a lock to make the postseason (like we expected months ago) here is a reminder that anything less than an American League pennant is unacceptable.
I hate to sound like “that” Yankee fan, but it’s the truth.
In the offseason, the Yankees extended DJ LeMahieu and replaced Masahiro Tanaka with Corey Kluber and Jameson Taillon. They saw a championship-ready offense and hit on Taillon. Kluber looked like the Kluber of old before his injury, too, and he will be back on Monday.
The Yankees continued to build on a roster that was one run away from a second-consecutive ALCS appearance, and their third in four years. They were the odds-on favorites to win the American League this year, and rightfully so. On paper, they were clearly the best team in the AL.
Brian Cashman and Yankees brass doubled down on their spring training expectations by acquiring Anthony Rizzo and Joey Gallo at the trade deadline. Selling off would have been surprising, and almost impossible given the amount of long-term contracts on their books, but still, the Yankees continued to see an opportunity and pounced.
On top of that, the Yankees have performed well this season against any team they would be facing in a series. The Yanks went 4-2 against Houston this year (should be 5-1), and they went 5-1 against the White Sox (could be 6-0).
They’ve even held their own against the Rays this year — after going 5-15 against them from the start of 2020 to April 18, they are 6-4 in their last 10 games against Tampa, with another three-game set to go.
They are 6-10 against the Red Sox this year, but the Yankees just swept their three-game series last week and have won two of their last three series against them. As it stands right now, the Yanks would face Boston in the Bronx in the AL Wild Card Game with possible Cy Young Award winner Gerrit Cole on the mound — the Yankees would like their chances there.
They’re also 3-1 (with three more this weekend) against the Athletics, and went 5-2 against the Seattle Mariners this year. They are 6-6 against the Toronto Blue Jays, but haven’t faced them since June 17, well before they started making moves and turning heads. All three of those teams are within 5.5 games of the second Wild Card spot.
And again, Cole would probably be on the mound against any of those teams, too, most likely at Yankee Stadium.
Yes, the Yankees have had their fair share of injuries and COVID-19 positive tests to the point where this team has 2019 “next man up” vibes again.
But just because Andrew Velazquez is a nice story doesn’t mean the Yankees get another pass here.
It’s bad enough that the Rays got worse (on paper — Blake Snell has struggled with the Padres) in the offseason (they also lost Charlie Morton), and the Yankees are still four games back of them in late August. That probably says more about Tampa Bay than it does the Yankees, but the Yankees were supposed to be better than the Rays. They aren’t. That is a failure at the moment.
The 2017 Yankees were the Baby Bombers shocking the world and making it to Game 7 of the ALCS against the cheating Astros. They acquired the reigning NL MVP in Stanton and lost to a 108-win team that also was cheating. In 2019, they got LeMahieu, who became an MVP candidate, and lost to a better team (that still may have been cheating). The pandemic-shortened 2020 season is your call, but they still got Cole.
There are no more excuses.
Aaron Judge and Gary Sanchez are in their fifth full seasons and are more than established MLB players at this point. Cole is a top-five pitcher in the sport, at worst, and this rotation is the best it has been in years. Stanton is putting up All-Star numbers in a year where offense is down across the league. This has been a championship-ready roster for a while now.
As things stood on Opening Day, you could not name one Yankee fan who would have been happy with anything short of a World Series appearance. You’re not allowed to go from Opening Day American League favorite to “it would be nice to make a run” just because you made a comeback from what once looked to be a lost season.
Source: Yahoo Sports