Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Postseason hunt becomes more difficult for Yankees

The New York Yankees already had their backs against the wall trying to keep pace with a juggernaut in Toronto, and now the newest wave of injuries will truly test their mettle.

Masahiro Tanaka
Photo credit: Keith Allison via Flickr
After Tuesday night’s disappointing loss to the Baltimore Orioles, the Yankees fell 1 ½ games behind the Blue Jays in the American League East. The Yanks received a stellar pitching performance from Masahiro Tanaka, who hurled eight innings of one-run ball with 10 strikeouts, but to no avail as the offense sputtered in a 2-1 loss. Wednesday, the Yankees will try for the series victory with CC Sabathia on the mound as he returns from the disabled list due to his bum knee.

Then the Yankees have a four-game set with the Blue Jays at Yankee Stadium. The Yanks will have to make a statement, minimally winning three out of four games in my view, in order show Toronto that winning the division will not be easy despite the stacked odds facing the Bombers.

The Yankees lost their most consistent starting pitcher of late in Nathan Eovaldi, who is suffering from elbow inflammation and is likely to miss the remainder of the regular season. That leaves Tanaka, Michael Pineda, Luis Severino, Sabathia, Ivan Nova and now Adam Warren (he’s being shifted back to the rotation) to pick up the pieces.

The Yankees need at least three of those pitchers to flat out dominate over the next four weeks and the rest of them to keep the Yankees in games. Tanaka’s outing was a step in the right direction. Severino has been great since coming up, but the rest of the crew has been erratic at best in recent outings.

The bullpen has fallen on difficult times of late allowing more base-runners and consequently runs than they had in previous months when the back-end was deemed one of the best in the game. Dellin Betances and Andrew Miller are still getting the job done, but it's been in less dominant fashion. The question of overall usage has come up and to an extent this has been brewing since early this season because of the rotation’s inability to pitch deep into games.

On the other side of the ball, the Yankees’ offense has been – excuse the pun – hit or miss. They too have had their share of injuries/illnesses over the last few weeks. The biggest blow has been the loss of first baseman Mark Teixeira. This is no knock on his replacement, rookie Greg Bird, who’s been good, but having Teixeira’s power and switch-hitting ability plus his defensive prowess is an advantage for the Yankees.

Brett Gardner has missed the last couple of games with a sore shoulder and Jacoby Ellsbury recently missed two games with flu-like symptoms. The Yanks need both of these players in the lineup together in order to jump-start the remainder of the group.

The offense has shown some good efforts lately, but it is wholly inconsistent. Alex Rodriguez, who was running out of energy recently, has begun to heat up. Brian McCann continues to provide big hits but Carlos Beltran has leveled off this month after carrying some of the offensive load from May through August. The bottom of the Yankees order has produced in recent weeks, but at no time this season has the offense gelled as one for lengthy periods.

Beyond the offense gelling, the club as a whole has yet to go on an extended run where each facet has clicked at the same time. The Yankees are usually carried by one group or another; it’s either starting pitching, offense or the bullpen. With 25 games left on the regular season calendar that will have to change. The Yankees need a long, dominating run and it has to start Wednesday and continue with the Toronto series.

It won’t be easy, and will necessitate the club getting contributions up and down the roster if they have any chance of catching the Blue Jays and staying hot into the playoffs. Otherwise, they could be a one-and-done wild card team or worse come up completely short of the postseason.

Christopher Carelli is a freelance baseball writer. Besides his work here, Christopher is a featured Yankees writer for His baseball commentary has also been published on Yahoo Sports and linked multiple times on MLB Trade Rumors’ Baseball Blogs Weigh In. He is a member of the Internet Baseball Writers Association of America, the Baseball Bloggers Alliance and the BYB Hub.