The Yankees are taking us on a roller coaster ride like nothing we have seen. Are they just playing with everyone? They have our attention.
The Yankees, at one point this season, were ten over at 16-6 and looking every bit like the team most people picked to face the Dodgers in the World Series.
As of last Tuesday, those same Yankees stood as a .500 for the first time in September since 1995.
Losers of fifteen of their last twenty games, the Yankees were barely hanging on as the final Wild Card team to qualify for this year’s playoffs.
Ending the season there meant the Yankees faced the prospect of drawing either the Oakland A’s or the Yankees’ new daddy, the Tampa Bay Rays, in a best of three crapshoots.
Team morale, no matter what Aaron Boone‘s lofty idealism kept saying, stood in an abyss of frustration, and in some cases, downright anger.
Today, the roller coaster is reaching toward a new pinnacle on the strength of a five-game winning streak that has the Yankees within easy reach of the Buffalo Blue Jays, and one notch up in the playoffs rankings.
Conveniently, the two teams meet seven times in the last thirteen days of the regular season, beginning tomorrow at Yankee Stadium.
Yankees fans can dream on even to the point of catching Tampa Bay, a team no longer as hot as they were, with a chance to erase the current four-game deficit.
The Yankees Not So Secret Formula
There’s no mystery about the floundering Yankees a week ago and the team enjoying their last off-day of the regular season today.
Solid starting pitching and timely hitting is the difference. Two excellent starts by J.A Happ that were sandwiched around Gerrit Cole‘s seven-inning complete game.
Reliable and much-needed support outings came from Masahiro Tanaka and Jordan Montgomery, whose effort was widely hailed by his teammates..
Absent from the mix, of course, is James Paxton, (right) who, if he makes it back in time from yet another injury setback, is ticketed for the bullpen.
That is if the Yankees even add him to their playoffs roster. There is a zero chance the Yankees will pursue Paxton as a free agent for next year.
Happ is the most interesting and probably the most motivated pitcher on the staff. The Yankees have a $17 million option on his services for 2021, and even though Happ has no chance of meeting the automatic option kick-in of innings pitched, Happ’s audition is giving the Yankees reason to pick up the option anyway.
Jordan Montgomery, the Yankee’s big lefty, is being counted on to assume the role vacated by CC Sabathia, and Cole had a fire in his eyes and was bent on redeeming himself for three straight losses and reassuming his post as the Yankees ace.
If that isn’t enough, 21-year-old rookie Deivi Garcia has three good starts under his belt with an ERA of 3.06 and a WHIP under one. The Yankees love his poise on the mound, making him a sure bet to make the postseason roster.
Yankees Small Ball And Timely Hitting
The last two games of the Baltimore series (both Yankees wins) are the kind of games that are synonymous with the playoffs. Saturday’s 2-1 victory came courtesy of American League MVP contender (yes, you read that right), Luke Voit, whose sacrifice fly scored the winning run.
Yesterday, it was newly bespeckled Gleyber Torres‘ two-run single that provided the Yankees with a 3-1 win.
DJ LeMahieu, the hitting machine who plays anywhere Aaron Boone needs him in the lineup, is once again competing for the AL Batting Title and hitting .350 is proving once again the Yankees number one priority during the offseason must be to re-sign him.
Rumor has it (we’ll believe it when we see it) that both Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton are mere “days away” from returning to the team.
Both are taking live swings at Scranton, and when they return, the Yankees receive a tremendous boost, both on the field and in the clubhouse.
A more significant boost, however, can come from Boone when he finally makes the Gary Sanchez (above) benching permanent for the remainder of the season, including the playoffs.
Two more strikeouts yesterday in three tries, plus his failure to deliver on a two-out runner in scoring position opportunity, and a pitiful .127 batting average should be all Boone needs to justify saying, “Sorry Gary, but you are out of chances.”
Can The Yankees Finish It Out?
Five-game win streaks are a dime a dozen for teams in the major leagues, so there are no guarantees the Yankees are onto something big here.
But that 5-15 stretch proved beneficial to the team in many ways, most of which can’t be expressed in words.
But to a player like Luke Voit, the horror was captured in this video snapshot of those two weeks that took him on the roller coaster ride that is the essence of playing at this level. Recall Voit’s heartfelt and honest exchange with the media a few days ago:
What followed was a predictable response from Yankees’ manager Aaron Boone in which he gently reminded Voit and his entire team – this is baseball, my friends, and you take it as it comes in both the good and bad times.
My column that day is not one I am proud of, and if I could, I’d take it back. If anything, it shows why Aaron Boone is the Yankees manager, and I am not. Because in the end, Boone had the pulse of his team (and Voit especially) in hand – ergo a five-game win streak.
In so many ways, this shortened 2020 season has seemed like an eternity, and for the players, even more so.
The closing of the regular season is upon us, and the intrigue as to which way the Yankees will turn is spellbinding and filled with apprehension.
In keeping with Aaron Boone’s unrelenting optimism and how he sees an upside to everything and each of his players, let us say this.
We are witnessing the Yankees’ team that has what it takes to carry on in climbing over the Blue Jays and to give Tampa Bay a run for their money in settling the AL East.
Deivi Garcia gets the start tomorrow night, proving the confidence the Yankees have in this young man, and Gerrit Cole follows in the middle game.
At this point in the season, every game played represents two games in the standings, and the loss column (the Yankees have one more loss than the Blue Jays) becomes significant since you can’t win a game you’ve already lost.
As they say in horse racing – and down the stretch, they come, and may the best horse win. Which, dialing back to March is still the New York Yankees.