After suffering a brutal four-game sweep at the hands of the rival Red Sox the Yankees can pretty much forget about winning the AL East. They’re now 9.5 games back and only 2.5 ahead of the Oakland A’s in the race for the first AL Wild Card spot.
I’m not going to talk too much about this weekend’s disaster because it’s over and done with but I will agree with Aaron Boone and say that this Yankees team is too good to let the sweep define their season. I’ll also say that Boone made some terrible decisions during the series, but he’s not the main reason why they got swept. It came down to the team not hitting and the bullpen really struggling which is the last thing you would expect from this team after watching them all season.
Even before this past weekend’s series at Fenway, the Yanks were 5.5 back so it was always going to be a tough uphill climb for them to catch the Red Sox in the division. The Red Sox are on a historic pace to win 113 games and still haven’t shown any signs of slowing down. The Yankees are still 26 games over .500 despite being swept, but it would take a massive Boston collapse for them to win the division.
That’s no reason to throw in the towel, but the team’s focus should shift to securing that first AL Wild Card spot and getting healthy. Despite being swept the Yankees are still in a very good position to make it back to the playoffs for the second season in a row. They’re four ahead of the A’s in the loss column and six ahead of the Mariners so it’s not like they still can’t have a very successful season.
When these Yankees are at full strength they’re better than 2017 team that made it all the way to Game 7 of the ALCS. Of course, nobody wants to play in that Wild Card game, but this team has the experience and the talent to help them go even further this October if they can advance to the division series. Right now, it’s all about getting healthy and taking advantage of a very favorable August schedule.
The Yankees will likely continue playing without both Aaron Judge and Gary Sanchez until the end of the month or early September but that’s no excuse for them to continue their losing ways. Starting tonight in Chicago against the White Sox until Labor Day, the Yankees will not face a team with a winning record. Now is the time to separate themselves atop that first Wild Card spot.
It’s understandable to lose to the red-hot Red Sox without Judge, Sanchez and even J.A. Happ, but that can’t continue against some of the leagues worst teams.
Not having Judge is a huge loss but on paper, they still have more than enough talent to win the majority of their next 25 games even without him, and Sanchez (to a lesser degree). But they need guys to step up in the meantime. That means guys like Gleyber Torres and Greg Bird need to snap out of their mini funks because right now the lineup 1-9 has too many weak spots.
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A bottom of the order with Luke Voit, Austin Romine, and Shane Robinson isn’t going to get it done so they need the guys at the top and in the middle of the order to carry the load.
They also need bounce-back performances from Luis Severino and Aroldis Chapman who have both really struggled to start the second half. The Yankees aren’t going anywhere without Sevy leading the starting rotation and Chapman dominating at the back end of the bullpen. Along with Judge, they’re arguably the team’s most irreplaceable players.
Everything’s going bad right now but there’s still plenty of baseball to be played and plenty of time for the Yankee to right the ship as Aaron Boone always says. Once they get fully healthy this team will look a lot different and they’ll have the ability to beat anyone come October.
They just need to take care of business in August and give themselves some separation atop the Wild Card standings. That way come September they can kind of coast to the playoffs and not have to worry about making it there to begin with by playing stressful games down the stretch. They can use that time to get Judge and Sanchez back in the fold and be able to limit the workload of their pitching staff as well.
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I’m not saying forget about winning the division because you never know what can happen between now until the end of September. However, that’s highly unlikely so it’s time to look at the big picture which is getting to the postseason in the first place and making another championship push.
Once they’re in anything can happen and if this Yankee team can head into October at full strength firing on all cylinders I still like their chances against anyone.