Yankees: Last Chance to Be AL East Contenders?
Is it finally time for Yankee fans to become scoreboard gazers?
The Yankees dropped their weekend series to the Indians with a loss on Sunday afternoon. If it hadn’t been for Jacoby Ellsbury’s solo home run with two outs in the bottom of the ninth, they would have been shut out in back-to-back games, a dubious feat they haven’t achieved since 1999.
The home stand, which the Yankees ended with a 4-3 record, was rife with ups and downs. They began by taking three out of four from the Tigers, despite facing four of the American League’s best pitchers—Max Scherzer, David Price, Justin Verlander, and Rick Porcello. Winning the series seemed to provide the Yankees and their fans with some much-needed confidence that they can find a way to win against very good teams they could potentially face in the playoffs.
But they’ll have to get there first, and if the season ended today they wouldn’t. After the euphoria earned from the Tigers series, the Yankees came back down to earth and saw just how much trouble they’re in when it comes to producing offense. A ten-run outburst on Friday, punctuated by a Carlos Beltran grand slam, seemingly pointed them in the right direction. However, on Saturday they were blanked by AL Cy Young candidate Corey Kluber, putting a damper on Brandon McCarthy’s latest quality effort (6 1/3 innings, 2 runs) and Paul O’Neill Day. (Even the Tigers series was won largely because of their pitching; in four games, the lineup managed only eleven runs.)
Sunday was no better; Yankee bats were equally bewildered by Carlos Carrasco, who was making his first start since being removed from the rotation on April 25.
Despite their winning home stand, the Yankees made up no ground this week on AL East opponents. They are six games behind the red-hot Orioles and one behind the Blue Jays. They will face both teams on road series this week. What happens during those series will have a tremendous impact on whether or not the Yankees can still consider themselves contenders for the division title.
Since the inception of the dual-wild card system in 2012, there has been extra pressure on teams to win their division; no one wants their entire season to come down to one pressure-filled game. It’s also easier to make up ground in a division race; teams play their division rivals more than the rest of the league. But if the Yankees don’t take at least two out of three games in each of their next two series, they need to start keeping an eye on what’s going on in Seattle and Kansas City as well.
Are the Yankees destined to miss the playoffs in back-to-back years for the first time in over two decades? One thing we know is fate is fickle, especially when it isn’t in your own hands.
The Yankees can alleviate some of that pressure by winning their series this week.
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