The New York Yankees have been in first place for 53 days straight. That’s the longest stretch since 2009. However, any positive comparisons to the ’09 World Series championship team ends there.
New York had a 10-game cushion over its nearest American League East rival only a few weeks back. Now they are just 4.5 games above Baltimore and 6 ahead of Tampa Bay. If they keep up this abysmal play, they’ll soon be chasing a wild card spot at best.
This funk began on a West Coast trip three weeks ago when they got swept in a four-game series against Oakland. They managed to salvage the trip by taking two out of three against the lowly Mariners, but lost Alex Rodriguez to a broken hand after he was hit by a King Felix pitch. At least they left Seattle with Ichiro as a parting gift.
They then came home and lost series to both the Red Sox and the Orioles before, thankfully, the Mariners came to town so they could win another series. Now they are in Detroit continuing their horrid form of play.
The Yankees look punchless. Yes, they have had their share of injuries; however, the team initially seemed to have enough depth and fight to keep going. Perhaps losing A-Rod was the straw that broke the camel’s back (or metacarpal in this case).
In reality, nothing seems to be clicking with the Yankees at the moment. When they get good pitching (I feel your pain, Hiroki Kuroda) they can’t score runs, and when they manage to get some runs on the board against a tough pitcher like Justin Verlander, the starter (I’m looking at you Ivan Nova) can’t hold onto the lead in the Yanks’ half of the inning. Late-game rallies always seem to fall short. Watching them play these last few weeks has been, as one friend of mine put it, physically painful. Even last night’s win was a nail-biter after the Yankees saw a 7-1 lead whittled down to 8-7 when David Robertson gave up three runs in relief of a so-so outing from CC Sabathia. Fortunately, the bats added four insurance runs in the eighth and ninth for a 12-8 win.
I do think that barring a Boston-esque collapse, they will make it to the playoffs, but how far they go after that is questionable. They still have issues hitting with runners in scoring position; they have a .247 AVG, which is 16th in the league. With RISP and two outs, that average drops to .225, and with a runner on third and less than two outs, they rank 26th in the league with a .274 AVG. By way of comparison, the Mariners are hitting .358 in those situations and the Astros are hitting .313.
I’m not totally writing them off. They have time to right the pinstriped ship and string together a few more win streaks. Getting Andy Pettitte back will be a major boost to the rotation, although, in fairness, Freddy Garcia has done his part to keep the team in the games when he pitches. But at the moment, these Yankees are playing more like doormats than the Beasts of the East they should be.