Friday, September 4, 2015

Yankees Begin Crucial 10-Game Homestand Tonight

"This is it. Make no mistake where you are".
---Kenny Loggins 
The Yankees have been waiting for this part of the schedule. Two ten game homestands with a quick six game road trip sandwiched in between. The results have been mixed. The last home stand started off with a bang, a three game sweep of the Twins, then the Yankees bats went silent against Cleveland and Houston to the tune of a 2-5 stretch. Sorry, but a 5-5 home stand in a pennant race just ain't gonna cut it. 
So the Yankees  responded with a 5-1 road trip to Atlanta and Boston. scoring 57 runs in the six games. Times Square is less crowded than the base paths of a Yankee offense these last six games. Now it's time for another ten game homestand. All ten games are against three AL East rivals culminating with a four game series with first place Toronto, now one game up on the Yankees on the loss side. The Yankees need to do better than a 5-5 split. 
All and all it has been a topsy turvy season, but the Yankees are still in the thick of it. If I told you on this past May 15, that Didi Gregorius would be hitting .272 for the season (he still doesn't have that hit for the cycle thing I predicted), or that Carlos Beltran would be the leader in batting average at .282 with Chase Headley right behind him at .276, well, it just didn't seem possible. While Gregorius, Headley and Beltran have enjoyed a resurgence and Brian McCann has remained steady with a team leading 82 RBI's, guys like Jacoby Ellsbury, Brett Gardner and especially Alex Rodriguez have struggled. And, although Mark Teixeira is out for the next two weeks and perhaps beyond, wouldn't it be nice to get everybody clicking on all cylinders this homestand?   
None of that will matter much if the pitching falters. There is good reason to like what we have seen recently. Nathan Eovaldi is getting plenty of attention for his improved performances as the season has progressed. Masahiro Tanaka has not been lights out as some had hoped. but he is healthy (an accomplishment in itself for some fans) and he takes the ball every fifth or sixth day and gives a good effort. Luis Severino has done nothing to dissuade any of us who believe he is a young pitching stud. Michael Pineda may be the key to the staff the rest of the way and into October. At times Pineda has shown ace-type stuff. At times he has been healthy. Therein lies the primary concern---keeping this potential ace healthy. Ivan Nova has been about what could be expected in the first months following his return from Tommy John surgery. CC Sabathia might be returning from the DL shortly and could possibly make a spot start. 
Not a bad pitching staff if healthy. The bullpen has been solid all year. Which means with a little bit of good fortune, good health and a few of the struggling players hitting their stride, the one and a half game deficit to the Blue Jays will be erased and more. Seven of the remaining 30 games are against Toronto. Even if the Jays win the division, the wild card appears to be in hand. The moment is here to decide. 
Make no mistake where you are, Yankees.

Thursday, September 3, 2015

As Drew Returns To Prime, Yankees Need To Stay Put

Stephen Drew! How do you do?! --John Sterling

Stephen Drew was right in the middle of the Yankees' offensive outburst yesterday at Fenway Park, going 3-4 (including hitting his 17th home run), scoring twice and driving in three.

In fact, over his last 15 games his numbers look like this: 15-43 (.349), 8R, 9RBI, 2HR. And look at his last 30 games: 25-90 (.278), 15R, 16RBI, 4HR.

Yes, Stephen Drew has finally turned the corner. It couldn't have come at better time, with Mark Teixeira still out and Alex Rodriguez still dragging. He and his double play partner Didi Gregorius have shined, on both sides of the ball. 

The Yankees have a lot to look forward to with Didi Gregorius. If he keeps doing what he's doing, he could become a fixture at shortstop for the next decade. Stephen Drew is another story.

I hope the Yankees understand that.

Drew's return to his prime these last few weeks does NOT mean the Yankees should even CONSIDER signing him for 2016. When the last out is made this season, whenever that may be, the best thing for the Yankees to do when it comes to Drew is to tell him, "See ya!"(Hat tip to Michael Kay.) 

Why do I get the feeling they won't say that? 

Ugh. It's too depressing to even think about.  I'll just keep doing what I said on Tuesday: Take care of business, today. Worry about tomorrow, tomorrow. Go Yankees.

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Key Moments Help Yankees Win Close Game At Fenway

The Yankees 3-1 win in last night’s game against the Boston Red Sox contained a lot of promising elements, particularly for a team with playoff aspirations. While it’s great advice to not look too far ahead, it's still nice to see the Yankees win a close game that featured:
  • Timely hitting (Stephen Drew with a 2-run double and solo blast from Brett Gardner)
  • Solid defense (Chase Headley snagging a liner down the 3B line with a RISP) 
  • Effective pitching (6 IP from starter Michael Pineda and three scoreless innings from the bullpen
  • A little bit of luck (Mookie Betts was called out on a double steal in the bottom of the 8th inning but replays seem to show he should have been called safe.)
As much fun as it is when the Yankees put up double digit runs, games like that tend to be rarer as the calendar turns to September. Between the cooler weather, expanded rosters and managers trying to out-maneuver each other as they try to make the playoffs, offense tends to slow down.

Despite the weekend shellacking of the Atlanta Braves, the Yankees offense is clearly not at full strength. Between Mark Teixeira being sidelined with what has to be the worst bone bruise in the history of the game, the fact that Greg Bird is going through some expected rookie struggles with the bat and Jacoby Ellsbury is still trying to find his groove, means it's important that the Yankees find ways to win these close games. Odds are that they’ll be in their fair share of them.

After letting their division lead slip away in August, the Yankees are now in the position of watching their rivals win (or hopefully lose) in the clubhouse after the game and hoping for the best. As Joe Girardi would say, “It’s not what you want," but if the Yankees can improve on their 21-21 record in one-run games by winning these types of games, they will be where they want to be in the end.

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Yankees Down The Stretch: A Look At The Schedule

Welcome to September, everyone! We are now in the stretch run of the 2015 baseball season. The Yankees are 72-58, 1.5 games behind the first place Toronto Blue Jays, and in the Wild Card race, they hold the first spot by 4 games.  The Texas Rangers hold the second spot, with Minnesota, Los Angeles, Tampa Bay, Cleveland and Baltimore all in contention.

The Yankees have 28 games left this month:

As you can see, seven are against the division-leading Blue Jays, and nine are against Wild Card contenders (Tampa Bay and Baltimore).  Of course, as we learned last night, the other teams on this schedule will be competitive as well. 

In other words, September won't be a cakewalk for the New York Yankees. 

It's so tempting to think beyond this month, to things like having to face either Cole Hamels or Colby Lewis in the Wild Card Game (Yikes!), or instead, getting to play the Twins (Careful what you wish for.).  Don't yield to temptation, however. These next 28 games are what's important right now. More specifically, tonight's game in Boston is what's important right now. 

Take care of business today. Worry about tomorrow tomorrow. Go Yankees.

Monday, August 31, 2015

Yankees (and Drew Too!) Take Care of Business vs Braves

Here’s what you need to know about the Yankees weekend sweep of the Braves. Stephen Drew, the much maligned 2B, closed Sunday's game with his season average over .200 (.201 to be exact) for the first time all season. It was just that kind of weekend for the Yankees who put up 38 runs against the Braves pitching staff, including 15 in Friday’s opener and 20 in Sunday’s finale.

Just like that, the Yankees look like playoff bound contenders again. All it took was a visit to the Atlanta Braves, and suddenly the Yankees offense looks like a force to be reckoned with, rather than the one that rolled over during the recent homestand.

It hopefully bodes well that the Yankees, led by Carlos Beltran and Didi Gregorius, were able to put up so many runs despite playing in an NL park, and despite Mark Teixeira, their main power source all season, still riding the bench due to injury.

It was fine to hope but probably unrealistic to expect Teixeira to remain healthy all season, and when he did eventually go down, other team members were going to have to step up. Gregorius and Beltran have done just that, and Greg Bird, the home grown prospect, has stepped up admirably at 1B, batting .255 with 2 HRs (both on the same day).

On Sunday the team was also able to overcome one of the worst starts of Nathan Eovaldi’s in recent memory. The righthander managed just 5.0 IP, giving up 5 ERs in the process. That was a far cry from the eight inning masterpiece he twirled against the Houston Astros last week, but the 25 year old still closed out August with a 3.69 ERA, his best month so far as a Yankee.

The Yankees improved to 35-31 on the road with the sweep. One of the factors in the Yankees favor going into the 2nd half was their heavy home schedule, but the team hasn’t quite been able to take advantage of it. Making up for it on the road is a good sign, particularly as the team heads into the home stretch.

With the Yankees still fighting for the division while clinging to a Wild Card spot, every game counts and the Yankees--Stephen Drew included--did exactly what they needed to do over the weekend.