Yankees Fail to Take Advantage of Momentum Swing in Home Stand
A good indication of whether or not a team is going to have a successful season is what they do when the momentum swings their way. Do they take advantage of a winning streak by playing with confidence the next day? Or do they fall back into old habits?
In the past two weeks, the Yankees have had two four-game winning streaks–including sweeps of relatively good teams–immediately followed by two-game losing streaks. All year it seems like fans have been waiting for that “moment”: the point in time at which you look back in October and say, “That was when we knew they would make the playoffs this season.”
The Yankees had a potential “that moment” on Friday night against the Orioles in a game that appeared to be destined for the Frustration Hall of Fame. They scored a quick run in the first, but were then shut down by Baltimore pitching for the next seven innings, including 5 2/3 innings by Ubaldo Jimenez, who has been inconsistent all season. Then Carlos Beltran blasted a walk-off three-run home run with two outs in the bottom of the ninth off closer Zach Britton.
The moment seemed especially well-timed, since Beltran had yet to truly find his niche as a Yankee, and everyone knows big-name free agent signings need to have their welcome-to-the-Bronx experience in order to officially be initiated by the fans.
Yes, all signs pointed to a tremendous home stand for the Yanks: a sweep of the first-place Blue Jays, followed by the first walk-off win of the season against another division rival, and Masahiro Tanaka pitching on Sunday, to boot. Could the Beltran blast be the turning point we’d been craving all season?
Before the Yankees had much of a chance to enjoy their success, the fickle pendulum swung back in the Orioles’ favor. Over the next two games, the Yankee “offense” scored a total of one run off Orioles starters Bud Norris and Chris Tillman, who have been decent for Baltimore but are not exactly marquee names. It was the same old story of stranding runners in scoring position and failing to get the big hit.
On Sunday Tanaka took his second loss of the season, and the most disturbing thing is that his only two losses came against the only two teams he has faced twice, the Orioles and the Cubs. However, Baltimore didn’t exactly knock him around; they managed three runs off him over seven innings, an outing that Yankee fans would be ticker-taping if it came at the hands of any other starter, or if the offense had provided any support.
The one positive is that, if the Yankees are teetering on the brink of mediocrity, so is everyone else in the division. They are currently tied with Baltimore for second place and a game and a half behind Toronto, who lost two out of three this weekend to the Reds. All three teams are actually tied in the loss column.
This weekend the Yankees welcomed back a host of familiar faces from the days when they used to win those things called championships: On Saturday they held a tribute to Tino Martinez, and Sunday was Old Timers’ Day, featuring favorites from the late nineties and 2000s such as David Wells, Paul O’Neill, Joe Torre, and Hideki Matsui. And one thing nostalgia always does by definition is make you believe that things aren’t the same anymore, and probably won’t be for quite some time. Those guys were the quintessential “that moment” guys.
This year? Beltran’s walk off could still be “that moment.” There’s still time. The Yankees have three more games against a struggling Toronto team, followed by the Red Sox. If the offense can step up its game and win five out of the next six or so, then the two losses to Baltimore can become a mere blip on the radar instead of just another typical moment in a ho-hum season.
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